This post lays out and breaks down the Mpath strategy. I don’t pretend to have seen or solved all the issues, so the post is also an invitation and request for your comments and guidance.
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My French, when I moved from Calgary to Montreal to go to university, was not great. This limited my employment opportunities, but I eventually found work at an upscale pizza restaurant as a “cuisinier,” that is, a cook.
My kitchen coworkers were asylum-seekers from Argentina and El Salvador, and the working language was Spanish, yet somehow Carlos and Guillermo showed me the ropes.
Carlos, whose younger cousin also worked at the restaurant, sent a big part of his earnings back to his family. Guillermo studied in the day and worked weekends and nights to support his wife and child. We became friends, and when I graduated, my Spanish was good enough for me to travel overland to visit Guillermo’s family.
I never stopped. Together with my wife and family, we’ve lived for 3 or more years in Australia, New York, Singapore, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and a shorter time in Hong Kong. Every time we've moved, the people of our host countries have welcomed us warmly. Not all migrants are as lucky.
Mpath is an act of gratitude. It’s also an act of self-interest; because it is in my interest to undermine the global rise of migrant-bashing Nationalism. The ethical arguments against Nationalism may be persuasive, but the economic arguments are empirical. Studies (e.g. here, and here) consistently show that migrants do not dilute or sap, but create wealth. By making migrant participation in the economy easier, I mean to prosper. Our well-being is connected.
The first idea for Mpath was a startup incubator for refugees. This idea was killed after initial explorations turned up an abundance of well-considered and well-funded programs for migrant entrepreneurs already in existence. For example,
As reported in Startup Migrants, successful migrant-oriented startup incubators focus on highly talented people, other strategies have proven unsustainable and even heartbreaking.
This focus on highly talented people is starting to become a trend in the ecosystem. It could be claimed that the ecosystem only cares about the elite. Another way of looking at it is that they are talent factories. As Deng Xiaoping stated at the beginning of the economic reforms in China: let some people get rich first. Perhaps this is a similar concept. Someone must succeed first and thereby be in a position to help other refugees and migrants to succeed. Looking at the integration system in Europe, this is probably the right approach.
Most startup incubators, migrant-focussed or not, take a similar “invest in the founders” approach, for similar reasons. Indeed, if a migrant founder is talented and charismatic, they would likely find support in the existing startup ecosystem.
Migrant or not, entrepreneurs are self-selecting, innovative, and resilient. The main obstacle affecting migrant entrepreneurs is integration, including immigration bureaucracy, language, culture, and lack of a local network.
This assumption is critical, and must be tested and validated with priority.
There appears to be a tier of under-employed expats who would like to start their own ventures in their host countries.
Expat is defined narrowly here as: professionals, skilled workers, or artists taking work outside their home country, either independently or sent abroad by their employers, unlike forced migrants.
Especially when compared to forced migrants, expats are privileged. Nevertheless, they share certain experiences common to all migrants including culture shock, navigating unfamiliar bureaucracy, and the challenges of bringing up children in a foreign culture.
Expats have often moved several times, and developed networking and survival skills along the way. Cities with large expat populations usually have thriving online communities and dedicated media.
For example, Expats in Prague Facebook group has 46.6K members, IamExpat in the Netherlands has >100K members, and Expatriates in Paris has 40.9K members
Expats often have the time, resources, energy, and inclination, for philanthropic causes. In addition to the intrinsic reward of doing good, philanthropic activities are often one of few ways available to expats wanting to engage meaningfully with host cultures.
When people join together for a common purpose, differences fall away.
With more than 15 years leading corporate innovation projects, Mpath has developed a library of training materials in the areas of Design Thinking, User Research, Lean Startup, and Agile product development.
Connect forced migrants with the established integration and networking support ecosystems of expat communities.
Small-scale entrepreneurs can materially benefit from Mpath’s expertise in Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and User Research, creating a foundation of trust, and an openness to participate in philanthropic initiatives.
Seek to contribute to and strengthen existing systems rather than duplicating them, which, by diluting available funding and adding complexity for migrants, risks being counterproductive.
Use the website to
Validate demand for entrepreneur training among expat communities by repurposing existing course materials as a short online workshop. Offer the course through established online expat community channels.
Contact providers of existing forced migrant support services to validate this strategy and identify opportunities to partner.
Publish Mpath strategy and invite people to register their interest, laying the foundation for a larger community to provide expertise and direction.
Expats seeking to start a new venture often turn to personal coaches for support. Partnership with these coaches could benefit all parties.
This is a quote from E.M Forster's Howard's End. The longer version is:
"Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.”
In the book, the quote is a call to transcend emotion and logic and the distances they can put between us, through an appeal to our shared humanity. In the context of this strategy, it is a reminder to bring together different migrant communities, to the benefit of all.
Please take the time to share your comments and criticism of this strategy with me. Use the contact form or send a message to @mpathInsight on Twitter.
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