Remarkably, the United States does not have anywhere near the numbers of South African immigrants you might find in Australia or the UK. The official numbers are apparently less than 100,000 and yet this group has made a major impact in business, entertainment and sport.
South Africans travelled to the USA for a variety of reasons, the initial wave prompted by conscription and apartheid in the 1980s, and many stayed despite the daunting challenges and enormous cultural differences. Anyone arriving in the 1980's faced an environment that was very, very different from a South Africa that had not yet experienced the strong American influences that now pervade that society.
(From personal experience I recall that very first meal in a Los Angeles restaurant. I opened the menu and realized I was not at "La Perla" anymore. Nothing looked even vaguely familiar. There were fajitas and quesadillas, ounces and pints, clam chowders and root beer, pulled pork and blackened catfish, rib-eye and New York steaks...wait! Didn't someone tell me that they called the Sirloin a New York? I'll have one of those please. The blank stare of the waitress induced another bout of panic. Weren't we both speaking English? She clearly had not understood one word I had said. I didn't help that the steak came with a dizzying array of choices and styles..and what the hell was Jicama?)
But the South Africans persevered and quietly began to exert their influence on American business. With the possible exception of Elon Musk, their impact was felt without fanfare and hoopla and largely without cooperation within the expat community. They took on the Americans on their terms and excelled.
Only recently was SABLE formed by South Africans living in Silicon Valley and London, and top South African expatriates who will use their experiences to help their South African business counterparts. It aims to utilize the vast network of knowledge from South Africans across the world to make the country more competitive by stimulating both public and private sector innovation and entrepreneurship.
Pretoria's Elon Musk is probably the most visible South African-born entrepreneur. He is best known for founding SpaceX, and co-founding Tesla Motorsand PayPal (initially known as X.com). He is currently the CEO and Chief Designer of SpaceX, CEO and Product Architect of Tesla Motors and Chairman of SolarCity. Musk holds a bachelor's degree in Business from the The Wharton School, and a second bachelor's degree in Physics from University of Pennsylvania, School of Arts and Sciences.
Cape Town's Vinny Lingham is founder and CEO of Gyft. Gyft is a digital gift card platform that enables you to manage your gift cards on your mobile device. You can ditch the plastic and use your mobile device to store, send and redeem cards. Vinny was previously the founder & CEO of San Francisco based startup, Yola.com. Yola (previously known as SynthaSite) was established in 2007 and raised $25m in funding from Johann Rupert's LXE & JSE listed Reinet Fund. Yola is the world's leading easy-to-use, browser based, website development software for SME's and groups, and currently has over 2 million users worldwide.
Selected as an Endeavor Entrepreneur and Young Global Leader Vinny has passion to build Internet based companies. Over the years he has successfully raised over $50M in funding and is an active angel investor. Vinny is also on the Advisory Board of Sable Accelerator a trusted knowledge network of global South Africans providing mentoring and consulting services to South African companies, entrepreneurs, and institutions seeking to fund or commercialize innovation, as well as enter, grow, and partner in worldwide markets.
Cape Town's Willem van Biljon is an entrepreneur and technologist born, raised and educated in South Africa. Willem graduated from the University of Cape Town with a degree in Computer Science. Willem was formerly at Amazon.com where, along with Chris Pinkham and Christopher Brown led the team that Chris put together to build Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Willem built the business plan for the service and was responsible for product management and marketing for the highly successful public cloud service.
Prior to Amazon.com, Willem co-founded Mosaic Software. Mosaic built the Postilion payment system, the first high-end payment transaction switch for commodity hardware and operating systems (Windows). Mosaic's investors included GE and Paul Maritz. The company became one of the top three payment processing software vendors in the world and was sold in 2004 to S1 Corp.
Prior to Mosaic, Willem held a number of engineering and research positions at LinkData, the Institute for Applied Computer Science and the National Research Institute for Mathematical Sciences. In 2006, Willem left Amazon Web Services and started a new venture with his long-time friend Chris Pinkham. The company, Nimbula focused on Cloud Computing software was funded by Sequoia Capital and Accel Partners. In March 2013, Nimbula was acquired by Oracle Corporation.
Port Elizabeth claims Pieter de Villiers as one of its sons. Pieter is the CEO of Clickatell a privately held mobile communications company founded in 2000 in South Africa and headquartered in Redwood City, California, USA, with offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg and Lagos, Nigeria. Clickatell delivers short message service (SMS) messages through its Clickatell Gateway to mobile phone users through more than 800 networks in more than 220 countries and territories Clickatell's customer base includes more than 10,000 small, medium and large enterprises in industries that need software as a service (SaaS) messaging services and bulk SMS gateway connectivity.
Pieter is also on the Advisory Board of SABLE Accelerator.
Lyndon Rive is the co-founder and CEO of SolarCity, a provider of clean energy services that designs, finances, and installs photovoltaic systems, performs energy-efficiency audits, and retrofits and builds charging stations for electric vehicles. Rive co-founded SolarCity with his brother Peter Rive in 2006 and has helped to grow the company to become the largest residential solar installer in the United States, as well as one of the largest solar developers of any kind. Prior to co-founding SolarCity, Lyndon Rive co-founded the enterprise software company Everdream, which was ultimately acquired by Dell. Rive started his first company at age 17 before leaving South Africa. In his spare time, Rive plays Underwater Hockey. Rive is the cousin of SolarCity investor and serial entrepreneur Elon Musk.
In 2010, Rive was named to the MIT Technology Review TR35 as one of the top 35 innovators in the world under age 35.
Born in Harare but unmistakable South African, Paul Maritz is the outgoing chief executive of cloud computing giant VMware. Paul was CEO of VMware Corporation from July 8, 2008 until September 1, 2012, and was a past senior executive at Microsoft. He was born and raised in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). His family later moved to South Africa where he was schooled at Highbury Preparatory School and Hilton College. He received a B.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Natal, and a B.Sc. (Hons) degree, also in Computer Science, from the University of Cape Town in 1977.
After finishing his graduate studies, Maritz had a programming job with Burroughs and later became a researcher at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, before moving to Silicon Valley in 1981 to join Intel. He worked for Intel for five years, including developing early tools to help developers write software for the then-new x86 platform, before joining Microsoft in 1986. During his time at Microsoft, Maritz was credited with originating the term "eating your own dogfood". He was an angel investor in Apture. He sponsors third-world development projects and is the chairman of the board of the Grameen Foundation.
Maritz was the recipient of the 2011 Morgan Stanley Leadership Award for Global Commerce, "which recognizes individuals whose personal leadership has made a critical contribution to the effective use of information technology throughout the world."
Paul Maritz was the Business Journal's 2011 Executive of the Year.
Pretoria's Roelof F. Botha is a venture capitalist and company director. By training, he is a qualified actuary. Botha is a partner at Sequoia Capital and currently sits on the boards of Jawbone, Eventbrite, Evernote, Mahalo, Natera, Nimbula, Square, Tokbox, Tumblr, Weebly, Unity and Xoom. He also works with 10gen, AssureRX, FutureAdvisor, Instagram, MixPanel and MuSigma. He previously sat on the board of directors of Meebo and YouTube before they were each acquired by Google.
On Forbes' Midas List, an annual ranking of venture capital professionals, he ranked 22nd in 2008 and 26th in the 2009. Botha earned a BSc in Actuarial Science, Economics, and Statistics from the University of Cape Town, graduating in 1996 with the highest GPA in the history of the program. A year and a half later he became the youngest actuary (Institute of Actuaries and Faculty of Actuaries) in South African history. Botha worked as a business analyst at McKinsey & Co., Johannesburg, from August 1996 through June 1998. He then moved to the United States, where he attended the Stanford University Graduate School of Business from 1998 through 2000 and received an MBA. In 2000, prior to his graduation from Stanford, Botha became director of corporate development for PayPal. He moved on to vice-president of finance and was named CFO in September 2001. Botha was 28 when PayPal went public in February 2002. The company was purchased by eBay in October 2002. Botha left to join Sequoia Capital in January 2003.
Dave Matthews is probably the most well-known South African on the list although he has not always been comfortable acknowledging the connection. Best known as the lead vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist for the Dave Matthews Band, he was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. Matthews' graduated from St Stithians College high school in 1985 and was faced with conscription into the South African military just as civil disobedience to the practice was becoming widespread. A Quaker (and consequently pacifist), Matthews left South Africa to avoid service.
During the period from 2000 to 2010, his band, the Dave Matthews Band, sold more tickets and earned more than any other act in North America. Reportedly worth R2-billion, Matthews was recently declared the US's most successful touring act of the decade.
Steven H. Collis has been the Chief Executive Officer and President at AmerisourceBergen Corporation since July 2011. Prior to joining ASD, he was a Principal and served as General Manager of Sterling Medical in Irvine, California. He has completed his articles of clerkship with Price Waterhouse and received his Charter Accountancy license, the South African equivalent of Certified Public Accountant, in 1986.
Prior to immigrating to the United States, Mr. Collis served as a Member of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Mr. Collis has been a Director of AmerisourceBergen Corp. since May 2011. He has been a Director at Thoratec Corp. since January 1, 2008. He serves as a Director of The Healthcare Distribution Management Association. He is an avid supporter of the American Cancer Society and other health-related charities. Mr. Collis earned a Bachelor of Commerce with Honors degree from University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
Peter A. Jones Ph.D., D.Sc., Director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, is a Distinguished Professor of Urology and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, and the H. Leslie Hoffman and Elaine S. Hoffman Chair in Cancer Research. He is known for his studies on the molecular biology of cancer and of basic mechanisms of DNA methylation and its role in cancer and differentiation. Dr. Jones' laboratory has played a seminal role in the delineation of molecular pathways leading to human bladder cancer, to the realization that DNA methylation sites are hotspots for cancer causing mutations and to the growing realization that epigenetic silencing plays a major role in human carcinogenesis. Dr. Jones' work has been recognized as a "milestone" in gene expression and a "milestone" in cancer by Nature magazine. He was recently selected to co-lead one of the five prestigious "Dream Teams" selected by Stand Up 2 Cancer, an initiative dedicated to funding cutting-edge research designed to bring new cancer treatment to patients in an accelerated timeframe.
Dr. Jones was born in South Africa, raised and attended school in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and received his Doctor of Philosophy Degree from the University of London in 1973. He has received a variety of honors, including a MERIT Award from the National Cancer Institute, the AACR Kirk A. Landon Prize for Basic Cancer Research in 2009 and the David Workman Memorial Award from the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation in 2008. He was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2010. He is the past President of the American Association for Cancer Research. He is the author of more than 250 journal publications and book chapters, and he serves on several national and international committees, panels, and editorial boards.
Dr. Liam Pedersen was born in Cape Town, South Africa before moving to the squats of London, thence to the Greyhound bus terminals of the USA before being deported from Mexico and ending up in Colombian jungle where he avoided school and spent idyllic days fishing from a dugout canoe. Eventually polite society caught up with him and he went to Chile, learning to read on the way. Upon returning to South Africa he had to flee to Swaziland to avoid conscription and get more education, before being allowed back into the United States as a Fulbright Scholar.
Liam received B.Sc. and B.Sc. Honors degrees from Rhodes University in South Africa, an M.S.E.E. at George Washington University and a Ph.D. in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University in 2001. He has worked extensively with rovers and planetary scientists in the Atacama Desert, the Canadian arctic, and Antarctica. He built the system onboard CMU's Nomad robot that allowed it to autonomously identify meteorites in Antarctica in January 2000.
Liam is now a robotics researcher at NASA Ames Research Center, building intelligent robot systems to look for life on Mars and thinking about the future of space exploration.
His research interests are robotic rovers for planetary surface exploration and the application of autonomy for greatly increasing the science return of future Mars rovers. He led an effort to assess and predict space robotic capabilities to support NASA policymaking activities for future missions 10 and 20 years hence.
Liam is also on the Advisory Board of SABLE Accelerator
Soweto born Nomvimbi Meriwether is the owner of Meticulous Tours, Inc, and is currently a resident in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area. She came to the United States in 1979 as an MBA candidate at American University, after obtaining a law degree in South Africa. While pursuing her studies in the United States, she met her American husband Dr. Del Meriwether with whom she subsequently raised three children. Upon successfully completing her studies in 1983, her husband convinced her to accompany him to Tintswalo Hospital, located in a small rural town called Acornhoek, in the Eastern Transvaal (now known as Mpumalanga), South Africa, where he was offered a position as a Senior Medical Doctor. "It was very difficult for me to decide to join him, in what turned out to be an unexpectedly extended stay in South Africa. With my credentials and background as a South African, I had been offered several attractive positions with big corporations in both the United States and South Africa. Furthermore, I had just left South Africa a few years earlier, to escape the trials and tribulations of apartheid in that country".
Acornhoek is located in the semi-arid, but scenic, Eastern part of South Africa, a few kilometers away from the Orpen Gate and Numbi Gate entrances to the famous Kruger National Park. Several other privately owned game reserves are located nearby: notably Sabi Sabi, Mala Mala, Skukuza, Londolozi and Timbavati. This is where Nomvimbi got her first exposure to the exotic wilds and tourism in South Africa. She gained insight into principles of park management and conversation. Kruger National Park is a vast game reserve, internationally renowned for its splendid selection of Africa's "Big Five": elephants, lions, leopards, rhino and buffalo. This is where she learned a lot about wildlife and gained experience with safari
Nana Meriwether is a beauty queen and current Miss USA titleholder. Meriwether was selected as Miss Maryland USA for 2012, and was first runner-up in the Miss USA 2012 pageant. With the ascension of Olivia Culpo to the Miss Universe 2012 crown on December 19, 2012, Meriwether assumed the title of Miss USA 2012. After winning the crown Meriwether became the oldest contestant ever to be crowned Miss USA at the age of 27.
Born in South Africa while her parents were doing volunteer work, she was raised in Potomac, Maryland and is a 2003 graduate of Sidwell Friends School. She attended Duke University for one semester, where her father Delano Meriwether had been the first African-American medical student. She transferred to UCLA in 2004, where she graduated and was twice-named an All-American in volleyball. She then started graduate school at USC. She previously participated in California pageants (2008–2011), and finished as high as second.[
Dr. Trevor Mundel, president of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Global Health Program, leads the foundation's efforts in research and development of health solutions including vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics, focusing on health problems that have a major impact in developing countries but get too little attention and funding. He oversees the Global Health Program's work which harnesses innovations in science and technology, to fight diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Mundel joined the foundation in 2011.
Mundel's professional background is in healthcare. He earned his bachelor's and medical degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He also studied mathematics, logic and philosophy at Balliol College, University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and earned his Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Chicago.
More than 30 years ago, top-rated immigration lawyer Bernard Wolfsdorf began his career by arguing his own case. Publicly anti-apartheid in his native South Africa, Bernard Wolfsdorf successfully convinced the U.S. government to grant him asylum. His success in this matter compelled others to request his pro bono advice on such matters, for which he readily volunteered and is known to this day. A graduate of Suffolk University Law School, Bernard Wolfsdorf held his first professional position as an associate in a major corporate and securities firm, where a senior partner requested his assistance on a celebrity client's pressing immigration matter. His success on the case led to similar requests, quickly transforming him into a mainstay of the firm's entertainment department. After serving in this role for several years, Bernard Wolfsdorf joined Memel, Jacobs, Pierno, Gersh & Ellsworth in Century City, California, where he built a large client base that, when the firm dissolved, formed the foundation of his own independent practice. Since then, Wolfsdorf Immigration Law Group has grown into a global practice with offices on both U.S. coasts. The firm also maintains affiliations with lawyers in more than 70 countries, including China, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates. With a presence on all populated continents worldwide, the firm is prepared to facilitate international hiring and conduct cross-border business.
Bernard is also on the Advisory Board of SABLE Accelerator.
Rodney C. Sacks is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Monster Beverage Corp, Chief Executive Officer and a director of the Company from November 1990 to the present. Member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Company since October 1992. Chairman of the Board of Directors and a director of Monster Energy Company from June 1992 to the present. Sacks is one of the top paid CEOs in the USA. The 62 year old executive ranks 29 on Forbes list of executives in the Food Drink & Tobacco industry. Monster hold nearly 35% of the $31.9 billion energy drink market. In 1992 Sacks and Hilton Schlosberg paid $14.5 million for the comopany, which was doing about $17 million per year in sales. The comopanies fortunes soared after it began making energy drinks, and by 2005 was generating more that $200 million in annual sales.
Hilton H. Schlosberg is Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Monster Beverage Corp. He is President, Chief Operating Officer, Secretary, and a director of the Company from November 1990 to the present. Chief Financial Officer of the Company since July 1996. Member of the Executive Committee since October 1992. Vice Chairman, Secretary and a director of MEC from July 1992 to the present.
Daryl Buffenstein is a Partner in Fragomen's Atlanta office. His experience includes testifying before U.S. Congress on various corporate immigration issues, and writing key business provisions in major pieces of immigration legislation over the last 16 years. As a former President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Daryl was responsible for leading a successful national campaign to defend legal immigration, in response to efforts in Congress to radically restrict immigration. He also served a four-year term as the General Counsel to the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Chris Wright, a transplant from Johannesburg, is described as "Hollywood's go-to lawyer" – somehow securing "genius" work visas for everyone from Piers Morgan to Playboy playmate Shera Bechard. The "O-1" work visa is normally reserved for foreigners of "extraordinary ability", including Nobel prize, winners, but Wright has controversially expanded its use to include celebrities.
Newcastle's Margaret Hilary Marshall was the 24th Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and the first female to hold that position. She was Chief Justice from 1999 to 2010. On July 21, 2010, she announced her retirement. Marshall was born in Newcastle, South Africa, the daughter of a steel executive. She attended University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa and was a leader of students who opposed the racist apartheid system. Marshall led a student organization for three years called the National Union of South African Students, which was dedicated to ending oppressive minority rule and achieving equality for all South Africans. According to Marshall, "There was no access to justice in South Africa...There were a few courageous barristers who agreed to represent people charged with political crimes, but, by and large, if you were a black South African, you had no justice. The death penalty was imposed in vastly disproportionate numbers. Many of the offenses were applicable to black South Africans only." She moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1964 and attended Harvard University (earning a master's degree in education in 1969) and Yale Law School. In 1984, she married then-New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis. It was her second marriage.
John Affleck-Graves was elected Executive Vice President of the University of Notre Dame on April 30, 2004, by the Board of Trustees. He holds the Notre Dame Chair in Finance and previously served for three years as Vice President and Associate Provost. Affleck-Graves served on the Notre Dame faculty from 1986-2000. He previously taught from 1975-86 at his alma mater, the University of Cape Town, where he earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees.
The author of more than 50 refereed publications, Dr. Affleck-Graves specializes in the study of initial public offerings, valuation and asset pricing models, and shareholder value added methodology. He has served as a consultant for numerous companies, including Allied Signal, Bayer, Merck, Pharmacia & Upjohn, and Donnelly Glass. He has received six outstanding teaching awards at Notre Dame — three in the regular MBA Program, two in the Executive MBA Program and one for undergraduate teaching — and two others at Cape Town.
Among the exiles who remained in the US, Mankekolo Mahlangu-Ngcobo is one who has emerged as a national force in both government health policy and theology. She has testified on healthcare for the government's Congressional Black Caucus and, during the violent tumult in Liberia in 1997, she led a workshop there on violence against women.
She is the first black South African woman to receive a Doctor of Ministry degree. In the U.S., she received four degrees. Bachelor of Science, (BS) at Morgan State University;Master of Public Health (MPH), The Johns Hopkins University; Master of Arts (MA) (Theology), St Mary's Seminary and University; and a Doctor of Ministry (D. Min.) from United Theological Seminary in Dayton Ohio.
The author of nine books – including research works on Aids and gender equality – Mahlangu-Ngcobo lectures on public health, and has founded both a US church and an international ministry
Pietersburg's M'Poh "Gift" Ngoepe plays in the Minor Leagues for the Pittsburgh Pirate. A native of Randburg, Gauteng, Ngoepe became the first Black South African, and the sixth South African to sign a professional baseball contract when he signed in October 2008. He was on the South African roster for the 2012 WBC Qualifier. Growing up, Ngoepe's mother was a clubhouse attendant for a team called the Mets in Randburg. The family lived in one of the clubhouse rooms. Ngoepe often competed with players 10, 15, even 20 years older. He was invited to Major League Baseball's academy in Tirrenia, Italy, where the Pirates signed him.
While South Africa has never produced a Major league Baseball player, Johannesburg's Tayler Scott was the first to be drafted when he was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 5th round of the amatuer draft in 2011. The Cubs thought so highly of the lanky 6-foot-3 right-hander's potential that they paid him nearly double the bonus slot recommendation to persuade him to forgo his scholarship to University of Arizona and make the jump to professional baseball. After showing some promise on the diamond, Scott his family made the step to move him from Roodeport, South Africa to America, where he decided to attend Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale, Arizona In his three years there, Scott turned into an elite pitching prospect.
Just one year later in 2012 Kieran Lovegrove, another Johannesburg born player, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 3rd round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft. He gave up a scholarship to perennial powerhouse Arizona State University to play professional baseball.
The recipient of many baseball awards, Kieran Lovegrove is perhaps better known for his work off the field. He was awarded a community Service award from New Balance in 2011 for the work he does with at risk children. In 2011 he received the Greg Kish Award for Special Achievement from the ABD Academy. The award is named for ABD Alumni Greg Kish because he epitomizes the type of person that does not allow anything to distract him from the relentless pursuit of success. Lovegrove was honored not only for his prowess and achievements on the baseball diamond, which included winning two national titles on the mound and being selected to the USA 18U Trials team for 2012 (he was also nominated for 2012 Pitcher of the Year) but also for his philanthropic work with the Going To Bat Foundation (www.goingtobat.org), a charity he started in 2009 with two team mates. The foundation has helped programs from Wrangell, Alaska to Phillipi, South Africa.
Durban-born surgeon Patrick Soon-Shiong is a minority owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and ranked by Forbes as the wealthiest American in the healthcare industry and the wealthiest man in Los Angeles. He built and then sold two successful drug companies. In 2011 he founded NantWorks, a company that is attempting to revolutionize three industries--health care, digital entertainment and commerce--using science, supercomputing, voice recognition and low-power semiconductors. The company is working on new cancer therapies. It is also working on an app that gives doctors access to scientific research and information on a patient's DNA. In 2012 Blackstone Group invested $125 million for a stake in NantWorks' NantPharma unit. Soon-Shiong's father was a village doctor in China. His family moved to South Africa during World War II.
He finished high school at 16 and became a doctor by 23. He took American Pharmaceutical Partners public in 2001 and spun off a new company, Abraxis, in 2007. He sold APP in 2008 for $5.6 billion to Germany's Fresenius and Abraxis in 2010 to Celgene for $2.9 billion. A member of the Giving Pledge, his donations include $5 million to the University of Chicago to develop technology to improve patient care and $136 million to St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
To provide or update information on notable South Africans in the USA