Putting sentiments aside. There is a growing belief that immigrants tend to make great entrepreneurs and end up being more successful than most locals. Why do immigrants make great entrepreneurs? How do they become successful despite the odds initially stacked against them? Is there an advantage that they have?
Several pieces of research have been carried out to back up the above claim.
According to research by Kauffman, over 27 percent of U.S. entrepreneurs are immigrants. This is despite immigrants being only 13.5 percent of the population. In fact, Forty-three percent of the companies on the 2017 Fortune 500 list were either founded or co-founded by an immigrant or had an immigrant lineage.
Looking at this phenomenon from a layman’s perspective, it doesn’t make sense. Many immigrants like me come from third world countries and have to start from zero. Many don’t even speak English so I understand why it doesn’t make sense when judging from the surface.
But is that the right way to assess this?
An article by Andreas Porous in 2015 showed that immigrants are about two times more likely to start their own business and four times more likely to become a millionaire.
So why are some immigrants more successful than the natives?
1. Hunger for success
Perhaps this is the biggest reason for immigrant’s success in foreign countries. Most immigrants unlike locals come from faraway lands with only one thing in mind – greener pastures. Most of we immigrants know we have to succeed no matter what. No one wants to go back to their home country empty-handed. It is only normal that such persons develop a mindset of resilience and ingenuity to succeed.
According to an article on Entrepreneur, Roman Martynenko, COO of Astound Commerce, the world’s largest independent digital commerce agency, once said, “It’s all in our heads! We understand that nothing will be handed to us on silver platters. Every single win requires sweat and tears.”
In the same article, Francis Dinha, CEO of open source security provider OpenVPN, also explains, “The country was incredibly dangerous. I lived through bombings, witnessed people executed for speaking out against the government, and much more.” Dinha is an immigrant from Iraq who fled to escape Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime.
2. Embracing Risk
How do you tell an immigrant who after repeatedly getting his VISA rejected that he won’t succeed in his new country? For most immigrants, leaving their home country for foreign lands is a dream come true. For most locals overseas, journeying to foreign lands is a vacation. This little analogy best explains why immigrants eventually enjoy more success. There is a similarity between Entrepreneurial activities and migration, both are uncertain and involve risk. So while an immigrant is more willing to embrace risks because of his success or nothing mindset, locals prefer to keep things safe. It’s sort of complacency of thought brought about by being in one’s comfort zone.
During my early years in the United Kingdom, I took up night shift at Royal Mail sorting warehouse and some other odd jobs. I wouldn’t do those jobs in my home country even if the salary was the same.
3. Hustle over passion
For most immigrants, making money is the ultimate goal. There is a popular quote among hustlers in Nigeria, “I no come Lagos to count bridge.”
It means “I didn’t come to Lagos to count bridge. I came to hustle.”
Most immigrants will do any job so far as they are getting paid. You rarely see a first-time immigrant looking for a job in a field he is passionate about. This is where our mentality defers from locals. Locals have the luxury to be selective, we just want to survive.
There is a mindset among us that no matter how small the payment is, it can’t be as bad as what we left behind in our home country. An immigrant is driven to have multiple jobs because that increases the earnings.
Locals have the luxury of being passionate about employment because it is their home country. Some immigrants also have this luxury but a good percentage doesn’t care at first really. The first instinct is to survive and get a foothold.
4. The 80-hour work rule
Immigrants are workaholics. This is something most locals aren’t. You rarely see immigrants embrace the 40-hour workweek. There is beauty in more for most of us.
Most locals are after quality life and that sometimes involve working fewer hours every week. Most obsess about how to work fewer hours.
This isn’t the way immigrants think. As I mentioned earlier, “there is beauty in more.” Most immigrants are ready to work 60, 70, and 80 hours a week or more. This sometimes means having 2-3 jobs and multiple shifts.
Of course, it isn’t healthy but more money is being made as a result.
I remember working so many hours during my master’s degree program that I barely passed the program itself. But I needed the money working afforded me at the time to survive and help out my sister.
5. Being frugal saves more
My wife has always being a minimalist. I also adopted the minimalist approach to life a few years ago. This is how most immigrants are.
Making money is hard but saving it is easier so we adopt frugality. An immigrant won’t work 80 hours a week only to lavish it on luxury.
Discounts, thrifts, and sales are some of the things most immigrants look for. In fact, we are never afraid to ask for discounts.
6. “No” is not an answer
One thing you can’t tell an immigrant to do is give up. The ability to keep trying stems from our unwillingness to fail. For us, failure isn’t an option. Most of us come from too far away to have our hopes dampened by a few rejections. We will just keep hammering away.
7. Pursuit of happiness
Why would I decide to leave the comfort of my home country if I was happy there? The truth is that no one would do that if our countries flowed with opportunities like honey.
Deciding to migrate to a new country is as much a pursuit of change as it is survival. I decided to heed my sister’s advice and come to the UK because I was looking for a change. I knew and decided at the time that my country can only take my dreams so far. The only realistic projectile for me was to leave.
My master’s degree program brought me here but I did everything possible to stay. I even almost gave up at one point.
According to Dinha, “Immigrants must work incredibly hard to adjust to a new culture and way of life. They often have to work harder and learn more than their native-born counterpart because of language, cultural and societal barriers.”
Immigrants don’t have the luxury of failure. We have come too far to accept failure as an option. The only word we know is success, even if it begins with working excess hours every week.
Dinha added, “An immigrant knows a good opportunity when he or she sees one; that’s how they got here in the first place.”
An immigrant’s dream is to succeed in an alien environment. Starting from zero isn’t a problem since we have a vision of where we want to be. I came to the United Kingdom a nobody just looking to explore and expand his horizon. But today my wife and I work with the NHS and live a very healthy life. That is the immigrant dream.
My journey as a first-generation immigrant is well documented in my book and you can get yourself a copy here.
The book is available on all Amazon marketplace.