There are signs that immigrants’ influence in the U.S. tech industry may be plateauing, as reported in a recent study by AnnaLee Saxenian of Berkeley and Vivek Wadhwa of Duke. Slate reports that the researchers found “that 43.9 percent of Silicon Valley startups launched in the past seven years had at least one key founder who was an immigrant. That’s a big number, but it’s a drop from 2005, when 52.4 percent of startups were immigrant-founded.
“The composition of immigrants in the Valley has shifted a bit, too. In Saxenian and Wadhwa’s ranking of countries that produced the most U.S.-based techies, Taiwan fell from fourth to 23rd. (The reasons for that drop—and the decline of immigrant-founders across the board—can be attributed in part to U.S. visa issues and burgeoning opportunities abroad.) At the same time, though, some tech insiders have seen Latin American-born entrepreneurs, a previously invisible cohort, begin to make their presence known in Silicon Valley.
Their numbers don’t come close to the Indian, Chinese, or even U.K. diaspora, and as of yet, our southern neighbors haven’t produced a nerdy-household name like India native Vinod Khosla of SunMicrosystems or Jerry Yang, the Taiwanese-born founder of Yahoo.
“There is, however, a nucleus of innovators from places like Argentina, Chile, and Colombia who have started companies aiming to create customized travel advice, digital wallets, and more. Like the Chinese and Indian entrepreneurs who came before, they are fostering interconnectedness between the United States and their native countries. And that’s going to have an impact on the tech scene in Globalization—where work is “outsourced” abroad and companies target audiences far from their shores—is often portrayed as a faceless, malevolent, and inevitable, economic trend. But those connections are largely driven by individuals, particularly by men and women with roots in both the United States and a foreign country. The feet-in-two-worlds crowd can end up serving as a bridge, bringing together communities that otherwise would exist in separate sphere.