The Broadway musical Hamilton has a line that elicits thunderous applause every night—“Immigrants, we get the job done.” Recent research shows us that the line could just as accurately state, “Immigrants, we create jobs.” One recent study shows that immigrant-founded and owned companies employ nearly 6 million people. And even Mary Meeker’s 2017 report, which analyzes and predicts the latest Internet and technology trends, emphasizes the importance of immigrants in the tech sector and as entrepreneurs.
One of the most astounding graphics in this report shows how influential immigrants’ innovation has been in Americans’ everyday lives; 60 percent of the most highly valued tech companies were co-founded by first or second generation immigrants. These include Steve Jobs, a second generation Syrian immigrant, and Sergey Brin, the Russian immigrant who co-founded Google.
The expanded immigrant report also shows that as of 2007, 25 percent of all companies are founded by immigrants and Entrepreneur reports that more than 40 percent of businesses on the U.S. Fortune 500 List are launched by immigrants or children of immigrants. This is especially remarkable given that the overall percentage of immigrants in the US is only about 13 percent.
We have seen firsthand the power of immigrant experiences through #FacesofFounders. Entrepreneurs like Shazi Visram of Happy Family, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of Daily Kos, Felicity Conrad of Paladin and Annie Liao Jones of Rock Candy Media all took their immigrant and first generation experiences, their drive to build a life here and their entrepreneurial spark to build something important and meaningful. For entrepreneurs—like Jean Sim of Fresh Monster, for example—who not only immigrated with their parents but also followed in their entrepreneurial footsteps, having immigrant role models significantly impacted the goals they set for themselves. As Jean says, “I saw firsthand how being an entrepreneur was the best possible way to shape my own future, and how much effort it took to succeed.”
But the compelling case for inclusive entrepreneurship isn’t just the personal stories and life experiences of immigrants and diverse communities. What makes inclusive entrepreneurship vital is the economic and financial impact that investing in diversity can have. Not only have we seen that investing in women can provide outsized returns and that diverse teams outperform industry averages, but the National Venture Capital Association offers more insight into the vast contributions immigrants make in the startup world in their publication “ Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs are Crucial for America’s Future.” In it, they quote Bill Draper, one of the first venture capitalists, emphasizing, “Immigrants are such a key part of the entrepreneurial spirit in America. Immigration has been at the root of this country since the beginning, and we need to hold on to it and encourage it.”
Groups like Unshackled Ventures see this opportunity and have created support systems and investment funds to accelerate immigrant businesses. In addition to pre-seed capital and network support typical of most accelerators, Unshackled Ventures specializes in what its entrepreneur cohorts need most—employment and immigration support to legally work and build a company in the U.S. Specialized accelerators like this, alongside substantial support from investors and companies for smart immigration policies and start-up visas, are critical to democratizing access and opportunity to America’s next big idea and next set of jobs.
So why do so many of those who were born in a different country have such a large share of entrepreneurial spirit and success? We believe it is because a diversity of backgrounds leads to a diversity of innovation which, in turn, drives a greater expansion of the creative force and job opportunity in America. This kind of smart business decision is why we push for inclusive entrepreneurship so strongly. Inclusive entrepreneurship is not limited to acknowledging the contributions of women and minorities. It means enabling people from all demographics to get in the arena and let their ideas, from a kids’ shampoo to a behemoth search engine, change the world. And particularly in this time of division, turmoil and violence against communities of color, it is our responsibility to stand up for opportunity, stand up for justice and stand next to those fighting every day for an equal chance at the American Dream.