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Where are Immigrant Founders of U.S. Unicorns From?

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immigrant founders of U.S. billion dollar startups

Where are Immigrant Founders of U.S. Unicorns From?

The majority of U.S. unicornsโ€”private startups worth more than $1 billionโ€”have at least one immigrant founder, according to the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP).

While some of the companies and founders are well known, like SpaceX from South Africa’s Elon Musk, hundreds of lesser-known unicorns have been founded from the top talent of just a handful of countries.

This visual using NFAP data lays out the countries which are home to the most U.S. billion-dollar startup founders as of May 2022.

Note: These rankings are based on unicorn valuations as of May 2022. As valuations regularly fluctuate, some companies may have gained or lost unicorn status since that time.

Countries with the Most U.S. Unicorn Founders

Here’s a look at the countries that these immigrant founders come from.

The 382 founders accounted for below have combined to start 319 of 582 U.S.-based unicorns.

RankCountry# Founders of
U.S. Unicorns
1๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ India66
2๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Israel54
3๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง United Kingdom27
4๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Canada22
5๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ China21
6๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท France18
7๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช Germany15
8๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ Russia11
9๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Ukraine10
10๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท Iran8
11๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Australia7
T12๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น Italy6
T12๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Nigeria6
T12๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ Poland6
T12๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด Romania6
T16๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ท Argentina5
T16๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ท Brazil5
T16๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฟ New Zealand5
T16๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฐ Pakistan5
T16๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท South Korea5
T21๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Denmark4
T21๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡น Portugal4
T21๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ Spain4
T24๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡พ Belarus3
T24๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ Bulgaria3
T24๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช Ireland3
T24๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ช Kenya3
T24๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ง Lebanon3
T24๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ญ Philippines3
T24๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡ฆ South Africa3
T24๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ผ Taiwan3
T24๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท Turkey3
T33๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฒ Armenia2
T33๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ Czech Republic2
T33๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท Greece2
T33๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ Mexico2
T33๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Saudi Arabia2
T33๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Singapore2
T33๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ Switzerland2
T33๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฟ Uzbekistan2
T41๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น Austria1
T41๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฉ Bangladesh1
T41๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ง Barbados1
T41๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ด Colombia1
T41๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ด Dominican Republic1
T41๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฌ Egypt1
T33๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ช Georgia1
T41๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ถ Iraq1
T41๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ด Jordan1
T41๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ป Latvia1
T41๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡น Lithuania1
T41๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡น Malta1
T41๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Morocco1
T41๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Netherlands1
T41๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด Norway1
T41๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ช Peru1
T41๐Ÿ‡ถ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Qatar1
T41๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Slovenia1
T41๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ช Venezuela1

Far in the lead is India with 66 startup founders and Israel with 54 startup founders. Together, they account for 31% of all unicorn founders listed. In fact, more than half of the immigrant unicorn founders came from just six countries: India, Israel, the UK, Canada, China, and France.

These immigrant founders have helped found many of the world’s biggest startups:

  • Stripe was co-founded by Irish brothers Patrick and John Collison
  • Instacart’s founder and former CEO, Apoorva Mehta, was born in India, then moved to Libya and Canada as a child.
  • Big data startup Databricks was founded by a group of seven computer scientists from the University of California, including five immigrants from Iran, Romania, and China.
  • Immigration and Entrepreneurship

    Though some of these founders came to the U.S. as successful business leaders, the report noted that many immigrated as children or international students.

    In addition, there are another 51 founders (not included in the above statistics) that were not immigrants themselves but are first-generation Americans born to immigrant parents. Data from the report also shows that 80% of unicorns have an immigrant in some key role, whether it’s as a founder, a C-level executive, or some other crucial position.

    Even historically, some of the biggest companies in the U.S. were not founded by Americans. For example, the founders of Procter & Gamble emigrated from England and Ireland in the early 1800s. And today, one of the biggest companies in the U.S. is NVIDIA, which recently broached a trillion dollar market cap and whose founder is from Taiwan.

    The Ever-Changing Unicorn Landscape

    While this dataset is from mid-2022, it should be noted that the startup ecosystem has shifted drastically in just the last year.

    Rapidly rising interest rates and a slowdown in venture capital have conspired to create a more precarious fundraising environment, leading to down rounds and stagnation for some of these billion-dollar companies.

    In Q1 2023, unicorn births declined 89%, suggesting that in upcoming years the unicorn listโ€”and the number of immigrant foundersโ€”may be subject to change.

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Internet Adoption in America: Who Isnโ€™t Online Yet?

Internet adoption is widespread in the U.S. In fact, only 7% of Americans do not use the internet. Who are these non-adopters?

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America Offline: Who Isnโ€™t on the Internet Yet?

The internet is so widely used today that for many, itโ€™s hard to imagine life without it. Yet, despite its prevalence, thereโ€™s still a small fraction of Americans who aren’t online.

Who are these non-adopters? Using data from Pew Research Center, this graphic provides a demographic breakdown of the U.S. adults who don’t use the internet.

The Demographic Breakdown

In the last two decades, internet adoption in the U.S. has skyrocketed, causing America’s offline population shrink to just 7%.

That’s a significant drop from 2000, when almost half of the American population did not use the internet.

According to the data, age seems closely linked to non-internet useโ€”25% of respondents aged 65+ claimed they do not use the internet, compared to just 4% of those aged 50-64.

Age% of U.S. Adults Who Donโ€™t Use the Internet
18โ€“291%
30โ€“492%
50โ€“644%
65+25%

However, it’s worth noting that 86% of U.S. seniors (65+) werenโ€™t online in 2000, so this age group has seen a significant increase in internet adoption over the last two decades.

Income also seems to be correlated with non-internet use. 14% of respondents with an annual household income below $30,000 claimed to not use the internet, compared to 1% who make $75,000 or more per year.

Annual Household Income% of U.S. Adults Who Donโ€™t Use the Internet
<$30K14%
$30Kโ€“$49,9999%
$50Kโ€“$74,9992%
$75K+1%

Additionally, education may have positive correlation with internet adoption. Just 2โ€“3% of survey respondents who went to college claimed to not use the internet, compared to 14% for those who didn’t study beyond high school. Interestingly, the data did not show a strong correlation between non-adoption and gender or race.

Why is This Important?

As the world becomes increasingly more digital, the internet is starting to become a necessity rather than a luxury. And those who don’t have good access to the web are starting to face significant obstacles in their day-to-day lives.

For instance, when schools closed down during the early days of the global pandemic, many American children in lower-income homes did not have reliable internet at home or didn’t have a computer to complete their schoolwork on.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Pew Research Center

Details: This survey is based on telephone interviews conducted in the U.S. from Jan. 25-Feb. 8, 2021, among a national sample of 1,502 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Full details on methodology here.

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