Category: Culture / Lifestyle
Outsiders face a tough struggle fitting into a new culture. They must figure out how to deal with, and overcome, frustration, loneliness and a steep learning curve.
And that’s why immigrants make such great entrepreneurs—they’re once again outsiders facing many of the same kinds of obstacles. Been there, done that.
I’ve been studying immigrants for over a decade, trying to figure out what makes so many of them go into business for themselves in the West—at higher rates than natives do—and succeed, too. The Kauffman Foundation’s annual Index of Startup Activity shows that immigrants were almost twice as likely as native-born to start new businesses in the U.S. in 2016. Almost 30% of all new entrepreneurs were immigrants, Kauffman says. A report from the Partnership for a New American Economy found that in 2016, 40.2% of Fortune 500 firms had “at least one founder who either immigrated to the United States or was the child of immigrants.”
I’m not surprised. What I’ve found is that immigrants not only have the qualities that help any entrepreneurs succeed—including aggressiveness and creative thinking—but they get a big boost because many of the skills they picked up coping with a new world are transferable to the entrepreneurial world.
My research is based largely on many conversations with entrepreneurs. In addition, I teach at a university that attracts vast numbers of overseas students. And finally, I bring my own perspective to the research: I am a migrant who grew up in Africa.
One caveat: These are broad stereotypes. Obviously, not all immigrants are entrepreneurial role models. And clearly, plenty of natives are. But there are reasons why so many immigrants forge an entrepreneurial path. It is worth identifying the likely factors—both to help understand the immigrant experience and what they can bring to their new economies, as well as to better identify what makes anybody thrive as an entrepreneur.
Lands of opportunity: The vast majority of migrants (as opposed to refugees) move to improve the economic and educational status of themselves and their families. When they arrive, they are aggressive about taking advantage of the stable economic system and respect for law and order, things they often can’t count on back home. Natives are more likely to take those for granted and not push to make the most of opportunities.
I met three immigrant entrepreneurs recently who had become friends through business. They all said the same thing: They were amazed by the quality of free education, by the benefits of the infrastructure and most of all the lack of awareness by the natives of how lucky they were. As one said, “As long as you are prepared to work hard and take some risks, it is easy to succeed in this country.”
Read the full story here, at Marketwatch.