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Why immigrants are essential for entrepreneurship

How great a blow will immigrant restriction be on the US startup scene?
By AJ Agrawal |

 

 

There are more entrepreneurs in the United States than ever before. And many of them are immigrants, whose proportion of the US population is the highest in history. 

 

According to the Migration Institute, immigrants in the United States and their US-born children now number approximately 81 million people, or 26 percent of the overall US population.

 

And many of them have started their own companies, spurred by the financial crash of 2008. That's evidence that the long tradition of the American Dream lives on: immigrants continue to come to this country to make their dreams come true.

 

These stories are inspirational, but what many entrepreneurs don’t realize is how essential they themselves are to the success of entrepreneurship itself

 


Tomas Gorny's inspiring story

One story that has inspired people is that of Tomas Gorny, the current CEO of Nextiva, a company changing the way cloud communications are used.

 

Gorny came to America in 1996. Settling down in Hollywood, California, he spoke little English and had little money to his name. But his determination encouraged him on.

 

For a time, he worked as part of Internet Communications, a web-hosting company, while supplementing his income with a number of part-time jobs. But fate smiled on him: two years later, after he had become a partner and Internet Communications sold, Gorny was a millionaire.

 

Stories like this inspire new entrepreneurs. They inspire domestic entrepreneurs. They think that if an immigrant with no money and no connections can make it, why can’t they?

 


A new way of doing things

Immigrants bring different experiences and philosophical approaches from their native countries. And this is a good thing: it’s easy to let your company grow stale because you follow a standard playbook that you’ve always known. Bringing an immigrant into your company could completely change your way of doing things.

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That’s precisely what Tomas Gorny did with Internet Communications. He rose up the ranks to become a partner, because he did things differently than his coworkers. It was hard work that led him to achieve success, but not work that was hard as starting over in a new country.

 

Immigrants can revolutionize the entrepreneurial landscape because of these new ways they bring to the table.

 

 

Immigrants already make up a huge proportion of America’s startup community

The National Foundation for American Policy recently conducted a survey of 87 different startups, finding that 44 startups, or more than half, had at least one immigrant founder. This is an obvious reason why immigrants are essential for entrepreneurship. According to the National Foundation study, they already make up a massive proportion of the startup community.

 

So, if immigrants were to disappear or be restricted, as statements during the presidential election indicated, many of those startups employing talented young Americans today would simply disappear. A lot of jobs might disappear and potentially many new ideas.

 

If the US lost such startups, their founders might move them to other countries, which would benefit those countries instead of ours, thus weakening American business as a whole.

 


Because they have everything to lose

Entrepreneurs in the US are different from those in other countries because of the visa issues they have. It’s extremely difficult to get the relevant visa to stay and work in this country in the first place. Unlike other countries, the US has no specific visa scheme for immigrant entrepreneurs.

 

Those who do gain entry are often driven more than anyone else because they have everything to lose. After the long process of obtaining the relevant visa, they are putting all that they've built on the line. Domestic entrepreneurs know they can easily switch careers if things don't work out; so they may be less strongly motivated to succeed, unlike immigrant entrepreneurs with low funds and few connections. 

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Are immigrants better for US entrepreneurship?

Some of the greatest companies, like Google and Goldman Sachs, have been created by immigrant entrepreneurs. Without immigrant entrepreneurs, these companies might have been established in other countries or never established at all.

 

There’s no doubt that immigrants are essential for entrepreneurship in this nation simply because they bring so much to the table. Many bring different talents and different experiences that a US-born entrepreneur could never hope to contribute.

 

These immigrant-owned businesses also employ young people just out of college who get the chance to ply their skills for the first time. People like Gorny only gained the confidence and funding necessary to start their own ventures because they got a start at another company first.

 

To lose immigrant entrepreneurs or to constrain them in any way, would be a significant blow to the future of US entrepreneurship. It relies on the input of immigrants to succeed.

 

 

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Copyright © 2016 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.  

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by Entrepreneur.com.ph.

 

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