New report finds 39% of the UK’s fastest growing businesses have a foreign-born founder
A new report published by The Entrepreneurs Network, a think tank representing Britain’s entrepreneurial community, has revealed the critical contribution immigrants make to the British economy.
In Job Creators 2023, researchers found that 39% of the UK’s 100 fastest growing businesses had a foreign-born founder, despite immigrants comprising just 14.5% of the total UK population. Among the ‘Top 100’ businesses with foreign-born founders are companies such as Kroo, Oddbox, Synthesia, Zapp and Zilch. The Entrepreneurs Network say the findings underscore the importance of Britain having an open and welcoming stance towards immigrants, and make a series of policy recommendations to attract more top international talent to the UK.
The foreign-born founders in the Top 100 come from 28 countries, from five different continents. The USA was the most common country of birth for foreign-born founders in the sample, followed by Italy, France, Canada, India and Germany. Twenty-one of the 39 companies in the Top 100 have a founder born in an EU country.
The report is an update to previous research, Job Creators, which was published by The Entrepreneurs Network in 2019. This found that 49% of the 100 fastest growing companies at the time had a foreign-born founder – meaning the proportion has declined by 10 percentage points in the years since. The findings of this research have been used frequently by the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak when discussing Britain’s startup economy – including in his final Budget speech he gave as Chancellor, and most recently during London Tech Week 2023.
The Rt Hon Jo Johnson, former Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, endorsed the findings, saying: “This research makes the positive contribution which immigrants make to our country’s economy abundantly clear. At a time when innovation is needed more than ever, we must welcome – not reject – international talent, and as such I commend The Entrepreneurs Network on the sensible and pragmatic policy reforms set out in their report.”
Among the report’s policy recommendations to the Government are proposals to: increase the number of universities eligible for inclusion in the High Potential Individual visa; expand the Youth Mobility Scheme to include more countries with which the UK has economic, social and historical ties with; and reduce the cost of visas – which are significantly higher than they are in comparator countries, and due to rise even further.
Commenting on the new data, Eamonn Ives, Head of Research at The Entrepreneurs Network said: “Our research shows the disproportionate role immigrants play when it comes to building precisely the sort of firms which will create jobs, restore growth, and help fund our public services. Politicians should be proud that the UK is a place where so many gifted people want to set up their business – and the last thing we should be doing is making it harder for that to happen.”
The report also features a case study of Nazim Valimahomed, co-founder of the digital bank Kroo, and one of the foreign-born founders who appears in the new data. “It’s in the DNA of an immigrant to want to achieve things,” he said in an interview during the research, and adding that we need to “focus on how to better support immigrant integration in the UK.”