10 Startups Helping Refugees

Two people holding hands.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are more than 26.4 million refugees globally—half of whom are under the age of 18. Sadly, these individuals often suffer from difficult living conditions and little legal protection. But at the same time, a lot is being done about it. From clothing and lights to tech and career opportunities, this is how some startups are stepping up to help the world’s most vulnerable individuals.

Disclaimer: With so many exciting startups launching and growing worldwide, we aren’t able to cover them all. Furthermore, the startups that are listed below are not officially ranked and are listed in no particular order.

Companies Supporting Refugees

1. Jobs4Refugees

Location: Berlin, Germany

Funding: Unknown

A job is a means for individuals to provide stability for themselves and their families, but finding one can be tricky, even when you have the perfect resume and years of experience. For displaced individuals, it can be nearly impossible. Berlin non-profit Jobs4Refugees addresses the unique challenge of helping refugees find work in their new homes through application training, workshops, finding job openings, and completing the entire application and hiring process. 

2. Notifica by United We Dream

Location: Washington D.C.

Funding: Unknown

Notifica is an app that allows immigrants to create pin-protected text messages to send to friends, family, and lawyers in the case of an emergency. Alerts include the sender’s last known location, making finding them easier for their support network. Furthermore, once the text is sent, all app data is automatically cleared to help protect their privacy. In the US, the service is frequently used by undocumented persons who need to alert their families if they have been captured in an ICE raid or otherwise detained. 

3. Chatterbox

Location: London, United Kingdom
Funding: Pre-Seed, £1.7M

London-based startup Chatterbox is a social enterprise that employs refugees as language tutors for organizations and individuals, both online and in person. This unique opportunity helps displaced people rebuild their lives by using skills they already have while at the same time helping others. The multi-award-winning language platform offers Hindu, Arabic, Korean, Mandarin, and more.

4. Funzi

Location: Espoo, Finland
Funding: Series Unknown, €3.5M

Funzi, the “world’s most accessible learning system,” was initially designed to help refugees in Finland. Based on “funzifying” learning through gamification, the startup’s programs include employment services, information services, and communication and networking skills. They are currently partnered with the UN System, large private sector enterprises, and many NGOs, to deliver free courses to refugees across the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.

5. JustArrived

Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Funding: Seed, $716,900

JustArrived founder Sofi Fridland believes that “enabling talent, whatever corner of the world it comes from, is something positive for society at large.” She founded her company in 2015 as a matchmaking platform that connects new arrivals in Sweden to available job opportunities in the labor market. Because the government provides support for some of their job candidates, JustArrived can offer competitive pricing to clients. The app is currently available in English, Swedish, Farsi, and Arabic, with more languages to be added in the future. 

6. Mygrants

Location: Bologna, Italy
Funding: Seed, $980,000

Italian startup Mygrants provides online educational opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers; their mission is to “positively impact the lives of billions of people, wherever they may be.” The innovative platform provides information on refugees’ rights and duties and the asylum system, training in in-demand skills and the opportunity to turn entrepreneurial ideas into a business. In addition, 8,500 quiz modules in three languages help reinforce knowledge and skills. 

7. Swobbee

Location: Berlin, Germany
Funding: Series A, €8M

Thomas Duscha, founder of battery swapping startup Swobbee, decided he needed to do something to help refugees after witnessing the Ukrainian crisis up-close during a visit to Poland. Swobbee is now providing mobile energy and Vodafone Gigacubes to ensure that displaced individuals can stay in contact with their loved ones. In addition, Duscha posted on LinkedIn (tagging several fellow Berlin startup founders) asking followers to donate much-needed supplies, including diapers, feminine supplies, batteries, flashlights, and more. 

8. Docyet

Location: Leipzig, Germany
Funding: Seed, €1.8M

Ehealth startup Docyet uses a digital health concierge to help patients in an unknown environment and who speak a foreign language get the best healthcare possible. The chatbot allows users to communicate their needs in their native language, eliminating any confusion, then uses AI to help them find appropriate healthcare options. Docyet provides an easy way for refugees to communicate with doctors across language barriers and find local medical solutions. 

9. SocialBee

Location: Bayern, Germany
Funding: Unknown

Bayern-based socialbee has a two-fold mission: to help refugees start a career and, thus, build a new life and help employers position themselves better through diversity in the workplace. The full-service integration and personnel service uses a temporary employment model to integrate displaced individuals into the job market. Their services include recruiting, training, job prep, language education, and cultural and corporate integration programs. 

10. Moni

Location: London, United Kingdom
Funding: Seed, $1.8 Million

Online payments startup Moni partnered with the Finnish government to replace traditional cash disbursements to refugees with a prepaid debit card. By giving refugees a way to pay bills and get a regular paycheck, the card eliminates the hassle of trying to open a bank account or secure a government ID. Likewise, it gives displaced individuals a convenient way to send money to family and friends at no cost to themselves. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How can my business help refugees?

Any business can help refugees in dozens of ways, including hiring them to work, developing goods and services that refugees need, investing in causes that aid refugees, and being an advocate.

How can companies help advocate for refugees?

Regulatory barriers in many countries prevent refugees from finding work, owning a business, or even opening a bank account. Local companies and startups can often help change these policies by making a business case for the economic inclusion of displaced individuals. 

What’s the difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker?

In the US, the main difference is that a refugee receives refugee status while still outside the country. In contrast, an asylum seeker isn’t granted asylee status until after entering the country or while seeking admission at a port of entry.