Migration Jam, Startups Without Borders and Natakallam, 3 great partners in the Now Sprint! Accelerator Program.
When we set up Now Sprint! Accelerator we aimed to help anyone who is interested in becoming an entrepreneur, from local to startup in the early stage. We align as much as possible with the SDGs and target Eastern Europe, Balkan, Africa and Central Asia. Very ambitious indeed. We also thought of positive discrimination towards women and refugee founders. That still feels awkward as I prefer to see everybody as equal but our origin and our culture do have a big impact on equality. At a Seedstars event, I was a panel leader and I asked the investors in the panel if where you come from makes a difference in your chances of becoming a successful entrepreneur/startup. To my surprise, they kind of repeated this American Dream scenario that anyone can be the next big company owner. I tried to counter-attack but to no prevail. This part of that panel debate still haunts me as I definitely think that where and when you are born does matter.
Getting to know, almost by chance, Migration Jam, Startups Without Borders and Natakallam was for me amazing and all three have women founders and doing an amazing job. They are smaller organisations but working their … off to create the impact they see as important. Deep bow and all my respect. Let me give a very short description based on their websites:
“Migration Jam: is a social enterprise that empowers mindsets to change internal and external adopted stories. Our vision is for a world in which refugees are empowered from within. The purpose of our social enterprise is to build the agency of refugees through a series of global events and social media campaigns”. Amal Jibril, the founder, is an extraordinary lady, she even visited us in Urla Coworking, and her aim is to unite people, exchange stories and inspire each other. She is holding an online event the 13th and 14th of June 2020, more info here.
“Startups Without Borders: connects the most ambitious refugee and migrant entrepreneurs with resources to grow their business, while providing investors with an entry-point to under-the-radar startups with disruptive potential”. I got to know Valentina Primo at an event organised by Spark and Jusoor in collaboration with Startup Weekend. She is a remarkable person, best known from the event she created in Egypt and being hyperactive during the pandemic with online interviews. A lady to follow and I am very lucky I got to know her.
“Natakallam: offers award-winning, high-quality language learning programs delivered by refugees, for all levels of Arabic, French, Persian and Spanish, as well as professional translation services to individuals and organizations worldwide”. I met Aline Sara, the founder, online during the final Seedstars competition. At first, she kind of shared her frustrations but through the conversation, we understood we were on the same side. From there we took it further and I tried to introduce her to potential partners, customers but looks harder than I thought.
3 entrepreneurial ladies, 3 great stories. We should all support them!
When I look at the participants we have now in the 1st cohort, we do have early-stage teams from the region we focused on and most are female founders but no refugees. I have been doing quite some workshops and bootcamps for refugees but that was through big organisations and NGOs with important funding and facilities. But somehow, I could not reach this audience. Maybe they are not online, maybe not even possible for reasons of resources. We were not reaching them trough the channels we used that is clear. No idea for the moment to solve this. One thing was frustrating, although our program is for free and we didn't ask directly for money from the big NGOs, none of them were ready just to share our message and that was kind of a bummer as they have a huge database and reach out. I hope in the near future and for the following cohorts we can set up collaborations that help us reach this audience.
A special note here to end introducing Ahmad Sufian Bayram. He is the Techstars EMEA Regional Manager & Author and a friend I admire for the work he is doing. He wrote books and reports on the importance of refugees and entrepreneurship and extremely happy to have him on board!
I was once heavily criticised for using the word refugees in my communication, and partly I could understand that. As I explained previously, for me we are all equal and I do not use the term refugees to look down on people. This is also the reason why I didn’t push it in our announcement but with 3 great partners who, just like me, reach out to help, I found it appropriate to do it here and now, also inspired off course by what is happening in the world today, from pandemic to BLM. We still have an impressive road to cross to that world that we would love to live in but at times it seems lightyears away. No reason to give up. On the contrary!