Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Immigration is one of the most polarizing topics these days. Do immigrants take American jobs, or help our country grow? Do they drain our welfare funds, or can they help refill public coffers as our baby boomers retire? Of course, this article is not the suitable place to address these issues, but something must be said: they do play a vital role in our economy.


The numbers may vary depending on the source you consult, but there are approximately 40 million immigrants living in the US. The current population of the United States is estimated to be around 326 million people, which means that roughly one in every eight individuals (12.27%) living in the country is an immigrant. They constitute 15% of the general U.S. workforce.


Since immigrants are now launching more than a quarter of the US businesses, we get to the conclusion that the most entrepreneurial group of the country wasn’t born here. Their origins and ethnicities could not be more different. They come from South America, Canada, Australia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa or Asia. The place they settled in? Same thing … Northeast, Southwest, Midwest, Southeast, California, Florida, New Jersey and so on. Their backgrounds are also very heterogeneous. What seems to be the common thing between them is that they have a dream, which is fueled by their determination to succeed. And they are willing to pay the price for that.


Facing new laws, new habits and cultural differences, sometimes even discrimination and racism, dealing with language barriers, isolation or having to adjust to different weather conditions may create an environment potentially troublesome. Leaving your home-country and immigrating to a new place could be very risky, and it’s not something for the fainthearted. According to the Inc. magazine, from 1996 to 2011, the business startup rate of immigrants increased by more than 50 percent. An estimated $775 billion gross annual sales were generated by immigrant-owned businesses, which paid about $126 billion annual wages. Those are relevant figures that one can’t deny.


Immigrants to the U.S. bring a fresh perspective that can translate into new ideas for businesses. They account for around a quarter of what we see in innovation and patent filings of U.S. inventors and play a vital role as connectors to global markets, both abroad and here in America. In addition, immigrants typically have a tendency to be open to other communities, to search diversity. When you are trying to do business, the more types of people you know, the better. If you just stick to your own community members, your perspective is going to be more limited. Besides, these new businesses are more likely to export, a key factor to the country’s economic growth in recent years.


As for the companies that have been started by immigrants, some are huge corporations in many fields. Just to name a few segments, their businesses are in the food and beverage, banking and financial, fitness programs, e-commerce, pharmaceutical, technology, retail, communication, search engines, eco-friendly cars and the list goes on and on. According to the Atlantic, 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by either immigrants or their children.


Here is a short list of some of those companies:


Kraft Foods Inc = founded by the Canadian James Lewis Kraft, who immigrated to Buffalo in 1902. The group is headquartered in Northfield, IL, with more than 20,000 employees and revenues over $20 billion USD;


Capital One = bank holding company co-founded by the British Nigel Morris in 1994. Currently, the company employees 47,000 people with revenues over $25 billion USD;


eBay = E-commerce and online auction hosting founded by the French-born Iranian-American entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar. With headquarters in San Jose, CA, the company has 12,600 employees and revenues of $9 billion USD;


Pfizer = headquartered in New York City, this pharma giant was founded in 1849 by the German Charles Pfizer, who immigrated to the US in 1848. The company employees almost 100,000 people and its revenues are $53 billion USD;


Intel = technology company with headquarters in Santa Clara, CA and co-founded in 1968 by the Hungarian Andrew Grove who immigrated to the US at the age of 20. Currently, the company has 106,000 employees with revenues of $60 billion USD.


Besides these giant conglomerates mentioned above, there are a number of small and anonymous businesses founded by immigrants and their descendants that combined create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenues, wages and taxes.


This article is for general, indicative purpose only and should not be considered investment advice. Florida Connexion is not liable for any financial loss, damage, expense or costs arising from your investment decisions based on this article.


At Florida Connexion our multidisciplinary business brokers can assist you in identifying the right business for you and the right buyer for your business.