Startup Mind: Immigration and Innovation

hand.jpgWatching the State of the Union last night, I couldn’t help but disagree with the majority opinion on immigration. While President Bush has been widely criticized by his own party for his ‘liberal’ views on immigration policy, I can’t help but think how much of the economy’s recent success is directly attributable to immigration.

Several recent reports have come out with numbers that are shocking to many people. During 2005-2006 it is estimated that 52% of US startups were founded by immigrants. Amazingly 39% of startups were started by Indians who account for less than 1% of the entire US population. According to a study from Duke University, during this same period, immigrant entrepreneurs’ companies employed 450,000 workers and generated $52 billion in sales.

As Indians only account for 1% of the population, who do you think they tend to hire as their businesses expand? Meanwhile, less educated immigrants are the ones who take the positions that many American’s feel they are “above.” These jobs often tend to be services oriented positions that we take for granted, but are necessary for a functioning society.

Even in Silicon Valley, 52% of startups are founded by foreign-born citizens. This comes in stark contrast to the disproportionate emphasis (media attention) given to white male Americans who tend to dominate the pages of Valleywag or the VC blog scene.

I thought Vivek Wadhwa summed it up best: ‘Why aren’t these people citizens?”

I would love to feature a startup run by a non-US citizen who is pursuing their business in America. If you are he/she please send me an email and let’s talk.

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