“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favour.”

These inspiring words come from Elon Musk, who features in one of the most incredible success stories of international students who made it big in the US. The founder of SpaceX and Tesla was born in South Africa and travelled to the US to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. He went on to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs and owns a multi-billion dollar empire today.  

Musk is only one of the many names in the long list of immigrants and ex-international students who landed in the country in pursuit of the famous American Dream. It is inspiring to know that people who came here with a study abroad mission have brought some of the most successful American startups to life.

This contribution of ex-international students to the country’s economy has been significant, considering that innovative business ventures have the potential to drive productivity and bolster job creation. The National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) released a report in 2018 stating that the entrepreneurs behind some of the leading startups in the US belong to diverse foreign backgrounds.

Amazingly, they make up 55 percent of the startup ventures in the country, valued at a whopping US$1 billion or more. The data also shows that 20 of 91 of these companies had ex-international students as their founders. Here is a list of some of the leading names that have lived the American dream and launched successful businesses in this part of the world.

  • Elon Musk/South Africa- Univ. of Pennsylvania, Wharton School- SpaceX/Tesla
  • Noubar Afeyan/Lebanon-  Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Moderna
  • David Hindawi/Iraq- U.C.-Berkeley-Tanium
  • Michelle Zatlyn/Canada- Harvard Business School-Cloudflare
  • Vlad Tenev/Bulgaria- Stanford- Robinhood
  • Ash Ashutosh/India- Penn State-Actifio
  • Louay Eldada/Lebanon- Columbia University-Quanergy Systems
  • Barry Canton/Ireland-Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Ginkgo Bioworks

Some other inspiring names on the list are Sundar Pichai (Stanford University/ Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania) and Indra Nooyi (Yale School of Management). Most ex-international students have completed their education from Ivy League institutions or top-ranked public universities.

The report suggests that immigrants and students from other parts of the world are highly valuable to the American economy, in contrast to the negative outlook about them. Rather than taking jobs from Americans, they are generating employment through their successful business ventures.

The report briefed about the H-1B visa program, which allowed these entrepreneurs to stay in the country, establish startups here, and hire people to fuel the growth of their ventures. US companies use the H-1B visa to employ high-skilled foreign nationals including university graduates who come to the country under study abroad programmes.

If you are considering studying abroad why don’t you discuss your prospects and opportunities with experts at Lurnable’s dedicated study abroad counselling division LurnPathways?

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