Economy

See Nigeria’s Tope Awotona, 91 Other Immigrants From 35 Countries Who Have Made It Big In America

WHEN Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan set his sights on the U.S. as a recent college graduate in the 1990s, he was denied a visa eight times in 18 months.

Determined to join idols like Bill Gates making it big in tech, the son of mining engineers in China’s eastern Shandong Province refused to take “no” for an answer.

See Tope Awotona, 91 Immigrants From 35 Countries Who Have Made It Big In America

Eric Yuan, Tope Awotona, Eren Ozmen JAMEL TOPPIN FOR FORBES, ETHAN PINES FOR FORBES, TIM PANNELL FOR FORBES

“I told myself, okay, great. I’ll do all I can until you tell me that I can never come here anymore,” Yuan told Forbes in 2019. “Otherwise, I’m not going to stop.”

Yuan’s persistence paid off. He finally got a visa and headed to California in the summer of 1997 to join WebEx as an early employee.

Two decades later, the rival video communications company he ended up founding and running has fundamentally changed the way we connect with each other in the midst of a global pandemic.

Yuan (who was worth an estimated $5.2 billion as of March 11– the date Forbes used to measure net worths for the latest billionaires list), is just one of 92 foreign-born American citizens on Forbes’ annual World’s Billionaires list for 2022 who currently live in the United States. You heard that right – 13% of the list’s 735 American citizens are immigrants.

With a combined net worth of $711 billion, these foreign-born U.S. citizens account for 15% of all American billionaire wealth. And they’ve built their fortunes on their own– 92% are self-made, compared to 71% for the 628 American billionaires who were born in the U.S.

These immigrants hail from 35 different countries and every continent but Antarctica. The world’s richest person, Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX ($219 billion), is one of three from South Africa. Another five hail from elsewhere in Africa, including Tope Awotona ($1.4 billion), the founder and CEO of scheduling software company Calendly. As a 12-year-old in Lagos, Nigeria, Awotona witnessed his father get shot and killed in a carjacking. Three years later he and his family moved to Atlanta, Georgia.

“When you come from a different country, and you have to assimilate into a different country, you learn to get along with people from all different backgrounds, and you have empathy for people of all different backgrounds,” Awotona says.

Other newcomers to the billionaire ranks include mobile gaming billionaire Adam Foroughi of AppLovin ($1.3 billion), who was was born in Iran a year after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and Jordanian-born private equity mogul Ramzi Musallam ($4 billion), whose formative years were spent in emerging markets such as Saudi Arabia and Tanzania, where his father, a Palestinian Christian born in Jerusalem, worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

But it’s Israel that has produced the most immigrant billionaires on this year’s list, with ten–including brothers Tom and Alec Gores ($6 billion and $2.6 billion, respectively), who stocked shelves at their father’s grocery store in Flint, Michigan before making it big in private equity, and Oracle CEO Safra Catz ($1.5 billion), one of 10 female immigrants with three-comma fortunes.

Eren Ozmen ($2.6 billion), who owns and runs private aerospace and defense company Sierra Nevada Corporation with her husband Fatih Ozmen ($2.5 billion), is one of those women. The Ozmens are Turkish immigrants who came to the U.S. for graduate school in the early 1980s, drawn to the land of opportunity they’d imagined growing up.

“When we were children, on the other side of the world, we watched the moon landing on a black-and-white TV. It gave us goosebumps. It was so inspirational,” Fatih Ozmen told Forbes in 2018. “Look at the United States and what women can do here, compared to the rest of the world,” his wife Eren added.

Eight American billionaires were born in Canada, including real estate icon Mortimer Zuckerman ($3 billion), the son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants who settled in Montreal and sold tobacco and candy, and Alberta natives Robyn and Mark Jones ($1.8 billion), founders of Goosehead Insurance in Texas.

Seven immigrant billionaires were born in China. Weili Dai ($1.4 billion) played semi-professional basketball in Shanghai as a teen before cofounding semiconductor company Marvell Technology with her husband Sehat Sutardja (an Indonesian-born U.S. citizen worth an estimated $1.3 billion). Andrew Cherng, who shares a $3.2 billion fortune with his wife and Panda Express cofounder, Peggy Cherng (an immigrant from Myanmar), was also born in the Middle Kingdom.

India rounds out the top four as the birthplace of seven American billionaires, five of whom made their fortunes in technology, including venture capitalists Vinod Khosla ($6.9 billion) and Ram Shriram ($2.6 billion), the founder of cybersecurity firm Zscaler, Jay Chaudhry ($11.4 billion) and founder of AI firm Amelia, Chetan Dube ($2.4 billion).

The 92 figure doesn’t count another 36 non-citizen billionaires living and working in the U.S., including brothers John and Patrick Collison (worth an estimated $9.5 billion each), the Irish cofounders of digital payments giant Stripe, and pop star Rihanna ($1.7 billion), who lives in Los Angeles and whose stakes in the Fenty Beauty cosmetics line and the Savage X Fenty lingerie business helped make her Barbados’ first citizen billionaire.

Altogether nearly half (41) of the foreign-born members of America’s billionaires club derived their wealth from technology. The finance and investments industry ranks a distant second, with 16 immigrant billionaires. In fact, Silicon Valley has become so dependent on immigrant entrepreneurs that prominent locals have started looking for a less political term for immigration.

“It really is a framing issue. We should not call high-skilled labor coming here immigration,” said venture capitalist and early Uber investor Jason Calacanis on a recent episode of the “All-In” podcast. “We should be flipping that to talent acquisition. We should be looking at it as, ‘America is trying to get more talent here so that we can win the industries that matter.’”

There’s always the risk that students from economic rivals like China will take their technical skills home with them – six billionaires who earned U.S. citizenship while studying in the U.S. have gone on to found or run Chinese companies, including Li Ge ($8.8 billion) who received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Columbia before cofounding WuXi AppTec, which provides R&D and manufacturing services to the global pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device industries. (Forbes didn’t count Li or 14 other foreign-born U.S. citizens living outside the country as immigrants).

But many other China natives have stayed in the U.S. after graduating from American colleges, including DoorDash cofounder and CEO Tony Xu ($1.3 billion), whose mom gave up her medical career in China to work at a Chinese restaurant in the U.S. while her husband earned his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois. She eventually opened her own acupuncture and medical clinic, which she continues to operate in the San Francisco Bay Area more than 20 years later.

“DoorDash exists today to empower those like my Mom who came here with a dream to make it on their own,” Xu wrote in the company’s 2020 IPO prospectus. “Fighting for the underdog is part of who I am and what we stand for as a company.”

Here is the complete list of immigrant billionaires on Forbes’ annual World’s Billionaires list in 2022 (net worths are as of March 11):

1. Elon Musk

Net worth: $219 billion

Source of wealth: Tesla & SpaceX

Country: South Africa

2. Sergey Brin

Net worth: $107 billion

Source of wealth: Google

Country: Russia

Miriam AdelsonANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG

3. Miriam Adelson

Net worth: $27.5 billion

Source of wealth: casinos

Country: Israel

4. Rupert Murdoch & family

Net worth: $20.8 billion

Source of wealth: newspapers & TV network

Country: Australia

Jen Hsun HuangETHAN PINES FOR FORBES

5. Jensen Huang

Net worth: $20.6 billion

Source of wealth: semiconductors

Country: Taiwan

6. Thomas Peterffy

Net worth: $20.1 billion

Source of wealth: discount brokerage

Country: Hungary

7. Jay Chaudhry

Net worth: $11.4 billion

Source of wealth: security software

Country: India

8. Pierre Omidyar

Net worth: $11.3 billion

Source of wealth: eBay & PayPal

Country: France

9. Jan Koum

Net worth: $9.8 billion

Source of wealth: WhatsApp

Country: Ukraine

10. George Soros

Net worth: $8.6 billion

Source of wealth: hedge funds

Country: Hungary

11. Shahid Khan

Net worth: $7.6 billion

Source of wealth: auto parts

Country: Pakistan

Patrick Soon ShiongETHAN PINES FOR FORBES

12. Patrick Soon-Shiong

Net worth: $7.3 billion

Source of wealth: pharmaceuticals

Country: South Africa

13. Douglas Leone

Net worth: $6.9 billion

Source of wealth: venture capital

Country: Italy

14. Micky Arison

Net worth: $6.9 billion

Source of wealth: Carnival Cruises

Country: Israel

15. Vinod Khosla

Net worth: $6.9 billion

Source of wealth: venture capital

Country: India

16. Philippe Laffont

Net worth: $6.5 billion

Source of wealth: hedge fund

Country: Belgium

17. Rocco Commisso

Net worth: $6.1 billion

Source of wealth: telecom

Country: Italy

18. Tom Gores

Net worth: $6 billion

Source of wealth: private equity

Country: Israel

Michael MoritzSIMON DAWSON/BLOOMBERG

19. Michael Moritz

Net worth: $5.9 billion

Source of wealth: venture capital

Country: Wales

20. Charles Simonyi

Net worth: $5.8 billion

Source of wealth: Microsoft

Country: Hungary

21. Ken Xie

Net worth: $5.7 billion

Source of wealth: cybersecurity

Country: China

22. David Sun

Net worth: $5.6 billion

Source of wealth: computer hardware

Country: Taiwan

23. John Tu

Net worth: $5.6 billion

Source of wealth: computer hardware

Country: China

24. Eric Yuan & family

Net worth: $5.2 billion

Source of wealth: Zoom Video Communications

Country: China

25. Isaac Perlmutter

Net worth: $5.1 billion

Source of wealth: Marvel comics

Country: Israel

26. Peter Thiel

Net worth: $5 billion

Source of wealth: Facebook & investments

Country: Germany

27. Jeff Skoll

Net worth: $4.8 billion

Source of wealth: eBay

Country: Canada

28. Igor Olenicoff

Net worth: $4.7 billion

Source of wealth: real estate

Country: Russia

Dagmar Dolby VINCENT SANDOVAL /GETTY

29. Dagmar Dolby & family

Net worth: $4.6 billion

Source of wealth: Dolby Laboratories

Country: Germany

30. Min Kao & family

Net worth: $4.6 billion

Source of wealth: navigation equipment

Country: Taiwan

31. Romesh T. Wadhwani

Net worth: $4.2 billion

Source of wealth: software

Country: Pakistan

32. Thai Lee

Net worth: $4.1 billion

Source of wealth: IT provider

Country: Thailand

33. Steven Udvar-Hazy

Net worth: $4.1 billion

Source of wealth: aircraft leasing

Country: Hungary

34. Rakesh Gangwal

Net worth: $4 billion

Source of wealth: airline

Country: India

Ramzi MusallamJAMEL TOPPIN FOR FORBES

35. Ramzi Musallam

Net worth: $4 billion

Source of wealth: private equity

Country: Jordan

36. Pablo Legorreta

Net worth: $3.8 billion

Source of wealth: investments

Country: Mexico

37. John Catsimatidis

Net worth: $3.7 billion

Source of wealth: oil & real estate

Country: Greece

38. Behdad Eghbali

Net worth: $3.4 billion

Source of wealth: private equity

Country: Iran

39. Michael Xie

Net worth: $3.4 billion

Source of wealth: cybersecurity

Country: China

40. Andrew & Peggy Cherng

Net worth: $3.2 billion

Source of wealth: restaurants

Country: China & Myanmar

41. Haim Saban

Net worth: $3.1 billion

Source of wealth: TV network & investments

Country: Egypt

42. Oren Zeev

Net worth: $3 billion

Source of wealth: investments

Country: Israel

43. Mortimer Zuckerman

Net worth: $3 billion

Source of wealth: real estate & media

Country: Canada

44. Nicolas Berggruen

Net worth: $2.9 billion

Source of wealth: real estate & investments

Country: France

45. Alexis Lê-Quôc

Net worth: $2.8 billion

Source of wealth: cloud computing

Country: France

46. Ben Ashkenazy

Net worth: $2.7 billion

Source of wealth: real estate

Country: Israel

47. C. Dean Metropoulos

Net worth: $2.7 billion

Source of wealth: investments

Country: Greece

48. Jerry Yang

Net worth: $2.7 billion

Source of wealth: Yahoo

Country: Taiwan

Eren OzmenTIM PANNELL FOR FORBES

49. Eren Ozmen

Net worth: $2.6 billion

Source of wealth: aerospace

Country: Turkey

50. Alec Gores

Net worth: $2.6 billion

Source of wealth: private equity

Country: Israel

51. Ram Shriram

Net worth: $2.6 billion

Source of wealth: venture capital & Google

Country: India

Dave BaszuckiCOURTESY

52. David Baszucki

Net worth: $2.5 billion

Source of wealth: online games

Country: Canada

53. Fatih Ozmen

Net worth: $2.5 billion

Source of wealth: aerospace

Country: Turkey

54. Chetan Dube

Net worth: $2.4 billion

Source of wealth: technology

Country: India

55. Anthony Wood

Net worth: $2.4 billion

Source of wealth: Roku

Country: England

56. Rodney Sacks

Net worth: $2.4 billion

Source of wealth: energy drinks

Country: South Africa

57. Frank Laukien

Net worth: $2.3 billion

Source of wealth: scientific equipment

Country: Germany

58. Noam Gottesman

Net worth: $2.3 billion

Source of wealth: hedge funds

Country: Israel

Osman KibarTIM PANNELL FOR FORBES

59. Osman Kibar

Net worth: $2.3 billion

Source of wealth: biotech

Country: Turkey

60. Daniel Lubetzky

Net worth: $2.2 billion

Source of wealth: snack bars

Country: Mexico

61. Jayshree Ullal

Net worth: $2.1 billion

Source of wealth: computer networking

Country: England

62. David Zalik

Net worth: $1.9 billion

Source of wealth: financial technology

Country: Israel

63. Frank Slootman

Net worth: $1.8 billion

Source of wealth: software

Country: Netherlands

64. David Paul

Net worth: $1.8 billion

Source of wealth: medical devices

Country: India

65. David Hindawi

Net worth: $1.8 billion

Source of wealth: software

Country: Iraq

66. Mark & Robyn Jones

Net worth: $1.8 billion

Source of wealth: insurance

Country: Canada

67. Marc Lasry

Net worth: $1.8 billion

Source of wealth: hedge funds

Country: Morocco

68. George Marcus

Net worth: $1.8 billion

Source of wealth: real estate

Country: Greece

69. Sanjit Biswas

Net worth: $1.7 billion

Source of wealth: sensor systems

Country: Canada

70. Noubar Afeyan

Net worth: $1.7 billion

Source of wealth: biotech

Country: Lebanon

71. Jorge Perez

Net worth: $1.7 billion

Source of wealth: real estate

Country: Argentina

72. Patrizio Vinciarelli

Net worth: $1.7 billion

Source of wealth: electronic components

Country: Italy

73. Safra Catz

Net worth: $1.5 billion

Source of wealth: software

Country: Israel

74. Egon Durban

Net worth: $1.5 billion

Source of wealth: private equity

Country: Germany

75. Bharat Desai

Net worth: $1.5 billion

Source of wealth: IT consulting

Country: Kenya

76. John Farber

Net worth: $1.5 billion

Source of wealth: chemicals

Country: Romania

77. Michael Polsky

Net worth: $1.5 billion

Source of wealth: Electric power

Country: Ukraine

78. Fayez Sarofim

Net worth: $1.5 billion

Source of wealth: money management

Country: Egypt

79. Stewart Butterfield

Net worth: $1.4 billion

Source of wealth: messaging software

Country: Canada

80. Weili Dai

Net worth: $1.4 billion

Source of wealth: semiconductors

Country: China

81. Tope Awotona

Net worth: $1.4 billion

Source of wealth: software

Country: Nigeria

82. Thierry Cruanes

Net worth: $1.4 billion

Source of wealth: software

Country: France

83. Benoit Dageville

Net worth: $1.4 billion

Source of wealth: software

Country: France

84. Martin Selig

Net worth: $1.4 billion

Source of wealth: real estate

Country: Germany

85. Sehat Sutardja

Net worth: $1.3 billion

Source of wealth: semiconductors

Country: Indonesia

Tony XuDAVID PAUL MORRIS/BLOOMBERG FINANCE LP

86. Tony Xu

Net worth: $1.3 billion

Source of wealth: food delivery service

Country: China

87. Adam Foroughi

Net worth: $1.3 billion

Source of wealth: mobile games

Country: Iran

88. Leonid Radvinsky

Net worth: $1.2 billion

Source of wealth: e-commerce

Country: Ukraine

89. Stanley Tang

Net worth: $1.2 billion

Source of wealth: food delivery app

Country: Japan

90. Mark Rein

Net worth: $1 billion

Source of wealth: video games

Country: Canada

91. Axel Stawski

Net worth: $1 billion

Source of wealth: real estate

Country: Germany

92. Neerja Sethi

Net worth: $1 billion

Source of wealth: IT consulting & outsourcing

Country: India

Source: Forbes

What's your reaction?

Excited
0
Happy
0
In Love
0
Not Sure
0
Silly
0

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in:Economy

0 %