Uplifting The Home Country
For immigrant entrepreneurs whose businesses have thrived in America, the home country can be many things. For some it is a source of inspiration. For others, such as the founder of Udemy and Chobani, it can be a strategic priority for the business.
When entrepreneurs cultivate jobs in their home countries — whether by hiring people directly, training the next generation of entrepreneurs, or managing subsidiaries abroad — that investment enriches foreign communities and showcases the virtues of American capitalism.
Global fashion phenomenon Josie Natori embodies this ethos. Launched in New York City in 1977, The Natori Company’s Asian-inspired luxury lingerie runs significant production operations in the founder’s home country of the Philippines, where it is common for people to work with their extended relatives to help the family.
An enterprising look around the world reveals similar examples of international brands that have made it big in the U.S. and fostered meaningful contributions to the local roots of their founders.
Eren Bali grew up in a small town in Turkey before co-founding the online learning site Udemy in 2010. Geared largely toward professional adults, Udemy serves individuals and corporate clients. By early 2018, the portal was hosting more than 65,000 courses, at prices ranging from several dollars to about $200 each for individuals.
Udemy is headquartered in San Francisco with major offices in Ireland, Brazil and Turkey. The Turkish office, in Ankara, employs key software engineers. The Turkish government has sought to build up Ankara’s tech sector in recent years by attracting foreign investors, so the presence of well-known firms like Udemy supports the country’s economic prospects.
The local charity “Village for Children With Leukemia” also is a beneficiary of Udemy’s Ankara office. Employees from the company have donated items to the facility and visited its young patients. U.S. firms that employ overseas, and enable those employees to give to communities in need, act as responsible corporate citizens while enhancing the reputation of America.
Hamdi Ulukaya also grew up in a small Turkish village prior to founding the massively successful Greek yogurt company Chobani in 2005. He’s now a billionaire at the head of a market-leading brand. Chobani offers dozens of flavors as well as snacks and kid-friendly product lines.
Although based in upstate New York, the firm assists startups around the country as well as in the founder’s home country. In 2016 the U.S.-focused Chobani Incubator helped launch six new food companies, the following year it incubated seven startups, and in spring 2018 it started working with another nine food firms.
A separate project, the Hamdi Ulukaya Initiative (called HUG in Turkish) got underway in 2017. It cultivated startups and aspiring Turkey-based entrepreneurs by first bringing them to a boot camp in Istanbul, then to New York for training. Since the goal of HUG is to foster enterprise and job growth in Ulukaya’s home country, the projects represent all types of industries — from clothing to education to biotech.
Beto Perez started the Latin-infused exercise training program Zumba in Cali, Colombia, during the 1990s. Zumba Fitness was incorporated in 2001 in Hallandale, Florida. It expanded across the U.S. and then the globe through infomercials and conventions in the 2000s. Zumba reached new heights with the addition of concerts, after The Raine Group and Insight Venture Partners invested in 2012. By 2018, 15 million people had taken a Zumba class at one of 200,000 locations in 180 countries.
The United States remains the core market for Zumba, but its roots in Colombia still run deep. More than a dozen Zumba locations operate in its birthplace of Cali, and about 50 operate in Bogota. They serve as sources of income for fitness instructors — many of whom are women with limited career options — and as positive social hubs for participants.
Furthermore, Zumba locations host charity events worldwide, including for Colombian causes. Events held in Colombian towns have raised money to house low-income children and recovery efforts after natural disasters. Events held in the U.S. have generated funds for Colombia-based medical care and childhood education.
Dr. Romesh Wadhwani grew up in India, and overcame polio as a toddler, to become a billionaire and founder of the private equity giant Symphony Technology Group (STG) in 2002. From its base in Palo Alto, California, the portfolio of about 20 companies around the world produces revenue of $2.5 billion and employs 15,000 people.
The firm’s holdings have included Fishbowl, a Virginia-based restaurant marketing and data analytics firm with two support teams in India, as well as the Bangalore, India-based IT management firm Symphony Summit.
Also based in Bangalore is the Wadhwani Foundation, which was launched two years before STG. The Foundation seeks to boost economic development and job growth in emerging markets of Asia, Africa and Latin America by partnering with businesses, governments and schools in those regions.
America thrives on free enterprise in a free society. It’s good business for American companies to be able to operate in other countries. This opens the door to finding new revenue streams and new talent pools in those places.
However, for those revenues and talents to reach their full potential, other countries must develop the necessary resources. When U.S.-based firms build, hire or train in such places, we lead by example. Likewise, when U.S-based firms support charitable initiatives in those countries, we show the world what America truly has to offer.
Over the long-term, those are bound to be worthwhile investments