Photo: Miikka Pirinen

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Startup Refugees launches the first and only fund in Finland that supports refugee, asylum seeker, and immigrant founders and their early-stage companies. The Fund challenges the myth of the “three white guys building a startup in a garage” and diversifies the Finnish startup ecosystem.

Startup Refugees has supported refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants in entrepreneurship since 2015. Already 380 newcomers have participated in Startup Refugees’ entrepreneurship courses and 52 companies have been established.

“We believe that refugees and other newcomers bring huge economic and human potential to Finland. With the right type of support at the right time, they are able to build their own lives and harness the entrepreneurial potential they carry. We’re now looking for pioneering companies and individuals to donate to the Fund and directly support the underrepresented founders”, says the CEO of Startup Refugees, Elisa Vepsäläinen.

One of the founders from the Startup Refugees Business Program is Anna Sambou, an experienced entrepreneur from Gambia and the co-founder of an online platform Heemlig that connects households with local professionals who provide in-home services.

"Being an immigrant should not limit you from becoming a successful entrepreneur. Finland is my second home, and I want to contribute to the economic growth of the country through my business and by creating more jobs. My startup’s biggest challenge is financial – we have not been able to attract any investors yet, despite customers’ high interest in the platform" Anna says.

All donations to the Startup Refugees Fund go directly to the underrepresented founders that have a promising business idea or a running business but are not attracting investors yet. The funding might be used for rent, tools, living expenses, or any other thing that a starting entrepreneur urgently needs. The first founders to receive the funding will be chosen next spring.

The Startup Refugees Fund is launched on the 1st of December in SLUSH in Startup Refugees’ space 6C.11 in the Partner Area. The space features four founders supported by Startup Refugees and Startup Refugees’ staff.

Slush visitors can donate the fund at Startup Refugees Space at Slush or through www.startuprefugeesfund.com

Startup Refugees supports asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants in employment and entrepreneurship. The Startup Refugees network includes more than 1,000 companies, public sector actors, communities, educational institutions, and individuals. More than 1060 people have already been employed through Startup Refugees and our entrepreneurship program has supported more than 380 recent immigrants in entrepreneurship.

Elisa Vepsäläinen

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