When my parents immigrated to America, they didn’t understand what being an American meant in practice – after all, how could they? While some would say that being an American is a mere form of national identification, I would argue that it is instead an identification of character. For immigrant families like mine, who have experienced what it’s like not to be an American, we’ve found that being an American means one thing: to be a dreamer, a person driven by firm belief and relentless ambition to accomplish the unaccomplished, to explore the uncharted.
Whether we are founders or investors, immigrants or natives – this principle guides our work and – for many of us – our lives. As investors, our role is not just to fund startups but to invest in these remarkable journeys, to be part of a story that continues to redefine what it means to innovate and succeed in America.
So, what makes immigrants so capable of running successful startups? A report by the Kauffman Foundation highlights that the most successful entrepreneurs share key traits, such as a strong vision, adaptability, and a relentless pursuit of opportunities. Perhaps it is these traits, the same that were required of my parents when navigating a new life in America, that are core to the success of immigrant-led startups. Encapsulating this notion is the fact that “Immigrants have started more than half (55%) of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion or more” (Forbes). It is a striking illustration of how a blend of cultural backgrounds and perspectives can drive forward-thinking and creativity.
Immigrant founders in the U.S. are not just driving innovation and advancement in America, but globally. A recent study by Knowledge at Wharton highlighted a trend, where VC firms in the U.S. that invest in startups with immigrant founders are also more likely to later invest in startups located in the founders’ home countries. This pattern underscores the role of immigrant entrepreneurs in facilitating cross-border venture capital investment, challenging the traditional proximity rule of venture capital investment.
Additionally, the impact of immigrant entrepreneurs extends beyond the realms of global spillover effects and billion-dollar valuations. In fashion, for example, their influence is reshaping an industry known for its dynamism and trendsetting. Immigrant designers bring a fusion of global aesthetics and novel ideas, enriching the tapestry of American fashion.
Ultimately, the underlying sentiment is that the journey of immigrant entrepreneurs mirrors the larger American narrative — one of relentless pursuit, resilience in the face of adversity, and an unwavering belief in the dream. Moreover, the same principles of resilience, belief, and perseverance in immigrant founders are equally present in American-born entrepreneurs, which truly depicts the scope of American entrepreneurship. It’s a melting pot of ideas, cultures, and visions, where everyone — immigrant or not — has the opportunity to contribute and make a difference.