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Underdog entrepreneur

Prep Time:

25 Minutes

Cook Time:

Morgan, H. M. (2020). Underdog entrepreneurs..





About the Recipe

The Untold Stories of Underdog Entrepreneurs

Across the globe, a new breed of entrepreneurs is quietly redefining what it means to build a business against all odds. Known as "underdog entrepreneurs," these tenacious individuals often hail from marginalized or minority backgrounds - immigrants, refugees, women, people of color. Yet despite facing daunting barriers, from limited resources to discrimination, they have managed to launch ventures that are leaving their mark.


How Underdog Entrepreneurs Differ: Turning Adversity into an Advantage

While all entrepreneurs face challenges, those who come from marginalized or minority backgrounds often confront a unique set of obstacles. In her insightful book, "Underdog Entrepreneurs," H.M. Morgan reveals how these innovators differ from their more privileged peers - and how they turn adversity into an unlikely advantage.

  • Lack of a safety net: Many underdog entrepreneurs, particularly immigrants and refugees, can't rely on family wealth or connections for support. As Morgan writes, "pressed to support herself and her family," Palestinian refugee Tahani Aburaneh took any contract work she could find before discovering her talent for real estate investing. This lack of a cushion instills a fierce drive to succeed against the odds.

  • Facing bias and discrimination: Underdog entrepreneurs often battle negative stereotypes and discrimination, from doubts about their abilities to barriers in accessing funding or networks. Clarence Wooten, a black tech founder from inner city Baltimore, describes feeling "like a black unicorn" in Silicon Valley. This forces them to work harder to prove themselves and find alternate routes to resources.

  • The immigrant mentality: For foreign-born entrepreneurs, Morgan argues the "immigrant mentality" is a powerful motivator. Having left everything behind, they bring a laser focus and relentless work ethic to their ventures, treating entrepreneurship as an all-or-nothing endeavor. As Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo who immigrated from India, puts it: "The job can be taken away at any time, so make sure you earn it every day."

Necessity as the mother of invention: Many underdog entrepreneurs start businesses out of necessity when doors to traditional employment are closed. This was the case for Bimpe Nkontchou, who founded a legal practice in London catering to African companies after hitting a "black ceiling" in the U.K. legal industry. Necessity-driven entrepreneurs bring a resilience forged through past struggles.

Empathy and a sense of mission: Often, underdog entrepreneurs are motivated by empathy for the communities they came from. They build companies not just for profit, but to solve problems they've experienced firsthand. Syrian refugee Hussein Shaker co-founded a recruitment platform to connect other refugees with jobs, driven by his own challenges. This sense of mission brings a deeper purpose to their ventures.

Bridging worlds and spotting untapped opportunities: Coming from outside the mainstream, underdog entrepreneurs have a knack for seeing gaps and opportunities others miss. Tan Le, a Vietnamese boat refugee who founded a brain-tech company, leveraged her experience straddling cultures to bring cutting-edge Asian technology to Western markets. Their outsider perspective becomes a secret weapon for innovation.

Of course, not all underdog entrepreneurs fit one mold, and many succeed because of their exceptional talents, not just their backstory. But the challenges they've overcome shape them as leaders and infuse their ventures with a distinctive energy.

As Morgan's book reveals, underdog entrepreneurs show us the value of grit, resourcefulness, and drive forged in adversity. While the hurdles they face are real and persistent, their triumphs suggest that betting on the tenacious underdog may be the smartest investment we can make.


In a new book, "Underdog Entrepreneurs," author H.M. Morgan shines a light on this overlooked group of innovators. Through vivid storytelling, she introduces us to a cast of remarkable characters who embody the underdog spirit.

There's Tahani Aburaneh, a Palestinian refugee who arrived in Canada at age 15 for an arranged marriage, speaking no English. Fueled by a fierce determination to learn and improve herself, she went on to become a leading expert in real estate investing.

We meet Hussein Shaker, a Syrian refugee in Berlin who co-founded a tech recruitment platform to connect English-speaking refugees with job opportunities. And Tan Le, who escaped Vietnam as a boat person and resettled in Australia, later moving to San Francisco to launch a cutting-edge brain-monitoring technology company.

Morgan argues that underdog entrepreneurs share key traits that propel them forward against the odds. Unencumbered by a safety net, they bring an "immigrant mentality" to their ventures, marked by relentless hard work and resourcefulness. Having known adversity, they have the grit to persevere through the inevitable setbacks of building a business.

Some underdog entrepreneurs are "necessity" driven, starting a venture because they can't find acceptable work due to discrimination or lack of opportunities. Others, like Clarence Wooten, a serial tech founder from inner city Baltimore, are born hustlers with an early drive to build something of their own.

Through it all, their stories illuminate the unique challenges faced by entrepreneurs from marginalized groups - and the incredible resilience and ingenuity they tap to overcome them. As Morgan writes, underdog entrepreneurs emerge "from different situations, places and times," united by the experience of swimming upstream.

While each story is singular, together they form a powerful testament to the potential that is unleashed when the outsiders and underdogs of the business world get a shot. In the process, they are quietly smashing stereotypes about who gets to be an entrepreneur and what they look like.

At a time of rising inequality and barriers, celebrating and supporting the underdog entrepreneurs among us has never been more urgent. As Morgan makes movingly clear, their journeys are not just personal triumphs, but hopeful signals of a more inclusive business landscape on the horizon - if only we have the wisdom to embrace it.

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