Setting Ideas in Motion

A new business incubator that focuses on newcomer entrepreneurs and their needs.

by Nadia Boegli, March 22, 2017

While there are several business incubators in Berlin, Ideas in Motion focuses on newcomer entrepreneurs and their business ideas. In our interview, Suhayl Chettih​ from SINGA Deutschland and Re:Start talks about the necessity of Ideas in Motion and what co-creation, communication and collaboration​ have to do with it.

Please tell us about Ideas in Motion.

Ideas in Motion is the first business incubator in Berlin that focuses specifically on the needs of newcomer entrepreneurs. The incubator was co-created through a human-centered design process with newcomer entrepreneurs to identify their key challenges and design a program that would best enable their success. It is a 5-month long program that includes 5 key services: Concept & Business Model Design, the Business Academy, Professional Mentoring, Expert Network & Start-up Community, and German Legal & Funding Advice. These services are delivered through 2-3 weekly workshops that we hold with the participants, or through 1-1 meetups or other events.

We are currently running our pilot round, which includes 8 entrepreneurs with ideas varying from an online University offering blended learning to an urban fashion label. The first phase of the program is called the Concept phase, where they innovate, refine their ideas, and finalize a business model. Then they enter the Execution phase, where the focus is on learning business critical skills and starting operations.

What was your motivation to start Ideas in Motion and who are you addressing with the program?

I think Project Re:Start and SINGA Deutschland somehow came from different angles when they decided to collaborate on Ideas in Motion. For Sophia, for example, co-founder of Project Re:Start, 2015 was somehow a „moment of truth“. After having worked for many years abroad in humanitarian aid and development cooperation, she wanted to have an impact here in Germany, right in front of her own door. As a consequence, she founded Project Re:Start and over the course of a year worked together with newcomer entrepreneurs to learn and find the best approach to serve newcomer entrepreneur’s specific needs when founding in Germany. For others from the team, like Ghayth, who has an academic background in business administration, the idea developed very „bottom-up“ based on his direct exposure to other newcomers who were struggling to find support for their project or business ideas.

The program we have designed now is targeted at newcomers with a (more or less) secure legal status who have a business idea and are committed to dedicate at least 15-20 hours a week to their project. However, we also want to target the broader start-up community - we believe that the challenges many newcomers face when founding are particularly difficult - but many Germans or newcomers with a more privileged status are also struggling with similar challenges when founding. We believe that our program will also hold a number of interesting insights for the overall start-up ecosystem - how can we, together, improve the conditions for founders seeking to innovate our economy? This question lies at the core of our engagement.

What differentiates Ideas in Motion from other incubators? 

Ideas in Motion is unique in many ways, but I think the key differentiating factors are the “3 Cs” – co-creation, communication, and collaboration.

Co-creation refers to how the program was designed and really our general working style in the Ideas in Motion team. Newcomer entrepreneurs were part of the process from the start, and we very much saw it as something we were creating together, rather than something that we built on our own and then put out there to serve others.

Communication refers to our transcultural communication approach, which is to view cultures not as static but rather to recognize the similarities and differences of the cultural experience of each individual. This is why we choose to use the word newcomer – it is not about being PC and replacing the word “refugee” with “newcomer”, but to recognize the experience and agency of each person and reframe the migration discussion.

The final C is collaboration, as this program is born of a collaboration between Project Re:Start and SINGA Deutschland, and really the program only exists because of a collaborative effort between locals and newcomers.

The pilot already started, how many applications did you receive and how many made it into the finals?

We received nearly 30 applications, so it was quite difficult to choose the final set of entrepreneurs. We held interviews to determine the final list, and developed criteria based on the strength of the candidate and the strength of his/her idea in order to reach a fair decision together.

Could you already tell us bit about the newcomers?

Our entrepreneurs are an extremely driven group, and it’s been incredible seeing just how hungry for knowledge and dedicated they are. Invariably, after every workshop, the first question is about whether they can have all of workshop materials for review, and I often see them studying the coursework together, helping each other find out the best way to apply it to their project.

The variety in the ideas is also something quite special. I won’t give away all of the ideas here now – you’ll have to watch our crowdfunding campaign video to know more!

You are starting your crowdfunding campaign soon, what will you use the money for?

Indeed, we are pretty excited to finally kick-off our first crowdfunding campaign on March 21! The money we collect will be used to offer our participants top notch workshops that range from product development, branding to pitch trainings with experienced trainers. Also, the money will help us to organize regular sessions between our participants and their mentors. Last but not least, we want to use to money to share our participant’s story with a broader audience: their experience, their ideas and how they progress in the program. We strongly believe that telling these stories is key to making people realize what a great potential newcomer entrepreneurs are for our economy and our society. 

How else can our community support you?

So the first and most obvious way is to contribute to our Crowdfunding campaign, and to follow and share us on social media. However, there are many other ways to get involved, depending on your background and expertise. Our entrepreneurs are constantly in need of professional services, so we’ve created for them an “Expert Network” of professionals willing to provide their services pro-bono. This could be in marketing, pitching, making presentations, accounting, tax – if there is anything that you have professional experience in and are willing to provide some pro-bono time to a newcomer entrepreneur, you should sign up to the Expert Network through our website at http://ideasinmotion.de/get-involved/

We are also always looking for volunteers who can help on a consistent basis – we are growing very rapidly and honestly there’s been so much to do, that there are always interesting things happening and there’s always room for another set of hands!

What are your plans for the future? How often are you looking for applications?

We are only getting started! (laughing) Our first pilot that started on March 1 will run until July 31. The pilot is our best opportunity to really test our assumptions and gain as many insights as possible on our participants, the way we collaborate with our partners and how we can best communicate our story to the broader public. Based on the learning we make, we are planning the next cycle with a new group of promising entrepreneurs in Fall 2017.

What makes you a Changer? 

We see ourselves as enablers that serve the Changers of tomorrow! Our program provides people who have the drive and inspiration to change their own situation with all the support they need - and we believe that ultimately it will be them, our entrepreneurs, who will change not only the business ecosystem with their ideas but by doing so will also have an impact on the general perceptions that people have towards newcomers.