Are Immigrants Predisposed to Succeed?

Ann All

A study released earlier this year -- often cited by advocates of immigration reform -- found that a quarter of technology and engineering startups in the U.S. were founded by immigrants. In Silicon Valley, the number is even higher -- 52 percent of startups have at least one foreign founder.


This may not be surprising, considering the cultural predisposition toward hard work exhibited by many immigrants, such as the couple profiled in this Newsvine piece. The twentysomethings run their business, which text messages promotional offers to users' mobile phones, from their 500-square-foot apartment. They work nearly around the clock and essentially have no life outside their entrepreneurial venture.


They have invested $30,000 in the business and are seeking venture capital. They may have a tough time of it. According to a recent SiliconValleyWatcher item, influential VC firms like California's Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers are losing interest in Web 2.0 companies.


This doesn't discourage the couple, whose background has made them tolerant of risk. As one of the founders says:

My parents came to this country from Cambodia when they were 40 with three kids, no money and no English. What's the worst that can happen?

The other founder spoke no English when he came to the U.S. from Taiwan at age 16. He became fluent enough to earn a master's degree in information systems, however.


We blogged recently about the need for young Americans to stay apace academically with their global peers -- but it may be just as important, if not more so, for them to match their work ethic and drive to succeed.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Nov 15, 2007 3:42 PM Jon Jon  says:
While I have not read the study you refer to, I do believe that US born citizens do lack something in drive, ambition and guts to succeed. If developing a new company I would rely heavily on the immigrant population to staff the efforts needed. Immigrants coming from the Asia and Eastern European countries seem to have a certain drive and ambition to succeed that our 'entitlement' generation lacks. To say that we have lost something as a society is putting it mildly. Reply
Nov 19, 2007 9:29 AM Tom Tom  says:
I don't think this is news to most people, and I don't think most people have a problem with legal immigration.. "Advocates of immigration reform" is generally code for those who support illegal immigration. Illegal immigrants are not those garning venture capital and starting Silicon Valley businesses, but the "advocates of immigration reform" would have you think so. Reply
Nov 20, 2007 10:28 AM Steve Steve  says:
A positive work ethic is not unique to people who have migrated to the U.S., though immigrants are the most common and visible examples. The motive to make a better life for oneself and one' s dependents is strongest in those who have done without for extended periods and yet persevere in the belief that things can be better and that they are the primary instrument for achieving that better life. I think the problem for people who have grown up in the U.S.A. is that cynicism - and even complacency - is bred into them from an early age. All indications are that upward mobility is a relic of two or more generations ago, and the federal government does nothing to dissuade people of that. Look at what we spend on education the "common folk" now and compare that with two generations ago. Education was practically a birthright of every American citizen in the 1940's and 50's - how many Americans of "average means" can afford a college education in 2007?The point is, while we have broken systems in the U.S., people in many other countries believe them to be light years ahead of what they are accustomed to. If we offer people in this country more than mere platitudes, more than window dressing - give them reason for hope, reason to believe things can get better if they work hard enough, they will work for a better life, too. America hasn't abandoned the work ethic - hope has abandoned Americans. Reply
Nov 20, 2007 12:18 PM Lez Lez  says:
The following principle applies in this case "High risk high return" usually when you have a lot to loose you are bound to put your all into it. Immigrant workers dont have comfort zones where they are given priority over others, they have themselves to rely on and hence they make a choice 'it's either i do it or no one else will do it for me' In terms of work ethic and drive, kids these days need to be taught to be independent and self reliant - this will help them pull out of their confort zones!!!! Reply

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