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Top AI companies founded by former international students

interstride logo by Interstride
September 7, 2023

According to a National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) report, a whopping 43% of the top AI companies in the US were founded by former international students. Furthermore, 55% of startups in the US that are worth $1 billion or more were founded by entrepreneurs from other countries. This is inspiring to those international students who want to become entrepreneurs themselves. It’s also great news for job-seeking international students because a former international student may be more willing to hire you.

International students are a key source of talent for tech companies including AI. However, an analysis by NFAP found that “the difficulty in gaining H-1B status and later permanent residence in the United States often leads to international students at American universities pursuing careers in other countries. Experts consider retaining international students in the United States after graduation essential to US leadership in artificial intelligence.”

The NFAP report also found that 70% of full-time graduate students at universities in the US studying in AI-related fields are international students.

  • Computer and information sciences –  71% international students
  • Electrical and computer engineering – 73% international students
  • Applied mathematics – 69% international students
  • Statistics – 65% international students

Why work in AI?

The field of artificial intelligence (AI) is full of former international students. It’s also an exciting field that’s growing quickly since the launch of ChatGPT this year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of available computer science jobs will grow by 21% in the next decade. The average growth for all jobs over the next decade is 5%. That’s 3,300 new computer science jobs per year! For generative AI jobs specifically, there has been a 50% increase in job postings since 2021 and a 20% increase in just one month from May to June 2023, according to Reuters.

Because so many AI founders and students are immigrants, this field represents a lot of potential career opportunities for international students. AI companies will need to hire international talent if they want to remain competitive in a global market. Furthermore, AI jobs are high-paying. The average annual salary for computer scientists in the US in 2022 was $155,880. And, within the field of AI, there are many options for what type of work you can do. Some AI scientists work in agriculture such as those at FarmWise Labs. Others work in cybersecurity, sales, or pharmaceuticals. The current and potential uses for AI are vast.

The top AI companies for international students & alumni

Each year, Forbes compiles a list of the top 50 AI companies in the US. The ranking is based on quantitative and qualitative evaluations of the companies’ business promise and technical usage of AI. From that list, the NFAP pulled out the companies that have at least one former international student founder. Their report includes the name of the international founder(s) and what country(s) they are from. Below are the top AI companies founded or co-founded by an international student, ordered by company size:

  1. Databricks – co-founded by Ali Ghodsi
  2. Gong – co-founded by Amit Bendov 
  3. AlphaSense – founded by Jack Kokko
  4. Clari – co-founded by Andy Byrne
  5. Vectra AI – founded by Hitesh Sheth
  6. Moveworks – founded by Bhavin Shah
  7. Eightfold – co-founded by Ashutosh Garg
  8. Viz.AI – co-founded by Chris Mansi
  9. OpenAI – co-founded by Sam Altman
  10. PathAI – co-founded by Andrew Beck

Source: National Foundation for American Policy; NFAP analysis of 2023 Forbes AI 50; Company sources, LinkedIn. Employees as of April 2023.

Tips for applying for jobs at AI companies

It’s important to research companies you’re excited about. You can use a free online database to find out how many employees the company has sponsored for H1B sponsorship and green cards. The number of H-1B visas and green cards sponsored by the company can give you a good idea of how many international employees work at the company.

Companies that have sponsored workers before may be more likely to sponsor you. They already know the process. If your long-term goal is permanent residence in the US, consider applying for jobs at the companies that have sponsored green cards before.

You should also take advantage of your alumni network. Use LinkedIn to look at the founders and CEO of the AI company to see what college/university they each attended. It is highly recommended to apply to companies where someone attended the same university as you. Sharing an alma mater could make you stand out among the other job applicants, especially if you were both international students.

Conduct informational interviews with any common connections at the company. Even if you’re not reaching out to the CEO/founder directly, your alumni connection can still be a hook or entryway to a job in the company. Ask about the AI industry, workplace culture, and diversity in the company to get an idea of whether it will be a good fit for you.