In the dynamic and constantly evolving US startup ecosystem, foreign-born entrepreneurs are assuming an increasingly crucial role. Recent studies have shown that 64% of unicorn companies were founded or co-founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants.
Moreover, a significant number of US companies have foreigners in key leadership positions. These individuals contribute a unique blend of global perspectives, diverse experiences, and an unwavering determination to disrupt and innovate.
As we head into 2024, we shine a spotlight on 15 foreign founders poised to make a profound impact on the US business scene and beyond.
Shagun, the founder of SkyStem, is a seasoned auditor and process consultant with CPA and CIA certifications. Driven by her passion for streamlining financial processes, she developed ART, an innovative accounting software designed to enhance user experience and efficiency. Shagun’s experience in Fortune 100 companies like Marriott and Freddie Mac, coupled with her expertise in internal controls and risk mitigation, enable her to craft a highly integrated and process-centric solution. An advocate for entrepreneurship, she’s shared her insights as a speaker for the Kauffman Foundation’s FastTrac program.
The Founder and CEO at Semantix embarked on his professional journey in 2000 as a technology consultant at Microsoft in Brazil. From there, he ascended to the position of CTO at Billabong International (GSM Group), where he oversaw technological advancements and innovations from 2009 to 2014. Mr. Santos holds an international executive MBA degree from FIA—Fundação Instituto de Administração in Brazil, and a specialization in strategic leadership of technology and innovation from Stanford University. These credentials complement his extensive professional experience and underscore his expertise in strategic leadership and omnichannel strategy and management.
Riaz is the CEO and Founder of infinant, a fintech company that provides power tools for banks to integrate fintech and banking into their partners’ applications. With more than three decades of experience in the delivery of technology platforms that drive customer engagement, Riaz is an expert technologist who previously was CEO and founder of Zenmonics, a Fintech 100 company recently acquired by FIS. He has also performed leadership roles at Broadway & Seymour, SAIC, WebTone, and FIS.
Luis is the founder of Remoov, a service to help you declutter your home. Perez has an extensive work history, beginning in 2001 as an Analyst at Morgan Stanley. In 2002 he was an Associate at Ingram Micro, where he established and managed the competitor analysis department. In 2003 he was an Associate at DiamondCluster International, where he led the analysis and implementation of a new trade processing flow for Goldman Sachs Equities Division. In 2007 he was a Summer Associate at Weiss, Peck & Greer, and a Vice President – Special Situations at ING Capital / Schuyler Bay. Luis holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from the University of Michigan, and an MBA from The Wharton School.
Ivan is the Co-founder and CEO at Buddy.ai. With 15 years of expertise in product marketing, Ivan founded Dominion Marketing, a boutique advertising agency in Siberia in which he received several prestigious international awards in the field. Ivan also co-founded Cubic.ai, a company that built one of the world’s first smart speakers and a voice-assistant app for smart homes.
Witnessing his own children’s struggles with English language acquisition ignited a passion in him to empower kids with the tools they need to master the language. This realization led to the creation of Buddy.ai, a voice-based English tutor specifically designed for young learners.
Agnieszka Wilk is the CEO of Decorilla, an online interior design service that connects customers with vetted professional interior designers who create curated 3D and VR spaces based on customer style preferences and budget. With a team of over 300 interior designers and 200 furniture partners, Agnieszka led the first interior design firm to offer VR to clients. She has been featured in publications such as TechCrunch and VentureBeat.
Eugeny (Yevgen) Prudchyenko is the CEO of EvoShare, a Fintech startup that is revolutionizing the savings landscape by unlocking the power of everyday spending to fuel savings. Eugeny believes that everyone, regardless of income, should be able to save for their financial future without stress or guilt. Prior to starting EvoShare, Eugeny led and sold a luxury retail business, co-founded a Ukrainian Uber and drove growth at the largest micro-financing institution in the region. A sought-after public speaker and Forbes contributor for FinTech, he holds a Masters’ degree in Physical Sciences from Donetsk National University.
Guillaume has carved a path through the business world with versatility and success. In 2010, he embarked on a bold entrepreneurial venture as the CEO and Co-founder of Smap. His entrepreneurial spirit continued with the role of Director of Business Development at Admoove in 2013. From 2015 to 2016, he transitioned into the realm of digital marketing and startup advising as a self-employed individual. His most recent venture materialized in 2018 when he co-founded Paloma Health, a company dedicated to providing a best-in-class experience for those battling hypothyroidism. His educational background includes a Master of Science in Finance and Master in Management from EDHEC Business School, along with Mathematics and Economics degree from Intégrale Paris.
The co-founder and CEO at Auransa, Pek possesses more than 20 years of genomics and drug discovery experience, and is the chief architect of the science behind Auransa’s technology. Before founding Auransa, she was vice president of Product and chief data scientist for Ayasdi. Pek started off her career at Rosetta Inpharmatics, a pioneer in genomics and microarray technology. Pek received her Ph.D. in yeast genetics at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her work has been published in scientific journals, such as Nature and Cell, and her research has contributed to discoveries in drug development and the understanding of complex diseases. She has previously served as an advisor to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Bayes Impact and Resolution Bioscience, and is currently an advisor for Sequence Bio.
The founder and Creative Director of FIALLO, Felipe is a master designer named by Vogue Talents as one of the new representative young talents in the sustainable fashion industry and by Vogue Italy as one of the “Top five sustainable sneakers trends”. Felipe is an innovative footwear designer with an extensive background in industrial design and material innovation. He was born in Ecuador and raised between Chile, Germany and Italy, where he attended MIT & Marangoni. Fiallo takes his first steps in the world of performance and luxury footwear by working for prestigious fashion houses like Ferragamo, Stella McCartney and Adidas.
Felipe merges biology, parametric design and beauty, giving new generations a reason to move to a Sustainable Thinking, and making Earth regeneration the New Luxury.
He strives to inspire a sustainable future by designing with biodegradable and growing materials, digital fabrication, zero-waste, 3D printing, and up-cycling of luxury leftovers towards a footwear evolution.
Through his personal leadership style, a deep commitment to client service, and over 25 years of retail industry expertise, Imtiaz has led Nisum from an entrepreneurial venture in the early 2000s to a global digital commerce firm. In his role as CEO, Imtiaz works closely with C-suite executives at the largest retailers in the world, helping them modernize business and technology for future growth. Prior to founding Nisum, Imtiaz served numerous leadership roles (including CIO) at multiple retail startups (eToys, Patheo) and top-tier enterprises (Oracle, NCR). Imtiaz holds a master’s in Computer Science from USC, and a bachelor’s in Computer Science from UCLA.
Yaacov Martin is CEO and Co-Founder of Jifiti, a leading fintech company that he co-founded in 2011. He is an embedded lending thought-leader, speaker and active contributor to leading payments and fintech publications.
Yaacov is an advocate of fair and responsible consumer and business financing and, along with his co-founders, built Jifiti on the core values of accessibility, affordability and responsibility. The company works with leading banks and merchants worldwide, powering the full spectrum of embedded lending solutions.
Esteban Ruiz, a graduate in Economics from the University of Miami, launched his professional journey in financial services at Citigroup, later transitioning to investment banking with Atlantico Capital and Pan American Finance. With a focus on renewable energy transactions, Esteban’s career highlights include a role as Corporate Development Manager for Northland Power Inc., where he played a key role in expanding the company’s presence in Latin America and contributed to strategic initiatives, including the development, acquisition, and financing of multiple renewable energy projects.
Following a decade of corporate and entrepreneurial achievements, Esteban, alongside his brother and a partner, founded the Scientific Safety Alliance (SSA), as an acquisition platform in scientific equipment testing, inspection, certification, and compliance services, SSA has rapidly grown to become the second-largest independent company in its sector. With three acquisitions completed and two more slated for early 2024, SSA operates on a unique founder and employee-owned model, eschewing external investors and awarding equity to all employees as companies are acquired. Esteban now serves as COO and General Manager of CSI Testing, SSA’s flagship acquisition.
Rajat, a seasoned technology executive turned entrepreneur, is dedicated to democratizing exceptional business presentations. As the founder and CEO of Prezent, a presentation productivity platform designed for enterprise teams, he’s empowering individuals to craft personalized presentations in significantly less time. Rajat’s journey includes overcoming challenges at one of India’s most demanding tech schools, contributing code for Microsoft, and ascending the corporate ranks at Cisco. He achieved the remarkable feat to lead a team of over 1000 as one of the company’s youngest Senior VPs. Fueled by determination and supported by venture capital, his current endeavor focuses on democratizing business communication.
This article includes a client of an Espacio portfolio company