The takeaway from week 1 is “New York became a major startup hub in 10 years. Here is how we did it.”
The attitude behind this sound byte is fleshed out by such advice as, “most startups fail”, “42% of startup products do not address any market need”, “don’t worry about getting your business idea perfect…you will need to pivot at some point, anyway”, “startups should be doubling their sales every month…getting seed money is easy, getting customers is hard”, “many startups give up after working hard for 9 months…continuing from 9 to 18 months is the real challenge…the watchword is ‘perseverance’ “.
But for the reader who is thinking about attending CEU, it may be more relevant to showcase what we students ― around 40 in number ― experienced. There were 14 speakers and 5 site visits in 5 days. All the speakers were successful entrepreneurs or consultants or lawyers. One can get the above advice from books, but when these people tell their own stories, and those stories are about enterprises that recently sold for billions of dollars or ran out of venture capital, the impact is different.
Several speakers made themselves available to help us directly — commenting on our business proposals, introducing us to people in their networks. For instance, I came to NY with no leads. One speaker forwarded my CV to an insider at a company I am targeting. Another will meet with me to talk about how to get into his industry. Another will meet with me to discuss his company. The connections that CEU provides is one huge value point in this NY module.
Another value point is all of us living together and taking in the city. After several months as classmates, we have formed circles of friends. It has been great to be able to spend even more time together — navigating the transportation system, eating lunch and dinner together, commenting on each other’s observations. The observations from first time visitors to the U.S. have been particularly valuable to me. Before joining CEU, I might have said that students bonding and having fun in New York is not important for an MBA program. Now I think differently.
Our workload in Budapest is so heavy that often I could not get together with classmates outside of school. We had to keep our noses to the books to develop a degree of analytical competence. In NY, the workload is lighter, and that is a good thing. It is not only fun, the greater free time actually reinforces what we have learned in the classroom thus far. At this point, we are able to appreciate how business ideas are put into practice; and in our free time we naturally discuss what the speakers said or what we picked up from the site visits.
This offline discussion is important. Why else would one of the speakers, an entrepreneur at NYU’s Varick Street Incubator in Brooklyn, say, “the biggest benefit of joining this incubator was not the physical space itself, but being a part of a community of entrepreneurs every day and sharing ideas with them.”?
The intensity of one speaker and visit after another encourages us to compare; the extra free time encourages us to think, discuss, wander, and think some more. When this happens in a pushy, buzzing, rambunctious environment like NY, the result is that even I ask myself, “could I have a startup idea in me…?”.