Foreign-born entrepreneurs were behind one in four U.S. technology startups over the past decade, according to a study to be published Thursday.
A team of researchers at Duke University estimated that 25 percent of technology and engineering companies started from 1995 to 2005 had at least one senior executive — a founder, chief executive, president or chief technology officer — born outside the United States.
Immigrant entrepreneurs' companies employed 450,000 workers and generated $52 billion in sales in 2005, according to the survey.
Their contributions to corporate coffers, employment and U.S. competitiveness in the global technology sector offer a counterpoint to the recent political debate over immigration and the economy, which largely centers on unskilled, illegal workers in low-wage jobs.
"It's one thing if your gardener gets deported," said the project's Delhi-born lead researcher, Vivek Wadhwa. "But if these entrepreneurs leave, we're really denting our intellectual property creation.
Wadhwa, Duke's executive in residence and the founder of two tech startups in North Carolina's Research Triangle, said the country should make the most of its ability to "get the best and brightest from around the world."
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson