Coworking Space Dedicated to Migrant Entrepreneurs to Open in London

What do U.S. companies Google, eBay and Brightstar have in common? They were all founded or co-founded by immigrants.

There are many like them, and plenty more founded by the children of immigrants, too, including Apple (Steve Jobs’ father moved to the U.S. from Syria). Furthermore according to the National Foundation for American Policy, 51% of U.S.-based startups valued at $1 billion or more were founded by immigrants, including Uber. Collectively valued at $168 billion, these companies each generate around 760 jobs in the U.S.

It’s clear to see the enormous value that skilled entrepreneurs can bring to a local economy, regardless of where they were born or raised. But setting up a business is tough, and the challenges are further amplified for those lacking the connections, finance and language skills of their native-born counterparts.

That’s why Brazilian-born entrepreneur Rafael dos Santos is opening a coworking space in London dedicated to supporting migrant entrepreneurs.

Based in Whitechapel, mi-HUB is London’s first migrant coworking space providing flexible workspace and accelerator programmes for members. The hub will provide 150 workstations and virtual office services upon its official launch next month.

Culture and community

mi-Hub founder, Rafel Dos Santos

mi-HUB founder, Rafael dos Santos

It’s not exclusive to migrants, and welcomes British entrepreneurs as well as those from other countries. Rafael recognises that a rich and diverse coworking community filled with people of many different skills and backgrounds provides enormous benefits to its members, ranging from local connections and cultural knowledge to ideas and business knowledge.

But mi-HUB isn’t just a coworking space. It’s a movement that started with the Migrant Business Accelerator – a pilot programme held in 2015 that provided 10 migrant entrepreneurs with 16-weeks worth of training and mentorship. This programme evolved into a physical environment for coworking, events, exhibitions and mentorship — all designed to help migrant entrepreneurs start and grow a business in the U.K.

Indeed, last month mi-HUB hosted its first event – Rafael’s own Migrant Business Show – an exhibition and knowledge-sharing event which welcomed 900 people through the doors. Exhibitors from around the world in all fields of work took part in the fair to share their experiences and connections with existing startups and future entrepreneurs.

Rafael himself has first-hand experience of starting and growing a business abroad. He grew up in Santa Catarina, south of Brazil, where his father was a fisherman and his mother a housewife. His family later moved to Santos in Sao Paulo state to enable Rafael and his sisters to receive a better education. At 21, Rafael left a successful career with Microsoft and moved to London, where he scratched a living as a kitchen porter and cleaner before gradually moving into entrepreneurship — a journey that started by managing flat shares in 2003 and grew into a successful housing agency, with a portfolio of 50 properties by 2014.

Rafael is an award-winning self-made entrepreneur who recognises the emotional challenges of setting up a business overseas as well as the operational difficulties – including “a lack of network, lack of knowledge and lack of funding”. He is now dedicated to helping others overcome these challenges by sharing his own experiences as well as providing a coworking platform in which entrepreneurs can collaborate and innovate.

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One million in ten years

In a recent TEDx talk, he cited research claiming that 14% of businesses in the UK are owned by migrants. His ultimate vision is to help one million migrant entrepreneurs over the next ten years, and that journey has already started with mi-HUB’s first client – registered charity The Piot Foundation. Run by Victorine Piot, a French national of Ivorian descent, The Piot Foundation works to improve the livelihoods of skilled migrant workers and their families by providing them with the knowledge they need when relocating to a new country.

Rafael commented, “We are so excited to welcome Piot Foundation to the ‘Home of Migrant Entrepreneurs’ and as the first members of the mi-HUB family. My vision is to help one million migrant entrepreneurs in the next 10 years. We are looking forward to welcoming many more businesses to mi-HUB and growing our global family.”

mi-HUB demonstrates the sheer value that coworking brings to the business community, by giving entrepreneurs a platform in which they can gain the skills, ideas, knowledge, and the confidence to take their ideas to the next level.


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