Career lift: the ReDi School of Digital Integration

Business plans, elevator pitches, scalability, venture capital—terms like these have long been part of daily life for many Berliners. Over 620 startups have made Berlin Europe’s founder center. The ReDi School of Digital Integration brings refugees together with the tech industry.

For one thing, the money is attractive: With annual investments of more than €2 billion, Berlin already outstripped London in 2015. On the other hand, the special Berlin freedom is attractive: It draws founders from all over the world to the German capital, because the metropolis offers them optimal conditions. Many highly qualified people live in Berlin and real estate in all locations is still affordable. The science and research landscape of the city enjoys an excellent reputation. And Berlin combines quality and productivity at comparatively low costs. Good ideas can take off here with little resources.

Growing opportunities from crises

One of the many great ideas that grew in the city is the ReDi School of Digital Integration. A non-profit startup that understands crisis to be an opportunity and integration not as a problem, but rather as a philosophy. Since its founding in February 2016, the ReDi School in Berlin-Mitte has proved that challenge is only a question of perspective. Taking in a million refugees is a tremendous political and social task for a country like Germany, but at the same time an immense enrichment. For example, for the IT industry, which is looking for qualified specialists across Europe for more than 750,000 job vacancies.

The ReDi School connects the new Berliners with the local startup and tech community. A concept that even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was interested in on his visit to Berlin in February 2016. “The chance to meet students from Syria was one of the highlights of my trip to Germany. I was very impressed with their courage and determination,” said Zuckerberg after his brief visit.

Berlin’s special sense of community

Interestingly, Facebook helped give birth to the ReDI School, as co-founder Anne Kjaer Riechert tells:  “I posted my idea on Facebook back then—and countless people responded that they wanted to help. That was my Berlin startup moment. This ‘community spirit,’ doing something together, I like that about Berlin.”

Today, refugees at the ReDI School learn programming in multi-month courses. There, they work directly with the Berlin tech industry. That is digital integration with tremendous success: Almost half of the ReDI-School graduates are already working in paid internships or have permanent positions with startups and technology companies in Berlin. 20 percent of the students now attend a university and one in ten graduates has even created a startup.

The ReDI School helps give birth to startups

This is how new companies such as “Let’s integrate” emerged: an app that brings new Berliners and locals together. „Bureaucrazy“ simplifies bureaucratic processes for citizens and administration. And the catering service “Jasmine” allows refugee women who can neither read nor write earn a living by cooking. The ReDI School helped all of these startups to launch.

The ReDI School motivated me to get back on my feet and to try to start over here. (Gaith Zamrik, ReDi School graduate)

“You don’t just learn coding at the ReDI School. The atmosphere is important too. After I arrived in Berlin I felt empty, lost, and like I didn’t have a plan. The ReDI School motivated me to get back on my feet and to try to start over here,” explains Gaith Zamrik, ReDI alumnus and co-founder of “Bureaucrazy.” His company’s idea even got Angela Merkel’s attention when she visited the ReDI School in April 2017. It’s of particular importance that people quickly get the chance to “use and expand their skills after their arrival in Germany,” the Federal Chancellor said.

Berlin gives room to good ideas

In the meantime, more than 200 refugees have completed coding courses or programming workshops at the ReDI School. The start-up had to look around for larger spaces four times already because of its rapid growth. They were able to find it because Berlin still offers these free spaces. And because the community that grew up around the startup naturally goes along with it when things get tight.

“I think that there are so many opportunities in Berlin because it’s affordable. That’s why young people are coming here with their new ideas. You have a bit more time here than in other big cities and still have the same possibilities. That makes a big difference,” Anne Kjaer Riechert says, explaining Berlin’s advantages for startups.

The ReDI School of Digital Integration is one of the many successful examples from the local founder-scene, which earned Berlin the nickname “the more humane Silicon Valley” in the industry.

Today, 20 percent of the students attend a university and one in ten graduates has even created startups themselves.

Photos ©ReDi School

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