There is something entrepreneurial about leaving your home country to start from scratch on a new land. “Immigrants are natural entrepreneurs”, says Max Levchin, a PayPal co-founder and immigrant from Ukraine. In the United States, foreign-born entrepreneurs or their children account for 40% of the Fortune 500 companies in 2010. Immigrants represent only 13% of the population of the US, yet they are responsible for starting more that a quarter of new businesses. Silicon Valley — the biggest tech hub in the world — has a long history of being immigrant friendly: nearly three-quarters — 74 percent — of Silicon Valley-employed computer and mathematical workers ages 25 to 44 are foreign-born, according to the 2016 Silicon Valley Index.

Some of the most iconic companies that we consider “american” were founded by people born outside of the United States. Here are their stories.


1. Arianna Huffington — Huffington Post

 Arianna Huffington

I am an immigrant, and my story is the American Dream . Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington is a Greek-born author, journalist and businesswoman. She is also a radio host, a nationally syndicated columnist and an author of 15 books. Time Magazine has named Huffington one of the most influential people in the world, and Forbes has called her one of its “Most Powerful Women in Business.” Arianna Huffington was born in Athenes and at the age of 16 moved to the United Kingdom to study economics at Cambridge University in England, where she became the first foreign, and third female President of the Cambridge Union. Arianna Huffington moved to the United States in 1980 where she was a conservative commentator before switching to liberal politics. In 2005 she co-founded on-line newspaper The Huffington Post that  became the first commercially run United States digital media enterprise to win a Pulitzer Prize.

2. Max Levchin — PayPal, Affirm, Inc, Gausebeck-Levchin test

Max Levchin


As an immigrant myself, I understand hard work and passion immigrants bring to our country. I also believe that they bring much more: talent, creativity, entrepreneurship. Max Levchin

Maksymilian “Max” Levchn is a computer scientist and internet entrepreneur. He co-founded Affirm, Inc, a consumer-finance startup, previously co-founded PayPal and helped launch Yelp, among other companies. He is also known as the co-creator of the Gausebeck-Levchin test, one of the first commercial implementations of a CAPTCHA challenge response human test. Levchin was born in Kiev, Ukrain, into a Jewish family and moved to the United States at the age of 16 under political asylum. When still a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign he had already started four different companies. In his article for Quartz Levchin said “My story demonstrates what the United States gains when it nurtures immigrant entrepreneurs like me.”


3. Elon Musk — Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink

Elon Musk

“I think we have a duty to maintain the light of consciousness to make sure it continues into the future.” Elon Musk

Elon Musk, a South African-born entrepreneur, is best-known as a co-founder PayPal, founder of SpaceX (maker of launch vehicles and spacecraft) Tesla Motors and Neuralink (a neurotechnology company). Musk was born to a South African father and a Canadian mother. He moved to Ontario, Canada, to study at Queen’s University. He then moved to Philadelphia, the United States, where he received bachelor’s degrees in physics and economics. At 24 Musk moved to California to pursue a PhD in applied physics at Stanford University. He left the program after only two days because he felt that internet had more potential to make a change in the society than the field of applied physics. In 2016, Musk was ranked 21st on the Forbes list of The World’s Most Powerful People in Business.

4. Mike Krieger — Instagram

Mike Krieger

It took less time to build ‘Instagram’ than it did for me to get my work visa. The app was an instant hit, and Facebook agreed to acquire the startup for about $1 billion in April 2012. Mike Kreiger

Mike Krieger, the CTO and co-founder of Instagram, was born in Sao Paulo, Brazi. Son of a multinational executive, Krieger was raised in São Paulo, Miami, Buenos Aires, and Lisbon. He came to the US in 2004 to study at Stanford University where he met Kevin Systrom. In 2010 the two co-founded Instagram, that two years later was acquired by Facebook for approximately US$1 billion. “The U.S. economy really benefits from letting the right people in”, said Kreiger about the US immigration policies. “Some of them will go on to become job creators; some of them will just go on to do really well at their jobs.”


5. Sergey Brin — Google


Sergey Brin

“I came here to the US at age 6 with my family from the Soviet Union which was at that time the greatest enemy the US had, maybe it still is. It was a dire period, the cold war, as some people remember it. It was under the threat of nuclear annihilation. And even then the US had the courage to take me and my family in as refugees. Sergey Brin

Sergey Brin, computer scientist, internet entrepreneur, and philanthropist was born in Moscow, Russia. His family immigrated to Maryland, the United States to escape Jewish prosecution. He studied mathematics and computer science at the University of Maryland before moving to California. There, at Stanford University, Brin met Larry Page and the two created Google, a search engine named after the mathematical term “Googol,” which signifies 1 followed by 100 zeros. In January Brin was seen among hundreds of protesters at the San Francisco International Airport speaking out against President Trump’s travel ban. “I am here because I am a refugee,” he told a Forbes reporter,

6. Andrew Grove — Intel

You have to understand what it is that you are better at than anybody else and mercilessly focus your efforts on it. Andrew Grove

Andrew Grove, one of the founders and CEO of Intel Corporation was born in Budapest, Hungary. A Nazi Holocaust and the1956 Soviet invasion survivor, he moved first to Austria and then to the United States. In 1960 he earned a B.S. degree in chemical engineering at the City College of New York while working at a restaurant. Three years later Grove received a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He arrived in the United States hardly speaking any English and being almost penniless. As stated by The New York Times, “within decades [after his arrival to the US], Mr. Grove was worth hundreds of millions of dollars. And in 1997, he was chosen Man of the Year by Time magazine for being “the person most responsible for the amazing growth in the power and the innovative potential of microchips.”

7. Pierre Omidyar — eBay

Pierre Omidyar

Everyone is born equally capable but lacks equal opportunity. Pierre Omidyar

Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, was born in Paris, France. His parents are Iranians who came to France to attend university. When Pierre was a child, his father got a job at John Hopkins University in Baltimore and the family moved to the United States. As a teenager he became interested in computers and even got hired by his high school principal to write a program for the school library. Omidyar earned a degree in computer science from Tufts University in 1988 and worked for Macintosh and Apple. He launched eBay, an on-line auction firm, on Labor day 1995 which today is a multibillion-dollar business with operations in about 30 countries.

8. Jan Koum — WhatsApp

A lot of what I experienced growing up in the U.S.S.R. and coming to the U.S. as an immigrant actually reflects itself in Whatsapp. Experiences from our youth shape what we do later in life. Jan Koum

Jan Koum

Jan Koum is a Ukranian-born entrepreneur and computer programmer best-known as a co-founder of WhatApp, a messaging app. At the age of 16 Koum immigrated to California with his mother in search of a better life. At the beginning he had to work as a janitor to make ends meet. He took classes at San Jose State University but never graduated. He taught himself programming and got hired by Yahoo. When Apps store launched in 2009 Koum realized that it was a golden opportunity. He started working on what eventually would become WhatsApp. In 2009 Koum incorporated WhatsApp Inc, and in 2014 Facebook acquired start-up for $22 billion in cash and stock.

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