Imagine that one dreaded day you had to say goodbye to your family, give up your cell phone, and move to a foreign country where the internet doesn’t exist.
There are no family or friends there, you’ve never actually spoken the language (really) and… you may have to be there the rest of your life.
There’s a silver, perhaps gold, perhaps 100% platinum lining, though.
In this distant foreign place, you may just find the life of your dreams.
That’s my dad.
That’s millions of mothers and fathers, and sisters and brothers, and sons and daughters across America. You see, over the past several decades, that’s exactly what immigrants have done.
Risked it all for the American dream.
Just a moment of contemplation on this clear aptitude for risk tolerance that immigrants share, and it’s no wonder that immigrants have accounted for a disproportionate percentage of entrepreneurship in this country for decades. After placing the bet of a lifetime with no backup plan at all, these people naturally look at the risk-bearing opportunity of trying to start a business and say, “why not?”.
As investors, we sometimes wonder if a founding team is maybe too comfortable already... where they might not be driven enough to give the business everything they can...
because, simply put…
their world doesn’t end if they lose.
That problem has been screened out here, folks, as not only do immigrants not have a backup plan while they’re taking a major risk, but 1) the odds are stacked against them, 2) they likely have little to no allies, and 3) the only thing they can truly control is that no one outworks them.
They compete because that’s what they’ve always done.
Nothing has been handed to them. There are no free throws, free kicks, handicaps or participation trophies.
In the case of my dad, he was a boy from a place where their history was passed down via spoken word, not written text. He was a boy who’s opportunity was to work all day to survive. He was a boy who didn’t really wear anything on his feet, until sandals were required in high school. High school that, in his country wasn’t promised to all, but had to be earned through national exams after elementary school.
My father knew his only way out of his village and into a world with any real opportunity was through relentless work, discipline, and dedication to his academic pursuits. And, from an insanely young age, promised himself that although others may be brighter than him, no one…
would outwork him.
Today, my dad’s calloused feet sit comfortably in shoes as he graces the halls of a Big Ten university - where he has taught as a professor, conducted groundbreaking research, and even oversaw an entire college as an administrator.
In the case of Ruben Flores, he was a boy from Guadalajara, Mexico. At 13, although his parents were highly educated chemical engineers, their opportunity (much like my dad’s) was to work hard to survive. At 13, his family immigrated to the U.S. for the opportunity for a better life. At 13, Ruben spoke no English. At 13, Ruben’s highly educated parents weren’t chemical engineers - his mother became a cashier at a bakery and father took on landscaping.
But, something else happened.
A seed was planted.
Something was born.
A few years later, Ruben not only spoke English, but he graduated top of his class, founded the school’s robotics club, and his dreams of becoming the next Chopin led him to winning a state-wide piano competition.
Even with all the hard work, the road hadn’t become paved quite yet, though.
Unable to attend college, Ruben taught himself how to code by reading everything he could and watching YouTube videos. After working as a full-time engineer, his heart pulled him to seize opportunity through entrepreneurship. Not everything was perfect, but one thing remained constant. No one would out work Ruben.
Today, Ruben is the Founder & CEO of CashDrop. His allies and assets have gone from next to nothing to include some of the top advisors and investors in venture capital and tech… period. With prolific investors who’ve seeded companies like Uber, Postmates, and SpaceX, have been named top-10 on the Midas List, and have over 9M followers on YouTube, Ruben now leads arguably one of the most exciting early-stage companies the Midwest has ever seen, applying his immigrant-infused DNA to the vast network and resources he’s earned the opportunity to claim.
This immigrant-infused DNA holds traits that aren’t unique to Ruben and my dad, but are expressed by so many other immigrants across the country. Across the world.
And these same traits are those that ripple through the blood of an entrepreneur.
Immigrants don’t come here with a back up plan. My dad showed up with a suitcase and no safety net. Ruben’s family came here with no option but to win here. Nothing else.
Immigrants burn with a missional fire because they’re trying to maximize the risk:reward ratio.
They’re pursuing life ROI.
Nothing that could be so simple as something to be measured in dollars, square footage or anything material, but endless opportunity for hope, happiness, and generational life-optimization. This fire stays lit because they have to earn the success that justifies the risk and sacrifice, because they have to prove all the haters wrong, because they have to prove all their supporters right.
Immigrants don’t sleep on opportunity. They come from “opportunity deserts”, and once they arrive in the land of opportunity - they act like a blind person seeing a sunrise for the first time. They honor opportunities with the respect they deserve, because they haven’t grown up numb to their existence.
All this said another way...
If you want to point a missile at a problem, send an immigrant to solve it.
Now, please don’t for a second let this celebration of immigrants ring as divisive in your ears. You’ll miss the major point.
It comes as no surprise that the immigrant DNA flowing deeply in our country has played a major role in it being the innovation and economic powerhouse that it is. For at least 100 years, the United States has been the world’s largest economy in terms of GDP.
I believe it’s largely because immigrant blood, is one and the same as American blood, is one and the same as the blood of an entrepreneur. And, it’s this blood that pumps from our nation's heart, through its veins, and pouring life into its body.
I say this because...well… we’re all to some degree immigrants. Even if you can trace your American roots back to the signing of the Declaration of Independence… if we assume ~30 years per generation… that’s only ~8 generations ago? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were only 2.5M people here in 1776… and many of those people (or their parents or grandparents) came here from somewhere else.
I’ll also draw my circle to include those Americans whose recent ancestors didn’t choose to come here, but were torn from their homes and brought here, or torn from their homes… that were already here.
Forty acres and a mule was a hoax. It didn’t stick.
Land was stolen, promises broken, and families ripped apart.
The children of those bloodlines today, are here because their predecessors worked to survive as immigrants in their own country. They became slaves (again) to what little opportunity was offered to them. All for the hope that they (or their children) may one day fully access the land of opportunity for themselves as well.
Ruben, who will more likely go down in history for CashDrop, should also be recognized for his mission with the Immigrant Project.
As stated by Ruben himself,
”We are all immigrants, either directly or through our ancestors. And when we use this term, it's inclusive. It's not about creating exact definitions, but about self identity. My hope is that we can bring people together in the realization that we need to build longer tables instead of taller walls.”
America was the New World.
America is the New World.
America will always be the New World.
Yes, even after we land on Mars.
And, it’s all because the New World has been, is being, and will always be built by people who, through the blood flowing through their veins, carry the traits of an immigrant, an entrepreneur, an American.
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