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Olga & Q: The Disproportionate Success of Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

Many successful companies were founded by immigrant entrepreneurs - Google, Tesla, Chobani, eBay, Liz Claiborne, Yahoo, Capital One, Instagram, Kohl’s, and more. Today, one in four U.S. entrepreneurs are first generation immigrants. In this episode we talk with the founders of The Underdog Olga and Q about why immigrant entrepreneurs are often disproportionately more successful than others.

SPONSOR: Executive Launch ( – from corporate executive to startup founder

Full Episode (YouTube):

2:30 All about The Underdog - two recovering communists

9:15 Where did the name ‘The Underdog’ come from?

15:50 Why would a scientist partner with such a bold marketer?

18:40 As partners, you need to like each other, get along, understand each other - and ideally a similar sense of humor!

20:20 The Blue Orange Agro-tech Accelerator (

27:30 Olga’s story: Born and raised in Ukraine

29:05 To get the most valuable degrees, you had to have money - so she studied literature & linguistics

30:00 Became an English teacher and English translator or Ukranian businesspeople doing business with western countries - in a power position as interpreter, front-row seat to major business deals and presentations. She learned...

31:50 But she felt she could do more, bigger things. Went to Oxford, UK for business school. Then back to Kiev.

33:40 Moved to U.S. with husband, didn’t know anyone, decided to get MBA from University of Florida. Then investment banker in Miami but decided to not pursue, instead - created The Underdog.

37:40 Olga says that she is the ’Type A’ entrepreneur as described in Allen’s new book - Quit to Start - How to Discover Your Best idea, Gain the Confidence, and Plan Your Escape.

39:50 Immigrant entrepreneurs understand that they have to use their skills to excel - and that the U.S. market is the most competitive in the world.

41:40 Q’s background growing up in Romania. Frustrated that opportunities would not exist in Romania, chose to pursue PhD in chemistry at University of Florida - and Gainesville, FL was no Bucharest!

45:35 Moved to Pittsburgh. Carnegie-Mellon projects, then a startup as Chief Scientist. Then her own startup while working for others and consulting.

51:15 Olga explains how unfortunately typical it is in Eastern Europe for ambitious and talented people to not find opportunity at home.

52:10 Immigrant entrepreneurs (or immigrants with entrepreneurial mindset) are not afraid to take calculated risks.

53:55 There is always immense pressure with entrepreneurship - and immigrant entrepreneurs are used to that.

55:20 Immigrants know their 'why' - so they get on with the 'what'.

57:00 Olga prefers the athlete’s mentality - don't focus on the outcome, focus on everyday effort and good work - the outcome will take care of itself

58:15 Q says immigrant entrepreneurs have a high self-perceive-ability, understand their unique advantages, disadvantages.

59:00 There are different degrees of failure, what is the worst thing that can happen? This is how immigrant entrepreneurs think, assess and mitigate risk.

1:00:10 Weird to hear founders talk of first round funding from ‘friends and family’ - this is not available to most immigrant entrepreneurs.

1:01:55 Little to no advantages for the immigrant entrepreneur - hence The Underdog!

1:02:20 But having no outside money and few advantages can be very liberating!

1:03:25 Raised in Eastern Europe with very little so learned to be creative and no waste - it’s how you build your ‘creative muscle’.

1:05:20 The current COVID-19 will be a big test for company’s creativity and resourcefulness to survive.

1:06:25 Growing up in Eastern Europe, entrepreneurship was not a respectable profession and was discouraged by parents and friends.

1:09:20 The communist mindset was very deep and still very prevalent

1:10:05 Purposeful work was not a priority and self expression was discouraged.

1:12:20 At The Underdog, we always do our homework and research before we speak or recommend. We also have a similar view for aesthetics - and we have team chemistry.

1:13:30 At the Underdog, we have a scientific basis and many years of experience. And we are very good at helping international companies come to U.S.

1:15:30 Eastern Europeans are very direct and honest in their opinions. Sugar coating is not helpful.

1:17:15 We are confident as women partners and advisors because we put in the work, research, and preparation. Q says this is what immigrant entrepreneurs do.

1:18:20 Allen feels as though Olga and Q would be very strong and fight for what they believe or knew was right and correct. Q says that is absolutely correct and Olga says she is ultra-competitive and always has strategy in mind.

1:20:30 They like a challenge, they like ambiguity - that’s when they're at their best.

1:21:20 Olga asks about Allen’s projects

1:24:30 Q talks about their new side project that fits this new difficult economy.

Thank you and close...

Full Episode (YouTube):


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