Aiman Hamdouna • Melbourne
Aiman Hamdouna remembers making a few mistakes over his career. Mistakes that he believes would have been ‘easily avoidable’ if he’d had guidance and support from a community of people who had been through it all before.
‘My startup, entrepreneurial mindset started watching the family trying to take over the business.’
Recognising the importance of community and sharing knowledge in the startup space was partly what inspired Aiman, Startup Ecosystem Hero of the year 2021, and his brother Mo to start Hatch Quarter (HQ), an innovation hub and co-working space for startups and entrepreneurs.
At HQ, they believe that diversity is an essential element of any successful business.
‘Having a diverse team, you have diverse thoughts, diverse perspectives,’ Aiman says. And this, he asserts, will be reflected in the products and services that you’re bringing to the market.
‘We are creating jobs, boosting the economy, as well as raising the Australian brand internationally as a world-class startup ecosystem.’
Since it was founded in 2015, HQ has grown to a community of 8,500 members, offering programs and advisory services as well as a space to work, network and share ideas.
Aiman is particularly proud of the work HQ has done to help migrants and refugees break into the Victorian startup ecosystem and in helping to bridge the Australian startup, scaleup, technological, economical and innovation space to the rest of the world.
‘Moving to a new country is brave,’ he says. ‘You are comfortable taking risks and you are comfortable with ambiguity.’
And these are all qualities that are crucial for entrepreneurs and innovators.
‘With global connectivity, international students, migrants and refugees are micro bridges to the rest of the world, they arrive in Australia with great talents and perspectives. An organisation like Hatch Quarter can help utilise those talents to help the economy evolve and advance.’
However, the phrase ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know’ is quite often a barrier for first-generation migrants and refugees trying to break into the startup sector.
‘It was a great motivation for me to start myself from scratch in a new country.’
As someone who has been through it firsthand when he moved to Australia at 19, Aiman wants to level the playing field and make sure that innovators who are new to the country don’t miss out on the networking opportunities that locals have.
‘We are on a mission to unlock the talent of the diverse community and harness the power of its global connectivity in order to advance the startup ecosystem and innovation in Australia,’ he says.
This mission led HQ to develop the Hatch Quarter playbook. Created with support from LaunchVic, the playbook is a guide for anyone building a new startup idea from scratch – but with particular emphasis on supporting first-generation migrants and refugees.
‘We pride ourselves to be the early adopters and leaders to help migrants and refugees unlock their talents in the startup ecosystem.’
Available in 5 languages, the playbook has tips and tricks from industry experts and successful entrepreneurs who have been through it all before.
To Aiman, ultimately, it’s the impact that HQ has on people’s lives that is the most important.
‘The most rewarding part in my job is seeing how our work is transforming the lives of the entrepreneurs we work with,’ he says. ‘And how the startups we are helping are solving the world’s problems.
‘We are here to contribute.’
‘The other part is changing the narrative and the perception about migrants and refugees in society. Instead of looking at them as a burden to the economy, people who are coming here to take from the country, we want to show … that we are here to contribute, to advance Australia and to become great around the world.’