Immigrant Founders -- The Rest of the Story

start up AmericaOriginally published on Economic Immigration AKA The Prisoner's Dilemma

Eighty-two percent, or 41 out of 50, of the country’s top venture-funded companies had one or more American born founders.  No, I didn’t make up the statistic, I found the data and reversed the spin that the pro-immigration faction is trying to promote.

Stuart Anderson’s organization, the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), may be doing more harm to his cause than good. Whenever someone throws out a percentage and does not provide a divisor, you can be assured that they are hiding something.

This article’s topic: "Immigrant Founders and Key Personnel In America’s Top Venture-Funded Companies,", By: Stuart Anderson.   Anderson claims:

The research finds that 46 percent, or 23 out of 50, of the country’s top venture-funded companies had at least one immigrant founder. This illustrates the increasing importance and contributions of immigrants to the U.S. economy.

Mathematically, the NFAP statement makes no sense, how do you divide a variant number of founders by the number of companies? I was taught that you have to divide by "like" terms, cofounders and companies are not like terms. Curiously, the NFAP document has a Table with the names and birthplace of the foreign-born founders. However, after finding another source for the data, I find that the NFAP has removed the names of the U.S. born founders and eliminated the companies that did not have a foreign-born founder from the Table included in their paper being touted as fact by politicians.

After combining the two sources of data, I (also) found that 23 of the 50 companies selected did have one or more foreign-born founders; however, 19 of those 23 companies also had one or more American born founders. Only 4 of the 50 companies in the study did not have an American born founder.

Most of the selected companies are located in California, which has 34.9% population of foreign-born employed in the labor force, so the 33% foreign-born founders (found in the table below) basically represents the population.



Summary of Foreign Vs American Born Founders

Total Employees


Avg. Employees


Total Founders


Foreign Born Founders


American Born Founders


With a Foreign Born Founder


Number of Companies


Number of Employees


Avg. Employees


Avg. Ranking (1 to 50)


Avg. Year Founded


Without a Foreign Born Founder


Number of Companies


Number of Employees


Avg. Employees


Avg. Ranking (1 to 50)


Avg. Year Founded


Without an American Born Founder


Number of Companies


Number of Employees


Avg. Employees


Avg. Ranking (1 to 50)


Avg. Year Founded


* Avg. Year Founded is decimal

The NFAP also has a list of key positions held by foreign-born employees, but again does not include the universe of key positions. One can claim an employee or founder is in a key position, but if there are 15 employees with the same title, or more importantly key players with different titles, more responsible for the success of the business, that definition of key position can become meaningless. The NFAP paper uses the following statement to describe key positions:

Table 2: Immigrant Key Member of Management or Product Development Team in Top VC-Backed Companies

While it would be interesting to see if these companies have a preference for foreign-born employees, we would also have to take into consideration the percentage of employed foreign-born in each state’s labor force. Thirty-five of the top fifty companies are located in California and another five are located in New York. The other ten companies are located in one of the remaining states listed in the Table below.


Locations of Top 50 Companies
State - Immigrants Employed in Labor Force (Census)

United States



Percentage of State Labor Force Foreign Born













New Jersey


New York


North Carolina








In closing, the majority of the Top 50 companies (80%) are located in states with extremely high populations of foreign-born in the labor force -- the data shows nothing remarkable about foreign-born founders.

Source Data:

National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP)
"Immigrant Founders and Key Personnel In America’s Top Venture-Funded Companies,"

Wall Street Journal
Top 50 Venture-Funded Companies
(Founder data omitted from tables presented by NFAP)

Foreign Born Employed in the Labor Force:

Employed Civilian Foreign-Born Labor Force by State: 2007
Appendix Table A.



Rank Name Location Industry All Founders Employees Founded Immigrant fouders
1 Castlight Health Inc. San Francisco Health Care Giovanni Colella, Todd Park 100 2008 Giovanni Colella (Italy)
2 Xirrus Inc. Thousand Oaks, Calif. Information Technology Steven DeGennaro, Dirk Gates, Patrick Parker 170 2003  
3 Xactly Corp. San Jose, Calif. Business and Financial Services Christopher Cabrera, Satish Palvai 140 2005 Satish Palvai (India)
4 Recycle Rewards Inc. New York Business and Financial Services Patrick FitzGerald, Ron Gonen 150 2004  
5 ExteNet Systems Inc. Lisle, Ill. Information Technology Ross Manire, Eric Lekacz 86 2002  
6 Cyan Optics Inc. Petaluma, Calif. Information Technology Michael Hatfield, Rick Johnston, Steve West, Eric Clelland 102 2006 Steve West (South Africa)
7 Aster Data Systems Inc. San Carlos, Calif. Information Technology Tasso Argyros, Mayank Bawa, George Candea 102 2005 Tasso Argyros (Greece) Mayank Bawa (India)
8 Glam Media Inc. Brisbane, Calif. Consumer Services Samir Arora, Rebecca Bogle Arora, Ernie Cicogna, Susan Kare, Dianna Mullins, Raj Narayan, Fernando Ruarte, Vic Zaud 300 2004 Samir Arora (India) Raj Narayan (India)
9 Carrier IQ Inc. Mountain View, Calif. Information Technology Bruce Lacey, Steve Roskowski 75 2005  
10 Imperva Inc. Redwood Shores, Calif. Information Technology Mickey Boodaei, Shlomo Kramer, Amichai Shulman 350 2002 Mickey Boodaei (Israel) Shlomo Kramer (Israel) Amichai Shulman (Israel)
11 Vidyo Inc. Hackensack, N.J. Information Technology Alex Eleftheriadis, Avery More, Ofer Shapiro 140 2005 Ofer Shapiro (Israel) Alex Eleftheriadis (Greece) Avery More (Israel)
12 Etsy Inc. Brooklyn, N.Y. Consumer Services Robert Kalin, Chris Maguire, Haim Schoppik, Jared Tarbell 185 2005 Haim Schoppik (Switzerland)
13 RGB Networks Inc. Sunnyvale, Calif. Information Technology Edward Krause, Peter Monta, Adam Tom 175 2003 Edward Krause (Canada)
14 IronKey Inc. Sunnyvale, Calif. Information Technology David Jevans 100 2005 David Jevans (Canada)
15 Appia Inc. Durham, N.C. Information Technology Jud Bowman 51 2008  
16 The Active Network Inc. San Diego Business and Financial Services James Woodman 2,500 1998  
17 Nimble Storage Inc. San Jose, Calif. Information Technology Umesh Maheshwari, Varun Mehta 55 2008 Umesh Maheshwari (India) Varun Mehta (India)
18 PatientSafe Solutions Inc. San Diego Health Care Kim Rubin, David Swenson 80 2002  
19 Glaukos Corp. Laguna Hills, Calif. Health Care Olav Bergheim, Richard Hill, Morteza Gharib 40 2001 Olav Bergheim (Norway) Morteza Gharib (Iran)
20 Fusion-io Inc. Salt Lake City Information Technology David Flynn, Rick White 370 2006  
21 Achaogen Inc. South San Francisco, Calif. Health Care Nathaniel David, J. Kevin Judice, Floyd Romesberg, Peter Schultz 64 2004  
22 NeuroPace Inc. Mountain View, Calif. Health Care Robert Fischell, David Fischell 90 1997  
23 Xoom Corp. San Francisco Business and Financial Services Alan Braverman, Kevin Hartz 70 2001  
24 Workday Inc. Pleasanton, Calif. Business and Financial Services Aneel Bhusri, David Duffield 650 2005  
25 SpiderCloud Wireless Inc. Santa Clara, Calif. Information Technology Peter Wexler 60 2008  
26 Jive Software Inc. Palo Alto, Calif. Information Technology Bill Lynch, Matt Tucker 336 2001  
27 Federated Media Publishing San Francisco Consumer Services John Batelle 165 2005  
28 Boku Inc. San Francisco Business and Financial Services Mark Britto, Ron Hirson, Erich Ringewald 65 2009 Mark Britto (Singapore) Ron Hirson (South Africa)
29 Zoosk Inc. San Francisco Consumer Services Shayan Zadeh, Alexander Mehr 80 2007 Shayan Zadeh (Iran) Alexander Mehr (Iran)
30 EndoGastric Solutions Inc. Redmond, Wash. Health Care Stefan Kraemer 120 2003 Stefan Kraemer (Germany)
31 Chegg Inc. Santa Clara, Calif. Consumer Services Aayush Phumbhra, Osman Rashid 150 2007 Aayush Phumbhra (India) Osman Rashid (U.K.)
32 Everyday Health Inc. New York Consumer Services Michael Keriakos, Benjamin Wolin 400 2002 Michael Keriakos (Canada)
33 Xsigo Systems Inc. San Jose, Calif. Business and Financial Services R.K. Anand, Ashok Krishnamurthi, S.K. Vinod 110 2004 R.K. Anand (India) Ashok Krishnamurthi (India) S.K. Vinod (India)
34 Soasta Inc. Mountain View, Calif. Information Technology Kenneth Gardner, Tom Lounibos 100 2006  
35 Rally Software Development Corp. Boulder, Colo. Information Technology Ryan Martens 241 2002  
36 Prosper Marketplace Inc. San Francisco Business and Financial Services Christian Larsen, John Witchel 38 2005  
37 Pivot3 Inc. Houston Information Technology Ryan Callison, Lee Caswell, Bill Galloway, Alan Skidmore 78 2003  
38 Suniva Inc. Norcross, Ga. Energy and Utilities Ajeet Rohatgi 190 2007 Ajeet Rohatgi (India)
39 Veracyte Inc. South San Francisco, Calif. Health Care Bonnie Anderson 40 2008  
40 ExactTarget Inc. Indianapolis Business and Financial Services Chris Baggott, Scott Dorsey, Peter McCormick 850 2000  
41 OncoMed Pharmaceuticals Inc. Redwood City, Calif. Health Care Michael Clarke, Max Wicha 76 2004  
42 ExaGrid Systems Inc. Westborough, Mass. Information Technology James Pownell, Dave Therrien 145 2002  
43 SeeSaw Networks Inc. San Francisco Business and Financial Services Peter Bowen, Jeff Dickey, Rocky Gunderson, Scott Hines, Monte Zweben 20 2006  
44 Silver Peak Systems Inc. Santa Clara, Calif. Information Technology David Hughes 150 2004 David Hughes (New Zealand)
45 Zilliant Inc. Austin, Texas Information Technology Alex Chien, Deborah Vollmer Dahlke, Peter Zandan 120 1999  
46 Yammer Inc. San Francisco Business and Financial Services Adam Pisoni, David Sacks 100 2008  
47 Bivio Networks Inc. Pleasanton, Calif. Information Technology Junaid Islam, Jeff Payne, Homayoun Valizadeh 60 2000 Junaid Islam (Canada) Homayoun Valizadeh (Australia)
48 TxVia Inc. New York Business and Financial Services Carl Ansley, Colin Fleming, Aaron Tay 150 2006 Aaron Tay (New Zealand) Colin Fleming (New Zealand)
49 Inc. Del Mar, Calif. Information Technology Fred Luddy 300 2003  
50 Aprius Inc. Sunnyvale, Calif. Information Technology Marc Epitaux, Peter Kirkpatrick, Jean-Marc Verdiell 25 2007 Marc Epitaux (Switzerland) Jean-Marc Verdiell (France)




nice call out on a lobbyist's "white paper"

I find these things disgusting, some lobbyist buries facts by manipulating statistics, then the news reports this fiction as fact. One of this sites main functions is to set the record straight and present objective, valid, objective data. I think you succeeded here.

Makes me wonder how much bias their is in obtaining VC funds. Are they truly funding statups based on proof of concept, business plans, prototypes and market growth potential or is it some sort of bastardization of "dot con", where one must be "young" and have a "china strategy" and make sure they offshore outsource part of R&D in order to get funded.

We should research this out because we know there are literally hundreds of thousands of Americans, over the age of 35, who probably don't "fit into Venture Capitalists paradigm", yet actually have the ability to run and build up a U.S. company and I'm sure have that "killer app" as an idea they could flesh out with some seed funds, egg incubator, to proof of concept/prototype.

Are they being denied those opportunities, people over the age of 35, 40, 50? Women, blacks, disabled, U.S. citizen domestic diversity? Do they get a shot?

Alternate thought

Will there be an accompanying study or deep thought piece linking these facts to the need for more H1-B visas?

There is no need for more H-1B Visas

See there is no worker shortage. Those unemployment rates do not even count those squeezed out of the field, their professions and those unemployment rates count foreign guest workers. Additionally H-1B are used to labor arbitrage so we do not need more H-1B Visas, we need the program seriously reformed to stop loopholes while enable U.S. worker displacement.

Israel Start-up land

This is interesting, Google's funding arm just went to Israel and is buying up, funding start-ups there. VC funds are a much larger story than just immigrant founders or native ones. When looking through the WSJ's "top 50" list I was struck by the lack of innovation frankly. Another online dating site? Yet another video conferencing group, not doing actual signal processing or systems per say?

We should see stuff like battery technologies, new system architecture, advances in materials, new networking technologies, the kind of things which advances to a next level type of thing as startups here and it doesn't seem to be so.

Another point is the VC funds. Most MNCs do have VC internal branches, but are there state funds say from Israel funding companies in the U.S., are there political agendas, family ties....and host of reasons why one company gets funded and another does not and unfortunately, way too often those reasons are not due to the potential success of a business plan.