Report finds that 64% of “unicorn” companies, i.e. privately held, start-up companies valued at $1 billion or more, were founded by immigrants or their children

This study examines the pivotal role played by immigrants in founding “unicorn” companies, defined as privately-held, start-up companies valued at $1 billion or more. Immigrants founded more than half (319 of 582, or 55%) of these companies. The number rises to nearly two-thirds (64%) when adding companies founded by the children of immigrants. Interestingly, there are 143 of these billion-dollar companies with a founder who attended a U.S. university as an international student. The report finds that these privately held U.S. billion-dollar startup companies with immigrant founders have created an average of 859 jobs per company. The top three immigrant companies for employment are REEF Technology (15,000 employees), Gopuff (15,000) and SpaceX (12,000). Many of these companies are developing cutting-edge technologies in areas such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and health care. The value of immigrant-founded U.S. billion-dollar companies would rise astronomically if one were to include the value of companies that became publicly traded or were acquired by other companies. The author observes that the U.S. suffers from the lack of a direct pathway for aspiring immigrant entrepreneurs to qualify for permanent residence, although bills have been introduced in Congress to address this problem. The appendix of the report includes a complete listing of the more than 300 unicorn companies with immigrant founders, including country of origin, number of employees, and company valuation.

Immigrant Entrepreneurs and U.S. Billion-Dollar Companies,
National Foundation for American Policy, July 2022, 41 pp.
Author: Stuart Anderson
(Update of 2018 report)