Refugees Forward raises €250K for incubator programs in 2019

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 Refugees Forward has completed the closing of its first fundraising round for 2019 programs, allowing the organization to support 60 entrepreneurs with a refugee background in its incubator in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

‘We are very happy with the continued trust of our previous sponsors Oranje Fonds, Instituut Gak, Fundatie van den Santheuvel Sobbe and Dioraphte as well as the confidence of the Municipality of Rotterdam through its Citylab010 innovation subsidy. Their support allows us to further improve our programs, expand our team and to excite new partners to join our network. This shows a lot of trust and confidence both in the potential of our entrepreneurs and of our organization’. 

Diederick van der Wijk, managing director at RF:

What is RF? 

Refugees Forward is a business incubator for ambitious entrepreneurs with a refugee background, founded in 2017 by Van der Wijk and Hwan. In February ’19 RF will launch two 4-month programs for 30 entrepreneurs in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Entrepreneurs receive training, coaching by experienced entrepreneurs, support of university students and access to a network of companies and investors. The program is supported by entrepreneurship hubs like ACE Incubator, Team Academy, Cambridge Innovation Center, ECE and companies such as Mazars, DLA Piper, Linklaters, Dentons, Uber and Deloitte. 

Refugees Forward Team

Refugees Forward team

Previous results 

So far Refugees Forward has helped 12 entrepreneurs to start their business. Together the entrepreneurs have raised over 300.000 euros in seed capital. Businesses range from real technology startups such as Elanza (platform for freelance nurses and healthcare organizations) to innovative concepts that entrepreneurs bring from their home countries such as Flexik. Entrepreneurs also focus on labour market integration themselves. Mpowerment owner Anas Ragheb just received a first 33.000 euro grant from Instituut Gak for training and coaching truck drivers with a refugee background and Manar Aburshaid is launching voice-driven job search with

For newcomers, by newcomers 

The Refugees Forward incubator in Rotterdam will be managed by Syrian Sari Akminas.

‘I have joined Refugees Forward because I believe this team does a great job in helping entrepreneurs from a different culture and mindset to find their way. There is not only focus on business training and coaching, but also on the soft skills that are required in order to be successful in the Netherlands. I think the program philosophy truly resonates with these entrepreneurs. They feel taken seriously and become aware it is in their power to start a real business here. Refugees Forward gives
that first push in confidence, knowledge, and network that is necessary to succeed.’ 



Refugees Forward expects to close another €100K in subsidies from other philanthropic funds over the course of 2019. In 2020 RF seeks to expand its operations through the opening of a 3rd and 4th branch, become the main institution for refugee entrepreneurship in Western Europe and to support 200 entrepreneurs by the end of 2020. 


Shadi Alhakimi – “Elanza” 

Through his innovative platform Elanza, Shadi connects Dutch nurses to healthcare institutions. By doing so, he and his team increase efficiency in the healthcare sector, improve working hours for nurses and enlarge their profit compared to the current recruitment agency systems. Shadi received an €80.000 seed investment through Refugees Forward, and has now recruited over 30 nurses to register on the platform. Visit to see the beta platform. 

Anas Ragheb – “MPowerment” 

As a former talent developer, Anas decided to certify blue-collar workers with a refugee background through his social enterprise Mpowerment. His current focus is on training truck drivers, who after certification (theory and practice) will be employed for at least a year.

Manar Aburshaid – “Hoooop” 

Former CEO of a company with 200 people in Syria, Manar and his team of 2 people launched the app “Hoooop”, empowering immigrants and illiterate people to find jobs in their region, all by making use of their own language. Through a smart interactive voice and speech app, Manar helps the Dutch government to reduce its spending on social support and enables unemployed blue-collar workers to become an active part of the working population. Manar received a €120.000 investment last year to kick-start the business. 

Event Calendar

10th February 
Kick-off incubator programA’dam  Rent 24, Bos en Lommer –
17th February
  Kick-off incubator program R’dam 
Cambridge Center for Innovation –
24th March 
Interim Pitches A’dam  Rent 24, Bos en Lommer – Amsterdam 
31st March 
Interim Pitches R’dam  Rent 24, Bos en Lommer –
16th June 
Pitch Finale Event  Rent 24, Bos en Lommer –

As part of the program, RF will hold Boost Sundays almost every week during February, March and April, during which newcomer entrepreneurs, student consultants and business coaches all come together to work on the entrepreneurs’ ideas. We also hold workshops on a weekly basis, as well as other events with corporate partners and other parties. Should you be interested in attending an event on any occasion, contact 

For live updates on what RF is up to, follow them on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn