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Friday, September 23, 2016

Immigrants Make Silicon Valley Great

51% of the highest-valued startups in America were founded by immigrants.

I am increasingly struck, and concerned, by the contrast between the portrayal of immigration on the news (often framed as “how dangerous is it?”) and my lived experience in Silicon Valley, where seamless interactions with first- and second-generation immigrants from around the world are an inextricable part of the valley’s cultural fabric and a vital element of its innovative potential.

Immigrants founded 51% of the highest-valued startups in America.

A recent study conducted by the non-partisan Foundation for American Policy think tank, for example, discovered that immigrants founded 51% of the highest-valued startups in America.

(Reminder: I work at a Silicon Valley company; the views expressed in this post are strictly my own.)

But my perspective is a bit more immediate and personal than statistics can capture.

  • I’ve personally seen the impact of a Syrian-American who has revolutionized the way the U.S. government thinks about and shares health data, and who has paved the way for global collaboration around shared healthcare challenges.
  • I’ve personally seen the impact of an Iranian-American who, after studying cancer at the NIH, now leads pioneering cancer detection efforts at a leading diagnostics company in California.
  • I’ve personally seen the impact of an Iranian-American, a classmate from college, who contributed foundationally to public health in New York City and then the nation, and now runs his own company seeking to reimagine healthcare delivery.
  • I’ve personally seen the impact of an Iranian-American whose intelligence, passion and vision has accelerated global understanding of Ebola and other infectious diseases.
  • I’ve personally seen the impact of an Iranian-American who trained as a physician and planned to become a cardiac surgeon before migrating to industry, and ultimately to healthcare investing where he nurtures the growth of promising, emerging startups. (Disclosure: he has no involvement in our company).

While each of these individuals is extraordinary, collectively I view them as representative–representative of the innovative power and passion that immigrants have long brought to our shores, including my own forebears escaping persecution several generations ago.

A joy of science, a joy of entrepreneurship, a joy of life is engaging with passionate colleagues from a range of backgrounds and perspectives around missions of common interest.

I wish more Americans had the opportunity to view immigration through this lens, and to viscerally appreciate the uncountable, extraordinary ways that new and recent arrivals contribute every day to American greatness.

Republished from AEI.