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Meet Valentina Primo, the Journalist-Turned-Entrepreneur Fighting for a Diverse Startup Ecosystem

The Startups Without Borders founder sits down with Startup Scene’s Leena ElDeeb to tell her about her story with the migrant entrepreneurs’ ecosystem.

This is the second time I write about Valentina Primo. The first time was for my graduation project; a travel magazine. Having "her life in a suitcase," Valentina was always set to new adventures, to unlock new stories. The first time I met her in person was during a job interview at the boardroom of MO4 Network. It was the job interview that eventually led me to become the Managing Editor of Startup Scene, after months of mentorship and guidance. 

Before she left her position as the founding Editor-in-Chief of this very online magazine, Primo was inspired by the stories she told about entrepreneurs and took it as a mission to challenge the narrative the west told about the Middle East. This slowly developed into her social enterprise, Startups Without Borders, an ecosystem enabler, connecting migrant entrepreneurs with resources, funding, and community to help them survive and thrive away from home.

Primo’s adolescence was surrounded by a narrative that depicted the Middle East and the Arab World as a war zone. “Growing up as I was going to high school, 9/11 was a moment that marked a turning point. From that moment on, there was a very clear narrative that spoke about the Middle East as a war zone, as an area where people have a mindset that is prone to violence, a religion that is prone to violence, this whole clash of civilisations discourse,” Primo tells Startup Scene.

Moving to Egypt was a decision driven by curiosity. When she landed a job at Cairo Scene, stories that radiated positivity began to unfold one after the other positive stories of Egypt, and when Startup Scene emerged as an independent domain, Primo dove into a sea of stories uncovered.

“Startups Without Borders was born out of the hundreds of interviews I did with entrepreneurs in the Middle East, because through these interviews, they got me in touch with refugee entrepreneurs and migrant entrepreneurs.”

Primo’s startup evolved from a platform that told the stories of migrant entrepreneurship into an ecosystem enabler that hosts networking events, and now even a summit. “We started telling stories and we realised that creating events was fundamental, because access to network is super important for a person that has moved to a new country,” Primo explains.

More often than not, registering a company in a foreign land is not possible. Here, events become critical. “It’s very important that we build this network where they can find co-founders that are local, that are from the countries where they are, and they can together register their companies.”

Since the first day of becoming a full-time entrepreneur, the idea of a Startups Without Borders Summit was there. Taking place in the American University in Cairo, the Startups Without Borders Summit is kicking off between November 8th and 9th to discuss the most pressing issues about starting a business in a foreign land. From fin-tech to arts and crafts, Startups Without Borders Summit will be the biggest summit catered for migrant entrepreneurs.   

“Refugees have a higher entrepreneurial rate than local entrepreneurs. That is why there is a huge conversation today about refugee lens investment, with a specific focus on refugee entrepreneurs. Because the impact of that kind of investment is huge. They are more prone to risk taking because basically their journey as a refugee or as a migrant was an entrepreneurial endeavor.”

You can purchase your tickets here


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