51% of billion-dollar startups in US founded by immigrants, most from India: Study

Robust legal immigration helps US.

AB Wirestart up

Immigrants started more than half of the current crop of U.S.-based startups valued at $1 billion or more, according to a new non-partisan study on entrepreneurship.

The study from the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan think tank based in Arlington, Va., shows that these 44 companies are collectively valued at $168 billion and create an average of roughly 760 jobs per company in the U.S., reported The Wall Street Journal.

The study also estimates that immigrants make up over 70% of key management or product development positions at these companies.

The foundation examined 87 U.S. companies valued at $1 billion or more as of Jan. 1, 2016, as tracked by the Journal’s Billion Dollar Startup Club. The authors of the study used public data and information from the companies to create biographies of the founders.

The three highest valued U.S. companies with immigrant founders include car-hailing service Uber Technologies Inc., data-software company Palantir Technologies Inc. and rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies Inc.

Stuart Anderson, the study’s author and the foundation’s executive director, says the findings show that the U.S. economy could benefit from the talents of foreign-born entrepreneurs even more so if it were easier for them to obtain visas, reported the Journal.

Tech leaders including Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have called for increasing the number of H-1B visas that let skilled foreign workers stay in the country. They argue that immigration greatly benefits the tech community, and that it is difficult for companies to hire foreign-born workers and for immigrant entrepreneurs to start businesses due to the visas’ constraints.

Critics argue that tech executives are simply looking for cheaper labor, and some politicians, as well as Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, aim to curb the work visa program.

Anderson said the law makes it difficult for entrepreneurs to qualify because it is meant for employers to petition on behalf of their employees. And the decision to start a company while waiting for a H1-B visa to come through is risky. Anderson said in most instances, immigrant entrepreneurs are only able to get their businesses off the ground after first gaining permanent residence, then obtaining a green card.

“How would you ever raise money for it?” Anderson said. “Who is going to invest in a company if the founder of the company may not be able to stay in the U.S.?”

Jyoti Bansal said he had to wait seven years for his employment-based green card before he could start AppDynamics Inc., a software company that helps companies monitor the performance of their networked applications and that has been valued at $1.9 billion. According to the study, Bansal couldn’t leave his job to start a new company because it was unclear if he’d be able to keep his H-1B status.

According to the study, founders of billion-dollar startups most often hail from India (14), followed by Canada and the U.K., with eight each, then Israel (7) and Germany (4). Two originated from France and the Collison brothers, the co-founders of payments startup Stripe, make up the pair from Ireland.

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