Successful companies such as Uber, Tesla, and Google are not only similar in their revenue capabilities. But they also share similarities when it comes to having immigrant founders. If you observe the entrepreneurial landscape, you'll notice that a high proportion of businesses are founded by immigrants.
In fact, researchers at the National Foundation for American Policy (a nonpartisan think tank), studied 87 privately held American startups that were valued at one billion or more dollars. Among the plethora of data obtained, one interesting fact was that over 50 percent of those companies were founded by one or more people from outside the United States.
In a separate study from 2011 from the immigration reform group, the Partnership for a New American Economy discovered that more than 40 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants.
Immigrants are more than twice as likely as native-born citizens to start a business and were responsible for more than one in every four (28 percent) U.S. businesses founded in 2011, which significantly outpaced their share of the population (12.9 percent).
With a curiosity to find out more about how and why immigrants are heavily represented and successful in the entrepreneurial space, I talked with Li Lin, a successful Chinese immigrant entrepreneur who started her business, 'The Successful Immigrant' to help immigrant professionals find financial success in America.
Here are three lessons that I learned about the immigrant mentality and why it can be a key tool for all of us to adopt.
1. Embrace jumping into new environments.
As an immigrant heading over to America, Li didn't know English nor did she have any friends besides family. But as Li explained to me, this became a strength in the business world because "You're comfortable with experiencing discomfort in new environments and experiences."
Being relatively new in business, you might not grasp the entirety of the language of your specific industry yet nor be comfortable with how to navigate within that industry. But, if you adopt an immigrant mentality and re-frame this as a necessary step into growing, you'll be more equipped for long-term success.
I shied away from discomfort and from entering unfamiliar environments. However, I realized that discomfort is a necessary ingredient for growth.
After all, as Li mentions to me, "The experience of going into a completely new environment and culture is what entrepreneurship is all about."
2. Forge your identity based on passion and hard work.
"You came here because you had a dream, no guarantees, just an idea" as Li explained when describing the mentality about heading to a new country.
I realized that this is the same thing in entrepreneurship. You have an idea and vision, but no guarantees for how it turns out. If anything, all you want is an opportunity to make something out of nothing.
Whether learning to integrate into a new country, learning essential skills to grow your business, or learning the important habits to building a healthy body, one thing that can be guaranteed is your approach to those tasks.
Specifically, your passion and work ethic. You can't control the specific results nor timeline for a particular thing happening but you can control your focus and actions toward that desired outcome.
Construct your character and self-worth on the principles of hard work and passion. With passion, commitment, patience, and hard work come results.
3. Be willing to put your ego aside.
When your ego is unmanaged, you're incapable of growing into the best version of yourself. As I've learned, an unmanaged ego is a life sentence to stagnation and untapped potential.
As Li along with many other immigrants realized when making the adjustment, you're going to have to be okay with vulnerability and subduing your ego.
When it comes to ego, Li shared a powerful reminder to me that I along with many other entrepreneurs would be well-served to remember: "Be willing to start from the bottom up and figure out how you can learn the ropes of whatever trait you're going after."
This can be through an apprenticeship, interning, or even doing your craft at a small level to eventually grow into a bigger one.
When you remove your ego, you allow yourself to be a continual learner which leads to being a better entrepreneur and leader down the road since you're continually acquiring skills to better your craft.
While I'm not an immigrant, I feel that the benefits of adopting an immigrant mentality will prove to be beneficial both personally and professionally as it leads to a more grittier and resourceful individual.