Immigrant-Led Unicorns: Redefining the US Business Landscape

By siliconindia   |   Thursday, 17 August 2023, 00:02 IST
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Immigrant-Led Unicorns: Redefining the US Business Landscape

Most unicorns in the US are run by immigrants from various nations, where India has topped the list. 

Unicorns have emerged as powerhouses within the US business landscape, surging past the remarkable milestone of one billion USD in valuation. What adds an intriguing layer to this phenomenon is the recurrent observation across various reports that attributes the success of these transformative ventures to the stewardship of immigrant founders. While some unicorns have gained popularity, various lesser-known startups are founded and run by entrepreneurial minds from India and several other nations.

Nearly 319 US-based unicorns out of 582 are founded by immigrants from various nations. As the potential land for growing entrepreneurs, India tops the list of immigrant entrepreneurs making their way into the unicorn ecosystem of the US. Indians nurture these rising private startups in the US on a majority scale of about 66 percent, which has led them on a successful path. Alongside this, leaders from Israel, the UK, Canada, China, and France also secured a place as founders of these startups.

These immigrant founders have paved the way for several notable biggest startups all around the globe. One such leader is Apoorva Mehta, founder and former CEO of Instacart and an Indian-Canadian businessman. Born in India, the 37-year-old business leader moved to Libya and Canada as a child. Raised to the fame of a billionaire at 33, Mehta’s Instamart value has already surpassed 39 billion USD. 

Another leader who made it to the US private firm is Jay Chaudhry, leading Zscaler. From Himachal Pradesh to the heart of the United States, the serial entrepreneur has made his way big, establishing notable enterprises like Verisign, SecureIT, CoreHarbor, CipherTrust, and AirDefense. The companies were later acquired or merged with several global businesses.

Classpass, a transformational fitness and wellness platform established in 2013 by Payal Kadakia, is another successful unicorn that offers access to the best-in-class fitness and dance classes, wellness experiences, and gyms across the world. Baiju Bhatt has also become the face of Indian-American startup business leaders with his notable financial services company, Robinhood. Founded by Bhatt and Vlad Tenev, the enterprise aims to provide access to financial markets and has gained serious traction since the pandemic.     

Most immigrant startup leaders have moved to the US as children and international students and entered American businesses. This immigrant population also consists of first-generation Americans born to immigrant parents. Hence, almost 80 percent of the US unicorns are led by immigrants one way or the other, as these individuals serve as founders or C-level executives.

Historically, large-scale businesses in the US also have their owners and C-level executives as immigrants. Various Indian startups like Ola, Freshworks, Zomato, InMobi, Hike, and CleverTap have already made their way into the US unicorn space with their global expansion. The achievement of Indian startups in the United States can be attributed partly to their skill in establishing robust collaborations with local enterprises and institutions. This enables them to acquire crucial knowledge about the domestic market and secure access to funding and additional resources.

However, the startup ecosystem is evolving rapidly with increasing interest rates and significant setbacks in the venture capital space. Addressing these elevating challenges in the US startup ecosystem nurtures potential opportunities for immigrant startup leaders all around the globe.