The essential contribution of migrant entrepreneurs

“Apple would not exist without immigration,” declared tech giant Apple CEO, Tim Cook, in a speech to students at the University of Glasgow in February 2017.

Considered by many as the epitome of technological innovation, Apple is one of the most valuable brands in the world. However, whilst iPhones have become an iconic part of Western society, the growth of the company depends on the collective effort and vision of talented individuals from across the world.

“Steve [Jobs] was the son of an immigrant. Our company has immigrants in it that are key to the innovation of our company. Our company depends on diversity… it’s the tapestry of getting people with all different backgrounds and all different points of views that are able to create the best products,” Cook explained.

Steve – who first sowed the seeds of Apple in his parents’ garage in 1976 – was the biological son of Abdul Fattah Jandali, a migrant from Syria.

As it turns out, there are plenty of well-known companies founded by immigrants. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner publically defended the economic contribution of migrant entrepreneurs in fewer than 140 characters when he tweeted this powerful statistic earlier this year: “40% of Fortune 500 founded by immigrants or their children. All ethnicities should have access to opportunity — founding principle of U.S.”



Success through perseverance

One country that has led the way to encourage immigration is Germany. Germany’s liberal views have meant that over 1 million people were welcomed into the country in 2015 alone. And with most arriving in the hope of building a new and better life for themselves and their families, the number of small businesses have soared.

According to a report by the Economist, “44% of newly registered businesses in Germany were founded by people with foreign passports, up from just 13% in 2003.” A significant proportion of these individuals were from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. In a country which is typically less renowned for entrepreneurialism than its European neighbours, migrant businesses are making waves across the economic landscape and catching the increasing interest of the young and ambitious generation. But this work ethic is not just limited to Germany.

In the U.S, recent research highlights that “60% of the top technology businesses were started by migrants,” whilst research conducted by the  2015 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor found that in the United Kingdom, “immigrants are three times more likely to be entrepreneurial than people born in Britain.”



It is clear that migrant entrepreneurs continue to make an important contribution towards the prosperity of western economies. People like Madhur Jaffrey, an award-winning actress, celebrated food writer and television presenter, who has brought the flavours of India to the homes of millions in the UK and America. Or Hussein Shaker, one of the 1 million refugees, who came to Germany in 2015 and set up MigrantHire, a website for refugees, which currently matches over 13,000 job-seekers with 2,000 vacancies.

For many immigrants, the unfaltering desire to build their own business overtakes all possibilities of failure because they see no alternative way of making a living. This means that they are more likely to take risks, persevere and, ultimately, successfully achieve their goals – while providing more opportunities for others. Meanwhile, in the surrounding communities, new businesses not only create employment opportunities but also inspire the next generation of young and ambitious entrepreneurs in a way which continues to grow the economy.


Overcoming  stereotypes

According to a report issued by the Centre for Entrepreneurs and DueDil in 2015, 36% of people in the UK believe that immigrants make a negative contribution to the economy. This beats the 26% who believe their impact is positive. However, perceptions change when immigrants are identified as ‘entrepreneurial’ to highlight their skills and motivations.

The global campaign and website, ‘I am a Migrant,’ also aims to change perceptions and discrimination against migrants, by sharing the stories of anyone that wishes to contribute. Some people have come from backgrounds of hardship, while others are more highly skilled and have come to fill positions where there are shortages in staff. The platform shows the many faces of migration and is one way to have an open conversation about the value that migrants can have.

Immigration is not about selectively welcoming people according to their nationality, race or skill-set. It’s about giving everyone the opportunity to experience life in another country. The movement of people is what makes our world truly global. And Western economies are lucky to be able to offer the opportunity for entrepreneurial migrants to come and invent fantastic businesses that benefit millions of people.

We should encourage it and encourage the ambition it inspires in the next generation.