Most Valuable Players

Dries Buytaert, founder of Acquia and winner of The 2015 ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur Award.

 

Eighty-five percent of the highest-valued, venture-backed companies in Massachusetts have an immigrant founder. Coincidence? We think not. A 2016 study by the National Foundation for American Policy found immigrant founders at more than half of the America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion dollars or more. It also found immigrants are key members of management or product development teams in more than 70 percent of these companies.

Who are these wildly successful immigrants? A recent story by the Boston Business Journal using data from PitchBook identified 13 venture-backed companies worth more than $500 million. Here are the 11 (85 percent) with immigrant founders:

  • Infinidat, Moshe Yanai from Israel
  • Indigo Agriculture, Noubar Afeyan from Lebanon
  • Actifio,  Ash Ashutosh from India
  • Desktop Metal, Yet-Ming Chiang from Taiwan
  • SevOne, Vess Baklov from Bulgaria
  • Turbonomic, Shmuel Kliger from Israel
  • Acquia, Dries Buytaert from Belgium
  • Fuze, Steve Kokinos from Canada
  • Cybereason, Lior Div from Israel
  • Kensho, Daniel Nadler from Canada
  • Medrobotics, Marco Zenati from Italy

The same article identified tech “exits” (companies that were acquired or went public) in 2017 for more than $100 million. Half of them had immigrant founders.

What makes them so successful? It’s hard to say. Vess Baklov came from Bulgaria as a child to receive treatment for a debilitating spinal injury. Daniel Nadler came from Canada to study math and classics at Harvard University. Lior Div came to the U.S. after founding a cyber security services company in Israel.

From many walks of life, for many reasons, immigrants come to this country all with willingness to give up everything and the drive to start over again. Maybe that’s what it takes to be a great entrepreneur too.