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The Immigrant Exodus

Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent

Vivek Wadhwa and Alex Salkever


Many of the United States’ most innovative entrepreneurs have been immigrants, from Andrew Carnegie, Alexander Graham Bell, and Charles Pfizer to Sergey Brin, Vinod Khosla, and Elon Musk. Nearly half of Fortune 500 companies and one-quarter of all new small businesses were founded by immigrants, generating trillions of dollars annually, employing millions of workers, and helping establish the United States as the most entrepreneurial, technologically advanced society on earth.

Now, Vivek Wadhwa, an immigrant tech entrepreneur turned academic with appointments at Duke, Stanford, Emory, and Singularity Universities, draws on his new Kauffman Foundation research to show that the United States is in the midst of an unprecedented halt in high-growth, immigrant-founded start-ups. In The Immigrant Exodus, he argues that increased competition from countries like China and India and US immigration policies are leaving some of the most educated and talented entrepreneurial immigrants with no choice but to take their innovation elsewhere. The consequences to our economy are dire; our multi-trillion dollar loss will be the gain of our global competitors.

With his signature fearlessness and clarity, Wadhwa offers a concise framework for understanding the Immigrant Exodus and offers a recipe for reversal and rapid recovery.

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About the Authors

Praise for The Immigrant Exodus

“Vivek Wadhwa’s new book, The Immigrant Exodus, is admirably short, yet he packs it with righteous fury. America, he points out, has one of the greatest assets a nation can have: people yearn to live there.”

—The Economist

“A thoughtful contribution to the dialogue surrounding immigration.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“Immigrants have long been the backbone of America—our nation itself was a start-up founded by immigrants. The Immigrant Exodus demonstrates the danger this country faces if it continues to turn away such a precious resource.”

—World Policy Review

“There is no better monitor of America’s shifting immigration regime than Vivek Wadhwa.”

—Edward Luce, The Financial Times

“Talk about hitting our economy when it’s down! And we’re doing it to ourselves, as Vivek Wadhwa’s shocking new book illustrates….Vivek’s timely book should wake Washington up to this destructive folly.”

—Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, Forbes Media

“I am an immigrant entrepreneur. Many of my close friends in the technology world are immigrant entrepreneurs. It is a tragedy that America makes it so hard for these invaluable people to immigrate and contribute to this great country. Vivek Wadhwa’s book on this topic is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand why America is losing the talent race due in part to restrictive and regressive immigration policies.”

—Elon Musk, CEO, SpaceX, and Cofounder, Tesla Motors and PayPal

“America’s continued leadership in the world economy depends directly on our ability to continue to innovate. Our ability to innovate depends directly on the number of scientists and engineers we have in this country. At a time we are not producing enough home grown talent, we need policies and programs that make it easier to attract talent from abroad. That’s always been the case. Walk the halls of our research centers in Palo Alto and Rochester and you will see people from all over the world. It gives usand our countrya competitive advantage. We need to nurture more of it.”

—Ursula Burns, Chairman and CEO, Xerox Corporation

“Immigrants are a crucial part of Silicon Valley. Many market transforming companies have been founded by immigrants. Furthermore, all of my portfolio companies rely on outstanding immigrant employees every day. Over the past couple of years, Wadhwa has been at the forefront sounding the alarm about America’s flawed immigration system. In The Immigrant Exodus, he writes persuasively about the problem and what we need to do to solve it. A must-read.”

—Reid Hoffman, Cofounder and Executive Chairman, LinkedIn, and Partner, Greylock

“America’s current immigration policy is utterly destroying this great nation’s future. The greatest minds, inspired and educated by our incubators and institutions, are tossed out like babies in the bathwater. Vivek Wadhwa shines a bright laser beam on this must-fix-now problem. As the son of immigrants and a champion of American Innovation, I can think of no more important book for our politicians and CEOs to read. Get it, read it and fix this problem now.”

—Peter H. Diamandis, MD, Chairman/CEO, X PRIZE Foundation, and author, Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think

“America became a superpower on the premise of welcoming the best and brightest from all over the world. Today those potential contributors to the economy are more likely than not to give up in exasperation and return to their home countries. It doesn’t need to be this way. Wadhwa has been an outstanding champion for the cause and today we must stand with him. In The Immigrant Exodus, he argues that America remains the beacon of hope for talented individuals from around the world. Let’s not allow this flame to be extinguished.”

—Jeff Skoll, Founder and Chairman, Participant Media

“Vivek hits the nail on the head: The key to unlocking American prosperity is making it easier for immigrant entrepreneurs to start businesses here and ultimately stay here. Voices like Vivek’s are critical to making that reform possible.”

—Marc Andreessen, Cofounder and Partner, Andreessen Horowitz

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In the Media

February 28, 2017
An Immigrant Exodus
from Human Resources Executive Online
February 1, 2016
February 2016’S Top Reads: The Immigrant Exodus
from Training Magazine
January 20, 2015
Immigrant Founders Need Policy Reform To Keep Creating Tech Jobs
from TechCrunch.com
April 15, 2013
Why Mark Zuckerberg Is Pushing for Immigration Reform
from Time.com
February 5, 2013
House judiciary committee hearing shines spotlight on highly skilled STEM workers,...
from NBCLatino.com
January 28, 2013
Linking Entrepreneurship and Immigration Reform in the U.S.
from AsiaSociety.org
December 30, 2012
Books of the Year
from Financial Express
December 9, 2012
The Immigrant Exodus Examines an Entrepreneurial Crisis in America
from SmallBizTrends.com
December 6, 2012
Looking Beyond Borders: Looking at Foreign Policy Differently
from Looking Beyond Borders.com
November 20, 2012
Why America Is Losing the Race for Entrepreneurial Talent
from Knowledge@Wharton
November 11, 2012
The US Needs to Focus Its Educational Efforts On Talented Americans
from TechCrunch.com
November 10, 2012
Business Bookshelf: The Immigrant Exodus
from Minneapolis Star Tribune
November 1, 2012
US Lags for Race in Tech Talent: Other nations offer speedy...
from The Epoch Times
October 30, 2012
Vivek Wadhwa – Entrepreneur, Author, Academic
from TripreneurTV.com
October 29, 2012
Is America Losing the Battle for Tech Talent?
from EBNOnline,com
October 29, 2012
Q&A: Why the U.S. Needs Indian Immigrants
from Wall Street Journal (India blog)
October 26, 2012
Obama and Romney Should Quit Worrying About China And Start Worrying...
from ReadWrite.com
October 25, 2012
Cultivating American Talent for Global Competitiveness
from TheTakeaway.org
October 23, 2012
The Immigrant Exodus: Will the US Run Out of Entrepreneurs?
from CNBC.com
October 21, 2012
The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to...
from Your Story-India
October 21, 2012
Reverse brain drain: Economic shifts lure migrants home
from Christian Science Monitor
October 21, 2012
US Immigration Policy is Killing Immigration
from Financial Times
October 21, 2012
US Immigration Policy is Killing Innovation
from Financial Times
October 20, 2012
Vivek Wadhwa – “The Immigrant Exodus”
from The Tavis Smiley Show
October 18, 2012
People Power: America needs to rethink its immigration policy
from The Economist
October 17, 2012
Why Drop in Immigrant-Led Startups Is Worrisome
from National Journal
October 16, 2012
America Drives Out Immigrants, Innovation
from World Policy Blog
October 13, 2012
The Chilecon Valley Challenge
from The Economist
October 11, 2012
Vivek Wadhwa: Stop the U.S. Highly-Skilled ‘Immigrant Exodus’ Now
from TIME
October 5, 2012
Preventing Silicon Valley's 'Immigrant Exodus'
from NPR Morning Edition
October 5, 2012
Can immigrants Fix the Job Problem?
from CNN Your Money
October 5, 2012
Can immigrants fix the job problem?
from CNN Your Money
October 3, 2012
Is the Nation of Immigrants Becoming a Nation of Emigrants?
from American.com
October 3, 2012
The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to...
from Kurzweilai.net
October 3, 2012
Indians Top US Start-Ups Amid Immigration Woes
from Hindustan Times (online)
October 3, 2012
Every third tech start-up in US has Indian DNA
from BusinessStandard.com
October 3, 2012
Vivek Wadhwa on the Reverse Brain Drain
from Sg.finance.yahoo.com
October 2, 2012
America to immigrants: ‘Give me your tired, your poor’ but keep...
from WashingtonPost.com
October 2, 2012
In new book and research paper, Vivek Wadhwa says U.S. chases...
from SiliconBeat.com
October 2, 2012
Preventing Silicon Valley's 'Immigrant Exodus'
from NPR Morning Edition
October 2, 2012
Indians lead in immigrant entrepreneurship in the US
from Business-standard.com
October 2, 2012
Let’s Embrace Foreign Job Creators Before It’s Too Late
from HuffingtonPost.com
October 2, 2012
Economic Suicide: Chasing Away the Job-Creating Immigrant Entrepreneurs
from Forbes.com
October 2, 2012
Why Immigrant Entrepreneurship is Stalling
from Businessweek.com
October 2, 2012
Vivek Wadhwa: ‘Sleazy Body Shops Are Abusing the H-1B System
from ITBusinessEdge.com
October 2, 2012
The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to...
from Kauffman.org
September 29, 2012
What in the World
from CNN Fareed Zakaria GPS