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Internationals behind quarter of US billion-dollar startups

One quarter of US billion-dollar companies have a founder who attended a US university as an international student, according to a new report from the National Foundation for American Policy.

Many big-name-company founders went to the US to study, including SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who went to the University of Pennsylvania. Photo: Pexels

143 of those [billion-dollar] companies, out of 582, have a former international student founder, creating an average of 860 jobs

Findings from the NFAP policy brief on immigrant entrepreneurs and US billion-dollar companies shows that 143 of the 582 billion-dollar companies were founded by a former international student. On average, each founder created 860 jobs in the US.

“International students have the courage to take a chance on studying in a foreign country, so it’s not surprising that many also become outstanding entrepreneurs,” Stuart Anderson, executive director of NFAP, told The PIE News.

“These students are resilient and talented. They are ambitious – for themselves and the world”

As the author of the brief, Anderson added that several of the companies had multiple international students as founders.

 

“There are 174 international students who became founders or cofounders of US billion-dollar companies,” the brief read.

“We applaud this latest research for highlighting the tenacity and ingenuity of the many immigrants, including international students, who have founded a successful business in this country,” Jill Allen Murray, deputy executive director of public policy at NAFSA, told The PIE.

Miriam Feldblum, executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance, also noted the “immense contributions” of immigrants and international students.

“These students are resilient and talented. They are ambitious – for themselves and the world,” she told The PIE.

The brief detailed all the international student entrepreneurs who have founded billion-dollar companies, multiple large-scale businesses known across the world are present.

Founder of Grammarly and Ukrainian-born Max Lytvyn attended Vanderbilt, recent gym-hopping sensation company Gympass founder Cesar Carvalho comes from Brazil and attended Harvard and day-organising app Calendly has its founder in Nigerian, Tope Awotona, who attended the University of Georgia.

Elon Musk, founder of the Boring Company, OpenAI and his $100.3bn company SpaceX, also featured on the list. Musk attended the University of Pennsylvania and Wharton School.

Indian born Hari Balakrishnan completed a PhD at Berkeley before moving to Boston to become a professor at MIT. He is now the co-founder of Cambridge Mobile Telematics, which focuses on smart technology and drive behaviour through its AI platform.

“America was then and remains the best higher education and research ecosystem with the best opportunities in the world,” he said in the brief.

“If you want to be the best you can be, you have to go to the place where the opportunities are at,” he added.

However, Anderson, Feldblum and Murray all commented on the lack of responsibility taken by policymakers in making it more accessible for international students to make their way in the US, and that they should “take note of the significant value they add to America”.

“Policymakers can do more to make the US more welcoming to talented international students by making it easier to gain a green card and removing the requirement that they declare they have no intention to stay on in this country after graduation,” said Murray.

“[America] remains the best higher education and research ecosystem with the best opportunities in the world”

Feldblum also mentioned that the successes written made her think about the opportunities “lost because of our outdated immigration systems”.

“There is no doubt that each year we do not implement immigration reform and a national recruitment and retention strategy for international students translates into enormous losses for all of us – for the students and their families, colleges and universities, and the US economy and society,” Feldblum insisted.

“With improved policies, we would likely see even more international students become entrepreneurs, which would lead to more jobs and innovations in the US,” added Anderson.

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