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Syrian entrepreneurs, like the wider population of Syria, have fled the country to seek sanctuary around the world. Having taken their ideas and ambitions with them, they have met with mixed success in their new homes. Some have managed to create new startups and thrive in innovation-friendly environments, while others have grappled with a range of challenges that make it harder for small and medium-sized enterprises to get off the ground.

In my recent book “Entrepreneurship in Exile” which examed hundred Syrian refugees entrepreneurs’ views and experiences. I have heard direct from founder from Turkey to Jordan, Germany, and Canada, we heard about the people who took a step and made a decision. They left behind a country, a home, a memory, and took their journey to the unknown. They settled in their new home, started a business, became employers and contributed to the local economy.

The results were incredible, despite the severe conditions in which refugees and immigrants live, they have shown incredible strength and resilience. Many have worked hard to achieve their ambitions, becoming a refugee and immigrant entrepreneur.

The efforts of Syrian entrepreneurs have turned the neighborhoods of 6th October City, Egypt, into bustling corridors of Syrian restaurants and grocery stores (the area is now called “Little Damascus”).  In Turkey, a total of 8,367 new Syrian companies were founded in 2017, up from a mere 157 in 2012, and 800 Syrian industrial establishments have relocated to operate in Jordan. Syrian entrepreneurs in host countries contribute to a wide range of sectors. The most common industry for the self-employed among those surveyed was general services, with 28.5 percent of participants having opened businesses such as restaurants, grocery stores, barber shops, etc. The second most common sector, with 27.8% of start-ups surveyed, was information technology (IT)— the sector that includes main technological applications— along with administrative services.

Entrepreneurship in Exile

THE AVERAGE DISTRIBUTION OF SYRIAN BUSINESS BY COUNTRY IN ALL COUNTRIES.

Syrian women are gradually embracing entrepreneurship and establishing small businesses to earn a living. Across all host countries, 17.22 percent of displaced Syrian women participate in entrepreneurship, a significant improvement over female participation in Syria before the crisis. However, this figure changes from country to country. For example, in Turkey, that number stands at 16.1 percent, while in Lebanon it is up to 29.4 percent.

Refugees have an entrepreneurship rate that outpaces their economic contributions. The Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan is home to more than 4,500 refugee entrepreneurs. This means that 12.5 percent of refugees there are entrepreneurs, while only 4.5 percent of the Jordan-born population is. The entrepreneurship rate among Syrians living in Turkey is meager at 1.26 percent, compared with Turkey’s overall entrepreneurship rate of 9.40 percent in 2016.

In a time when refugees are frequently debated in the news as a problem, it is easy to forget the hardship they had been through. Having escaped destruction, traumas, and even death, they arrive at their host countries with determination to make the most of their new home.


Over almost a decade of the refugee crisis, refugees have shown extraordinary strength and admirable resilience. Many have gone on to achieve their ambition in becoming entrepreneurs, though often referred to with the prefix ‘refugee’ or ‘immigrant,’ and boast far higher entrepreneurship rates than the original population where they settled.


Given that the act of choosing (when the choice is possible) and moving to another country is an inherently brave and risky decision, it should be of no surprise that refugees and immigrants have repeatedly been found to be more entrepreneurial than locals. Those people are hungry to make it work. The desire has more to do with a will to win and less to do with a percentage game. For them, it is a survival game.

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The post Despite The Struggles, Many Syrian Refugees Started their Own Businesses in Exile appeared first on Ahmad Sufian Bayram.

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In a time when refugees are frequently debated in the news as a problem, it is easy to forget the hardship they had been through. Having escaped destruction, traumas, and even death, they arrive at their host countries with determination to make the most of their new home.

Over almost a decade of the refugee crisis, refugees have shown extraordinary strength and admirable resilience. Many have gone on to achieve their ambition in becoming entrepreneurs, though often referred to with the prefix ‘refugee’ or ‘immigrant,’ and boast far higher entrepreneurship rates than the original population where they settled.

Given that the act of choosing (when choice is possible) and moving to another country is an inherently brave and risky decision, it should be of no surprise that refugees and immigrants have repeatedly been found to be more entrepreneurial than locals. Those people are hungry to make it work. The desire has more to do with a will to win and less to do with a percentage game. For them, it is a survival game.

Dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis is a huge challenge, and it should involve people from both host and refugee communities working together to create more significant opportunities.

Supporting this group can yield substantial social and economic dividends for host countries. From Turkey to Jordan, Germany, and Canada, we heard about the people who took a step and made a decision. They left behind a country, a home, a memory, and took their journey to the unknown. They settled in their new home, started a business, became employers and contributed to the local economy.

This report, Entrepreneurship in Exile, demonstrates why any debate about refugees should be conducted with an eye on what refugees can contribute to the local society and economy of the host country. It provides a stark reminder that, given the right circumstances, Syrian refugees are ready to integrate and start a new life.

The book built on data from a study examining Syrian entrepreneurs’ views and experiences over a period of 12 months of research, during which 156 interviews were conducted and ten open discussions as well as a series of interviews with entrepreneurial experts to spot the light on the Syrian business in host countries, the challenges it faces, the potential it has and the uncertain future that lies ahead. It provides a stark reminder that, given the right circumstances, refugees can contribute to the local society and economy of the host country.

Pre-order for free here if you want to be the first to get your hands on a copy >> https://goo.gl/forms/9WU0LijDZXituY6v2

The post Why You Should Read Entrepreneurship In Exile Book appeared first on Ahmad Sufian Bayram.

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During my work with more than 350 Startup Weekend events in the Middle East and Africa, I have realized that it is always down to those 6 common mistakes why some community and startup events fail to raise money. Here are the most common mistakes, and what can do you do about it: 

1) Setting A High Budget

SOLUTION: If you are planning to raise $10K, ask yourself, can you revise your plan to accomplish the same with $7K? Most of the time, organizers ask for arbitrary round numbers like $10K or $15K instead of the actual amount of money needed to achieve specific milestones.

Think about what can you cut. Work to re-budget. Spend a little bit less on marketing. Cancel your fancy T-shirt and video producing.

Be creative how you can spend the money productively. Spend time polishing your budget forecast, so that you can confidently tell sponsors why you are only looking for $7K, and why you know, you can achieve high quality with less capital.

2) Not Having The Sponsorships Mentality  

SOLUTION: Put yourself in the sponsor’s shoes, try to understand what the company needs (Job To Be Done) by supporting your event. Are they looking for marketing exposure, engaging with entrepreneurs, hiring people, etc.?

Raising sponsorships will take more meetings, and more time with every company, especially for first-time events. Be prepared, and ask what the steps are, how long the process will take, and what to expect.

Also, be aware that many sponsors will pass, so it is essential to have of list of more companies to approach, this doesn’t mean you need to talk to every company out there. You can only get sponsorship from a qualified company— who is interested in your space and has the resources required.

Check out our Techstars Startup Weekend Sponsorship Deck

3) Relying on Cash Sponsorship Only

SOLUTION: There is a real possibility that you won’t be able to raise any sponsorship from companies or will raise a lot less than you expected

When your fundraising is not going well, it is time to pause and rethink your strategy, try to come back to sponsor with alternative options to provide in-kind sponsorship or provide the food to the event in return of sponsoring (many companies have discounts with food providers so what would cost you $3,000 can cost them $2,000) in this way you can get what you want with less money for them. Win-win.

Also, It’s important to differentiate between partners vs. sponsors. By changing the language to partners vs. sponsors, it makes them feel more connected to the success of the event. A sponsor writes a check; a partner is more likely to contribute human and financial capital

Reach out to some partners with this example in mind “We understand that you’re not in a place to be a cash sponsor, but would you be interested in offering 5 hours of your company’s services to the winning team as part of the prize package. Engaging with your law firm would help the top team(s) continue their momentum beyond the weekend. By being the partner, we’ll happily give you exposure on our website and during the event.

The important thing is to have a clear plan. What can you do with no or little capital? Come up with a plan, discuss it, get feedback, and then go back and execute on it.

4) Failed To Follow-up With Sponsors

SOLUTION: Decision-Making process will take a lot of time for the company to decide whether to sponsor or not. Therefore, if you can, find out how far in advance that the company prefers to be pitched. At the very least, allow for a four to six month for the arrangements to be made.

Give the company some time to check your offer and if you didn’t hear back after 7-10 business days, maybe you should follow-up. Most follow-ups are better than no follow-up at all but keep it short and straightforward especially if you’re on third and final follow-up. There’s a fine line between persistent and annoying. If you haven’t received a response at this point, it’s probably best to move on to another opportunity.

5) Not Setting The Right Ticket Price

SOLUTION: Selling tickets will not only support you with extra cash, but it’s also liberating. When you sell tickets, you no longer depend so much on sponsorship. Events that start selling tickets are more attractive to sponsors, it is less risky, and it is clear that the organizing team is very responsible.

The key here is to set good ticket pricing, chances are, your attendees have some events to choose from—so how much do their other options cost? Check out your local listings to see what else is happening in your area around the time of your event and research past ticket prices for similar events. Put yourself in event-goers shoes, and ask how your headliner, your venue, or your host city measure up to the competition.

6) Failing To Understand The Customers Needs

SOLUTION: Before organizing an event, you must spend more time interviewing your customers (attendees) and understand their needs to attend the event. This can help you decide on the event themes, number of attendees expected, prizes, etc.

Another thought if you already start the planning to host a pre-event bootcamp, this is will give you the opportunity to meet your customer and market your event.

The post Common Mistakes Why You Fail To Raise Money (And What Can You Do About It) appeared first on Ahmad Sufian Bayram.

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