Author: Catherine Wines
Sleepless nights, self-doubt and a steep learning curve — these are all experiences common not only among entrepreneurs starting new ventures but also for immigrants embarking on a new life in a different country.
By celebrating the diverse contributions of immigrants, we can improve our ability to tap into the entrepreneurial spirit that helps the global economy thrive.
Whether migration is a choice or borne out of necessity, those who decide to migrate will be different from average in a number of respects from their personal circumstances to their personalities. This has been demonstrated in a number of studies which link personality characteristics such as openness to new experiences with the decision to migrate.
The World Bank estimates that increasing migration would equal to a 3% rise in the workforce of developed countries by 2025 and will generate $356 billion in global gains. Today, more than 40 percent of companies on the U.S. Fortune 500 list were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants. Apple, the first company in the world to reach a $1 trillion valuation, was founded by the child of a Syrian immigrant. Google, which ranks third, was co-founded by Russian-born refugee Sergey Brin.
Similarly, in the UK, a new report by Aston University shows that immigrants are “twice as likely to be entrepreneurs.” Nearly one in five UK tech start-ups is founded by immigrants— a figure that is unsurprising in light of the plethora of “unicorns” from Deliveroo to Farfetch founded by people born outside the UK. London, the epicenter of the UK tech scene, is home to a population that is 41% foreign-born, making it one of the most diverse cities in the world.
With entrepreneurs creating jobs at twice the rate of established companies, immigrants are crucial to the economic growth of not only the UK but other nations across the world. The diverse skill sets and proactive mindsets that immigrants bring to the table make our workforce even stronger and grow our economies by introducing fresh ideas.
The qualities that help immigrants adapt in their adopted homelands mirror those that help entrepreneurs succeed: a frontier spirit, a strong dose of grit and a unique perspective on gaps in the market.
Successful businesses are those which continually adapt to the world’s changing environment. Similarly, immigrants must adopt an adaptable attitude as they leave their home to travel to new countries. In these new settings, immigrants are required to adapt to new cultures, new markets and new laws.
Another trait of entrepreneurs and immigrants alike is persistence. From navigating taxes to visas, permits and deposits, immigrants develop the resilience necessary to weather the obstacle-ridden road of entrepreneurship, where grit is often a prerequisite for success. Similarly, setbacks when launching a new product are part of the course for entrepreneurs who must have the courage to persevere and try again.
To become a visionary, you have to take the perspective of an outsider in order to see the things that are taken for granted by insiders. Possibilities and opportunities become most apparent when you are confronting a problem with a fresh perspective. When my co-founder Ismail Ahmed arrived in London as a student in the early 1980s after fleeing war-torn Somaliland, he experienced the failing remittance system firsthand. Traveling long distances to send money back home from offline agents, he was astounded by high costs and a cumbersome system. So he resolved to fix it by building a digital-first company that makes sending remittances as easy as sending an instant message. Over the last 8 years, WorldRemit has been disrupting an offline sector that has underserved millions of migrants across the globe by bringing it online.
For those who’ve bought a one-way ticket to a new home, the opportunity to contribute by starting or joining a new innovative business has proven to be a great benefit for the adopted country. The courage of immigrants to pick themselves up after each failure and try again is one quality which lends itself well to the boardroom and which investors should value.