Entrepreneurship meets social value creation?

In contrast to the previous two weeks of high concentration of topics about entrepreneurship and corporate finance, the third week of the New York module focused on sustainability in urban development and agriculture. Key questions like how can a city of eight million inhabitants tackle the tough questions of environmental sustainability, urban housing and „green” agriculture were the focal points of our discussion.

The first day we had Andrew Pek from Pivot Leadership giving us an enlightening presentation about leadership and sustainability. Following that we had Daniel Pianko from the University Venturs Fund delivering a strikingly disruptive, but mutually constructive presentation on how higher education is being transformed by his organization to adapt to the rapidly changing global demand for highly trained generalists in a number of complex fields. At the end of the first day we visited Green Map System where we have received an on the spot insight into how the East Village of Manhattan, a relatively, but considerably „poor” neighbourhood, hit worst by Sandy and Irene, manages on a day to day basis the development of community gardens.

Following the first peek into urban sustainability at Green Map System we have made our way to one of Manhattans most prominent real estate management firms, Rudin Management, where we have gained valuable insight into how the energy cycle of skyscrapers is managed using big data and a specifically designed building management system. It was very inspiring to see that a city primarily developed in the 1930s for a different age makes use of 21st century technology to bring about a sustainable, environmentally friendlier environment.

The afternoon after the uplifting experience at Rudin Management was spent at Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The pioneer in urban agricultural innovation and sustainability in New York, Brooklyn Grange provided yet another focal point to grasp in the quest for understanding where the financial capital is heading in terms of business landscape diversification. What was truly valuable to see was that the rooftop farms are managed with sound business logic paying close attention to the cost-benefit analysis of the investment. This is where social entrepreneurship culminates to its highest point. Where the entrepreneurial spirit is about value creation for the local community, but at the same time is also about being the messenger of a solution that strives to be an instrumental driver of the long debated paradigm shift to make the world an environmentally better place.

How long can we enjoy the world we know now and will tech really be that important?

#Sustainability, #Nature, #Future, #InspiringPeople, #FreeFrom, #GluteNo

The third week of the New York City Module was my favorite week even though I was also sad because I knew it would soon be over.

First day we had Andrew Pek and Daniel Pianko talking about their experiences, facts and trends in terms of sustainability. In the afternoon we visited Wendy from Green Map and she showed us around in East Village. It was amazing to see how people themselves take initiative. Also the way the community functioned during Hurricane Sandy. Wendy gave me valuable input regarding GluteNo. She told me about JustFoodOrg.com, CSA (community supported agriculture: growers and consumers share the risks https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community-supported_agriculture), SlowMoney and FoodPlusTechConnect. It was very inspiring to see her enthusiasm and the actual things she has already achieved with her work. Sadly the financial support which tech companies get and which companies which create value in a much wider and deeper sense get is very different. We went to a meetup where a young man who had an app which was identical to viber with a slight difference, it had an ‘undo’ button (just in brackets, this is a feature which viber could add any time). He talked about financing and said following: “You know, money is the easiest part. You get money. We got 3 million $ funny-money. That was good for practice and now we start real work.” On the other hand Wendy and her team get 150,000 yearly.

During the week we had many more interesting people tell us their story and share their experience: Michael McGetrick spoke about marketing, David Hochman shared his experience regarding the business incubators of New York City.

A very interesting and positive experience was our visit to Rudin Management. 3 things were extremely positive: family business for many generations, they don’t just shut down buildings – they work to make them better:  good or best again. What is more, the company has developed a system to keep AC optimal. The amount of waste AC causes is huge in the US compared to the need – this system has a smart way to check how many people are in the building and adjusts to it. When I stepped into the company this was the first thing I realized: it is not freezing cold but I’m not hot either. First year, 1 building, 1 million dollars saved.

Finally but not least I have to mention Brooklyn Grange. Ben Flanner is a very interesting man living in his farm world – he has established such an amazing thing I cannot do anything but respect him. He has a very cool attitude and a unique style. Simply listening to him was an experience. The roof top farm was astonishing!! I couldn’t stop tasting everything he pulled out freshly from the ground: all kinds of greens, radishes, and I have to mention kale as my absolute favorite.

Brooklyn Grange with Ben Flanner

Brooklyn Grange with Ben Flanner

For me, it would have been great to start with this week – I would have gone back to most of the companies for more know howJ

Beside our studies, we did make the most out of this trip and I had the chance to meet great people from the health/Food&Beverage business. I went to the Organic Food Incubator and met many interesting people and companies, and Karen from FreeBread invited me to her home in Queens on Sunday and we had an amazing afternoon sharing know how.

Queens - Home of Karin FreeBread founder

Queens – Home of Karin FreeBread founder

This trip was great and very useful but on the other hand I am really grateful I live in a world where there are many opportunities, deep values and still plenty of opportunity to do something else. “We do not have to be the absolute best but we need to find what makes us the relative best” 🙂 I came back to Budapest with great energy, I’m very glad I can call it my home and I cannot wait to get my business started!!

Thank you Mel, Bala and CEU!!

THE 1st WORLD’ CAPITAL FROM THE 2nd WORLD PERSPECTIVE

New York’s business ecosystem is not only unique in the scale and deepness, but it’s a top-tier #1 hub where the finance, media, advertising, technology is moving and shaking towards the future. If you would like to work closely to these certain industries’ heart, you should be here in the city of Silicon Alley. It’s pity, but in Budapest you can execute only really lower value chain tasks in the subsidiaries’s of the US companies, and actually without knowing anything about what is happening among the vanguards of your industry.

However the competition is hard there in every silos -, on the stressful, student loan-heavy employer markets as well.

Read more…

Week 2 – Finance – 1) What does the future hold? 2) Advices for making a career in finance

Week one with focus on innovation, entrepreneurship, co-working spaces, incubators, accelerators opened a whole new word for me. I have heard about these spaces before but had little understanding about its functioning. Now, I understand better how start-ups try to innovate. The third weeks topic – sustainability- will be extremely relevant given the impacts of human activities onto our environment. While this field offers many opportunities, it is less relevant when it comes to my career choice. Second weeks topic- finance- sounds the least exciting , yet it is the one I was awaiting the most. This is due to the fact that I am planning to focus my career onto corporate finance where I could combine my legal knowledge and experience with the newly acquired knowledge of finance.

 

Week 2 spent with investors, consultants and managers of large companies was useful from many perspectives. We have complemented our knowledge of finance, we have learned about different strategies funds are using when investing, we have got tips how to build our careers and the future of the industry has been assessed.

 

First, we have complemented our knowledge. Most of the information about current regulations and the current state of the industry was not very new, but the different perspectives of managers of different types of funds were interesting. What has surprised me in Paul Toldalgi´s (BTAPartners, LLC) presentation was, that hedge funds are moving towards non liquid investment- real estate, timber. As hedge funds are seeking Alfa, I thought that these kinds of investment don’t fit well the profiles of hedge funds.

 

Second, we were presented the different strategies funds use when investing. The difference in strategies was well demonstrated in the presentations of General Atlantic and Zephir Management. The giant General Atlantic trying to make his team work efficiently, focusing on large investments and the much smaller Zephir Management trying to find niches other investors fail to see. Managers from both companies were very opened explaining their criteria when selecting the investment. These insights exceeded those that could be easily acquired from literature and will be very helpful in my future career.

 

Third, we have got useful advices for building our career. These advices reinforced my belief, that even if someone wanted to work in a smaller company or set up his own, it is very useful if he/she works first for a mayor company where he/she acquires important skills and knowledge. None of the funds presenting this week acquires fresh graduates, they are looking for people with developed expertise in the industry. There was only one contradicting presentation suggesting to start working on our own ASAP. I believe that in industries such as finance, deep knowledge is needed, therefore experience before starting an own business is a must. I especially liked the part of Zephir Management´s presentation, where the danger of hubris was emphasized several times. We were advised not to be fooled by randomness, and therefore we should separate luck from skills.

Four, the future of the industry was assessed. The dark picture painted by one of the presenters was very upsetting. While I disagreed on some points of the presentation it made me think a lot, and made me want to research the trends in finance more extensively. This would help me select a career which I would not only like, but which will be relevant in the future as well

 

To conclude, the second week´s presentations have definitely helped me to better understand the financial industry, what would definitely help me when deciding about my future career.

Week 3 – Again a different face of NYC

The third and last week of the NYC module was focused on sustainability.  Three weeks seems to be the optimal length for the course, as this amount of time makes it possible to get to know different faces of New York.

The key takeaways for me this week have come from 4 different company visits:

Brooklyn Grange

Rooftop farming in NYC is able to maintain the jobs of approximately 11 employees. While rooftop farming will probably never have a yield high enough to feed a significant amount of the population of NYC, it has other benefits such as water retention and heat dissipation. Rooftop farms make the city greener and provide new jobs for people who crave for a more “rural” lifestyle in the city. I see a big opportunity to employ the elder who are still able and willing to work on rooftop farms, as this would give them a good reason to wake up in the morning and an extra source of income in their pension years. This would make social impact of rooftop farms even more significant.

Brooklyn Research

Brooklyn Research is a start-up company that has merged from a co-working space. Like minded engineers with complementary skills started working in a shared space and gradually they realized that they could unite their skills to undertake different sorts of projects. They design and build a wide range of intelligent artifacts and get customers mainly through word of mouth. I seems that when a highly specialized skill finds its niche a new venture can grow.

Wework

Wework is a co-working space that offers more than just infrastructure, their value proposition is high flexibility and access to a big network of skilled individuals. In my opinion, Wework operates in between an incubator and a co-working space and provides a highly inspiring ambient for start-ups.

Rudin Management

Rudin Management is one of the leading private real estate holding companies in NYC. I was impressed by the fact that their strategy is long term in a non-conventional way: “three to four generations”. This approach highly reduces the risk of their investments and have currently invested in a new technology that reduces energy expenses of their real estates, with savings of +1M USD/year.

3rd week in NYC- a great variety of corporations

Week went by very fat in NYC. The third week was definitely the most colorful, not only because it was primarily green but also because of the great variety of corporations focusing mainly at real estate, marketing, green energy, research, education and an NGO focusing onto creating a greener city. There was one common feature of all of the presenters, passion for what they were doing and the ability to figure out how to make living from it.

The presentations which I found most interesting concerned real estates which I will write about more broadly here. I will also briefly mention other presentations which have challenged my views on certain industries or provided me with greater insight.

The presentation I was interested in most was the presentation of Rudin management, a privately owned company with great real estate portfolio for leas and sale. However, there was one presentation with optional attendance a day earlier which concerned real estates in NY and helped me better understand Rudin management´s business and the situation on the real estate market in general.

In her presentation, Ilona has showed how Manhattan has developed, explained the specifics of certain parts of Manhattan and picked out the main differences between the ownership and lease of different types of real estates. I was surprised by the complexity of real estate ownership and leas in Manhattan. Ilona´s presentation helped me better understand the city and introduced me an interesting model for control over who will can become a neighbor. She has explained that there are two main types of ownership of residential premises- coops and condos. Condos are individually owned apartments. The owners of other apartments have no control over who can buy an apartment in their house, there is however one limitation. They may buy the apartment for sale for fair market price, which is the price the owner wanted to sell his apartment for to a third person. This way, the owners can exercise their control over the price of the real estate and prevent their real estate from depreciating. This applies regardless of any family relationship, e.g. even if a parent wants to sell his apartment to his child. An even more interesting ownership concept was the coop, which showed some similarities with the coops in the former socialist countries. In a coop, the individual is not the owner of a particular apartment but a shareholder and thus a co-owner of the whole house which authorize the shareholder to use a specific apartment. A share in the coop (and thus the right to use an apartment) has to be transferred under similar conditions as securities of corporations. A prospectus has to be made. The board is authorized to examine the financial statement of the buyer and may refuse to grant its approval. The board may not reject the transfer on basis of race, nationality etc. but the reason for refusal does not have to be stated, therefore it is hard to challenge it. E.g. even Madonna was denied consent, probably in order to prevent artists to become neighbors. Renting a coop is also much more difficult, permission to rent the apartment is typically granted only for a limited time. The flexibility allowed by condos vis- a -vis coops justifies their higher price. Other interesting legal solutions and market conditions were also introduced in the presentation. An interesting solution was e.g. that a development plan may become legally effective only if 15% of the properties in it are sold.

Ilona´s presentation about Manhattan real estates was definitely one of the most interesting ones and I believe that it would be a good candidate for becoming a mandatory presentation in the next NY module.

The next very interesting presentation about real estates was Rudin management´s. This family owned firm is the 3rd largest owner of real estate in NYC. It owns numerous buildings in the best locations of Manhattan. They have both residential and business real estate, most of it for lease some for sale. The most interesting observation for me was how the fact that a firm is privately owned changes the business of a corporation. Rudin management concentrates on long term goals, meaning over 10 year goals. This is very hard to sell to shareholders in a publicly owned company. Furthermore, wealth maximization is not always the primary purpose. The company invests a lot in order to have satisfied customers. They stress the importance of very good customer service and constantly improve the quality of their real estates even when it is not necessary. Furthermore, charging the highest possible price is not a priority. They are not worried about leaving dollar on the table if they can get satisfied customers in return. They said that they have many long term customers. Another difference compared to publicly owned companies is that they are not pressured to make investments as soon as they have the resources, they can leave a building lay idle until they decide what to do with it. This would be unimaginable in a publicly held company where the shareholders would demand maximization of returns. The family prioritizes renting of buildings over selling the units in them. However when justified by the initial large investment, they prefer to sell in order to have faster return of the investment.

The private character of the company allows more flexibility. Due to the scale of the business it was viable for the company to invest into systems making energy use more efficient. This invention is commercialized and may become a very important part of the family´s business.

The mayor topic of the week was sustainability. One of the presentations concerning this topic was held in the 2nd week. This presentation held by Monty Graham has shown that successful change in career is possible also in middle age if one is passionate about the topic. Monty went back to school after nearly 30 years, he complemented his engineering knowledge at NYU Poly and set up a successful venture devoted to energy efficient measures. Monty has given us many entrepreneurial ideas for efficient energy ventures.

Green Map systems has explained us the development of the Lower East Side of manhattan, introduced the interesting idea of community gardens, and introduced some of their undertakings to make the city cleaner and more energy efficient. One of the surprises for me was, that it is still possible to acquire ownership in NYC buy occupying a building for a longer period of time and fulfilling other legal requirements.

Daniel Pianko, the managing director of University venture funds challenged the current model of education in the US. He is of the opinion that education will shift from universities to other cheaper institutions providing education. I agree that the current expensive model will have to be changed but I also think that many features of the current higher education will remain. I believe that institutions providing possibility to improve certain skills or update knowledge will be more and more relevant in the future and further education will become a must even in latter age.

Brooklyn grunge visit has proven that when passion is present one can set up a business which may at first sight seem as a crazy idea. Gardening on rooftops in NYC. This model of entrepreneurship is unfortunately only viable in big cities where the supply of fresh fruit is far away from the city. I think it is a pity, as green rooftops have many other benefits (isolation, more green space in the city, prevention from overwarming of the city), but may hardy be implemented without being commercially viable.

To sum up, the third week helped us better understand the entrepreneurial environment in NYC, its real estate market, provided us with interesting comparisons and also inspirations for starting up our own venture. The NYC Module has definitely fulfilled its goal of introducing us many faces of an entrepreneurial city what would be of great help in our further career.

Nihao, NY, Week 3

The third week is about social innovation and sustainability. In this week, we visited companies like Green Maps who are focusing on innovation and sustainability of the society and the community.  Also I saw some innovation inside the traditional industries.

For example, Rudin Management is a real estate company that provides renting and services. This is a traditional industry, while Rudin make it more sustainable through innovation. It has introduced a Digital Building Operating System (DI-BOSS) to monitor and analyze the usage of resources in its buildings. Through dynamically adjusting the energy demand according to practical demand, it has saved millions of dollars, not just for companies but for the whole society. More importantly, it shows a possibility for a traditional industry to grow sustainably.

Another example is Brooklyn grange. This is the most interesting company among the ones that I visited in the past 3 weeks. Its main business is planting and selling vegetables and flowers, which belongs to agriculture industry. It’s not reasonable for a company to start an agricultural business in New York City. What they are doing is to move the plants from grounds to the roof of buildings. Rather than lands, roofs are one of the largest resources that were not explored before in the NYC. And roof planting can contribute to reduce urban heat island effect, lower the temperature of the buildings, adjust draining system and improve air quality. This business has both economic and environmental effects which could be spread out in those big cities all over the world.

What amazed me did not only happen during the class time. I experienced the services from both Airbnb and Uber, who started business in NYC, for the first time. Taking Uber for example. We tried to arrange a taxi from Clark Street to Manhattan. It took us more than 30 minutes to contact with 2 taxi companies and we failed to get any from any of them. When turned to Uber, I only spent 3 minutes to finish registration and get the information of the taxi. I witnessed the amazing changes that innovation is bringing to us. And this might be the most appealing part of NYC.

Time flies. Good time flies even faster. NY module has provided us with a chance to open my eye to a diversified, innovative, open and fast-moving society. 3 week is not long enough for experiencing the city. After all, listening and learning are not the only way to learn. Travelling and living sometimes are ways to better understand the community.

Last but not least, I really appreciate the opportunity that CEU business school provided us. Because this could be a turning point in some of our lives.