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Wilson Briefs l November 2014

Melting Pot Urgency:

Attracting and Educating
Entrepreneurs for the U.S.
by Amy Wilkinson

Attracting foreign-born talent and teaching entrepreneurial skills are vital to the
economic vibrancy of the United States.The United States needs new programs
to recruit and retain immigrant entrepreneurs, strengthen K-12 education, and
stress experiential, collaborative learning at all levels of education to create jobs
and lead the global economy as the worlds entrepreneurship engine.

If every country has a business model, the United States is entrepreneurial capitalism, in
contrast to Chinas manufacturing, Indias cheap services, Japans and Germanys high-end
manufacturing, Frances and Italys production of luxury goods, and other countries expertise in
Nonetheless, the United States ranked 6thbehind Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Sweden,
Finland, and the Netherlandsout of 143 economies in the 2014 Global Innovation Index,
which assessed each country by measuring its institutional environment, education and
research quality, physical and environmental infrastructure, market and business sophistication,
and innovation outputs.

What can the United States do to strengthen its entrepreneurial edge?

Welcoming foreign-born entrepreneurs

The United States must improve its welcome for foreign-born entrepreneurs. Forty percent of
U.S. Fortune 500 companies were created by immigrants or their children, according to the
Partnership for a New American Economy. Of the top 50 venture-backed technology companies
in 2011, 24 had at least one foreign-born founder, and in 2012 these firms
generated 560,000 jobs and produced $63 billion in sales, according to

... Forty percent of U.S.

Fortune 500 companies were
For example, Chobanis founder, Hamdi Ulukaya, grew up in a rural Kurdish
created by immigrants or their
region of Turkey and came to the United States to study English. He refurbished
estimates in the Kauffman Foundations March 2014 economy digest.

a defunct yogurt plant in upstate New York, and his brand of Greek yogurt

grew to first place in the country, with over $1.3 billion in sales in 2013. PayPal
cofounder Max Levchin is a Ukrainian-born computer scientist who narrowly escaped the 1986
Chernobyl disaster and moved to Chicago. He studied at the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign and went on to start PayPal, an e-commerce business allowing easy money transfers.
It was sold to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002. Google,Yahoo!, and eBay itself all had foreign-born
A proposed startup visa program would reshape current U.S. visa policies to allow foreign-born
founders to stay in the United States and grow their businesses.The new program would award
temporary visas on the basis of outside capital that applicants have raised or revenues generated

Estimated employment impact after 10 years

75,000 Startup visas per year
3 Scenarios:
based on

based on

based on

minimum hiring required

minimum hiring required of

half of the Startup firms

of each visa recipient by

proposed Startup Act 3.0

average U.S. firm survival

visa recipients
average U.S. firm survival
average employment per
U.S. firm

483,343 jobs

889,239 jobs

are in technology and

average employment
at immigrant-founded
technology firms

1,592,842 jobs



from U.S. sales, and later grant them permanent residence once their businesses had met a quota
for employing U.S. citizens.This program would put the United States in the same league as Canada,
New Zealand, and other countries that recruit entrepreneurs with special visas and funding.

Retaining foreign students

Awarding permanent residence to foreign graduates of U.S. universities, many in science,
engineering, technology, and math (STEM) fields, would also help retain much-needed technical
talent. Nearly 820,000 international students were enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities in
201213, 7.2 percent more than in 201112, according to the Institute of International Education.
Stapling green cards to their diplomas could boost the potential for U.S. innovation.

Strengthening education
How is the United States best preparing its own up-and-coming generation for entrepreneurship?
First, high schools targeted toward STEM education are emerging across the country.The North
Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy,
Thomas Jefferson High School in Virginia, and the Texas T-STEM Initiative all represent this trend.
Second, at all levels project-based learning (PBL) is emerging. In PBL, students work in teams on
real-life examples, instead of listening to a teachers lessons and being tested individually.The idea
is to teach students how to work and learn together on projects that excite them. PBL resembles
entrepreneurial systems, where people collaborate all the time (no one starts a company
completely alone), and differs from usual education systems, where collaboration can be viewed
as cheating.An outside-the-classroom PBL example at the junior high and high school level is
FIRST Robotics, in which students form teams that build robots to participate in competitions
performing prescribed tasks.The students learn about math, science, and engineering, and acquire
lifelong critical reasoning skillsa key goal of FIRST Robotics founder Dean Kamen.
At the college level, the same teamwork logic is being applied directly to stimulate
entrepreneurship.The Launch Pad program at the University of Miami, Syracuse Student
Sandbox at Syracuse University, and Start X at Stanford University all promote experiential
education by partnering student entrepreneurs with angel investors and alumni entrepreneurs
to create actual businesses.


Collaborative learning programs are developing not just at business schools, but also at medical
and law schools, arts academies and design schools, and in other disciplines.

The United States should welcome foreign-born entrepreneurs.A new program of

startup visas can admit immigrants for residence who meet criteria for investment and
employment of U.S. citizens.

U.S. residence should also be awarded to international graduates of U.S. higher education,
especially in STEM disciplines.

A strengthened K-12 education system can teach the STEM skills needed for innovation.

Project-based learning at all educational levels can promote the collaboration, creativity,
and enthusiasm that make entrepreneurship thrive.

Amy Wilkinson
Global Fellow
Amy Wilkinson is a global fellow at the Wilson Center. She is the author
of the forthcoming book, The Creators Code:The Six Essential Skills of
Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, based on interviews with 200 of todays
leading entrepreneurs. She has had leadership roles with McKinsey &
Company and JP Morgan, founded a small foreign-based export company,
served as a White House Fellow in the Office of the United States Trade
Representative, and frequently comments on business strategy for national
media outlets such as CNN and FoxNews.

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