If you're searching for examples of big, revolutionary businesses that were started by immigrants, you don't have to look very far. Andy Gove, one of the founders of Intel (and one of Steve Jobs' biggest influences) fled Hungary and taught himself English while working in a restaurant and attending college.

Jobs himself was the son of a Syrian immigrant.

In fact, 40% of the Fortune 500 was founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants. But the examples of immigrant entrepreneurs aren't just restricted to huge, household name companies. According to research conducted by The Kauffman Foundation:

  • Immigrants started 28.5% of all new businesses in 2014.
  • Between 2006-2012 immigrants founded one quarter of the engineering and technology companies in the United States.
  • In 2012 immigrant founded engineering and technology firms employed approximately 560,000 workers and generated $63 billion in sales.
  • Immigrants have seen their rate of business generation rise by more than 50% since the start of the new millennium, while native-born citizens have seen their rate of new-business generation decline by 10%.
  • Immigrants are now more than twice as likely to start a business than native-born citizens.

So why are immigrants starting more businesses?

Economists theorize that many immigrants are prevented from accessing other paths to upward mobility. In other words, all those studies that show applicants are less likely to get hired with an ethnic sounding name might force new immigrants into creating their own business, rather than trying (and often failing) to find a decent paying job working for someone else.

Additionally, immigrants often live in underserved communities. If you live in an underserved market, you can spot the goods and services community members don't have access to and fulfill that need.

Like my new friend, Ajay.

Ajay immigrated to America from India about 15 years ago, where he began working as a computer engineer for Enterprise Rental Car. 

But he also saw an unserved need in his immigrant network: cricket.

His friends who grew up playing cricket had nowhere for their sons and daughters to play, so Ajay founded the American Cricket Academy and Club--which has grown from six to more than 150 members in about a year.

Ajay's cricket academy might not be the next Intel, but that's growth a lot of new entrepreneurs would love to experience.

Of course, immigration has many facets. 

But most economists--including the ones at the Wharton School, alma mater of Donald Trump--conclude that immigration (both legal and illegal) is a net positive to the economy.

Economic studies are one way to measure the impact of immigration.

Personally, I like to measure it another way. I like to look at my son--the great-grandson of a Mexican immigrant--while he plays cricket with his friends, nearly all of whom are second-generation Indian immigrants.

When I watch my son play cricket with his friends, I come to the same conclusion the economists at Wharton do:

Our new immigrant friends are enriching our lives and making our economy better--and I'll be really thankful when my son gets that cricket scholarship.

Published on: Feb 21, 2017