The rocky road to immigration: tech-founder Raed Abdallah’s journey to Berlin

Many roads lead to Berlin. Some are easier than others. As tech-founder, Raed Abdallah, knows only too well. In March 2022, he arrived in Berlin from Jordan – a journey that was not always easy. Why? We reveal all in this article.

Raed founded the software company, NowaNowa provides a platform for developing apps without coding. The start-up is currently researching new ways of developing apps that will be accessible to all – even without any programming knowledge.

While searching for funding and structure, Raed and his co-founders, Anas Alsalhi and Ludovica Palio, came across the TU Berlin. The university was impressed with the idea from the outset and are now supporting the start-up with a scholarship programme, funded by the State of Berlin. This programme is enabling Nowa to implement its ideas and get the company off to a flying start. This partnership with the technical university is the reason why Raed and his colleagues have moved to Berlin. But the journey hasn’t been easy for him.

Raed was held up in Jordan for a long time, even though his scholarship was already waiting for him in Berlin. A visa application at the consulate in Amman and other necessary documents delayed his arrival. He could only visit the country on a tourist visa from time to time. Not an ideal start for an entrepreneur at the beginning of their career! The consulate initially refused to recognise his application for an entrepreneur visa, as Raed had not yet set up his company. A complicated process that required professional support.

He was assisted by the Berlin Immigration Office and the Business Immigration Service (BIS) at Berlin Partner. Together, they dealt with the complex bureaucracy between the countries and obtained a resident entrepreneur visa for Raed. His arrival is a good example of the Berlin institutions’ ability to deliver results, thanks to their valuable translation work and their successful liaison. Raed gives a personal account of his experience in the following interview.

Why did you choose to move to Berlin?

When we came up with the idea for Nowa, it was clear to me and my co-founders that we would have to move to a city with a first-class start-up ecosystem. As an international team that had previously worked exclusively online, it was time for us to finally come together. Berlin is one of the best start-up hubs in the world. A lot of great companies have been successfully founded here. And we wanted to join them.

How did you find the process of moving to Berlin?

Admittedly, my move to Berlin wasn’t easy. In order to come here, we needed stable funding for Nowa. Luckily, we received this from the start-up scholarship programme at TU Berlin.

I was fortunate to receive support from the Business Immigration Service (BIS) at an early stage. The BIS team helped me with all the paperwork that was required along the way. A lengthy process that would have taken even longer on my own. This support made things much easier for me.

As a result of the lengthy process, I arrived in Berlin well after the start of my scholarship. But I’m extremely grateful and didn’t miss that much, because a lot of places were still closed, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

What went well during the process and what did not?

Surprisingly, my search for an apartment went very well. As my colleagues arrived before me, I was able to benefit from their experience. Even the visa process eventually went well, although there was a great deal of stress along the way.

What’s not going so well, unfortunately, is my integration into the Berlin start-up system. Most events are currently taking place online, making it difficult to meet like-minded people.

What do you particularly like about Berlin?

Berlin is a totally unique city that is enjoying rapid growth. There are lots of great opportunities in every respect.

What tips do you have for other entrepreneurs wanting to move to Berlin?

Start as early as possible! Contact the Business Immigration Service at Berlin Partner and find like-minded people who can tell you about their journey. I also definitely recommend visiting the city in advance – especially if you’re still undecided.

Thank you, Raed.