Innovative immigrants, from the Pilgrims arriving on the Mayflower to today’s high tech programmers, color the remarkable history of the United States.
Here are five immigrants who continue to innovate new approaches to how we interact with each other.
Sergey’s parents moved the family from Moscow to the U.S. in 1979, when Sergey was just 6 years old. While studying for his Ph.D. at Stanford, he met Google co-founder Larry Page. Together, they wrote a paper entitled “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine,” laying the foundations for Google.
Once a test program became a success at Stanford, both quit their studies and started up Google. The rest is history.
Steve Chen immigrated to the United States from Taipei with his family at the age of eight. Mere months before graduating from the University of Illinois, Chen left to work at PayPal. There he met Chad Hurley, where an idea was born for a little site known as YouTube. Chen created the engineering architecture, while Hurley contributed its look and user experience. The founding ideal was community – creating an environment for people to hang out and share popular clips and videos. Google acquired YouTube in 2006 for an enormous sum.
Chen and Hurley have started a new company, AVOS, which acquired social bookmarking site Delicious from Yahoo in early 2011, and are concentrating on developing it.
Jen-Hsun Huang emigrated from Taipei to Oregon at age 10. After spending time working on chip design at AMD and LSI, Huang co-founded NVIDIA with Chris Malachowsky and Curtis Priem. The company invented the graphics processing unit (GPU), which revolutionized personal gaming, as well as graphic design. Huang is also credited for creating an unorthodox approach as a CEO, refusing a personal office and insisting on open exchange throughout the company.
As of the past couple of years, NVIDIA is moving heavily into the mobile computing market.
Arianna Huffington moved from Greece to Britain at age 16, and emigrated to the U.S. in 1980. She came to fame as a conservative activist but shifted to the left in the 1990s. In 2005, she launched The Huffington Post as a liberal alternative to the Drudge Report. Focusing on a combination of content aggregation and original content, the website became wildly successful, culminating in its sale to AOL for $315 million. Huffington remains editor-in-chief of what is still considered the most powerful blogger in the world.
Pierre Omidyar moved with his Iranian parents from Paris to the U.S. at the age of six, and developed an early interest in computers. At 28 years of age, he wrote the code for what would eventually become auction site eBay. He had spent years studying the technical problem of establishing an online marketplace for person-to-person sales, and launched the site in 1995 as Auction Web. He still works with eBay as its Chairman, but now focuses on the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic organization dedicated to funding microfinance.
All told, immigrants continue to play a critical in shaping the world we live in.