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Desh Deshpande's path follows America's rich heritage as a nation of immigrant entrepreneurs
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Feb. 7, 2013) – The newest installment of the Kauffman Sketchbook video series tells the great American success story of an immigrant entrepreneur who starts with very little yet achieves great things.
Released today by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the video features Gururaj "Desh" Deshpande, an Indian American venture capitalist and entrepreneur, who is president and chairman of Sparta Group LLC, and chairman of A123 Systems, Sycamore Networks, Tejas Networks and HiveFire. He also is co-founder of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT and the Deshpande Foundation.
In the video titled "Land of Opportunity," Deshpande recounts his entrepreneurial journey that began in India and flourished in the United States. He admits arriving in Boston with the naïve notion that he would "start some companies." He was right. With motivation, aspiration and unflagging optimism, he became one of the most successful high-tech entrepreneurs in the region.
Deshpande puts the sacrifice and risk entrepreneurs face in perspective. "To me, being an entrepreneur is like a little kid, a four-year-old who first goes to play soccer," he says. "That kid is not excited about which way he kicks the ball. It doesn't matter; usually he winds up scoring the ball on the wrong side anyway. So winning and losing, I think, is a score that other people keep. A true entrepreneur is one who just loves playing."
Deshpande's story serves as an example of America's heritage as a nation of immigrants whose creativity and entrepreneurial spirit are sources of tremendous economic strength. Research confirms that immigrants attracted to the United States for its pro-growth culture and excellent universities often stay and create valuable, fast-growing startup firms.
Kauffman research reveals several key findings.
- While U.S. colleges and universities nationally are seeing more international students with a passion for entrepreneurship, current immigration laws make it difficult – if not impossible – for these budding innovators to establish startups while in school, or to remain in the country after graduation to grow their companies and create jobs that could bolster the U.S. economy. See study
- Immigrants are a vital source of science and engineering talent. The most significant constraint on new-venture growth is the difficulty finding and attracting highly skilled, entrepreneurial workers. See study
- Of the firms started in the United States during 1995-2005, one-quarter had at least one immigrant key founder. In Silicon Valley, more than half of the startups had at least one immigrant key founder. See study
- Indian immigrants were one-third of 1 percent of the U.S. population in 2000, but founded 6.5 percent of U.S. high-tech firms during 1995-2000. See study
- Even before the 2008 financial and economic crisis, observers have noted that a substantial number of highly skilled immigrants have started returning to their home countries. See study
- The number of high-tech immigrant-founded startups — a critical source of fuel for the U.S. economy — has stagnated and is on the verge of decline. See study
"The biggest leverage that you have in making this a better world is to actually create a lot of entrepreneurs," says Deshpande, who, along with his wife Jaishree, launched the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT. Since its inception in 2002, the Deshpande Center has helped bring more than 90 research projects toward practical commercial application, offering $11 million in grants and resulting in 27 new companies.