Five One Labs
What : Five One Labs is a startup incubator for displaced and conflict-affected entrepreneurs in the Middle East.
Where : Kurdistan Region of Iraq
Since When : 2017
For Whom : Highly-skilled refugee, displaced and local entrepreneurs who want to launch scalable businesses
The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) is home to 250,000 Syrian refugees and over one million internally displaced Iraqis. Many suffer from a lack of opportunities, are underemployed or forced into the informal sector due to legal limitations, have limited job opportunities, lack access to networks or capital, or face workplace bias. In the KRI, the main group of refugees who are not employed are those with university degrees, as skilled positions are subject to the most bias or skills mismatch. These challenges prevent displaced individuals from re-starting their lives with dignity.
Five One Labs is a startup incubator in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq that provides displaced and conflicted-affected entrepreneurs with the skills and support to launch scalable, innovative businesses. By stimulating job creation, our incubator creates a meaningful solution to an urgent need of displaced people. It enables entrepreneurs, especially ones who are well-educated and skilled but have difficulty finding employment, to create sustainable livelihoods in their new communities. By including entrepreneurs from all backgrounds in our programs, we are also promoting social cohesion and unity in the community.
Our three-month, full-time incubator provides the resources necessary to take the skills and creativity of refugees and turn their ideas into scalable startups. We provide bespoke business, creativity and leadership trainings, while one-on-one business advisory and mentorship from business leaders help them receive guidance they need. Access to the community in our coworking space ensures that our entrepreneurs are encouraged by like-minded individuals, and giving our entrepreneurs the opportunity to compete for seed funding, which is otherwise not easily available, ensures they have financial support to launch.
The impact on the life of refugees
Our incubator generates impact in three ways: boosting local economies through job creation and refugee integration; developing entrepreneurial ecosystems to make it easier to start businesses; and creating inclusive cohorts of refugees and locals to combat tension and distrust between communities. We strongly believe in the benefits of integrating refugees into the local economy so they can have sustainable livelihoods and live with dignity. While refugees can often be seen by host communities as burdens, encouraging entrepreneurship shows that refugees, with their skills, background, and resilience, can be an economic opportunity.
We have developed a monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning system to track the success of the incubated businesses; the efficacy of our training program; the impact of mentorship relationships over time; and the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Our team is made up of four full-time staff members who come from diverse backgrounds that together make Five One a success. Their skills include humanitarian innovation, design thinking, entrepreneurship, business advisory, cross-cultural facilitation and political analysis. Additionally, our team of local interns and volunteers also ensures that we reach as many people in the community as possible with all of our programs. They are critical part of our efforts to gather feedback and suggestions from the community that we work in.
Our Team includes :
Alice Bosley, Co-Founder and Executive Director
Patricia Letayf, Co-Founder and Director of Operations
Astara Maiure, Manager of Business Development and Training
Ravin Burhan, Entrepreneurship Training and Community Associate
We have reached more than 1000 entrepreneurs since launching in Iraq in summer 2017. We have completed one iteration of our incubator cohort with seven innovative startups, and are now working with 15 entrepreneurs in our second cohort.
We have sought to ensure that our entrepreneurship trainings reach individuals of all skills and backgrounds, and we have done so most recently through our Entrepreneurship for All program, which included two months of English, Arabic and Kurdish trainings both online and in-person across cities and refugee communities in the Kurdistan Region.
As part of our efforts to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem, in October 2018 we opened a coworking space – The Lab:Suli – and hosted a delegation of 15 international investors to showcase local startups and facilitate exchange of best practices. The Lab is a dedicated space for community-building, entrepreneurship, innovation and technology.
Our future goals, thanks to your donations
Over the coming months, Five One Labs will expand the depth and breadth of our impact by reaching more founders, diversifying our programs and working with more ecosystem partners. We plan to duplicate our efforts in a second city and run two simultaneous incubators in the spring of 2018. We will use the donated funds to help finance this expansion.
Much of the funding raised will go directly to the entrepreneurs. In each incubator cohort, we award $30,000 in seed funding in the form of grants, while during the three-month program, all entrepreneurs receive monthly stipends to support them they work full-time on launching their businesses. Through these cohorts, we will be able to work with 30 startups from Syria and Iraq.
We will also launch a female founders program to provide additional support, mentorship and funding to women entrepreneurs at all stages -- ranging from women with startup ideas to those growing their businesses.
To learn more about Five One Labs, visit our website fiveonelabs.org. You can also follow us on social media:
- Facebook: facebook.com/fiveonelabs
- Twitter: @fiveonelabs
- Instagram: @fiveonelabs