On Wednesday, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy honored eleven immigrant innovators in conjuction with the Champions of Change project, which hosts weekly panels on entrepreneurship.
“Immigrants have long made America more prosperous and innovative, and the champions we are celebrating today represent the very best in leadership, entrepreneurship, and public service,” said Todd Park, assistant to President Barack Obama and chief technology officer for the White House.
Today's panel featured six U.S.-based entrepreneurs who moved to the U.S. for college and launched their business here afterwards.
Everyone agreed that an American education, the country's rich network of entrepreneurs and mentors helped their start-ups get off the ground.
There is a willingness to take on risks within the tech and science sectors, noted Jonas Harlow, founder of Fleetlife Inc. Even investors are willing to finance long-term projects if they feel the idea is worth it.
Victoria Ransom, founder and CEO of Wildfire, said she noticed a similar trait among U.S. employers. Unlike their foreign counterparts, who were more apt to judge a candidate by their diploma, Americans were more willing to consider how they could train these future employees in transferable skills such as research, communications, and writing. What they want most, she said, is someone who is a quick learner, regardless of background.
It's all about the idea, not the education or accent, chimed in Zack Rinat, founder and CEO of Model N. Entrepreneurs. Anyone can find potential backers if their idea is smart.
In fact, he and the other panelists admitted to investing in other U.S.-based companies. Perhaps that's why the White House tweeted today that immigrants started 28 percent of all new businesses in the U.S. in 2011--and launched 25 percent of public companies backed by venture capital such as Yahoo! and Google.
JANA KASPERKEVIC is a graduate of Baruch College, City University of New York, where she earned a bachelors degree in Journalism and Political Science. She covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurship for Inc. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, InvestmentNews, Business Insider, and Houston Chronicle, among others. She lives in Brooklyn. @kasperka