Many of these Americans have been able to leverage family networks, language skills and cultural knowledge gleaned from growing up in immigrant households.
Jonathan Assayag, 29, a Brazilian-American born in Rio de Janeiro and raised in South Florida, returned to Brazil last year. A Harvard Business School graduate, he had been working at an Internet company in Silicon Valley and unsuccessfully trying to develop a business.
“I spent five months spending my weekends at Starbucks, trying to figure out a start-up in America,” he recalled.
All the while, Harvard friends urged him to make a change. “They were saying: ‘Jon, what are you doing? Go to Brazil and start a business there!’ ” he said.
Relocating to São Paulo, he became an “entrepreneur in residence” at a venture capital firm. He is starting an online eyewear business. “I speak the language, I get the culture, I understand how people do business,” he said.
Calvin Chin was born in Michigan and used to live in San Francisco, where he worked at technology start-ups and his wife was an interior decorator. Mr. Chin’s mother was from China, as were his paternal grandparents. His wife’s parents were from Taiwan.
They are now in Shanghai, where Mr. Chin has started two companies — an online loan service for students and an incubator for technology start-ups.
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