TF Berlin Over the Years
Having been established in 2016, the Techfugees chapter in Berlin was one of the early branches of the global Techfugees community. In 2019 TF Berlin had the opportunity to help budding displaced tech entrepreneurs from all walks of life. Reflecting on these, we look forward to the future as our journey to empower asylum-seekers in establishing new lives, careers and successful businesses continues in the tech industry.
Let’s get an overview on how we’ve been working with innovators in the past! Ready?
In 2019 the TF team met Roham, from BankeNu, a blockchain-based remittance platform aiming to enable displaced or financially underserved small business owners and freelancers to make secure and transparent money transfers. In an effort to help steer the founders forwards, TF Berlin brought BankeNu to a TechCrunch hackathon in Berlin where they won a prize and received international recognition as well as support from 8 teams of developers to work on its payment solution. Overall, our chapter was able to help BankeNu gain focus on company positioning guiding them forward.
Sometimes, a good connection or an opportunity for exposure is all that’s missing. In 2019 the team met with Mohamed Jimale based in Sweden who founded Agrikaab. His company is a mission-driven agrifood tech startup that enables investment in agriculture in East Africa. Aiming to create a new generation of farmers, contribute to the food security of the region and create jobs, Agrikaab wants to make the whole agriculture industry in Somalia more efficient and prosperous with technology. TF Berlin had helped Startup Migrants organize an event in Berlin and hosted Mohamed as a speaker, providing him with exposure to a range of potential investors, fellow founders and other colleagues.
A Berlin based start-up, Carbon Mobile was founded by Firas Khalifeh, a Syrian refugee. TF Berlin team met Firas in 2019 and helped them with their fundraising process. In 2018 Carbon Mobile raised €900,000 in a Seed funding round led by Fast Forward.
One of the most common complaints made by any person moving to Germany concerns bureaucracy. Relatively paper-based and often strictly German, bureaucracy presents a huge hurdle for those looking to establish lives in Germany, especially for those dealing with a language barrier among other issues. Bureaucrazy is a web-based and mobile application that would help refugees/migrants (and even Germans themselves navigate) the German bureaucratic system. Its offerings include translation, guidance, form completion and community building. TF Berlin have known Bureaucrazy since the very start, as not only did the start-up’s journey begin at SpaceHack, a hackathon Techfugees Berlin helped organising in 2016, but we were also able to help them refine their product offering and made initial introductions to angel investors.
MamiWata, a hardware startup working in collaboration with Bosch to bring a water pollution sensor into African villages and Disberse, a digital payment solution for financial inclusion are among other start-ups who we have had the pleasure of mentoring. Mamiwata in fact started their journey at the TF Berlin Hackathon in October 2018 like Bureaucrazy.
Give someone a fish and you feed them for a day; teach them to fish and you feed them for a lifetime. This is exactly the principle that the social enterprise Startupistan is based on. Mozamel, a Berlin-based political asylum seeker from Afghanistan got in touch with us to help him found a coding academy in Kabul. During our collaboration, TF Berlin helped Startupistan structure their product, make it more relevant to German partners and fundraise. Today, Startupistan is operational, teaching digital skills and understanding in order to empower populations of people and to play a role in shaping the future of society in Afghanistan.
Re:Coded is a non-profit organization providing free coding bootcamps and digital skills training to local and conflict-affected youths in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen. Their mission is to prepare conflict-affected youth to enter the digital economy as software developers and tech leaders. Re:Coded was founded in 2017 on the belief that learning how to code should be available to everyone, especially populations affected by conflict. As war-shattered economies start to get back on their feet, they train the generation that will drive these countries forward with the help of technology, while helping to solve the global technical talent shortage. Since their inception Re:Coded have run 18 bootcamps and trained more than 1100 youths in workshops and events how to code.
TF Berlin met with Re:Coded in 2020 when our team helped them design a new Refugee Founders programme in Istanbul and connected them to the TF Istanbul team.
Ali and Marcello, Re:Coded Co-Founders
While Techfugees seeks to support tech entrepreneurs with a refugee background, not all circumstances call for creating new companies. In some instances, individuals are seeking to employ their skills in an existing company. In January 2020, three Iranian coders fled to Berlin seeking jobs and thanks to TF Berlin they were introduced to the growing tech ecosystem. Within a month, two out of the three got hired !
Participating in Research
Over the years, TF Berlin has also sought to support the research community in developing new findings about bolstering refugee assimilation and socioeconomic growth in their new domiciles. We have been involved with two research projects in particular, one at Leeds University in the UK and one at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. In addition, TF Berlin has also participated in a research project run by Village Capital where the Chapter lead, Marco Muccini, sits on the advisory board.
All these successes may seem like they pose the question, what now?
As our fellow colleagues will know the job is nowhere nearly done! With numbers of refugees in Germany and Berlin growing, a global pandemic at large and increasing socioeconomic and political strains being put on refugees aiming to assimilate and succeed in their host countries, the work of TF Berlin has never been more important! Therefore, our team of committed members of the technology, entrepreneurship and development communities looks forward to leveraging our joint experience and the past successes of TF Berlin to forge the pathway to new success stories.
Article written by Millie Radovic, Communication Volunteer at TF Berlin.