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Immigrants Of The Week: Andrew Grove, Hikaru Nakamura, Philippe Kahn, Isaac Larian, And Sonya Thomas

by Greg Siskind

Editor's note: Here are some entries from Greg Siskind's blog.


Andy Grove is not the typical Silicon Valley success story. Most people do not know much about the founder of Intel. Unlike many immigrants in the tech field, Grove did not enter the US as a student or on an H-1B visa. He entered as a political refugee (interestingly, Sergei Brin, founder of Google, entered in the same status).

Grove was born in to a Jewish family in 1936 in Hungary and spent his early years on the run from the Nazis. Several members of his family did not survive the Holocaust including his grandmother who was killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Unlike many Jews who left Europe after World War II, Grove's family remained in Hungary. But they finally fled during the uprising in that country in 1956 and came to the US.

Grove's meteoric rise in the tech sector began shortly after that. He went on to graduate college in the US and receive a Ph.D and then began work with Fairchild Semiconductor. He became Intel's fourth employee and then moved in to the president position in 1979. He oversaw the dramatic rise of the company over the next 25 years holding the additional positions of Chairman of the Board and CEO.

Grove has numerous patents and awards including being named Time Magazine's 1997 Man of the Year. In 2004, Wharton named him the most influential businessperson in the last 25 years.

Of course, it's not necessary to discuss just how important Intel is to all of us. The technology developed by the company has changed the world and, along with companies like Microsoft and Google, kept the American technology sector at the forefront of the world. Grove certainly can claim some of the glory for the company's success.

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OK, this kid is smart. REALLY smart. Hikaru Nakamura, a Japanese native, achieved the title of chess master from the US Chess Federation in 1998 at the age of 10. He was the youngest American ever to achieve that title. In 2003, at the age of 15, he broke Bobby Fischer's record by becoming the youngest American grandmaster ever. Among his skills, he's considered one of the best "blitz" chess players in the world.

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Most Americans will not know who Philippe Kahn, but the odds are pretty good that they've got a piece of technology he is credited with inventing - the camera phone. Kahn, a French immigrant, got the idea in 1997 when he linked up a digital camera to a cell phone in order to send pictures of his new borne baby to friends and family. Unlike many inventions, the camera phone will be looked at in the future as not just an advance in technology, but one that changed social history.

Kahn is also the founder of two well-known companies in the tech world. He and his wife Sonia Lee founded Starfish Software, the company that created TrueSync. That company is now part of Nokia. He also co-founded Borland, a company well-known for its line of software development tools.

Kahn is a naturalized US citizen. According to Wikipedia, he entered the US in 1982 and spent four years on a tourist visa (an impressive feat in and of itself since getting a visitor status renewed for that length of time is very tough) before getting a green card in 1986.

By the way, Kahn is a classically trained musician who studied flute at the Zurich conservatory. He has recorded albums with a number of leading musicians. He also has a yacht racing team that competes in many international competitions.

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If you're the parent of elementary school age girls (I've got several), then you know about Bratz. The Barbie rivals take up an entire aisle at most toy stores and have got their own movie (thankfully, my wife took the girls to see it).

Believe it or not, the Bratz are brought to you courtesy of an Iranian Jewish refugee by the name of Isaac Larian. With Mattel (maker of Barbie) reeling from the massive recalling of its Chinese-made toys, I thought it was apropos to congratulate Larian.

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I like to feature immigrants who have achieved in all areas of American life. And what American past time seems to constantly fascinate the American public? Well, competitive eating, of course. Who doesn't love a good hot dog or pie eating contest?

105 pound Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas is a Korean immigrant who came to America ten years ago with her family. And now she's taken the competitive eating world by storm breaking record after record. Watch out for Sonya!

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About The Author

Greg Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.