April 23, 2015

New Direction: Entrepreneurship

An Editor’s Notes series on the new direction of Hire Immigrants international. 

Governments have a big role in creating the conditions for immigrant entrepreneurs to start and grow a business. There is increasing awareness about the value that immigrant entrepreneurs bring to the country and to local economies. For example, we know that in Canada, companies that export to non-US markets that are owned by recent immigrants are among the fastest-growing SMEs. In Silicon Valley, 52 per cent of startups between 1995 and 2005 had a founder who was born outside the United States.

But there is also a growing body of knowledge on the barriers faced by newcomers with a business idea.

Even as there is good news, as in the statistics mentioned above, there is also not-so-good news. The number of start-ups founded by the foreign-born in Silicon Valley has fallen, which some link to restricted visas. And while immigrant-owned SMEs are among the fastest growing, they are also among the least profitable.

Along with the problems, there are solutions – found in immigration policy to local government support to targeted capital funds to entrepreneur mentoring programs.

The solutions come from all over the world, and we suspect many of the problems are shared too. Even problems that are certainly place-based, like rigid bylaws, may have already been solved somewhere else.

The Direction

Our goal is to collect the latest thinking on the policies and programs that support immigrant entrepreneurs from pre-arrival, through the start-up phase, and into managing and growing a business.

We want to take a closer look at the profile of the immigrant entrepreneur in different sectors. What did they do before starting a country? What is their background and immigration status? What are their values and motivations? Why did they start a company? Why (or why not) do they trade abroad?

We want to examine the success factors, and enable them. How do immigrants access sufficient capital? How do they find sector-specific networking? How do they develop cultural and language skills? How do they develop a business plan? How do they gain experience? How do they diversify?

We want analyze the role of government, and the latest thinking on the policies and programs that incentivize and enable entrepreneurship. How do governments attract immigrant entrepreneurs? How do they retain them? What are the policy opportunities for national and sub-national governments? What are the emerging policy areas – like diaspora and trade? What’s been tried and tested elsewhere?

The Value

We will not duplicate the excellent body of work out there. We will collect it, and make it relevant for policy makers and researchers globally. A particular focus of ours will be on comparative. Wherever we can, we’ll present policy options and good ideas in pairs, to show “what works” in more than one jurisdiction.

The immense opportunities in the field of immigrant entrepreneurship are evident. This is true as demographics change and foreign-born populations rise, and as SMEs are faraway the largest employer group in most countries. Along with a section devoted to tools, resources and insights for immigrant entrepreneurs [link], we will make entrepreneurship a core focus area of Hire Immigrants.

Did you know?

  • Similar to many other countries, in Canada, small businesses account for over 98 per cent of employers (Industry Canada).
  • Across half the OECD in 2012, around 70 per cent of start-ups were born because of opportunity or taking over a family business, as opposed to necessity (OECD 2014).
  • In the US, immigrants are nearly twice as likely to start a business as native-born (Kauffman Foundation).
  • More than 40 per cent of Fortune 500 companies in 2010 were founded by immigrants (Partnership for a New American Economy).
  • In 2011, 76 per cent of patents going to the top ten patent-producing US universities had at least one foreign-born inventor (Partnership for a New American Economy).
  • In the US as of June 2013, immigrant-founded venture-backed companies had a total market capitalization of $900 billion. If these companies were a country, its stock exchange value would rank sixteenth, above Russia and South Africa (National Venture Capital Association).

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