13 Massive American Companies Founded By Immigrants

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Who was The Most Successful Entrepreneur In The US?

We can see that many immigrants are some of the most important entrepreneurs in the United States. But who has been the most successful? Who are the immigrants who built companies that changed America? The most typical “American” companies were actually founded by immigrants. The United States would not be the same without them.

 1. Alexander Graham Bell- Scotland

“Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.” These are the first ever words spoken by Mr. Bell into his experimental telephone on March 10, 1876. An invention had come to fruition and an industry born. Alexander Bell emigrated from Scotland to Canada in 1870 at the age of 23 and from there often lectured in Boston on the mechanics of speech.

The Bell Telephone Company was established in 1877 by, Alexander Bell’s father-in-law in Boston, MA. After several acquisitions and mergers The Bell Telephone Company would later evolve into the American Telephone & Telegraph Company (AT&T), creating at the time the world’s largest telephone company. The company now has a market cap. of $183.22 billion.

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2. Marcus Goldman – Germany

Born in Trappstadt, Bavaria, Marcus Goldman emigrated to the United States in 1848. The son of Ashkenazi Jewish parents, Goldman migrated during the first great wave of Jewish immigration to America, a result of the revolutions of 1848 in the German states.

Relocating from Philadelphia to New York City in 1869, Goldman set himself up as a broker of IOUs. Goldman’s daughter, Louisa, married Samuel Sachs, the son of close friends and fellow Bavarian immigrants. In 1882, Goldman invited his son-in-law Samuel to join him in the business and changed the firm’s name to M. Goldman and Sachs. Goldman Sachs continues to be one of the most successful American investment banks with a market cap. of $84.14 billion.

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3. William Colgate – England

Born in Kent, England in 1783, Colgate emigrated to New York City in 1804. He became an apprentice to a soap-boiler and learned the trade. In 1806 William Colgate opened a starch, soap and candle factory on Dutch Street in New York City under the name “William Colgate & Company”. William Colgate passed away in 1857 and his son, Samuel Colgate continued the business. The company did not sell its first toothpaste in a tube until 1896. Colgate-Palmolive has a market cap. of $59.27 billion.

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4. Éleuthère Irénée du Pont – France

Born in Paris in 1771, Du Pont showed little interest in his studies in most subjects but showed a profound fascination with explosives. When his father was arrested in 1794 and only avoided execution due to the end of the Reign of Terror (French revolution) the family made plans to emigrate to the United States.

Du Pont set sail and arrived at Rhode Island on 1st January, 1800. He quickly established both his business and his family home, Eleutherian Mills, on the Brandywine Creek in Delaware. Originally founded as a gunpowder mill, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, commonly referred to as “Du Pont” was the world’s third largest chemical company based on market capitalization  and ninth based on revenue in 2012. It currently has a market cap. of $63.15 billion.

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5. Charles Pfizer – Germany

Charles Pfizer grew up in Ludwigsburg, Germany. He was a chemist and immigrated to the United States in the early 1840s, where he founded the Pfizer Inc. pharmaceutical company in 1849 as Charles Pfizer & Co. He remained at the helm of the company until 1900, when his son Charles Pfizer, Jr. was given the leadership. Pfizer is the world’s second largest pharmaceuticals company by revenue with a market cap. of $184.52 billion.

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6. William Procter and James Gamble – England and Ireland

English-born candlemaker William Procter and Irish-born soap maker James Gamble both emigrated separately to the United States where together they founded the consumer goods company Procter & Gamble, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. They met having married two sisters and were persuaded by their father-in-law to go into business together. Established in 1837, P&G’s headquarters remain in Cincinnati and the company has a market cap. of $226.58 billion.

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7. James L. Kraft – Canada

James L. Kraft was born in Stevensville, Ontario, Canada in 1874 and emigrated to the United States in 1903, starting a wholesale door-to-door cheese business in Chicago. His first year was dismal; however, the business began to pick up and James was joined by his four brothers to create J.L. Kraft and Bros Company in 1909.

In 1912 the company established its headquarters in New York City and began to prepare for international expansion. By 1914, thirty-one varieties of cheeses were being sold nationally. The company acquired heavily in its early years and established international offices in London, UK and Hamburg, Germany. The company now has a market cap. of $33.54 billion.

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8. Theodore and Milton Deutschmann- England

The electronic store, Radio Shack, was started by two English brothers Theodore and Milton. It is thought that the brothers emigrated to the United States around 1910. The first store was opened in Boston in 1921. Theodore envisioned a business that, at the dawn of the electronic age, would provide amateur, ham radio equipment to the public and supply the equipment for ships’ radio officers. It was bought out in 1962 by the Tandy corporation and the company now has a market cap. of $85.45 million.

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9. Jerry Yang – Taiwan

Jerry Yang was born in Taipei, Taiwan and emigrated to San Jose, California with his mother and younger brother at the age of ten. He studied electrical engineering at Stanford University and took a leave of absence in 1995 having founded Yahoo! with fellow student David Filo. Yahoo! now has a market cap. of $39.65 billion.

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10. Sergey Brin – Russia

Sergey Brin founded Google with Larry Page, who Brin had met at Stanford University in 1998. Brin was born in Moscow and emigrated to the United States with his family from the Soviet Union at the age of six.

Brin studied mathematics and computer science at the University of Maryland, before going to Stanford to earn his PhD in computer science. There he met Larry Page and they became close friends. Together they built a search engine which became popular at Stanford. They suspended their PhD studies to start up Google in a rented garage. Google has a market cap. of $371.08 billion.



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11. John W. Nordstrom – Sweden

Born in 1871, in Sweden, John W. Nordstrom emigrated to the United States at the age of 16 with $5 to his name. He made his way across the nation and settled in Seattle, Washington, where after business school he decided to join his friend Carl Wallin in the shoe business. Together they opened their first shoe store in Seattle in 1901, from which the Nordstrom empire would grow. Nordstrom is still partially owned by the family and the company has a market cap. of $13.53 billion.

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12. Jan Koum – Ukraine

Born in 1974 in Kiev, Ukraine, Koum moved to Mountain View, California aged 16. In 1997 Koum was hired by Yahoo! as an infrastructure engineer. He founded WhatsApp with Brian Acton in 2009. The company grew rapidly and on August 24, 2014, Jan Koum announced on his Twitter account that Whatsapp had over 600 million active users worldwide. On February 19, 2014, Facebook announced it would be acquiring WhatsApp for US$19 billion

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13. Pierre Omidyar – France

Omidyar was born in Paris, France, to Iranian immigrant parents who had been sent there by his grandparents to attend university. The family emigrated to the United States when Pierre was a young child. He graduated in Tufts University Massachusetts with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1988. In 1995, Omidyar created an online auction site that would eventually become eBay. The company is headquartered in San Jose, California and has a market cap. of $64.45 billion.

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