More than half of US startup unicorns founded by immigrants

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A new report published by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), a nonpartisan research organization, reveals that US immigrants have founded more than half (55%) of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion or more. In fact, close to two-thirds (64%) of US billion-dollar businesses have been founded by immigrants or children of immigrants.


Furthermore, according to the NFAP research, nearly 80% of America’s privately-held unicorn companies have an immigrant founder or an immigrant in a key leadership role. The research shows that immigrants have driven a rise in the number of US billion-dollar startup enterprises. 

The report states: “Without immigrants there would be fewer than half as many billion-dollar startup companies in the United States today.” 

As of October 2018, there were 91 unicorn companies in the US, 50 of which (55%) had an immigrant founder compared to 582 unicorn startups in the US and 319 (55%) with an immigrant founder as of May 2022.


500% increase in unicorn companies

NFAP’s research represents a rise of more than 500% in unicorn companies and those founded by immigrants between 2018 and 2022. 

Stuart Anderson, the author of the study and NFAP’s Executive Director, said: “The research shows the importance of immigrants in cutting-edge companies and the US economy at a time when US immigration policies have pushed talent to other countries.”

“The story of immigrant entrepreneurs and billion-dollar companies is not only about impressive numbers, but about immigrants coming to this country, working hard and achieving the American Dream,” Anderson added.

The research conducted by NFAP involved a series of interviews and gathering information on more than 580 US startups valued at over $1 billion as of May 2022 that have yet to become publicly traded on the US stock market. 

Tracked by CB insights, these unicorn firms are privately held, valued at $1 billion-plus and have received venture capital financing.


Immigrant founders

According to the research, the collective value of more than 300 immigrant-founded US companies is $1.2 trillion. This represents more than the value of all the companies listed on the main stock markets of many nations, including

  • Argentina

  • Colombia

  • Mexico


The research found that privately-held US billion-dollar startups with immigrant founders have created an average of 859 jobs per company. Meanwhile, at least 10 immigrants have founded multiple billion-dollar companies, including:

  • Al Goldstein (born in Uzbekistan, Avant and Amount)

  • Noubar Afeyan (Lebanon, Moderna and Indigo Ag)

  • Elon Musk (South Africa, SpaceX, OpenAI and The Boring Company)


Furthermore, Rhianna – an immigrant from Barbados, founded Savage X Fenty, valued at $1 billion.

A quarter (25%) of billion-dollar US startups have a founder who first came to America on a US student visa. Meanwhile, India tops the chart as the country of origin for most unicorn business founders with 66.

The UK, Canada, China, France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Australia, Romania, Nigeria, South Korea, New Zealand, Pakistan, Argentina and several other countries also contributed to the USA’s startup ecosystem, according to the NFAP report. can help with Sponsor Licences

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