7 Well-Known Tech Firms Founded by Immigrants or Their Children

January 30, 2017, 7:14 PM UTC

President Trump’s executive order banning people from certain countries from entering the U.S. is supposed to protect against terrorism. Critics are skeptical about the order actually reducing terrorism and say that it may also lead many Americans to forget the gains it has received from immigrants.

In the tech industry, for instance, the current CEOs of Microsoft, Google, and Oracle were all born overseas. But that’s not all. Many well-known tech companies would not exist at all if the U.S. hadn’t let their founders or their parents move to America in the first place. Here are seven prominent examples.

1. Elon Musk, Tesla/SpaceX

Musk, center, checks out the HYPERXITE University of California, Irvine pod during the [hotlink]SpaceX[/hotlink] Hyperloop competition in Hawthorne, California on January 29, 2017.Gene Blevins — AFP/Getty Images
Gene Blevins — AFP/Getty Images

Do you like rocket ships and cool cars? Be glad Uncle Sam made room for Musk, who came to U.S. in his twenties after growing up in South Africa and studying in Canada. Since coming here, he has built not one, but two ground-breaking technology companies.

2. Sergey Brin, Google

Born in the former Soviet Union, Brin moved to Maryland with his academic parents, who sought to escape the discrimination they faced as Jews. He grew up to co-found a certain search engine company. It’s probably no coincidence Brin was spotted at immigration protests this weekend in San Francisco.

3. Alexis Ohanian, Reddit

Alexis Ohanian
Ohanian sits overlooking the Armenian-Turkish border above the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF)-supported villages of Yervandashat and Bagaran on April 26, 2015.Hrant Khachatryan — PAN Photo/AP Images for Children of Armenia Fund
Hrant Khachatryan — PAN Photo/AP Images for Children of Armenia Fund

Known to many as “the front page of the Internet,” Reddit has had a big role in defining culture and communities on the web. The site’s Brooklyn-born founder is the son of a refugee who fled Armenia.

4. Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Jeff Bezos
Bezos stands next to a copper exhaust nozzle to be used on a space ship engine during a media tour of Blue Origin on March 8, 2016, in Kent, Wash.Donna Blankinship — AP
Donna Blankinship — AP

Here’s another company you may know. Jeff Bezos takes his last name from the man who married his mother when he was a young child in New Mexico. That man, Mike Bezos, was an immigrant from Cuba.

5. Jerry Yang, Yahoo

Crafts-Chinese Calligraphy
Yang in front of “The Thousand-Character Classic,” by Wen Peng (1498-1573), album of eighty-five double leaves with ink on paper in 2014.Kaz Tsuruta — AP
Kaz Tsuruta — AP

The company has been on hard times for years, so it’s easy to forget Yahoo is one of three firms that symbolized the 1990s dot-com boom (Amazon and eBay are the others). Yang reportedly knew only one English word when he moved from Taiwan at the age of 12.

6. Pierre Omidyar, eBay

Ebay Inc. Chairman And Founder Omidyar Television Interview
Omidyar speaks during a television interview in New York on Sept. 21, 2010.Andrew Harrer — Bloomberg via Getty Images
Andrew Harrer — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Speaking of eBay, the founder of the famous auction site was born in Paris to two parents from Iran, one of the countries targeted by Trump’s travel ban.

7. Steve Jobs, Apple

Apple Launches Upgraded iPod
Jobs speaks to members of the media during an [hotlink]Apple[/hotlink] product unveiling event in San Francisco, California on Sept. 1, 2010.David Paul Morris — Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by David Paul Morris — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Steve Jobs was raised by his adoptive family in California, including a mother who was the daughter of Armenian immigrants. The name of Jobs’s biological father is Abdulfattah Jandali, who grew up in Syria and studied in Lebanon before moving to U.S.


As President Trump excludes certain immigrants, it’s worth asking what the U.S. will be losing. Is it possible the ban will lead the next great inventors of smartphones, search engines, and electric cars to start their companies somewhere else?

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