Skip to content
Culture & Religion

20 Tech Influencers with Strong Immigrant Ties

American ingenuity is often foreign-born. With 51% of tech unicorns (valuation over a billion dollars) having an immigrant founder, we take a look at the Top 20 tech influencers with strong immigrant ties. 
Sundar Pichai, the Indian-born American CEO of Google (Credit: Getty Images)

It turns out that unicorns really do come from a far, faraway land. 

44% of Silicon Valley startups feature an immigrant founder and 51% of tech unicorns (valuation over a billion dollars) include an immigrant founder. The United States is a country where the founder of its financial system, Alexander Hamilton, was born out of wedlock on the island of Nevis. The late Steve Jobs, who put a giant dent in the universe with his visionary leadership, had a Syrian biological father.

American ingenuity is often foreign-born.

The engine of Silicon Valley is fueled by an international labor force that has come into focus during the current tumultuous political climate. The tech industry has long put a premium on talent and a de-emphasis towards one’s country of origin. It remains to be seen how the heated rhetoric will impact the industry’s ability to be a giant magnet for top-tier global talent. To understand the potential future for the tech industry, it is helpful to look at the current makeup of talent. 

Here are 20 tech influencers that are either immigrated to the US or a first-generation American. 

1. Elon Musk (Tesla | SpaceX, founder): Born in South Africa

2. Steve Chen (YouTube, Co-Founder): Born in Taiwan.

3. Pierre Omidyar (eBway, Founder): Born in France from Iranian parents.

4. Michelle Zatlyn (CloudFlare, Founder): Born in Canada.

5. Alexis Ohanian (Reddit, Co-founder): Mother was an undocumented immigrant from Armenia.

My father’s family were refugees & my mom was an undocumented immigrant. Without them, there’s no me & no @Reddit.

— Alexis Ohanian (@alexisohanian) January 31, 2017

6. Sundar Pichai (Google, CEO): Born in India

7. Arash Ferdowsi (Dropbox, Co-founder): Parents emigrated from Iran

8. Garrett Camp (Uber, Co-founder): Born in Canada

 9. Bozoma Saint John (Apple Music, marketing exec): Born in Ghana

10. Satya Nadella (Microsoft, CEO): Born in India

11. Shantanu Narayen (Adobe, CEO): Born in India

12. Jess Lee (Sequoia Capital): Born in Canada, grew up in Hong Kong

13. Omid Kordestani (Twitter, Executive Chairman): Born in Iran

 14. Jerry Yang (Yahoo, Co-founder): Born in Taiwan

15. Sergey Brin (Alphabet, Co-founder): Born in Russia

16. Bastian Lehmann (Postmates, Co-founder & CEO): British citizen

17. Sean Rad (Tinder, Co-founder): Parents emigrated from Iran

18. Gary Vaynerchuk (VaynerMedia & Investor): Born in Belarus. Immigrated to the US as part of an exchange program with Soviet Jews for American wheat.

19. John & Patrick Collison (Stripe, Co-founders): Irish entrepreneurs

20. Safra Catz (Oracle, Co-CEO): Born in Israel 


Want to connect? Reach out @TechEthicist and on Facebook


Up Next