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Valentina Velandia, co-founder Capacity Zurich, Swisspreneur Podcast

EP #199 - Valentina Velandia: Supporting Migrant And Refugee Entrepreneurship

Valentina Velandia

November 4, 2021

2:17 - A family of feminists

15:25 - Finding a job in Switzerland as a foreigner

27:05 - Most people in Velandia's team are women

30:27 - The refugee crisis

51:55 - The nationalist sentiment

About Valentina Velandia

Valentina is a co-founder and partnership curator at Capacity Zurich, an incubator for startups built by refugees or migrants. She is originally from Colombia, but moved to the US after finishing high school to study Communications at California State University.  She then went on to work for the UN in Singapore while getting her master's in Diplomacy and Gender Policy.

Despite coming from a family of matriarchs, Valentina initially had some misgivings about feminism: she thought feminism and femininity were mutually exclusive. However, this and many other opinions of hers changed when she took a class at University with a really amazing teacher.

When Valentina moved to Switzerland, she worked in Geneva for a time, after which she relocated to Zurich. Despite having worked in Geneva, being highly qualified and speaking several languages (namely German), it took her more than a year to find a job. Naturally, this took a toll on her self-esteem — she blamed herself.

One of her co-founders to be, psychiatrist Alexa Kuenburg, also came to this conclusion while working with war victims and refugees: the higher someone's education level, the more difficult the integration process becomes, because there is often difficulty in finding a job which matches the person's abilities, and this mismatch can put into question a fundamental part of people's identity.

Initially, Valentina and her co-founders wanted Capacity Zurich to be a labor market integration program for refugees and migrants, which would also educate Swiss companies on how to navigate the bureaucratic hoops of hiring people with a migrant or refugee status. It ended up becoming a startup incubator.

Memorable Quotes:

"Diversity-wise companies are beginning to realize that if they don't jump on the bandwagon soon, the wagon is gonna run them over."

Resources Mentioned:

Afghan Laziz, the foodtruck project

Don't ask me where I'm from, ask where I'm a local TED Talk

White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo

Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

If you would like to listen to more conversations on refugees in Switzerland, check out our episode with Bettina Hirsig and Mannar Hielal.

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