There is a lot that goes into the evaluation of a prospective startup investment.
Revenue run rate, customer acquisition cost, IP protection, distribution channels, supply chain constraints, founder track record.
These all have a bearing on the prospects of a startup’s success.
However, the “founder track record” isn’t always as simple as saying, “this person has three prior exits and substantial industry experience.”
In reality, there are other, intangible factors that can have as much a bearing on a startup’s eventual success as anything.
Consider that there are 582 privately-owned startups with a valuation north of $1 billion – a.k.a. unicorns – in the United States.
Well, a recent survey by the National Foundation for American Policy revealed a whopping 319 have one thing in common: they were founded by immigrants. Pulling the scope back even further, roughly two-thirds of those 582 startups (64%) were either founded or cofounded by immigrants or the children of immigrants.
Whatever the root cause, this reinforces the notion that “the American Dream” is still alive and well. But it also informs the thought process for prospective angel investors and helps hone in on the qualities that may drive success…
While it is a vast oversimplification to say “an immigrant founder equals guaranteed success,” the rate of success for such founders is impossible to ignore.
And this pattern has held true for as long as innovation’s existed.
Nikolai Tesla and Alexander Graham Bell – two titans of entrepreneurship – were both immigrants in the 19th century before going on to invent alternating-current electricity motors and the telephone, respectively.
Some speculate that immigrants possess less aversion to risk than natives. This is born in the data, as a study co-authored by MIT economist Pierre Azoulay found that immigrants were 80% more likely to start a business than natives.
“The findings suggest that immigrants act more as ‘job creators’ than ‘job takers’ and that non-U.S. born founders play outsized roles in U.S. high-growth entrepreneurship,” Azoulay’s study posited.
High-growth entrepreneurship has certainly been all the craze the past four years.
In 2018, there were just 91 privately-held companies in the unicorn ranks. Of those 91, 50 had an immigrant founder – good for 55%.
That 55% share has held despite the unicorn ranks growing more than sixfold in size.
So, when evaluating a prospective startup for investment, be sure to keep these statistics in mind.
They could just lead to mythical ROIs.