The 4 most valuable American unicorns have immigrant CEOs. The same goes for 4 of the top 7 public companies


Immigrants have long made up a disproportionate share of founders and CEOs of America’s most valuable tech companies. But recently, their importance has increased even more.

According to Crunchbase analysis, the four most valuable private US venture-backed companies now have immigrant founders and CEOs.

Meanwhile, in the public markets, four of the seven largest US companies are now run by immigrants.

This is a remarkable result given that immigrants make up only 13.7% of the US population. Immigrant representation at the top of the most valuable unicorns also appears to have increased since we last conducted a similar analysis about two years ago.

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Below, we break down some of the findings and highlight some of the top US companies whose CEOs and founders were born outside the US.

SpaceX and some decacorns with immigrant leaders

According to data from Crunchbase, the four most valuable private venture capital-backed U.S. companies are led and founded by immigrants:

  • SpaceX, of course, is founded and led by Elon Musk, a South African native who attended college in Canada before immigrating to the United States. The company reportedly reached a valuation of just over $100 billion in a secondary stock transaction last October.
  • Stripe is co-founded by Irish-born brothers Patrick and John Collison. Patrick Collison, who is also CEO of the payment company, came to the United States to attend MIT but left to create a startup. John Collison attended Harvard, but also left to pursue startup life before graduating. Stripe’s last public valuation was $95 billion.
  • Instacart CEO Fiji Simo, who took over in August, is from France. Meanwhile, Instacart founder and former CEO Apoorva Mehta was born in India. He moved to Libya shortly after birth, then to Canada when he was 14 years old. The company’s last reported valuation was around $39 billion.
  • Databricks founder and CEO Ali Ghodsi was born in Iran and moved to Sweden as a child. After earning a PhD in Sweden, he joined UC Berkeley in California as a visiting scholar. Databricks, which offers AI-powered tools to manage large amounts of data across multiple platforms, was recently valued at around $38 billion.

Public tech companies with immigrant CEOs

Meanwhile, in the public markets, four of the seven largest US companies are now run by immigrants.

This is one of the interesting, if unexpected, consequences of Facebook’s recent stock price plunge following its disappointing earnings report last month. Today, the social media giant is no longer among the seven most valuable US public companies.

Instead, chipmaker Nvidia entered the top seven, according to CNBC. Its CEO and co-founder, Jensen Huang, is originally from Taiwan and immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 9 years old.

In addition to Nvidia, three other companies in the top seven are run by immigrants. Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella, the CEOs of Google and Microsoft, respectively, are from India. Tesla’s Elon Musk, meanwhile, has the distinction of being the only person, regardless of immigration status, to rank as CEO and founder of both a blue chip private company and a a leading public company. The other top seven companies – Amazon, Apple and Berkshire Hathaway – have US-born CEOs.

What recent funding tells us about the role of immigrants in building future tech giants

When we last looked at 2020, early data indicated that the proportion of high-value U.S. startups founded or led by immigrants was trending down. One factor is the growth of startup hubs outside of the United States, making it easier for founders to launch businesses in their home countries. The other, most notorious factor: the obstacles to obtaining a visa as a potential founder of a startup.

That said, a number of newly created American unicorns and decacorns have immigrant leaders. We’ll see who they are in a follow-up article.

Photo: Jensen Huang, CEO and co-founder of chipmaker Nvidia, at SC18. (Picture by Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler/Scalable Grid Engine, used under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication License.)

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