OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Bridging Communities of Conflict-Affected Entrepreneurs in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq

Five One Labs is a startup incubator in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq that equips youth with the tools to rebuild their lives with dignity.

Photo of Patricia

Written by

What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Displaced individuals face challenges to rebuilding, including legal limitations on the right to work, lack of access to capital or local networks, and bias from host community members, who feel that newcomers place a burden on already scarce resources. By stimulating job creation through entrepreneurship, our incubator enables entrepreneurs to create sustainable livelihoods in their new communities. By including entrepreneurs from all backgrounds, including locals, in all of our programs, we are also promoting social cohesion and unity in the community. Our target participants are skilled and educated displaced or conflict-affected entrepreneurs -- Syrians as well as Iraqis of all genders and backgrounds -- living in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq who have higher degrees and need support to launch their ventures. For example, this could be a Syrian artist who wants to open an art gallery, or a coder who wants to launch his own software company, but doesn’t have the network or the business know-how to be able to do so. Since launching in mid-2017, we have run two incubator programs with 18 startups. In the past six months, we have taken feedback from our entrepreneurs and community members to revamp our program, from our recruitment to our curriculum. To directly reach refugees and IDPs across the economic spectrum, we are now offering our incubator fully in Arabic, whereas our past programs were in English. We are also bringing on board more local and regional mentors (rather than international ones) to support the entrepreneurs given they have a more granular knowledge of the Iraqi business environment. We also realized that enrolling in a three-month, full-time incubator is a big decision, so we have changed our recruitment model so that all applicants enroll in month-long “Ignite” bootcamps prior to the incubator. This program helps entrepreneurs test the market and feasibility of their startup ideas before committing to launching their businesses.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Our programs serve conflict-affected youth in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), including refugees, IDPs and locals, who would like to launch their own scalable businesses. We selected this geography not only because our team cares deeply about the Middle East, but also because unlike in some other parts of the region, refugees have the right to work in the KRI, which is a key legal point to ensure the success of our programs.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

Being an entrepreneur is about solving problems, and we are bridging young entrepreneurs across communities (locals and displaced) together to ensure that the views of all are represented in any solutions that come from our incubator and beyond. Being an entrepreneur is challenging, especially challenging for a displaced individual who may lack networks or mentors. By connecting these entrepreneurs to each other and to the local ecosystem, we are hoping to create a mutually supportive community.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

We believe that the ability to support ourselves, to succeed and thrive in a way that enables us to use our skills and capitalize on our own interests, is linked with re-building human dignity. While we can find any job to simply sustain ourselves, we know that doing something that we are truly passionate about will ultimately bring us the most joy. At the core of Five One Labs is the belief in human dignity, which we put at the center of our work. We view refugees and internally displaced youth not as beneficiaries but as agents of change in their communities. Our programs take the significant untapped potential of these young people and use business incubation as a creative way to harness the talents of these highly skilled refugees, particularly women. What this means practically is that our community members come to us with ideas for scalable businesses, and we work alongside them to ensure that this business is solving a problem or meeting a local need that he identified.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

Our incubator generates impact by boosting local economies through job creation and refugee integration; developing entrepreneurial ecosystems to make it easier to start businesses; and creating inclusive cohorts with refugees and host community members to combat tension. To understand the incubator’s short-term impact, we survey our entrepreneurs before, during and after program to assess what they have learned and how their confidence levels have changed. For breadth of our program, we measure the number of participants in our incubator and percent women and displaced participants, among others, anod how this changes cohort-on-cohort. For depth we measure the percentage of entrepreneurs who have launched their business by the incubator’s end; have their first customers; have functioning businesses one year after the incubator; have salary increases; and have received investment. We also look at how many jobs each startup creates to understand the economic impact on the community.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

The message we have overwhelming heard among displaced and local young people in the KRI for the past several years has been the desire to take control of their futures. Throughout the conflict in Iraq, young Syrians and Iraqis found it difficult to find meaningful employment, and they realized that they could no longer rely on the government (traditionally the largest employer) to provide stable jobs. Insecurity also meant that private sector jobs were also scarce, as many companies shrunk or shut down operations. This is where an incubator is important. By starting their own businesses and creating jobs for themselves, our community members are in fact taking control of their own futures. The program encourages experimentation and creativity, and translates the resourcefulness and skills of young people into concrete solutions to complex problems. Expert mentorship and access to a community in our coworking space create a supportive environment where our entrepreneurs can thrive.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

To provide context from a bird’s-eye level, the KRI is home to 250,000 Syrian refugees and over one million internally displaced Iraqis. A recent Kurdistan Regional Government study showed that 80% of refugees are employed in the region’s capital but primarily in the service/food industries. The main group of unemployed refugees are those with university degrees, as skilled positions are subject to the most bias or skills mismatch. Syrian women are also highly under-employed, with less than 8% in the workforce. What this means on a more personal level is that there is a willingness and desire to engage in dignified work, but the supply of jobs is not there or legal obstacles make it challenging to work. On a community level, we see that there is a substantial number of refugees or IDPs that are urban, and many are living among and working alongside the local community in the KRI’s cities.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

An entrepreneur cannot succeed without the backing of a supportive ecosystem. While one of the most fundamental success factors for the incubator has been the motivation and talent of the entrepreneurs themselves, we have also leveraged the strengths of the entire community to create an environment in which our entrepreneurs can thrive. Some of these strengths include universities that are increasingly supporting entrepreneurship and tailoring curricula to that will enable business development; businesspeople who are willing to share their expertise with budding entrepreneurs; a supportive community of capacity-building organizations who meet regularly to exchange best practices; and eager civil society and youth groups willing to partner in advertising entrepreneurship programs. All of these assets tie into the core aspects of our incubator model -- training, mentorship, community and access to finance.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

Our focus on local partnerships has been a critical component of everything that we do. While we are an organization with a global outlook, from day one our programs have been driven by local demand and have been designed alongside the community. We spent a year developing our curriculum, which caters to the needs of post-conflict early-stage founders, and over the past several months have redesigned our incubator program to ensure that it best suits the dynamics within the KRI. In meeting the demand for idea-stage entrepreneurship education, we have worked directly with local tech companies, NGOs and humanitarian organizations, youth and women’s groups, investors and educational institutions, to conduct outreach for our programs and to make entrepreneurship a possibility for everyone. This grassroots, bottom-up implementation has relied on local collaborations from the very earliest stages because an entrepreneur cannot succeed without the support of the local ecosystem.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Early Adoption: We have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have proof of user uptake (i.e. 16% to 49% of the target population or 1,000 to 50,000 users).

Group or Organization Name

Five One Labs

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

Our mission is to use entrepreneurship to help conflict-affected individuals rebuild and thrive. While the incubator is our flagship program, it is one of several initiatives we have to achieve our mission. For example, after listening to the challenges that women entrepreneurs face, we developed a Female Founders Fellowship to work with growth-stage female founders. Many of our community members have indicated they need more access to startup funding, so we are working with local businesspeople to encourage angel investing; are partnering with NGOs to provide small grants; and are doing research required to start a fund. Our team is made up of members of all of the communities that we work with. We have members who are experts in design thinking and have experience advising startups in challenging environments; we have expert trainers and event planners; and everyone is creative, compassionate and open-minded. Most importantly, we believe in the power of entrepreneurship

Website URL:

fiveonelabs.org, facebook.com/fiveonelabs, instagram.com/fiveonelabs, twitter.com/fiveonelabs

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

Iraq

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Sulaimani, Iraq

In preparation for expert feedback: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in these categories? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea. (600 characters)

1. How do we ensure our entrepreneurs’ continued success after they graduate from our three-month incubator? 2. Our startup incubator is free of charge for our participants, as we want to make sure that none of our users goes into debt or is otherwise harmed by joining Five One Labs. However, many partners have asked why we don’t charge or at least take equity in our businesses. What are your perspectives? 3. We currently work with very early, idea-stage entrepreneurs to help them take the first steps towards launching a business. Is this the right stage of entrepreneur to work with?

Did you use the resources offered during the Improve Phase (mentorship, expert feedback, community research)? (2000 characters)

Yes, we benefited from a lot of feedback during this phase! We spoke to our mentor, who asked us very practical questions about how we operate our incubator on the ground in reality, and particularly how we address certain key issues - supporting IDPs versus refugees, including women in all of our programs, and utilizing other resources to support our entrepreneurs. We received feedback from an expert, who answered the three questions we posed. It was a very useful exercise for engage in conversations with independent experts and mentors who did not know about our model so that we could gather feedback from independent sources. We also were pleased to have ongoing conversations with other participants on the platform, including having phone calls offline to better understand their models, learn how we can apply their lessons learned to our programs, compare challenges and opportunities and see how we might collaborate moving forward. Finally, and most importantly, we went back to our community of entrepreneurs in Iraq and got feedback on the incubation programs we’ve run so far. We started testing a variety of new approaches to supporting entrepreneurs. These included hosting gatherings for female founders every two weeks during the incubator to provide additional support to women entrepreneurs; hosting an event to connect entrepreneurs to potential tech co-founders given the lack of CTOs was an issue we identified; and redesigning our post-incubator “Investment Committee” structure for one of our entrepreneurs to make it better suit her needs at this stage in her business.

In what ways would potential BridgeBuilder funds allow you to pursue your idea that other funding opportunities have not? (1000 characters)

Human centered design focuses on a process of testing and iterating to constantly learn, modify and improve ideas based on our user needs. Having BridgeBuilder funding would allow us to be more user-centered in how we operate as an organization. We would have the flexibility to prioritize the areas that are most important for our founders and deprioritize ones that we’ve realized aren’t as helpful. Much of our funding comes from governments and institutional donors, who have very strict budgeting and planning processes that make it challenging to be agile and receptive to feedback as we receive it given we are bound to annual funding cycles. We would also use the fund to test new areas of work that our founders have requested, like helping our entrepreneurs scale their businesses, making better connections between investors and entrepreneurs, or providing clearer market data and information about the process of launching a business before diving head first into pursuing that path.

What aspects or proportion of the overall idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (1000 characters)

Bridgebuilder would allow us to fill a few key gaps that we have identified in our programs based on user and expert support: 1) supporting women during and after the incubation process to overcome the additional obstacles they face in launching scalable or tech startups, including the provision of seed funding; 2) providing high quality, hands-on continued support after the incubator is over, to ensure our entrepreneurs have a strong framework through which to launch their business and 3) connecting diverse entrepreneurs with potential co-founders and local mentors to accompany them in the journey of launching their startup. Finally, as mentioned in the previous question, it will allow us to test new ways to support our entrepreneurs, like connecting regional investors with startups that are ready to scale regionally. The core components of our programs will continue to be funded through institutional donors but receiving an additional $250,000 will allow over a year of flexibility.

What are the key steps or activities for your idea for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (1000 characters)

Over the next six months we will continue to refine our incubator model. Activities include: - Completing our first full tech incubator and running our first full Arabic-language incubator - Determining the impact of our Incubate Women’s Initiative and our new technical advisory - Developing a more robust post-incubator support program and investment committee structure Within the next year, we will pilot new activities to deepen our startup support programming. Activities include: - Providing scale up and investment readiness support programs, including developing and running investment readiness workshops; connecting entrepreneurs with international markets; and building a community of local investors - Providing tailored one-on-one advisory services to our wider community By the end of 2020 we plan to expand our reach across Iraq and test market interest by: - Digitizing parts of our curriculum into online videos in local languages - Running short workshops across Iraq

What will community-level impact look like over the timeframe of your idea? How will you determine whether or not you have achieved that impact? And what outstanding questions do you still have? (1000 characters)

IMPACT: By the end of 2022 we will incubate 75 scalable businesses from across Iraq and Syria and provide advisory support, investment readiness, mentorship and connections to 2,500 along the business development pipeline (from idea stage to fundraising). MEASUREMENT: Through surveys before the incubator, every week during and after the program is done, we will measure the increase in knowledge of confidence of our entrepreneurs, and every six months after our program we will collect survey data on the status of each business (revenue, employees, investment, etc). For non-incubation programs, we will conduct similar pre- and post-program learning surveys. QUESTION: While aiming to reach a broad number of entrepreneurs over the coming three years, how can we remain responsive to the needs of the entrepreneurs in the market as the nascent ecosystem continues to evolve and grow?

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (1000 characters)

We are fortunate to have a team of 15 people in two cities that have experience in entrepreneurship, design thinking, humanitarian innovation, marketing and event management. Our diverse team comes from across Iraq and Syria, represents the community of entrepreneurs that we work with and speaks all of their local languages. Our alumni entrepreneurs serve as mentors and advisors for our current cohort and we have a technical advisor to support our founders with the tech aspects of their businesses. We also have a network of dozens of mentors from across the world - most of them entrepreneurs - and host regular experts in Iraq from all over the world to advise our founders share their knowledge with our entrepreneurs. We are working with a local telecoms company to sponsor regular monthly entrepreneurship events; are partnering with tech organizations to host hackathons and tech festivals; and host regular trainings with universities. Our work is truly a community effort!

Lastly, how did you apply new learnings to your idea? (1000 characters)

We are constantly adapting and improving our idea based on feedback from our users. Based on feedback we received, we launched the “Incubate Women Initiative” in our current tech incubator, which is a biweekly meeting for women in technology to talk about their experiences and to meet impressive women in the community. We hope that this will also encourage more women to pursue technology-based businesses and provide role models for others. We are also testing a new model of Investment Committee (the post-incubator support for seed funding winners) with new IC members based on feedback from our entrepreneur. Finally, we’re hosting a developer fair this week to connect the founders in our current tech cohort with potential co-founders and CTOs. We hosted this based on feedback from entrepreneurs that one of the most challenging parts of launching a business (particularly for non-technical founders) is doing it alone.

28 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Bremley Lyngdoh
Team

These are my last 3 sets of important questions for you and your team before the final review stage begins.

Can you please list 3 bullet points - just one line each - short and sweet of what feedback you got from your mentor on your idea?
1.
2.
3.
Can you please list 3 bullet points - just one line each - short and sweet of what feedback you got from your user on your idea?
1.
2.
3.
Can you please list 3 bullet points - just one line each - short and sweet of what feedback you got from your expert on your idea?
1.
2.
3.

Photo of Patricia
Team

Hello @Bremley Lyngdoh -- here are the answers to your questions!

Can you please list 3 bullet points - just one line each - short and sweet of what feedback you got from your mentor on your idea?
1. In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), IDPs sometimes face equal or greater challenges than Syrian refugees in accessing meaningful employment or long-term solutions based on ethnic tensions and legal barriers.
2. We discussed how to best support women in entering and completing our programs, and some ways we’ve been taking steps to do that.
3. We should create more partnerships with universities to provide access to online courses and/or certified faculty to support our entrepreneurs.

Can you please list 3 bullet points - just one line each - short and sweet of what feedback you got from your user on your idea?

1. Our entrepreneurs had really positive feedback on our training, CEO talks, expert connections, and mentors that we provide them.
2. Our entrepreneurs would appreciate more local mentors and supporters to help them better understand the business and legal environment in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
3. Women felt less comfortable launching tech businesses, and felt like they needed a stronger female-led community in the program.
4. Entrepreneurs want more connections to potential co-founders and CTO’s as they’re going through the incubator to launch their business.

Can you please list 3 bullet points - just one line each - short and sweet of what feedback you got from your expert on your idea?
1. It could be useful to request a nominal contribution from our participants for taking part in the program, or ask them to give back if they achieve success with their business or in their careers because of what they learned in the program.
2. Working with early-stage entrepreneurs is not a problem, particularly because we have such a targeted group of people we’re working with at that stage.
3. We need to do a contextual analysis to decide what true ‘success’ can look like in this context for our entrepreneurs, and then deliver our program of post-incubator support based on getting them to that point.

Photo of Patricia
Team

Hello @Bremley Lyngdoh -- here are the answers to your questions!

Can you please list 3 bullet points - just one line each - short and sweet of what feedback you got from your mentor on your idea?

1. In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), IDPs sometimes face equal or greater challenges than Syrian refugees in accessing meaningful employment or long-term solutions based on ethnic tensions and legal barriers.
2. We discussed how to best support women in entering and completing our programs, and some ways we’ve been taking steps to do that.
3. We should create more partnerships with universities to provide access to online courses and/or certified faculty to support our entrepreneurs.

Can you please list 3 bullet points - just one line each - short and sweet of what feedback you got from your user on your idea?

1. Our entrepreneurs had really positive feedback on our training, CEO talks, expert connections, and mentors that we provide them.
2. Our entrepreneurs would appreciate more local mentors and supporters to help them better understand the business and legal environment in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
3. Women felt less comfortable launching tech businesses, and felt like they needed a stronger female-led community in the program.
4. Entrepreneurs want more connections to potential co-founders and CTO’s as they’re going through the incubator to launch their business.

Can you please list 3 bullet points - just one line each - short and sweet of what feedback you got from your expert on your idea?

1. It could be useful to request a nominal contribution from our participants for taking part in the program, or ask them to give back if they achieve success with their business or in their careers because of what they learned in the program.
2. Working with early-stage entrepreneurs is not a problem, particularly because we have such a targeted group of people we’re working with at that stage.
3. We need to do a contextual analysis to decide what true ‘success’ can look like in this context for our entrepreneurs, and then deliver our program of post-incubator support based on getting them to that point.

Photo of Danielle Vella
Team

Final comment from reviewer: I hope that is helpful! Please don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions about what I wrote. Best of luck with this, it's a great proposal! Danielle

Photo of Danielle Vella
Team

Expert reviewer attempting to answer your third unanswered question...

3. We currently work with very early, idea-stage entrepreneurs to help them take the first steps towards launching a business. Is this the right stage of entrepreneur to work with?

I don’t honestly know that I can say much about this. I certainly don’t see why not, and I think the decision to work with entrepreneurs at that stage has a lot going for it because they are motivated and keen to put their ideas into action and lack an essential something to do so, as you note in your proposal. Also, you are targeting quite a specific group of people within the community: displaced or conflict-affected and higher education, and focus on women. With such a group, I’d say that you are on the right track because they arguably have not only the impetus in terms of both their situation but also the knowledge and expertise from their higher educational background to come up with feasible ideas that can be put into action.

Photo of Danielle Vella
Team

Expert reviewer attempting to answer your second unanswered question...

2. Our startup incubator is free of charge for our participants, as we want to make sure that none of our users goes into debt or is otherwise harmed by joining Five One Labs. However, many partners have asked why we don’t charge or at least take equity in our businesses. What are your perspectives?

I’d say you are right to have the Do No Harm principle as your foremost priority when deciding this one. However, perhaps you could investigate a bit to discover if allowing participants to somehow contribute to the project would constitute such harm or if, conversely, it could have a positive impact.

In principle, asking participants to make a nominal contribution financially or in kind in the development of something that will benefit them (e.g. such a training course or building a community school) is considered to be a good idea. Many reasons are mooted for this: one is respect for the dignity of the participants (this is not a handout, they are paying something for it, they are contributing); another is that participants might be more motivated to stick to and to finish something that they have invested in, and to value it more. With reference to the second point, I’d ask you to take into account your course completion and drop-out rates when you consider this question. You might also consider means-testing, to assess the financial situation of each individual as far as you can assess it. Can they afford to make a nominal contribution or not?

Another approach sometimes taken is that participants give something back once they have completed their training and their business takes off, as Noor did by becoming a mentor herself. In another example, in Burundi, the organisation I work for once had a goat-rearing project for returnees. Once the goats of a participant had a baby goat, it was donated back to the project to enable someone else to start up.

Ultimately, I think it is a matter of considering how the project can further the principles of participation (through contribution) and mutuality in the service-provider and beneficiary relationship.

Photo of Danielle Vella
Team

Hi, I am your appointed expert reviewer and I am going to try to answer the three unanswered questions that you put to me.

1. How do we ensure our entrepreneurs’ continued success after they graduate from our three-month incubator?

This is one of the questions that occurred to me as I was reading through your proposal

I’d start by saying that you can’t really ensure your entrepreneurs’ continued success, at least not totally, because there are many factors that neither you or they have control over. But you can take steps to ensure the entrepreneurs have the support and conditions that they need to be successful.

The answer to your question depends in part on a solid contextual analysis you’d need to do to underpin and guide your intervention. What are the obstacles to success identified in your assessment and analysis, and how do you think you can help entrepreneurs to meet them? For example, if your assessment identifies challenges in the environment, such as the difficulty of finding a market for one’s products, then your work is cut out for you.

My second observation is that the answer to your question depends in part on how you describe and quantify “success” as part of your outcomes, both short and longer-term. You could ask yourselves questions such as: are we measuring success only in terms of economic independence, e.g. if the entrepreneur can now sustain herself; or do we also measure success using broader indicators that also measure social cohesion, and the enhanced integration that the entrepreneur now enjoys, especially as a refugee? How is perceived success linked to the fulfilment of deeper human needs of joy, hope, dignity and freedom from want and from fear? How would you view success as part of a durable solution for the individual? The individual’s longer-term perspective also comes into play here: do they view their current location as a final destination or as a step along their journey to another intended destination, which could be a third country or return home? These are also the questions that could also form the basis of your monitoring and evaluation plan.

Once you have considered the results of your analysis and determined your criteria for success, you can take the next step to look at how to accompany entrepreneurs on their way there. Continued support in terms of both moral and technical support is a significant factor and you seem to be addressing this – you mention “an investment committee” and mentors offering “monthly support” in the example of Noor. These are both good steps. Is further support needed?

Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Hello Patricia and the team,
I'm curious to understand the reason behind starting off with very early idea-stage entrepreneurs. Is there a reason for this? How do you measure success for each of the cohort?

Recently there has been the concept of startup studio.Here is a post about them: https://medium.com/marventures/venture-builders-the-rise-of-synergetic-entrepreneurship-b9a3968a0fb2

Could this a model you could consider in the future?

Photo of Patricia
Team

Hello again Isaac Jumba ! It's a great question! When we did our research while launching Five One Labs in 2016, we saw that there was a gap in entrepreneurship-related programming in the Kurdistan Region across all stages of the pipeline (idea stage, seed stage, etc.), so we decided that we would start at the beginning of the pipeline with early-stage entrepreneurs. In this way we could not only increase interest in entrepreneurs by working with those who were thinking about entrepreneurs but also provide added value to those launching their own businesses by offering in-depth training in innovative subjects, including leadership and design thinking, many of which are not integrated into the Iraqi university curriculum.

Now that we have been in Iraq for more than two years now, we also see that there is a demand for services later down the pipeline, so in the coming months we will be offering things like investment readiness workshops for startups seeking to raise capital, as this is also a need that we have observed not only among our entrepreneurs but also among other founders across Iraq more broadly. Also speaking with investors across the region has shown that this preparing entrepreneurs for investment is a gap in the area where we operate.

With regards to success metrics, our mission is to use entrepreneurship to enable people to rebuild and thrive, so what this means to us is that while we are aiming to help people start businesses, if the founder decides after our incubator program that she would prefer, for example, to find a job, and she is able to find a job that is higher-paying that before the program because of what she learned during the incubator, we consider this a success. We also look at things like how many jobs the startup has created, what type of investment they have raised, how much the founder has learned (business concepts, etc.) throughout the program.

I hadn't heard of the venture model before, but thank you for suggesting it! We are thinking about how to better support our founders, especially in our post-incubation, and I think some of the VB model components can be relevant to us in the critical post-incubation phase. For example, a number of our startups lack certain human capital in their teams, so helping support them to find someone to be a CTO or CFO is something that we are considering. With regards to the raising capital component, one of our priorities now is to mobilize more capital for our startups. While we have been awarding grants of up to $15,000 in seed funding to three startups per cohort, we are looking to connect the founders with investors across the region (and will be hosting 20 such investors in Iraq next week), and we look for opportunities for our startup to present and pitch at regional conferences, which is important given the difficulty of obtaining startup funding in Iraq.

I hope that answers your question! I'd love to continue the conversation if anything is unclear!

Patricia

Photo of Antonio Alvarez Araya
Team

Hello Isaac Jumba 

Our main reason to focus on early stage business ideas is the target group that we serve. Newcomers in the Netherlands live in a stable conditions provided by the welfare system, but at the same time they lack opportunities to pursue and engage in meaningful livelihood opportunities. Therefore, most of the newcomers that enter our program are driven to create businesses that will allow them to employ themselves in a worthwhile endeavor.

Many of the newcomers that participate in our program do not have a business or commercial background, therefore a lot of our efforts go to build their capacity through fundamental business knowledge and skills training; coupled with deep understanding of the local business context (legal, tax and cultural elements).

Moreover, due to their refugee status, most of the newcomers live in isolation and don't have connections that could support them to access the local business ecosystem or to get to get advice on how to start a business. For this reason we have designed mechanism that allow the newcomers to build relevant networks during our program.

Lastly, newcomers lack the financial assets to invest on their own business ideas. To address this issue we provide micro-funds that the entrepreneurs can use to validate their concepts. And later we provide access to our network of investors where the entrepreneurs can find the start-up capital that they require.

If you consider the barriers outlined above, it is easy to understand why newcomers come to us with early stage business ideas. Knowing that this will be the case for most newcomers, our incubation program takes them in an intense development journey that involves a lot of experimenting, learning and networking.

To accelerate the development of each business idea and to develop a growth mindset in the entrepreneurs, each program participant is paired with an experienced business coach who provides individual advisory on strategy, goal setting and business mindset; and each entrepreneur is assigned a dedicated team of business student consultants who provide support in execution to achieve key business milestones.

These are some of the ways that in which we measure success among many other factors:
-Increase self-confidence to run launch and run a business (hard and soft skills; and contextual understanding)
-Number of business relations built (partners, suppliers, customers and investors)
-The number of businesses that are launched after the incubation program
-The number of businesses that raise startup-capital during the incubation and after-care programs
-The number of entrepreneurs that exit welfare dependency
-The number of jobs created by the businesses that emerge for our program
-The number of entrepreneurs who find meaningful employment thanks to their new skills and our network.

I had not heard about the Venture Builders model (thanks for sharing it). As Patricia mentioned, we also have seen the difficulty that many entrepreneurs face to attract key human capital (IT and finance) during the early stages of their businesses. Currently we don’t have the capacity to enter into a business partnership with the entrepreneurs, but we have seen some members of past entrepreneurial teams (coaches and students) becoming partners or long-term supporters.

I hope that this sheds some light on your question.

Antonio.

Photo of Diederick van der Wijk
Team

Hello Patricia,

We are vey happy to learn about your organization. Even more to know that we have so much in common! I hope that we can collaborate by exchanging best practices and learning from each other.

Or organization, Forward Incubator, supports newcomers in the Netherlands to start their own businesses through a comprehensive business incubation program. Our program covers local business culture and context, training in business fundamentals, and access to relevant business networks and funding.

Most of our program participants have Syrian origins and in many cases the business that they design are oriented to work with people and organizations currently based in Syria. Therefore, I would like to explore the possibility to exchange knowledge between programs and to search for opportunities to connect some of our entrepreneurs who might benefit from stronger international ties.

Please let us know if you would like to engage in conversation.

Thanks,

Diederick and Antonio

Photo of Patricia
Team

Hello Diederick van der Wijk -- I would love to connect. If you send me an email (patricia@fiveonelabs.org), we can schedule a time to chat. We have had conversations with a number of refugee incubators and entrepreneurship programs across Europe, so we would love to hear more about what you are doing.

We are looking forward to learning more!

Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Dear Diederick van der Wijk & Patricia,

Great to see you both connecting. We hope the Improve phase is coming along well. We cannot wait to learn of the insights.
I was curious about how the conversations for collaboration between Bridging Communities of Conflict-Affected Entrepreneurs in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq  and Scaling up Forward Incubator's impact to other European cities is coming along. Any updates to share?

Photo of Patricia
Team

Hello Isaac,Thanks for your question! We had a phone conversation last week to learn about our program design, incubator models and metrics. One of the points discussed, which is something that we are working to improve at Five One Labs, is the post-incubator support program and how we can ensure that we are providing our founders with a supportive environment and the right resources that they need to succeed.

We have to date tested our Post-Incubator Support program with one cohort, and it involved one-on-one business advisory as needed from our training team, and we also had the entrepreneurs take the lead on organizing meetings for themselves and requesting trainings from us as they see fit. We are in the process of evaluating what more the entrepreneurs need so that we can have a better understanding of how hands-on/hands-off they would like the program and what other suggestions they have to improve the program itself.

Forward Incubator shared the fact that a part of their post-incubator Aftercare program is to generate business leads for their startups, and this is something that we had not considered as a support mechanism before, so it is an interesting thing for us to try!

Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Hello Patricia,

This is an amazing insight that they shared. Thanks for the update

Photo of Antonio Alvarez Araya
Team

Hello Isaac, thanks for your message.

The first call was a really good introduction to each other's approach to entrepreneurship. In general it was positive to get validation from another organization and expert in our field that our initiative is relevant.

I agree with Patricia; we had a good conversation about our after-care programs and for us it inspiring to hear about their peer-to-peer support mechanism. Currently for us it is very resource intensive to support the entrepreneurs post the business incubation stage and an approach like this might be very beneficial for our organization and the entrepreneurs.

We want to continue having a close relation between our organizations and we believe that we have much to learn from Five One Labs. We are hoping to meet face to face in a conference later this month :)

Photo of Bremley Lyngdoh
Team

I am happy to see the progress that you have made so far with the feedback you have got from your mentor. You should be receiving the answers on the 3 questions that you have sent to the expert by the 7th of October which you can then incorporate into your idea before the final evaluation deadline on the 14th of October.

Please remember to answer all the 5 additional questions on the platform when you have got all the updated information with you from all your consultations with your mentor, expert and users. All the best!

Photo of Patricia
Team

Thank you for the updates, Bremley. We are looking forward to the responses from our expert next week!

Photo of Bremley Lyngdoh
Team

Thank you so much for your kind response and once you have received the valuable feedback from your mentor, please kindly share with us what steps you have taken to test your idea in the field with your users and how they feel about it after your consultation with them. Please post your thoughts here on the comments section next week after you know exactly what the users think of your idea. All the very best!

Photo of Bremley Lyngdoh
Team

Can you please confirm if you have made contact with your mentor and if you have agreed on a date to have your one hour check in call to discuss about your idea?

Can you please confirm if you have thought of 3 questions for your idea to post on your comments section that you would need an expert to answer by 20th September?

Photo of Patricia
Team

Hello @Bremley Lyngdoh ! We have posted our three questions and are scheduled to speak with our mentor next week. We are looking forward to receiving feedback from the expert and our mentor!

Photo of Sevde Şengün
Team

Congratulations on making it to the Improve Phase as part of the 40 Shortlisted Proposals!

Now the real improvement work begins so please prepare yourself to get constructive feedback from the mentors who will comment on your idea and experts who will question about your idea.

They will test the Desirability of your idea - if that is what people desire, they will test the Viability of your idea - if it is financially viable and they will test the Feasibility of your idea - if it is technically and organizationally possible to be executed in the real world.

Photo of Patricia
Team

Hello @Sevde Şengün! Thank you very much for getting in touch. We will definitely be in contact if we have questions as we go through the process. We are also really looking forward to receiving any feedback and would be happy to have any comments from you.

Patricia

Photo of Jessi Wolz
Team

Patricia, thank you for commenting on RefuSHE's incubator concept so that we could link to Five One Lab's submission. This sounds really similar to what we are envisioning. What would be the best way to exchange lessons learned? We're still in the concept stage of our incubator.

Photo of Patricia
Team

Hi Jessi,

That's great! I'd be happy to connect over email and share some of our lessons if you'd like to chat. You can reach me on patricia@fiveonelabs.org.

Best of luck with the program design!

Photo of Temba Vicent
Team

Hello there,

Greetings.

Thank you very much. How your idea empower the displaced people or Wellcome community to support refugees?

Thank you Temba

Photo of Patricia
Team

Hello Temba,

Thank you for your question! We work alongside displaced individuals and local individuals to help them start businesses so that they can rebuild their lives with dignity. We believe that entrepreneurship is a great tool to bring these two communities together, so we welcome 50% locals and 50% displaced into our programs.

I hope this answers your question!

Patricia

Photo of NDEF Cameroon
Team

Hi, welcome to the Challenge. We wish you success!