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SHIFTER

Deqa Abukar:

Fight exclusion through her network

She started her own business as early as 19 years old and today can call herself an entrepreneur, investor and venture capitalist. After the success of the BLING network and the investment competition Shift, Deqa Abukar has now started a VC fund for entrepreneurs who would otherwise not have access to capital.

“I fight exclusion by offering networks and access to mentors and resources. My driving force is my great debt of gratitude.”

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We have arranged a meeting at Bridge, an area in Kista Galleria where local entrepreneurs and retail startups can show and sell their products, free of charge. It’s a test bed where they get the chance to develop their business "in real life".

Deqa is already there, standing in front of a makeup mirror at one of the store's contractors, a makeup company, to fix her hijab. Behind her hang colorful dresses and suits sewn from Ugandan fabrics, and to the right glitter jewelry from Jordan.

“Bridge is an extension of BLING, which Adnan Yousuf and I started in 2014 to try to establish structures that we felt were missing for local entrepreneurs based in Järva,” says Deqa, welcoming us into a conference room further inside the venue.

“We offer free business and innovation advice to people who have a business idea, innovation or the solution to a social problem. We build entrepreneurs, not companies. Many incubators focus on building ideas and businesses. But if the company fails, what happens to the entrepreneur? The idea is to train leaders who in turn train new leaders,” says Deqa, who was awarded both the Selma of the Year and the Stora Journalist prize as Innovator of the Year.

She believes that BLING can be seen as a reaction to entrepreneurial segregation. It’s an attempt to counteract exclusion by offering a network of 300 driven entrepreneurs and access to coaches, experts, mentors and resources.

“We believe in business and entrepreneurship as a force for change and we want everyone to be able to start their own business on equal terms. I myself am proof that it works.”

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"Kista is a unique place"

The fact that both BLING and Bridge were established in Kista is not a coincidence.

“Kista is a unique place,” says Deqa. “Nowhere else in Stockholm is there such a mix of people, which means there is a good opportunity to create platforms in which people can really meet and begin to understand each other.”

Deqa herself grew up in a family where women have been entrepreneurs for generations. She has seen with her own eyes what entrepreneurship can do for an individual. Everything from support to integration. When she came to Sweden as a seven-year-old, it wasn't even a year before her mother had started a business, a shop. Despite the fact that she neither knew the language nor had any knowledge of Swedish banks and loans.

“But she had the drive. She showed me and my nine siblings the way and made sure we found our place in society. She could easily have ended up outside society but through small tools and help from the right people, she has now run a business for twenty years. I owe a great debt of gratitude for the opportunities my mother and society have given me.”

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"Motherhood gives superpower"

During the journey, Deqa became a mother herself, which further strengthened her quest to remedy the structural problems that work against entrepreneurship.

“The goal is for my daughter to be able to dream big and be able to do whatever she wants, regardless of clothing style, appearance and background. My work is not just about making things better for me and you, but for our children and grandchildren.”

Since BLING, Deqa has also started Womenisa, a network for women's development and entrepreneurship; the podcast "Against All Odds"; and Shift, which has the goal to shift the flow of investment from the inner city to areas and groups that are overlooked.

“Of Sweden’s venture capital, barely one percent goes to entrepreneurs with roots in the suburbs. About two percent goes to women. That's why I started Shift together with the tech site Breakit.”

Heavyweights invest

During the summer, Deqa Abukar started her next big project – a venture capital fund (risk capital invested in young companies) totaling SEK 30 million! The fund, which goes by the name BLING Capital, will invest in companies at the very early stage, so-called "pre-seed". The investment can amount to SEK 1 million. The founding teams must consist of people from underrepresented groups, which can be about ethnicity, gender or area of ​​upbringing.

And already a couple of real heavyweights have invested in the fund. Pär-Jörgen Pärson at Northzone and Johan Karlsson, CEO of the property company Slättö, have together invested SEK 15 million.

“Their commitment shows that we have succeeded in changing ideas and expectations about what you can become in the town. This strengthens my vision of going to developing countries in the future and working with entrepreneurship as a method to give people a chance to help themselves. Sweden does a lot when it comes to aid abroad, we must work more long-term to achieve sustainable change. So Sida, get in touch,” smiles Deqa Abukar as she hurries along to a walk-and-talk meeting out in the green.

"My mom works with events and is on stage. She is a kind of rock star”.

Facts: Deqa Abukar

Age:

28

Work as:

Entrepreneur with a background as a politician, journalist and political scientist. Founder of the network BLING and initiator of the investment competition Shift.

Lives:

Raised in Malmö, came to Stockholm as a 19-year-old and now lives in Husby.

Deqa’s five-year-old daughter about her mother:

"My mom works with events and is on stage. She is a kind of rock star”.

Why Kista:

It’s a unique place. Nowhere else in Stockholm is there such a mix of people. Here we can create environments and arenas where people can meet for real and begin to understand each other.

Awards:
Awarded Selma of the Year and won the Great Journalist Award as Innovator of the Year.
On the list of achievements, in addition to BLING, Bridge, Shift:
Womenisa, a network for women's entrepreneurship; the podcast "Mot alla odds", where Deqa meets people who have made an inspiring journey.
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