majority of us ai companies are founded by immigrants

A new report shows immigrants are playing a major role in shaping the U.S. artificial intelligence industry. The National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) found that immigrants founded or cofounded 65% of the top AI companies in America.

The report analyzed 43 U.S. companies on the Forbes AI 50 list of leading AI startups. It also showed that 77% of the top U.S.-based AI companies have at least one immigrant founder or co-founder.

Immigrant entrepreneurs were born in over 20 different countries with India producing the most founders of top AI startups at 10. Israel and the U.K. followed with 3 each. Many immigrant founders came to the U.S. as international students, with 42% of the top AI companies having a founder who initially came on a student visa.

AI Companies Led by Immigrants Are Already Hiring Thousands of Workers

The report highlights the crucial role immigrants play as researchers, finding that 70% of graduate students studying AI-related fields in the U.S. come from other countries. In computer science, a key area for AI, 71% are foreign students.

Several prominent AI companies are cited with immigrant founders, including OpenAI, the company behind the popular generative AI models ChatGTP and GPT-4, which was co-founded by Canadians Ilya Sutskever and Wojciech Zaremba.

Meanwhile, Adept, a software company that is building a top-notch AI-powered computer assistant, was founded by Indians Niki Parmar and Ashish Vaswani, both of who came to the US as students.

The NFAP study also notes that AI companies with immigrant founders employ thousands of Americans. Databricks, for instance, leads the scoreboard as it has hired over 5,000 workers while AlphaSense employs 1,112 people.

Immigrant founders cited the variety of benefits that AI can provide to both digital and brick and mortar businesses. Maria Telleria of Canvas, a Mexican immigrant, said that their robots help construction workers produce high-quality results while reducing injuries and job-site risks.

In addition to creating jobs, these AI companies are generating life-changing wealth for their co-founders and investors. A total of 23 out of the 43 cited in the report are worth more than $1 billion with Databricks and OpenAI currently being the most valuable ones at $31 billion and $29 billion each respectively.

immigrant-founded ai companies are worth billions

Retaining International Students is Crucial to Win the AI Race

The NFAP report cites comments from a study conducted for the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence shared two years ago that emphasized the importance of retaining international students in STEM fields after graduation. Otherwise, the US risks falling behind its competitors in the global AI race.

Eric Schmidt and Robert Work, the co-authors of that study, recommend expanding high-skilled visas and green cards for STEM graduates as a “national security imperative.”

While some fear that the mass adoption of AI technologies will lead to massive job losses, a Bureau of Labor Statistics expert found little evidence for that. Michael Handel wrote that there is no sign of a ” general acceleration of job loss or a structural break” due to AI.

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Overall, the report highlights the crucial economic and innovative contributions immigrants make to the U.S. AI industry as entrepreneurs, researchers, and employees. As America seeks to maximize the benefits of this critical technology, ensuring it remains attractive to top global AI talent will likely remain a priority.

“There is little support in U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data or projections for the idea of a general acceleration of job loss or a structural break with trends pre-dating the AI revolution with respect to the occupations cited as examples”, Handel highlighted in its Monthly Labor Review for the BLS.

The future of the U.S. in terms of its ability to dominate the artificial intelligence space appears inextricably linked to its ability to attract and retain the best minds from around the world, including many of who come the country as international students at first.