Startup Boat has been nothing short of an extraordinary opportunity for many refugee entrepreneurs, in addition to the regions of the world where the resources provided by Startup Boat have reached. This non-profit organization has provided medical, psychosocial, and educational supplies and resources to areas in need – crisis-stricken regions throughout Europe and Africa, among others.
Startup Boat Philippines, 2017
Startup Boat works in the form of think tanks, where groups of like-minded individuals including investors, local experts, and entrepreneurs come together to discuss and examine the issues that migrants face. Innovators within varying fields present their tech-based solutions, typically as prototypes, that are aimed to assist local challenges for high-migration areas. Several solutions have been grown and developed into full-blown ventures in fields such as healthcare, fin-tech, connectivity, crisis management, and more that have been utilized by more than 9 million people and counting.
While Startup Boat and all it stands for are incredibly beautiful from an innovation and networking perspective, someone had to be the one to create it. This is where we talk about Paula Schwarz, the woman behind [and in front of] the curtain. Paula had grown up around startups from a young age, as her father invested in startups. Unfortunately, throughout her childhood she was not allowed to travel freely with different groups of people, so her exposure was limited.
She was raised in a secluded manner, was given very little access to her personal identification documents, and unbeknownst to her, transferred her right to accept financial payments, own property, and participate in public gatherings. These overtly restrictive mandates impacted Paula as she had grown, for she wanted to explore and reach as many people as possible. She longed to enable refugees to think, live and create freely in the best interest of both society and themselves while learning to be in charge of their own lives because it was rightfully theirs.
To gain the knowledge necessary to expand into the areas Paula wanted to explore, she earned a degree in Political Science, became a trainee in Investment Management, earned a Master’s degree, and became a certified financial advisor for application processes. From 2008 to 2012 Paula jumped from Eyb & Wolowitz Capital Assets to Human Rights Watch to the Berlinische Galerie Museum, working in different positions ranging from communications to supervision and event coordination.
From 2012 to 2014, Paula took the knowledge and experience that she built over the past several years and tried to get a tech-based startup off the ground. While this startup never took off, she claimed it was a learning experience and it only helped her down the line. Following this attempt, she joined the AMPION Venture Bus in East Africa, a mobile think-tank carrying a group of international tech entrepreneurs. On this venture bus, there was a competition of what group could come up with the best tech-based solution to aid a problem and Paula’s group won.
Following this victorious experience, Startup Boat was brought to fruition in 2015, where the initiative was dedicated to examining the issues of migrants and providing aid. The efforts continue with funding and growing over time, and there is no sign of stopping here.
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