(Diya TV) — A new non-partisan study on entrepreneurship endorses the tech industry’s notion that further success in contingent on robust immigration — according to the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan think tank based in Arlington, Va., immigrants started more than half of the top American-based startups valued at $1 billion or more.
Collectively, the 44 companies are valued at $168 billion and create an average of roughly 760 jobs per company, all in the United States, according to the study. Additionally, the study estimates that immigrants occupy over 70 percent of key management or product development positions at said companies.
The study examined 87 U.S. companies valued at $1 billion or more as of Jan. 1, as ranked by the Wall Street Journal’s “Billion Dollar Startup Club.” At the top of highest valued companies founded by immigrants are the car-hailing service Uber Technologies, data-software company Palantir Technologies Inc. and rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies Inc.
Stuart Anderson, author of the study and executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, says the findings speak to how much the U.S. economy stands to benefit from the talents of foreign-born entrepreneurs and how much more it could benefit if it were easier for them to obtain visas. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft tech titan Bill Gates concur, and have both called for increasing the number of H-1B visas that let skilled foreign workers stay in the country.
Gates and Zuckerberg argue that increased immigration greatly benefits the tech community, and that it is difficult for companies to hire foreign-born workers and for immigrant entrepreneurs to start businesses due to the visas’ constraints.
Opponents of the increase have argued that tech companies are merely looking to hire cheaper labor. Some politicians, such as the Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, have said publicly that they will seek to curb the worker visa program. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, also making a run for the White House, introduced a bill last December that lawmakers say aims to reform the H-1B program — applicants would be required to hold an advanced university degree, have worked at least 10 years overseas and not get paid materially less than U.S. workers.
The H-1B program currently caps the amount of visas distributed at 85,000 per year, 65,000 are set aside for foreign workers applying for the first time and 20,000 are for foreign students graduating from American universities. Last year, the lottery to obtain an H-1B visa hit capacity one week after it began, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — during the first week, nearly 233,000 petitioners filled out applications.
Anderson said the law has already complicated things for entrepreneurs, it’s difficult for them to qualify because it’s meant for employers to petition on behalf of their employees.The decision to start a company while awaiting to hear the verdict of an H-1B application is risky, according to Anderson, and in the majority of cases, immigrant entrepreneurs are only able to get their businesses off the ground after first gaining permanent residence, then obtaining a green card.
“How would you ever raise money for it?” Mr. Anderson told the Wall Street Journal. “Who is going to invest in a company if the founder of the company may not be able to stay in the U.S.?”
Jyoti Bansal, founder of AppDynamics Inc., said he had to wait seven years for his employment-based green card before he could even start his company. Bansal’s company helps other companies monitor the performance of their networked applications, and has been valued at $1.9 billion. According to the study, Mr. Bansal couldn’t leave his job to start a new company because it was unclear if he’d be able to keep his H-1B status.
According to the study, founders of billion-dollar startups most often hail from India (14), followed by Canada and the U.K., with eight each, then Israel (7) and Germany (4). Two originated from France and the Collison brothers, the co-founders of payments startup Stripe, make up the pair from Ireland.
Information from the Wall Street Journal contributed to this report.