NFAP Study – Immigrants Founded 51% of U.S. Billion-Dollar Startups

Immigrants play a key role in creating new, fast-growing companies, as evidenced by the prevalence of foreign-born founders and key personnel in the nation’s leading privately-held companies. Immigrants have started more than half (44 of 87) of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion dollars or more and are key members of management or product development teams in over 70 percent (62 of 87) of these companies.

The research finds that among the billion dollar startup companies, immigrant founders have created an average of approximately 760 jobs per company in the United States. The collective value of the 44 immigrant-founded companies is $168 billion, which is close to half the value of the stock markets of Russia or Mexico.

The research involved conducting interviews and gathering information on the 87 U.S. startup companies valued at over $1 billion (as of January 1, 2016) that have yet to become publicly traded on the U.S. stock market and are tracked by The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones VentureSource. The companies, all privately-held and with the potential to become publicly traded on the stock market, are today each valued at $1 billion or more and have received venture capital (equity) financing.

The research finds that 51 percent, or 44 out of 87, of the country’s $1 billion startup companies had at least one immigrant founder. This illustrates the increasing importance and contributions of immigrants to the U.S. economy. A 2006 study conducted with the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) identified an immigrant founder in 25 percent of venture-backed companies that became publicly traded between 1990 and 2005, while a 2013 NVCA study found immigrants started 33 percent of U.S. venture-backed companies that became publicly traded between 2006 and 2012.

Outstanding immigrant entrepreneurs profiled in the research include:

  • Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX
  • Garrett Camp, co-founder of Uber
  • Noubar Afeyan, co-founder of Moderna Therapeutics
  • Jyoti Bansal, founder of AppDynamics
  • Amr Awadallah, co-founder of Cloudera
  • Michelle Zatlyn, co-founder of CloudFlare

About NFAP
The National Foundation for American Policy is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, non-partisan research organization focused on immigration, international trade and other issues related to globalization and the economy. Collectively, the organization’s research has been cited more than 100 times in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post.