The first week in NYC was all about startups and entrepreneurship. While we have heard lots of stories and advice that we have already heard at our Entrepreneurship class back home, it was an amazing experience to visit all these incubators and co-working spaces, where some of today’s most famous tech companies were founded, and especially too meet the people behind these companies. Obviously there are huge differences between the startup ecosystem in Budapest and New York, and we have a lot to learn.
Every day we listened to entrepreneurs who told us about their ventures, and how they have built their businesses. Some of the issues that were mentioned repeatedly are the following: The team selection is very important, and it’s not a good idea to start a business alone. The team should be made up of people who have different skills, different personalities, so that they can complement each other and be strong together in every situation. Don’t be afraid to fail. Actually, everybody was emphasizing the importance of failure, and this is something which I think is very different from our culture. Here people are just more open to and appreciative of failure and try to make the best out of it. In our part of the world, failure is something negative and something that you should avoid as much as possible. This attitude is probably holding back a lot of creative energy and initiative.
The power and importance of building a good network is of course not new to us either. However, it was amazing to see how networking really works here. All these co-working spaces and incubators provide an outstanding platform for like-minded people to mingle, get to know each other, and above all to learn from, and help each other. This is how the best business relationships are born. People are indeed extremely open to each other, and for us it was just awesome to get access to all these entrepreneurs and professionals we met during this week: all of them encouraged us to contact them later with any questions.
The places I liked the most during this week: The NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) is engaged with how to leverage big data captured from urban life. They use the city as a living laboratory, using “traditional” science methods in urban informatics. Big city life, like for example the usage of taxis can provide very valuable information to understand how big cities work. It was very interesting to see how big data can be used for various purposes. All three incubators and co-working spaces we visited were truly inspirational: The Varick Street Incubator was launched by the Polytechnic School of Engineering of NYU, it provides space for a very mixed community. People from all over the world are working here, it’s a very diverse and inspiring community. The Leslie eLab has a strong support from NYU, it’s open to any student and faculty from various departments and schools. Therefore, it’s a great opportunity for various people to find each other who otherwise would probably never meet. It’s an extremely lively and inspirational environment, most of us would have loved to stay there and do some work! 🙂 General Assembly started out as a co-working space, and later turned into an academic institution, by launching courses in different subjects. It was actually the first co-working space who started to launch courses for entrepreneurs, teaching them the skills they need to know in order to build their businesses. This is actually a natural step considering the fact that one of the main advantages of a co-working space is to share the knowledge among people working there. GA has realized this very quickly and basically came up with a solution for a basic need. The process is simple: Anyone who would like to rent office space at their premises, has to add something to the community. GA was founded only a couple of years ago, and is huge by now: we have visited two of their buildings, walked through spacious office spaces, and again wished that we could stay there and work! 🙂
Although there is already a striving startup community in Budapest, there are of course a great deal we can learn from the New York startup scene. One of the major differences between Budapest and New York is the presence of a very strong infrastructure for startups in New York. All the entrepreneurs we met told us that New York is a perfect place to start a business. In fact, it is now the nr. 2. startup city after San Francisco. Most of these incubators are financed from various sources, from the city, the state, the university and also from private funding. This makes it much easier for entrepreneurs to start up, as there is a lot of early-stage investment available. However, it’s not just about the money. The mentality of people also contributes a great deal to the success of the startup ecosystem. New York is extremely open, and there are a huge number of foreigners starting their businesses here, so the city is a magnet for foreign talent. The incubators and co-working spaces offer a great opportunity to anyone to develop their business idea with professional support. We are very lucky to have had the opportunity to dive into this thriving and truly inspirational ecosystem. We have learnt a lot, and I’m sure that most of us will return to Budapest with a different mindset.