Immigrants started more than half unicorns; four Indians among founders of multiple billion-dollar companies
Immigrants from 57 countries started more than half (319 of 582, or 55%) of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion or more with India topping the list with 66 companies, according to a new report.
Moreover, nearly two-thirds (64%) of US billion-dollar companies (unicorns) were founded or cofounded by immigrants or the children of immigrants, National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) said in a policy brief.
Almost 80% of America’s unicorn companies have an immigrant founder or an immigrant in a key leadership role, such as CEO or vice president of engineering.
Immigrants from Israel founded the second-most billion-dollar companies with 54, followed by the United Kingdom (27), Canada (22), China (21), France (18), Germany (15), Russia (11), the report said.
At least 10 immigrants, included four from India — Mohit Aron (Nutanix and Cohesity), Ashutosh Garg (Bloomreach and Eightfold.ai), Ajeet Singh ( Nutanix) and Jyoti Bansal (AppDynamics and Harness) — have founded multiple billion-dollar companies.
Many immigrant entrepreneurs came to America as children with their families. Hari Ravichandran immigrated with his family from India at 14.
At 16, he enrolled in classes at Mississippi State and earned degrees at Stanford and Wharton. In 2017, he founded Aura, which has 660 employees and provides digital security for identity and online accounts.
The research shows the importance of immigrants in cutting-edge companies and the US economy at a time when US immigration policies have pushed talent to other countries, NFAP said.
Several companies had multiple international students as founders. There are 174 international students who became founders or cofounders of US billion-dollar companies.
But the long wait for employment-based green cards due to low quotas and the per-country limit prevents many individuals in H-1B status from having the employment status that would allow them to start a business, NFAP noted.
Read: High-skilled immigration strengthens American economy: TechNet (December 6, 2021)
The Congressional Research Service estimates the backlog for employment-based green cards for Indians could exceed 2 million by 2030.
The low annual limit on H-1B temporary visas also can make it difficult for startup companies to hire new personnel in their fast-growing businesses or for international students to remain the United States, the report said.
USCIS reported that it received 483,927 H-1B registrations for FY 2023 and rejected nearly 400,000, or 82%, of registrations as exceeding the 85,000 annual limit for H-1B petitions.
According to the research, immigrants have fueled the rise in US billion-dollar startups: Without immigrants today there likely would be fewer than half as many billion-dollar startup companies in the United States, NFAP said.
As of October 1, 2018, there were 91 unicorn companies in the US, and 50 of them (or 55%) had an immigrant founder compared to 582 unicorn companies in the US and 319 (or 55%) with an immigrant founder as of May 2022.
That represents a more than 500% increase in both unicorn companies and immigrant-founded unicorn companies between 2018 and 2022.
The research updates and confirms findings in NFAP studies in 2016 and 2018 and identifies more than 300 US billion-dollar companies with immigrant founders.
The analysis shows that 58% of immigrant-founded billion-dollar companies had only an immigrant or multiple immigrant founders.
;Overall, 86% of the immigrant-founded billion-dollar companies had solely an immigrant founder or immigrant founders or a majority of founders who were immigrants or an even number of immigrant and native-born founders; only 14% had a majority of native-born founders.
The research involved interviews and gathering information on over 580 US startup companies valued at over $1 billion (as of May 2022) that have yet to become publicly traded on the US stock market and are tracked by the firm CB Insights.
The companies, so-called “unicorns,” are all privately held, valued at $1 billion or more and have received venture capital financing.The collective value of the over 300 immigrant-founded US companies is $1.2 trillion.
The value of immigrant-founded US billion-dollar companies would rise to $1.5 trillion if one included billion-dollar companies with immigrant founders that have become publicly traded (or were acquired) since 2016, such as Moderna and Zoom Video.
The collective value of the 50 immigrant-founded billion-dollar companies in 2018 was $248 billion. The research finds that the privately held US billion-dollar startup companies with immigrant founders have created an average of 859 jobs per company.
– As many as 319 of 582, or 55%, of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion or more have at least one immigrant founder. This illustrates the continued importance and contributions of immigrants to the US economy.
– In addition to the companies with immigrant founders, at least 51 of the 582 US billion-dollar startup companies have founders who were born in the United States to immigrant parents.
– Nearly two-thirds (64%) of American billion-dollar companies (unicorns) were founded or cofounded by immigrants or the children of immigrants.
– Almost 80% of America’s privately-held, billion-dollar companies have an immigrant founder or an immigrant in a key leadership role. CEO, CTO (chief technology officer) and vice president of engineering are the most common positions held by immigrants in billion-dollar companies.
– There are 143 US billion-dollar companies with a founder who attended a US university as an international student. One-quarter (143 of 582, or 25%) of billion-dollar startup companies in the US have a founder who first came to America as an international student. US billion-dollar startups with an international student founder created an average of 860 jobs.