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January 04, 2007

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Some years ago UC-Berkeley Dean, Annalee Saxenian published a study of  foreign-born talent in Silicon Valley.  It found among other things that about a quarter of Silicon Valley companies established in the 1990s had someone foreign-born on their founding team. Now a new study by  Duke University's Gary Gereffi and Vivek Wadhwa in collaboration with Saxenian and others provides an updated look at this issue.

  • Foreign-born talent is a driving force in American technology entrepreneurship. Nearly a quarter of US engineering and technology companies established between 1995-2005 had a foreign-born person on their founding team.These companies produced $52 billion in sales and employed 450,000 people in 2005. 
  • Silicon Valley is dependent on foreign-born talent. Immigrant entrepreneurs were on the founding team of more than half of all Silicon Valley high-tech startups established between 1995 and 2005.
  • Foreign-talent is also a major contributor to America's role in global innovation, accounting for  nearly a quarter of all global patents from inventors located in the United States in 20o6, up from 7.3 percent in 1998.

The full report is here.


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This makes sense to me. People who move to another country and culture are inherently bold, risk takers. Some might be carefully calculating their risks and others 'just go for it.' That personality trait is key for starting a business. And, few people move half way around the world to fail -- so determination is also in their blood and key to sticking with a business venture.

Also, I think relative outsiders, or 'semi-outsiders' like new immigrants can often see the obvious opportunities that people emersed in an industry or culture miss.


I agree with wendy, however, it is clear that these immigrants clearly had skill sets (engineering, marketing, sales, etc.) in addition to the rough and tumble risk taking attitude of most immigrants.


No question DJM. I was just saying that in addition to education, immigrants will tend to be both risk takers and self starters. The same might not be said for the typical North American with an engineering degree. :-)

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