On May 24, 2017, TiE Boston and the Alliance for Business Leadership convened a group of forward-thinking business leaders for a conversation about immigration, entrepreneurship and the Massachusetts economy. It was an opportunity to discuss the current challenges facing immigrants in Massachusetts, and potential solutions that will drive change and enable our economy to continue to thrive thanks to the rich diversity of its population.

Leading the dialogue were our esteemed panelists:

  • Dr. Pravin R. Chaturvedi, Ph.D., Co-Founder and CEO, Oceanyx Pharmaceuticals
  • Denzil Mohammed, Director, Public Education Institute, The Immigrant Learning Center
  • Jonathan Miller, Chief Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau, Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office

Here is a brief summary of the discussion and ideas for what we can all do to highlight and further enable the value creation that entrepreneurs from all around the world bring to Massachusetts and the USA.


Nationally, 25% of startups are founded by immigrant entrepreneurs. In stark contrast to popular opinion, numerous statistics also demonstrate the transformative impact that immigrants have had on the Massachusetts economy: 61% of startups here are founded by immigrants and 20% of all businesses are immigrant-owned. In 20 years of operation, TiE Boston and its charter members, a group of highly distinguished and successful entrepreneurs from around the world, have contributed to over $9 billion in value creation.

“We should be talking about the shared prosperity from immigration – it benefits everyone”

(Denzil Mohammed, Director, Public Education Institute, The Immigrant Learning Center)

Despite this, there is an undeniable upsurge of fear and hatred surrounding the topic of immigration. Jonathan Miller from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office described setting up a helpline for citizens to report discrimination and hate crimes last November, and receiving over 460 calls in 3 weeks. Dr. Pravin Chaturvedi talked about immigrant students at the country’s top universities, who are scared to attend classes for fear of racially-motivated attacks. When asked, the leaders in the room described the current attitude towards immigrants as “regressive,” “racist,” and “misinformed.”

“It’s upsetting that we’re in a position where we need to debate these issues – after all, we’re all immigrants” (Dr. Pravin Chaturvedi Ph.D., Co-Founder and CEO, Oceanyx Pharmaceuticals)

Nationally ebay, Google, Paypal, You Tube and many of the biggest names in corporate America were founded by immigrants. However, as Denzil Mohammed pointed out, “very few people are aware of how much immigrants add to the economy.” The success stories are rarely cited in public discourse today.


“There is a lot to be done at the National policy level; however, we mustn’t underestimate the power and influence of local institutions and individuals”

(Jonathan Miller, Chief Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau, Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office)

Local institutions and organizations can make a huge difference. Jonathan Miller drew our attention to the incredible organization and coalition that was so powerful in response to the proposed travel ban earlier this year. Denzil Mohammed talked about the Global Entrepreneur In Residence program (GEIR), pioneered in Massachusetts as a way of helping graduates with advanced degrees who want to grow their companies but are hindered by the lack of available H-1B visa slots; a model which is now being replicated in a number of other states across the country.

“Humanity seeks leadership; we all have the responsibility and power to lead change”

(Dr. Pravin Chaturvedi Ph.D., Co-Founder and CEO, Oceanyx Pharmaceuticals)

More than anything, everyone agreed that we all have are a responsibility to re-shape the narrative on immigration and its value to us all. Individuals can take action in a number of ways:

  1. Educate Yourself: the Immigrant Learning Center and other organizations provide multiple research reports and resources, which highlight the valuable contribution made by immigrants to the U.S. and Massachusetts economy.
  2. Don’t Perpetuate Myths: stop yourself from repeating false information, for example, immigrants are not “stealing jobs,” they are creating more jobs for us all.
  3. Promote yourself as an immigrant: include your birthplace in your biography and openly talk about your immigrant status.
  4. Call out bias: while it may not seem like much, being aware of unconscious bias and starting to talk about it openly and explicitly with friends and colleagues is a really positive step towards challenging existing mindsets and re-framing the conversation.
  5. Support immigrant resettlement and employment efforts: join community organizations across Massachusetts, who are donating money and time to welcome and help immigrant families find employment and establish a home.
  6. Vote: it is vital that everyone activates their right to vote every four years, and in the interim, engages with local and state government representatives and organizations to help support their policy change efforts.


“We believe passionately that our economy is more prosperous thanks to the knowledge, skills and innovation of entrepreneurs from around the world and we are working harder than ever to convene and connect entrepreneurs, executives and funders of all backgrounds, nationalities, ages and sectors to help the Massachusetts economy thrive.”

(Laura Teicher, Executive Director, TiE Boston)

For over 20 years, TiE Boston has been leveling the playing field for high-growth ventures, bringing together and welcoming business owners and funders of any age, nationality or sector. As an organization founded by immigrants, TiE Boston has a strong, credible voice to champion equal opportunities for all entrepreneurs and will continue to work with like-minded organization such as the Alliance for Business Leadership, as well as other organizations within the innovation ecosystem, to provide the necessary support for immigrant entrepreneurs to succeed.

Please visit our website to find out more about TiE Boston and join us in our mission.

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