For Ahmed Bhuiyan, starting YourTripGuru, an online travel-planning site, was just the latest of his adventures since moving to the Bronx from Bangladesh at the age of 8.
The startup also makes him part of a proud tradition of U.S. immigrants. In the United States, immigrants are twice as likely to start a new business as U.S.-born citizens. In Bhuiyan’s congressional district, which covers parts of the Bronx and Queens, in New York City, an immigrant resident is 130 percent more likely to be an entrepreneur than is a U.S.-born resident. In New York state overall, 42 percent of all businesses launched between 2007 and 2011 were started by immigrants.
You still want America to be the place everyone aspires to come to.
Bhuiyan’s family arrived in the United States in 1995, after submitting applications and paperwork to U.S. authorities and then patiently waiting for years. In the Bronx, his parents worked hard to pay the rent on the family of four’s small one-bedroom apartment. His mom worked in a 99-cent store, while his father worked at a clothing store and did odd jobs before becoming a cab driver.
Meanwhile, Bhuiyan and his sister focused on saving money and maintaining good grades. “Coming from Asia, education is something you take really seriously. It is the one tool that can move you up,” he says.
The hard work paid off. Bhuiyan was accepted to Fordham University, and received scholarships that reduced the $45,000-a-year tuition to about $4,000, which he paid for by working three jobs.
“I wanted to make sure I wasn’t a burden,” he says.
In addition to a work-study job at the library, Bhuiyan worked for Macintosh and American Airlines as a campus sales representative, pitching incentives to students and campus administrators alike. He proved to be one of Apple’s most effective reps: When he came to Fordham, the school had four Apple computers; by the time he left, it had more than 200.
As an American Airlines employee, Bhuiyan was able to discover a love of travel and had the opportunity to globe trot — to Japan, India, Switzerland. After college, he worked at the online reservation site Priceline.com and took a two-year post with the company’s Booking.com brand in Singapore. “South Asia was a fast-growing market. I went to Singapore to help develop the market,” he says.
At 28, he was meeting with CEOs from many Fortune 500 companies. “I was a typical immigrant story. Here I am from a small country, Bangladesh. Now airline CEOs are reaching out to talk to me, taking me seriously and listening to me because I have something valuable to share,” he says.
But Bhuiyan didn’t succumb to a lavish dot-com lifestyle, instead maintaining an immigrant sensibility that valued family and frugality. When he returned to New York, rather than renting an expensive apartment he lived with his parents and saved money to purchase the house where the three of them now live.
In 2016, Bhuiyan moved to Seattle part-time to take a post as the director of business development for a startup called Utrip, an internet planning platform, where he worked until early 2017.
Now back in the Bronx, Bhuiyan is developing YourTripGuru.com, a destination guide and travel planning company that he says will help users save money and time. He expects to launch by end of the 2017.
Though grateful for the opportunities America has given his family, Bhuiyan stresses that his parents obtained the proper documentation before coming here. He believes other immigrants should do the same. “We could have come here much earlier had we disregarded laws and U.S. processes, but we did it the right way by applying, waiting, submitting all kinds of documents and qualifications and waiting again,” he says.
At the same time, he believes that immigrants are essential to the economic and social fabric of this country. “You still want America to be the place everyone aspires to come to,” he says. “That is part of what we’re proud of as Americans.”