Tuesday, July 24, 2012
If your country were facing stagnant growth, limited but available investment funds, and other daunting challenges, what approach would be most constructive in jumpstarting your economy? Would you try to reinvigorate longstanding, entrenched companies, or would something else prove more effective?
For many observers, the answer is clear: adopt the framework of a start-up.
Earlier this year in a piece for techcrunch.com, blogger Jon Bischke noted that the ingredients for a successful start-up and a successful city are quite alike http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/14/a-city-is-a-startup-the-rise-of-the-mayor-entrepreneur/. In outlining their similarities, Bischhke writes:
“You need to build stuff that people want. You need to attract quality talent. You have to have enough capital to get your fledgling ideas to a point of sustainability. And you need to create a world-class culture that not only attracts the best possible people, but encourages them to stick around even when things aren’t going so great.”
In other words, cities should assume a start-up, entrepreneurial culture to move themselves forward. By extension, America would then become a start-up nation. And who better to become the driving force behind this than immigrants. After all, 28% of all new firms in the United States in 2011 were created by foreign-born individuals. In fact, immigrants proved to be twice as likely to start a new business compared to their native-born American counterparts. The U.S. already attracts the world’s best minds to its vaunted research universities, where 76% of the patents at the top-ten institutions boasted at least one foreign-born inventor. On the whole, America is an enticing place to live, and an appealing place to innovate.
How important are new enterprises to the growth of America? According to the Kauffman Foundation, business startups accounted for all of the net job growth in the U.S. between 1980 and 2005 (http://www.kauffman.org/newsroom/business-dynamic-statistics.aspx). Many of these companies could one day employ thousands of workers and become Fortune 500 companies. Which brings us back to immigrants: more than 40% of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.
The minds and the tools for forging the great American start-up are here. All we need now are the reforms that will allow entrepreneurial immigrants to remain and thrive in the United States. For years, immigrants have demonstrated the tenacity to tough it out when things got rough here. It is now up to lawmakers to demonstrate the same commitment and grit when making the difficult and necessary changes to immigration laws that will allow us to evolve into the start-up nation we desperately need to become.