Founder interview – excerpt from our book Startup Migrants

Mohamed Jimale

In our book “Startup Migrants” we tell the story of Mohamed Jimale. He grew up in Somalia as a nomad. After living to study in India and Qatar, he moved to Sweden, where he applied for asylum. Here is an excerpt from his story:

“In 2010, [Mohamed] moved to Sweden and applied for asylum. The whole asylum process took less than two months because of the precarious situation in Somalia. However, it was when he was granted asylum that the difficulties began. ‘Swedish authorities don’t have any idea of how to integrate refugees. There is an expectation that the government will take care of integration, but it is, in fact, the Somali community who helped me to find an apartment and set up my new life. (…)

In the beginning, Mohamed applied for many jobs but struggled to land an interview. He decided to think positive and created a blog in Somalian language. It eventually reached 80 per cent of the Somalian population in Sweden. ‘I became the one who was helping other Somalis with their practical challenges’ he explains. ‘(…) At one point, he had over 50 000 readers every month. One day, the Swedish government called him. They had a problem. ‘The public sector in Sweden was struggling to get in touch with the Somali community, so they hired me as a consultant and used my blog to spread information on how to apply for jobs, how to start a business, how to pay taxes and so on. (…) In dealing with the government, Mohamed had to set up his first company. ‘As an immigrant founder, even if your company fails, it will still give you a network and help you to get a job later.

He sold his blog, which is still an essential source of information for the Somali community. (…) In 2016, just as he was pondering what to do next, a massive drought in Somalia pushed many nomads away from rural areas into the cities. ‘This disaster touched me personally. I used to be a nomad myself, and now my people, even my relatives, they all were suffering. How could I contribute from where I was?’ Mohamed explains (…) he wanted to do something in the technology sector with a focus on sustainability. Perhaps he could start a virtual farm?

Starting a business in Somalia is not that hard if you have the resources, so Mohamed made some calls to his cousins and asked them to buy livestock like goats and take pictures of them. With the pictures, he created a mock-up design for an app and a simple landing page where people could sign up and buy a goat in Somalia. The idea was that the owner could then follow the life of that goat, but nomads would take care of it, sell the goat milk and give the owner a percentage of the revenue. ‘I was not sure how to convince someone to join me, but I was invited to Stockholm tech meetup, the main hub of the community, and was challenged to present my idea on the main stage. The next day I got 50 000 euros worth of orders. (…) Since then, we have more people from all over the world investing.’

If you are interested in more stories, you can purchase the book “Startup Migrants on”

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