Off to a good startup – Tampere focus on migrant entrepreneurship in Rotterdam with CITIES GROW


When Reza Sardari, entrepreneur, arrived in Rotterdam from Iran, he was determined that his migrant background would not be a setback but a market advantage. After all, he had an insight into Iranian business and culture that any Dutch native would be hard pressed to match, and once the sanctions were lifted this was a thirsty market that people were excited about getting into. So he started Iran Telegram, a company that provides business insights and services to small Dutch companies that want to crack the Iranian market.
Visiting Rotterdam as part of EUROCITIES’ project CITIES GROW, helping cities to integrate migrants into their labour market, Tampere city experts are enthusiastic to learn how they can begin to foster such inspiring success stories in a Finnish context. During their visit, they were introduced to a number of the programmes Rotterdam runs to help startups to start up and also stay up, especially with regard to migrant entrepreneurs. The visit was facilitated by Liam Patuzzi from the expert organisation Migration Policy Institute Europe. 
Enterprising measures
Rotterdam, where 50% of residents have migrant backgrounds, does a lot to foster entrepreneurship amongst its people. If you are self-employed and your business runs into trouble, the local officers will assess your viability; should it find potential, it can extend credit of up to €190,000 to get you into recovery mode before crisis sets in.
If your company has done business for at least one and a half years, but you have a low income and cannot pay for commercial consultancy, Rotterdam Zaak is the programme for you – they will put you in touch with students of applied sciences who can provide free financial and commercial services, such as credit and debt management, or drawing up business plans. This mutually beneficial exchange helps boost businesses and gets first hand experience for students with an entrepreneurial streak.
Mentors and motivation
But it’s not just students that Rotterdam has on hand to get businesses going: its ‘Entrepreneur soundboard’ has 300 former entrepreneurs and managers who volunteer to help out newer businesses, with whom they are matched up according to their specific needs. About half of their customers have a migrant background, as do around 5% of their coaches.
Not satisfied to rest on their laurels, Rotterdam are pushing to implement more services for encouraging entrepreneurship. They have even started up a series of information sessions where they explain the basics of entrepreneurial skills and the value of the entrepreneurial mindset to freshly arrived refugees.
Let’s get going!
Inspired by these drives, Tampere expressed the desire to enable their migrant population to excel with a set of similar programmes. In Tampere the migrant population is relatively low, at only 4.5%, but these new contenders are punching above their weight: they already found around 8.3% of all new businesses. For Tampere, the most urgent matter is to remove the roadblocks that prevent willing migrants from stimulating the Finnish economy.
To do so they are committed to reducing the inactive days spent wading through bureaucratic processes to an absolute minimum.  They are going to get moving on implementing similar services in the spirit of those presented in Rotterdam, offering coaching for entrepreneurs who want to start a business, support for fledgling enterprises, and corrective assistance for those small companies that are viable but run into difficulty.
In April 2018 we will have an update for you, when representatives from Rotterdam make their way to Tampere for a mentoring visit to check on progress there and lend a hand in making these aspirations a reality.
For more information on the CITIES GROW project visit the CITIES GROW page.