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Countries that fear immigrants are killing innovation

And they’re leaving themselves open to startup-style disruption, Trivago co-founder Rolf Schrömgens says.

Donald Trump Campaigns In Iowa Ahead Of Presidential Election Photo by David Greedy/Getty Images

In 2016, the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union and America’s election of Donald Trump were both credited in part to a rising tide of anti-immigrant fervor, as many native-born voters believe foreigners will hurt them economically.

The opposite is true, Trivago co-founder and managing director Rolf Schrömgens said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. Rather, he believes the United States’ more welcoming pre-Trump immigration policies are why Silicon Valley is in California and not Europe.

“The reason the U.S. is so successful, so entrepreneurial and so on is because there are so many immigrants here,” Schrömgens said. “You have that melting pot, you have that diversity. You got the the most brave DNA pool from all over the world going to one country.”

“That is how a country should act, getting the smartest people, the most entrepreneurial people, into your country,” he added. “If the government doesn’t understand that, we have a big problem.”

He said his home country of Germany has failed to turn a knack for “execution and engineering” into tech success. He noted with concern the emergence of nativist sentiment across the region, including Germany’s right-wing AfD party, French politician Marine Le Pen and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Schrömgens said he expects countries will, in the near future, compete for the best talent the way companies do today. Smaller countries such as Estonia and Portugal, he said, could easily disrupt the large ones that turn away newcomers.

“Small countries don’t have anything to lose,” he said. “Portugal has tourism, that’s it. But they see that everybody can get technology. They have nice beaches where people can work, and a nice culture — people love to be in Lisbon — so why not create a hub there for startups? If large countries are not moving, they will get disrupted.”

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