BlackInTech by Kave Bulambo and Emmanuel Acquah
Are you a black entrepreneur with an interest to start up or scale up your business in Europe or Germany? Or are you an investor with an interest in supporting black founders in Germany? Then, this article might be for you! In general – it is for anyone who wants to expand their horizon and understand why we need to support black founders a lot better than at the current moment…A lot has been done and a lot has to be done. This article will start with some insights from Deborah Choi, a black founder in Berlin, and end with a portrait of Black in Tech – a community made for underrepresented founders in Berlin! Curious? Read on!
Black Founders in Europe & Germany: Intersectional Approaches Are Needed!
In June 2021, Vicky Isabel Bargel shared in an article in the Gründerzene (‘start-up community’) section of the Business Insider that “‘black founders are still struggling in the European start-up scene’” – as Deborah Choi, Managing Director of Bosque and Co-Founder and Managing Director of Founderland, said in an interview. Choi, who is originally from Nigeria and grew up in the US, is not only a business woman, but also a mother and nomad considering that she lived in both Nigeria, the US, Switzerland and now – Germany. Coming to Berlin and temporarily giving up self-employment to tackle different and exciting life challenges and pathways, Choi did not fail to develop her business idea for Bosque – which shows that entrepreneurship might still be a too difficult pathway – one, which requires a lot of sacrifice, time, patience and the will to risk some of the comfort of other forms of employment.
But – what does this say about Germany’s support for black founders? Well. It says that there is a need to improve! When entrepreneurship is overall still on the pathway towards becoming a more safe and stable alternative to employment through a third-party, then it has to be considered how black founders and other minority groups can more actively be supported. With intersectionality having arisen as a theme in politics, especially since the murder of George Floyd and the upstream of the Black Lives Matter movement, it needs to be taken to a new level in Germany! To illustrate this fact, let’s give you a few insights from the ‘2022 Sangano Black Business Hub Survey Report’, which the Sangano Black Business Hub (SBBH) published in February of this year. Entrepreneurs from Africa and/or with African descent in Germany are still struggling – the survey, which was carried out in December 2021 found that most entrepreneurs (73,5%/ 44 interviewees) did not receive any support when starting up their business. Most founders did not employ anyone or more than one team member, whereas 37,1% had between 3-5 employees.
The above seems particularly striking considering that the ‘Migrant Founders Monitor 2021’, which is annually published as a joint effort between the Bundesverband Deutsche Start-ups e.V. and the Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung, found that at least 17,9% of founders, who were not born in Germany, had more than 11 employees. Whereas findings of the Migrant Founders Monitor cannot directly be compared with the research of the Sangano Business Hub – for instance, because the SBBH had a much smaller sample population than the Migrant Founders Monitor (SBH: 44/ MFM: 1,946), they indicate that there is a need to do further research to understand the hurdles which black founders are facing in Germany at national and regional levels. What we can currently witness is in fact a gap in academic research about the needs of entrepreneurs and, especially, entrepreneurs with a migrational background. What often happens, including with regard to the Migrant Founders Monitor, is that migrant entrepreneurs are understood as belonging in the same ‘category’ – even if an intersectional investigation about their individual circumstances might be more insightful.
The latter, in fact, underlines the relevance of the work of the SBBH and it also somewhat leads to the question – can we only contribute relevant research, if we are (at least in some ways) part of a specific (sub-)community? Whereas the answer here may neither be yes or no, it is clear that research without a participatory, bottom-up approach cannot hold, when it comes to understanding the needs of a specific group. One of the biggest hurdles, which founders in the SBBH Survey Report mentioned, was securing funding. For the latter reason it has to be highlighted that Google’s recent effort to support black founders in Europe through the Black Founders Fund marks an overdue and noteworthy step! Certainly – Germany has also taken such steps. As the SBBH Survey Report mentioned, “[o]rganizations such as ADAN e.V., Black in Tech, Afrika-Haus Berlin and SBBH are making strides in connecting different Black and diaspora owned businesses and entrepreneurs”. Find out more about Black in Tech below!
Black In Tech: Intersectional Analyses Inform Community-Building
As emphasized above, Black in Tech was highlighted by the SBBH to deploy a progressive and proactive approach towards more effective networking between black and diaspora owned start-ups and founders. As Black in Tech reveals on its website, it sees itself as a “[c]ommunity for the underrepresented based in Berlin” and chose the mission to “create a community and support system for black developers and black professionals in tech”. With black founders facing a lack of representation in this field, the establishment of the Black in Tech community was certainly informed by an intersectional gap analysis and the drill to support the huge ambitions of black founders!
Founded by Kave Bulambo, who is also the founder of TalentDiverse EU, MyCareerPath, an Expert Jury Member at the EU Prize for Women Innovators and Director of Talent Acquisition and Diversity & Inclusion EMEA at SmartRecruiters, the Black in Tech community is truly led by an inspiring, tech, diversion and inclusion expert and business woman. Teaming up with Emmanuel Acquah, Co-Founder of Black in Tech, LoIGH and Engineering Manager at Solarisbank AG, Black in Tech is truly engaged to also demonstrate inclusion and diversity within its initiative. In addition, the fact that both founders are still working proves – that they are representative of their community. As the SBBH Survey Report found, quite some founders from Africa or with African descent in Germany “are employed by another organization while starting an independent business consultancy (45,7%) [, m]eanwhile 42.9% are exclusively self-employed business owners”.
The latter fact combined with the knowledge that most African founders wish for a start-up challenge, which actually aligns with their expertise, knowledge and capacities, proves that the strategy of Black in Tech is an excellent one! Through the creation of communities in specific sectors, it can actually be guaranteed that founders are kicked into the field of their expertise. However, only expansion prospects and, for this reason, sufficient investments into their ideas, products and services – can probably assure that black founders take the lead and do not stay the ‘Jack of all trades’, unless they chose to. What SMEs, international businesses and local municipalities might still have to address better is – that the entire start-up ecosystem lastly is nothing but a workplace. However, the working conditions in this workplace are not determined by just one employer or stakeholder – they are determined by all of the latter organizations and further venture capital firms and investors and, at the broader level, also by policies at various levels.
This being said, in such a workplace it becomes easy for all the different stakeholders to avoid accountability with regard to effective networking, the distribution of tasks – all in an effort to protect workers! Black in Tech and similar communities seek to avoid that not only diversity and inclusion, but also talent, expertise and business opportunities, drift away. What does your workplace provide? A sabbatical and incentives to learn and grow? For founders these often remain luxuries, despite that they also often work overtime hours just to get started. What do you think – what initiatives do we still need to change this sad reality? If you have an idea and want to be courageous to pitch us your business idea – do not hesitate and spread the word about any initiatives that seem innovative! To Kave Bulambo and Emmanual Acquah, congrats on the great and inspiring work!
If you are an entrepreneur, a start-up or a SME in Germany or Africa with the drill to relocate and contribute to diversity and inclusion – do not wait and contact us today! Our team will competently support you with a wide range of legal, administrative and business matters, especially on-call and on-demand – from anywhere in the world! Our support starts with providing help on immigration and relocation matters, but it does not stop there – taxes, tech, intellectual property and much more is all part of our expertise and services! We are specialized in supporting businesses between Germany and Africa, but we also have broad knowledge across various African jurisdictions. Further questions? Don’t hesitate asking!