We are all three immigrants to the UK We were all greeted with the classic “catch-22” of trying to open a bank account and find a place to live: to get a bank account you need an address, but to rent a flat , do you have a bank account.
This is just one of the (very minor) friction points immigrants face when moving to a new country. Entrepreneurs setting up a business in a new country face more challenges. Lyubov’s own experiences as a Ukrainian immigrant to the United Kingdom gave her both a great sense of empathy for the trials and tribulations faced by immigrant founders, as well as a belief that immigrants often create and build leading companies.
In addition to personal experiences, academic research seems to indicate an almost inverse relationship between the contributions made by immigrant founders and early adoption by the ecosystem.
Designing a pilot with open office hours for international founders
With personal experience as her motivation, Lyubov initiated a program that would provide a softer landing for immigrant entrepreneurs in the UK. meeting VCs in the UK
Rather than the usual pitch format, the meetings were informal conversations aimed at helping founders build this vital—and immigrants’ missing—social capital. The program was inspired by Playfair Capital and its Female Founders Office Hours.
The first start was rocky, as it coincided with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Lyubov and her Blue Lake partner, David Gilgur, helped families and friends in Ukraine during the day and drafted the program plan at night. Early on, there was the challenge of getting VCs and partners on board. Blue Lake had been in business for a few years, but was still a new name in the investment ecosystem. Asking for investors’ time meant proving that we could launch something with impact that key players would want to be a part of.