Startups and immigrants have much in common...

Startups have to survive in a hostile world of uncertain opportunities, and risk everything to get there. Much like immigrants do.
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor on

I was thinking about my dad, Jerzy Foremski (Father's Day in the US), he passed away last year. The photo (above) shows him holding me, (8 months old) and was taken shortly after my parents had escaped Poland and arrived in London, via a year spent in a refugee camp in AUstria.

We lived in Hackney, London's poorest neighborhood, in the heart of the inner city. Hackney, and the neighboring Shoreditch district, are where immigrants to London have, for more than 150 years, made their first start in life.

Today it's the center for London's startups, which is very apt because both groups of people: starters and immigrants, have much in common.

Both are starting a new life in an unfamiliar place; both are short of money and need a cheap place to live; they group together for mutual support; they speak a different language; they are sometimes ridiculed by the incumbents; and very often, they have given up everything to plunge into an unfamiliar world, where they and their families risk an uncertain future.

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My parents escaped from Poland in 1956, but at first they wondered if it would be a better life. The UK in those days, was only a little better than life in Poland. It was far from the land of plenty it is today. It had just stopped rationing food (in 1954), and work was hard to find and poorly paid.

My dad, an engineer, worked 6 days a week. He would sometimes take me to work with him Saturday mornings, into the massive Allied Services factory, which is now called "Silicon Roundabout" because of all the startups there, and around it.

(My grandfather worked at Allied Services too, he refused to go back to Poland after the war. He fought in Africa and in Italy at Monte Casino.)

Thanks for everything Dad! You and mom showed me what hard work and devotion to family can achieve.

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