Immigrants launch nearly half of top U.S. start-ups, study finds

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Immigrants are responsible for launching nearly half of the top start-ups in the country, according to a new report that makes a case for more favorable border policies toward foreign-born entrepreneurs.

Of the top 50 venture-backed companies in the U.S., 23 have at least one foreign-born founder while 37 have at least one immigrant in a major management position, according to the National Foundation for American Policy.

Natives of India, Israel, Canada, Iran and New Zealand are most likely to come to the U.S. to start companies or to take on positions such as chief executive, chief technology officer or vice president of engineering, the study found. Their businesses each employ an average of 150 people.

Examples include online handmade crafts retailer Etsy Inc. of Brooklyn, N.Y., which was launched in part by Swiss immigrant Haim Schoppik in 2005 and now has 185 workers.


“Policies that help retain talent in the United States are likely to yield both more start-up companies and the personnel needed to create more jobs and innovation in America,” according to the report.

The companies considered were ranked by research firm VentureSource and are all private, valued at less than $1 billion and had received venture capital funding within the last three years. The National Foundation report was funded by a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

The study’s findings “perhaps makes it even more imperative that the U.S. put out the ‘Welcome’ mat for these entrepreneurs who help create jobs and drive our economy,” wrote Emily Baker, a vice president of the National Venture Capital Assn. in a blog post this week.

Legislation currently in play in Congress could broaden the number of work visas given to immigrants and their families and also help retain foreign students with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees so they can launch businesses in the U.S.


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-- Tiffany Hsu