Refugees Forward is back with its second Start-Up Weekend for 2018. This time the event is being held in Rotterdam as a precursor to the incubator that will take place in the city in 2019. The Start-Up Weekend will be held between 23rd and 25th November with three days packed with workshops on pitching ideas and creating a business. The weekend also includes coaching by successful entrepreneurs and corporates along with assistance by students.

The Start-Up Weekend is being held at the Erasmus Centre of Entrepreneurship with 16 newcomers in attendance who have been handpicked given their business idea, enthusiasm, drive, and the research they have conducted thus far. Over the last three months, the Refugees Forward team has interviewed 40 potential entrepreneurs who have come from around the Rotterdam area to put forward their ideas. The process was long and conducted with dexterity to ensure that the final pool of newcomers reflects the core values and spirit of entrepreneurship. As diverse as our entrepreneurs are, their ideas are equally different. While gravitating towards the hospitality business with cafes and restaurants, as well as engaging in international trade is quite natural for newcomers, innovative ideas that will be polished into business plans over the weekend include developing hearing aid devices for sportspersons, an online Arabic grocery store, and export of construction devices to rebuild Syria among others.

The Start-Up Weekend Program


The roster of the weekend also includes 15 mentors and coaches. They will come on board to assist newcomer entrepreneurs over the three days to flesh out their ideas and bring them to life. These mentors are an important part of the entire process. Not only do they bring years of experiences with them, but they also contribute structure and formality to these ideas. These mentors also recognise that the thrill of entrepreneurship is new but is passing, and the reality of the work especially done behind-the-scenes is vastly unseen. This is an important piece of education that will be of value to newcomers. Our mentors come from various industries and have storied professional experiences making the program unique.

Refugees Forward has also invited 20 students from Erasmus University to assist newcomers over the weekend. These students are studying Economics, International Management and Sustainability among other subjects and are in prime position to contribute their classroom learning to bring to life the business ideas of the entrepreneurs. It is also a win-win situation for students who gain a frontline view of business creation while gaining a sense of empathy towards the layers of difficulties newcomers face while creating ventures of their own.


At Refugees Forward, this is the start of the season of exciting creation; of businesses, ideas, professional relationship, and most importantly of entrepreneurs.


The Start-Up Weekend is packed with workshops on lean business methodology, developing a customer base, earning models, and pitching ideas successfully. These workshops have been created after having anticipated the requirements and questions newcomers may have. Thorough research has been put in to bring forward useful tools that are practical and easy to use for newcomers who are building the blueprint of their businesses over the weekend.

The highlight of the program is the grand conclusion where entrepreneurs will be given an opportunity to pitch their final ideas that have been rigorously polished over the weekend for a prize. A jury has been instituted for the final pitches and is intended to be an incentive for the newcomers to put their best foot forward and ensure their ideas have received the strongest treatment possible in an open forum. This particular event is open to the public and will take place at 3:30 pm at the Erasmus Centre of Entrepreneurship.

The Start-Up Weekend in November paves the way for the incubator programs that are going to be held in Amsterdam and Rotterdam in 2019. At Refugees Forward, this is the start of the season of exciting creation; of businesses, ideas, professional relationship, and most importantly of entrepreneurs.