What do Google, eBay, Whatsapp, Instagram and thousands of other successful companies have in common?
They were each founded by an immigrant entrepreneur. According to Partnership for a New American Economy, 40% of the top Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrant entrepreneurs. Smaller businesses are heavily impacted by immigrant entrepreneurs too: 1 out of 10 immigrants owns their own business.
Over the past several years, the rate of new immigrant-owned businesses has increased by over 50%. In many industries, this has created even more disruption and innovation as immigrants combine their individual perspectives from home with the new opportunities they find in the US. Even more importantly, immigrant entrepreneurs have contributed to our annual Gross Domestic Product with over $775 billion dollars in revenue per year.
Immigrant entrepreneurs face a variety of challenges when starting their own companies. Most entrepreneurs, including immigrants, struggle with raising capital, understanding rules and regulations, or growing their business. Immigrant entrepreneurs also face unique challenges. For example, some do not speak English fluently.
Despite these challenges, many immigrants share a drive and perseverant attitude critical to their success. We took a closer look at 3 successful immigrant entrepreneurs to find out how being an immigrant helped shape them as an entrepreneur.
Originally born in São Paulo, Brazil, Mike Krieger came to the US to study symbolic systems at Stanford University. While at Stanford, Krieger met Kevin Systrom who had been working on a simple photo sharing app. Together, in 2010, they developed Instagram, a company that changed social media.
By simplifying photo sharing, Instagram created a community and space for millions of people to create their own personal brands, allow people into their lives, and focus on visual content. Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2012.
Krieger and Systrom continue to run the company independently. Today, Krieger focuses on the technical side of Instagram.
The booming success of Instagram didn’t come without a struggle. Krieger remembers having a hard time obtaining an H1-B visa, which would allow him to stay in the US to continue working on Instagram. He recalls:
I had moments where I was like, ‘Maybe I should just tell Kevin to forget about it and find somebody who is easier to hire’…It took less time to build Instagram than it did for me to get my work visa.
Krieger’s situation isn’t uncommon; H1-B visas are notoriously difficult to obtain. While some people believe that H1-B visas take away jobs from Americans, stories like Krieger’s prove that immigrant entrepreneurs can create amazing companies that create many jobs.
There’s no telling if Instagram would have existed without Krieger, and there’s no doubt that it’s been a game changer in social media. But because of Krieger’s persistence and dedication to work hard, he was able to obtain the visa and help create a tech giant.
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