Since 1776, people have been fleeing their home countries and made America their adoptive nation. For many reasons these immigrants came fleeing religious persecution, poverty, and sometimes searching for new business opportunities. Without a doubt, countless of the most successful American entrepreneurs stem from immigrant backgrounds or are first generation immigrants. Not to count out native born entrepreneurs, because after all, we all stem from an immigrant background. It’s safe to say that Immigrants from all backgrounds have contributed to not only America’s growth, but also impacted the world in all industries.

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Elon Musk, South African born Canadian-American entrepreneur (PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla).

Despite  only making about 13% of the U.S population, first generation immigrants start more than a quarter of all new businesses in the country. Many of them have high growth, too–more than 20% of the 2014 Inc. 500 CEOs are immigrants. Immigrant-owned businesses pay an estimated $126 billion in wages per year, employing 1 in 10 U.S Citizens who work for private companies. In 2010, immigrant-owned businesses generated more than $775 billion in sales.

People born abroad live all over the United States. But they have settled more heavily in some parts of the country, and consequently, have a greater economic impact in those “gateway” states. Foreign-born business owners generate nearly one-quarter of all business income in California and nearly one-fifth in the states of New York, Florida and New Jersey.

The largest number of foreign-born business owners is from Mexico — not surprising since there are more immigrants from Mexico than from any other country. But in fact, Mexicans and other Latin Americans create on average fewer businesses and have a lower success rate than people born in America. Immigrants from Asia, on the other hand, are more entrepreneurial and tend to be more successful than business owners born in America. There are many key factors suggesting this trend: Hispanic immigrants on average have attained lower educational levels than native-born Americans; Asians immigrants have attained higher levels. Asians also tend to benefit more often from extended families, whose members with business experience act as mentors to those starting out. Asian immigrants also benefit more often from offers of startup capital from family members.

In California’s Silicon Valley, the center of America’s high-tech economy, one-quarter of all technology businesses are run by immigrants from China and India.*

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Peter Andreas Thiel is an German-American businessman, philanthropist, political activist, and venture capitalist. (PayPal & Facebook Investor)

The United States of America is world-renowned for its entrepreneurial business spirit, and this spirit is fueled in large part by immigrants and people of immigrant culture. In every economic census since 1880, immigrants are more likely to be self-employed than the native-born population. While some of these immigrant entrepreneurs were highly educated, many were not. It starts from the bottom up, and empowering young leaders and professionals to contribute and create rather than just consume. The only characteristic today’s immigrants and immigrants from a century ago that they share is the courage to leave their home countries and the drive and determination to start a new life in the United States. This is the American story and our community.

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