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- The tech industry is filled with the powerful stories of immigrants who made it big after moving to the United States.
- For many now-moguls, however, there were struggles and strifes along the path to their success.
- We rounded up 13 tech leaders who struggled as immigrants but later proved the American Dream possible.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
More than a third of the top tech companies in the US were founded by people born outside of the country.
Their success stories drive many immigrants to come to the US in hopes of realizing the American Dream.
But just looking at their success makes it easy to overlook the fact that a lot of immigrant tech industry giants had to overcome other problems – from language barriers to financial constraints – to achieve their extraordinary success.
Here are 13 tech leaders who struggled as immigrants but later proved the American Dream possible.
Eugene Kim contributed to a previous version of this article.
Sergey Brin had a very ‘difficult first year’ in the US
Kimberly White/Getty Images
Google cofounder Sergey Brin was just 6 years old when his family emigrated from the Soviet Union to settle in Maryland. His first memory of the US was of "sitting in the backseat of the car, amazed at all the giant automobiles on the highway," his mother Eugenia Brin told Moment Magazine.
She says Brin struggled to adjust to the new surroundings early on. He was bashful and spoke English with a heavy accent, which made the first year a "difficult year for him."
"We were constantly discussing the fact we had been told that children are like sponges, that they immediately grasp the language and have no problem, and that wasn’t the case," she said.
It may have taken Brin longer to learn English, but he ended up in Stanford’s PhD program in computer science, where he met Google cofounder Larry Page. Now Google is a $366 billion company, and Brin has a net worth of almost $30 billion.
Elon Musk was born in South Africa and later moved to Canada to attend college — he later moved to the United States and founded his first company
Elon Musk, the acclaimed tech leader and founder of SpaceX and Tesla, was born and raised in South Africa before obtaining Canadian citizenship in 1989. According to Inc., Musk speaks often about his upbringing in South Africa, detailing the struggles of growing up in that community.
When Musk moved to Canada to pursue his degree from Queen’s University in Ontario, the now-mogul managed to survive on a mere $1 per day. He later transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned two degrees. Musk founded his first company, Zip2 Corporation, in 1995.
He became a US citizen in 2002. That same year, Musk earned his first billion when PayPal was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion in stock. He would later become the creative mind behind both Tesla and SpaceX. He has a current net worth of $19.7 billion.
Sundar Pichai had little access to a phone, computer, or the internet growing up. Now, he’s Google’s CEO.
According to an article by CNN, Google CEO Sundar Pichai grew up in a small, poor town in India before moving to the US to attend university.
Pichai recalled the time after his family got their first phone.
"It became a communal thing. People would come to call their kids," Pichai told CNN. "And so for me, it showed the power of what’s possible with technology."
Pichai attended Stanford on a full scholarship and received his MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He later worked at Applied Materials and McKinsey before joining Google in 2004. In 2015, he became the company’s CEO.
Sundar Pichai has recently clashed with President Trump over his immigration policies and "travel ban."
"It’s really important that we don’t make it a tech-versus-the-rest-of-the-country issue," Pichai said onstage in January 2018 during a Q&A event in San Francisco organized by MSNBC when asked about immigration by the hosts Kara Swisher and Ari Melber.
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