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Tuesday, Jun 25, 2024

Investments in Muslim Startups Have Doubled Since 2015

After Mustafa Dustin Craun converted to Islam in 2002, he traveled and lived in Muslim communities in places like West Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. 


“I’ve seen who Muslims are as people – who we are as human beings who care and love humanity,” he said. “I saw that story with my own eyes and I wanted to tell that story to the whole world.”


To tell the impact stories of Muslims around the world, Craun founded the San Diego-based nonprofit Center for Global Muslim Life (CGML) in 2020.


“The reason we use the term global is because the Muslim community is one of the most global communities in the world,” he said. “The San Diego Muslim community is an example. Your average mosque you may have people from 75 to 100 countries in the room at one time.”


Think Global, Act Local


Although global in its outlook, CGML is still mostly active locally in San Diego, working with the region’s immigrants and refugees and on projects like the Border Mosque in Friendship Park.  

“We joined with the Border Church over the last few years in trying to create that space as a safe space for families who have been separated,” Craun said. “San Diego is one the main ports of entry for Muslim immigrants and refugees from all over the world.”


Craun envisions transforming the program into a Global Border Mosque, taking the work started in San Diego and bringing it to Muslim immigrants and refugees around the world.  


“Often times there’s not a safe space for that conversation, even though Muslims make up a majority of the world’s refugees today,” he said. “It started here in San Diego, but it’s work we hope to expand.”


Part of that work is in CGML projects like providing Muslim refugees prayer rugs and packages “just to make sure they feel welcome and home after what is often times a very long and difficult journey that can include detainment at immigration centers.”


Other CGML projects include the Global Muslim Film Festival that looks at Muslims in the film and television industries and a digital media academy that was launched at beginning of COVID during the first Ramadan of the pandemic.


“When everyone was in lockdown, we created the digital media course for mosques and nonprofit institutions that were not ready to go online when they had to,” Craun said. “We thought it was an issue of survival for institutions in our community to give them the skill set to do that.”


Top4 100 Muslim Startups


Last month, CGML kicked off its second annual Global Muslim Impact Forum. The forum is a series of discussions throughout the end of January and into February addressing a variety of topics in the Muslim world.


This year’s forums include topics like “Muslims in the Metaverse: from NFTs to Crypto,” “The Future of Muslim Narratives in Film and Television,” and “Building a Global Muslim Impact Fund.” A complete list of topics and dates are at globalmuslimlife.com.


The first forum, held virtually on Jan. 26, was the release of the CGML Top 100 Global Muslim Startups list. Craun has been tracking Muslim startups since 2015 and is now sharing this work though CGML


“The investment in the Muslim startup sector has doubled in the last seven years,” he said. “During this round, we identified 220 companies who raised more than $400 million from more than 200 venture capital funds over the past five years. It’s exciting to see what started as an emerging arena with hefty potential for both impact and profit now bearing fruit and multiplying possibilities for people around the world.”


Key findings in the 2022 report include:


Global Muslim startups are dominated by FinTech, social impact enterprises, spiritual tech and media.


At least six of the companies featured were accepted into top tech and nonprofit accelerator programs like Y Combinator, 500 Startups, and New Media Ventures.


40% of global Muslim startups are here in the United States. (U.S. Muslim startups are dominated by social impact enterprises, media, Islamic education and fashion.)

To view the full report, visit tinyurl.com/2zex9zvm


Local Muslim Startup


One of the startups on the list is San Diego-based PaliRoots, an e-commerce company that sells Palestinian-inspired fashion products and raises money for Palestinian causes.


PaliRoots was founded in 2016 to “celebrate and explore Palestinian culture in a very modern and positive way,” said PaliRoots co-founder and CEO Hussein Musa. “We feel like the Palestinian people deserve to be humanized and the brand was created to show they are more than just people who are occupied.”


Many of the fashion products on the Pali Roots website are designed by CDO Aminah Musa, Hussesin’s sister, who was featured in Forbes’ 40 Women Behind Middle Eastern Brands list. PaliRoots products, such as Kufiya scarfs, olivewood craft items, jewelry an d soaps are made in Palestine.


“That is really the goal of the brand, to continue supporting people in Palestine and bring in more jobs to people who need it,” Musa said.


In addition to running the e-commerce business, PaliRoots also has a philanthropical aspect to its brand. Since its inception, PaliRoots has raised $2.8 million for causes supporting children in Gaza.


The company’s fundraising events have supported projects to supply backpacks for students, provide medicines for children with cancer and even fund tree planting in Gaza. A lot of the money is raised using Launch Good, a Muslim crowd-funding company that was also featured in the CGML top startups list.  

In 2019, the Masas started a PaliRoots meal program which they modeled off the school lunch program the siblings grew with in Chicago. The program has raised $2 million which will provide breakfast and lunch to 774 of the poorest students in Gaza over next four years.


Future Goals


Craun said the “still very new” CGML has very concrete goals for the near future. The first is fundraising, which he said was hobbled by a 15-month wait to get nonprofit status during the pandemic. CGML also plans to expand revenue streams through its sponsorship and digital publishing programs.


CGML recently produced a short film about the Border Mosque that featured the Latino Foundation that Craun said helped that organization raise $400,000 after the film came out.  

“I wouldn’t say that fundraising was because of us but it definitely got on people’s radar because of us,” he said.


CGML is also discussing starting an investment fund at the Global Muslim Impact Forum and enlisted a panel of Muslim investment leaders including business strategist Umar Mughal, impact investing officer Essma Bengabsia, Yageen Institute COO Junaid Din and Uprising co-founder and partner Saad Khan.


Founded: 2016

Business: E-commerce apparel company

CEO: Hussein Musa

Employees: 10

Notable: CDO Aminah Musa was featured in the 2021 ‘Forbes 40 Women Behind Middle Eastern Brands’ list. 

Center for Global Muslim Life

Founded: 2020

Headquarters: San Diego

Director: Mustafa Dustin Craun

Team members: 9

Website: globalmuslimlife.com

Notable: Center for Global Muslim Life’s media academy helped local mosques stream video during the pandemic’s first Ramadan.


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