SINGA was a guest at the fifth edition of Change NOW which opened last week at the Grand Palais éphémère in Paris. Guillaume Capelle, co-founder of SINGA, presented our vision of inclusive finance for entrepreneurs from migrant backgrounds, and of finance that serves the inclusion of newcomers…

The war in Ukraine marks a new chapter in the recent history of migration, in addition to the factors that have intensified migration flows for more than 30 years (accelerating global warming and political instability, questioning the intangibility of borders, and growing economic inequalities…). Do you think that we are now able to face them? 

Yes, if we change our way of thinking! First, we need to redefine this “we”: migration is a way for humanity to “cope” with persecutions, conflicts, and the degradation of its environment; “we” have always moved and particularly in phases of climatic and social upheaval.

In settlement societies, a “we” is also on the move to welcome, meet, transmit, learn and co-construct with newcomers. So a new “we” is forged in the encounter. It is a citizen us, interactive and turned towards the future.

It is not a conceptual “we,” a fixed national identity, at a distance from the “migratory flows” but a very real “we” that requires continuous work. The problem today is that these efforts are not financially valued. One does not buy a house by showing adaptation when arriving or hospitality when welcoming. In fact, the opposite is true.

By investing in the inclusion of migrants in Europe, I also want to contribute to a paradigm shift in wealth creation: our societies need to become rich by preserving the living and creating the commons.

In the United States, 16% of patents are filed by foreigners and 40% of large companies were founded by an immigrant or his/her children (including Apple, Google, eBay or Tesla). Why do we still perceive these profiles as “at-risk”?

The American figures must be put into perspective. Social mobility is not as obvious as it seems. If all is well for a South African student, like Elon Musk, it remains more complicated for a Venezuelan refugee or an immigrant from outside the OECD, especially if he is a woman or an ethnic minority.

But Europe does have a job to do! If we observe that migrants have a strong propensity to undertake, even to innovate (they register a lot of patents in the Netherlands and in Germany), they still do not appear on the investment map.

The industry is reluctant to invest in projects led by foreigners because it puts migrant founders through the same risk matrix as others. Yet, they are different in many ways: they face public and private administrations, they learn a new language and cultural codes, they build their local network from scratch, their legitimacy (their unrecognized degree) is constantly challenged, and they lack initial financial capital.

On the flip side, many migrant entrepreneurs are resilient. They are not afraid to take risks. They bridge multiple cultures. They address a larger market. They know how to navigate complexity. They learn humility and know how to manage with tight budgets.

SINGA is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and seems to be drawing from its learning a new project. Can you tell us about the investment fund you are creating and why you think it is essential to meet the challenges of tomorrow? 

I want to create the first European fund dedicated to migrant entrepreneurs. Why do you want to do this? Because finance must be at the service of the greatest challenges of this century. According to the Refugee Investment Network, investing in an inclusive way means meeting 13 of the 17 sustainable development goals. Studies by the Boston Consulting Group and the OECD show that it is also a source of innovation and strong job creation.

Finally, I believe that to ensure a just transition, we need more diversity among entrepreneurs who have access to investment. This will strengthen the voice of underrepresented communities, revealing new role models that will inspire their generation.

We’re going to need all the talent available to innovate in what promises to be a historic decade. I believe I can help Europe build the capacity to identify and invest in new talent. To do this, we need a fund to take the lead on investments that no one else would attempt.

What are the next steps in launching this project?

It’s still a little early to reveal everything. We’ll have to wait until the fall for the big announcements, but we’re very excited about the latest developments: great appointments with LPs and key partnerships being formed.

We are also in the process of building an investment team and a “technical support” team that will give our entrepreneurs an “unfair advantage”. In addition to the investment, they will receive support to solve their legal issues, develop their teams, advance their products, measure their impact, and find their place in the markets.

The selection of the project at ChangeNOW, along with 15 other great Impact Funds, is the other good news of May. A great reward for the work done by the whole team and our “advisors” who work behind the scenes but whom I will soon have the pleasure to introduce to you!

Interview by Maëlle Mezaber, Communication Manager – SINGA France