What makes immigrant entrepreneurs so successful? The world would like to know.
The facts are clear: immigrants are almost twice as likely to become entrepreneurs as native-born U.S. citizens. And, despite only representing about 13% of the United States population, immigrants account for nearly 28% of the country’s entrepreneurs.
This phenomenon isn’t merely limited to the United States. It’s worldwide. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the vast majority of developed countries see immigrants consistently outperform native citizens in entrepreneurial growth.
In the United States, however, immigrants are especially accomplished. In fact, 40% of the Fortune 500 was founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants.
So, what makes immigrants such successful entrepreneurs? Here are three of the leading factors:
Consider the challenges of leaving your home country and moving abroad. It’s a daunting task, and one that most people are hesitant to take.
Immigrants are special. They know how to handle change, how to beat incredible odds, and how to successfully adapt to living in a new country. From managing endless paperwork to navigating complex visa and tax laws, immigrants are continually faced with endless demands and stresses on their daily life.
That’s why they are uniquely qualified to handle the pressures of entrepreneurship, a world defined by challenges. Successful entrepreneurship requires a tenacious spirit that sees opportunity in every obstacle. Immigrants have the mindset to endure such setbacks until their dreams are realized.
In fact, immigrants prove so adaptable that their entrepreneurial success actually eclipses the need for having a college degree. In 2017, the New American Economy found that 2.1 million immigrant entrepreneurs did not have a bachelor’s degree and accumulated over $43 billion in income.
The rate of entrepreneurship among immigrants without a college degree is even higher than those with one. Once again, immigrants prove to be truly resilient and adaptable in the business world.
Many economists believe discrimination actually drives immigrants to become entrepreneurs. After all, it’s well documented that cultural biases often make it difficult for immigrants to enter the job market. Instead of struggling to compete in interviews, however, many immigrants simply elect to work for themselves and forge their own futures.
For first-generation immigrant Haroon Mokhtarzada, discrimination directly fueled his family’s entrepreneurial journey. After his parents fled the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, he recognized a rare opportunity in web design. Alongside his two brothers, Haroon bypassed traditional job interviews and founded his own company, Webs.
After 20 years of struggle, he and his brothers sold the company for a whopping $117.5 million. Looking back, Haroon reflects, “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many immigrants wind up becoming entrepreneurs. When you come here, you have no network and fewer job options — so you make opportunities for yourself.”
That’s why refugees, a subset of the immigration population, are especially successful entrepreneurs. According to the New American Economy, refugee-owned businesses generated over $4.6 billion in income in 2015.
When immigrants aren’t handed opportunities, they pave their own path and build the opportunities themselves. When doors remain closed, they build their own bridges.
While demonstrating their adaptability, immigrants continually rely on their unique perspective to forge successful businesses.
Visionary minds see the world in fresh and exciting ways. Immigrants have this creative advantage because they can compare cultures in a unique way.
According to a 2016 study by the Journal of Business Venturing, cross-cultural experience drastically increases a person’s ability to identify entrepreneurial opportunities. The study affirms that immigrants are uniquely able to find their niche in the marketplace and then corner it. They recognize when certain products and services are available in one country but potentially lacking in another.
For example, the Harvard Business Review details the compelling story of Dietrich Mateschitz, the Austrian entrepreneur who founded Red Bull. As his story goes, Mateschitz spent a significant amount of time in Thailand during the 1980s and noted the popularity of an energy drink called Krating Daeng. As Mateschitz observed, local construction workers and truck drivers drank it all the time.
Before long, Mateschitz decided to capitalize on the energy drink’s popularity and merge it with the growing nightlife scene back in Europe. After developing his own unique formula and branding, Red Bull soon became an international phenomenon.
This same story of cross-cultural genius applies to countless immigrants, including Elon Musk of Tesla, Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, Sergey Brin of Google, among countless others.
Because immigrants carry an international perspective, they can creatively dominate the domestic marketplace.
At uLink, we strive to help immigrants fulfill their entrepreneurial potential. We know how overwhelming life can be, and we’re committed to making it easier than ever to send your love home.
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