I have been to NYC a few times before. Each time I came, the city offered me a different experience. The first two times I explored the city I found it interesting, and while many places were pretty, I found it a bit too run down, not a place where I could live. During one of my trips I experienced the luxury NYC could offer, living close to Central park in a beautiful apartment, the best clubs, rooftop party in a private apartment, restaurant opening…. The city was friendly, but I still didn’t understand it. This time the experience is completely different. Within the first week I focused on parts other than Manhattan and explored many parts of Brooklyn, went to Bronx, Harlem, Cony Island, Queens. The city´s picture in my eyes has changed. The Botanical Garden in Bronx the Cloisters, the rollercoasters at Cony offered great relaxation, The small brunch places in Brooklyn, the friendly clubs and pubs, the flea market and the people of Brooklyn made me love this part of the city.
The first week lectures shaped my understanding of the city even more. We met entrepreneurs, who were not scared to fail so they can eventually succeed, they were willing to risk a lot to achieve for what they came to NYC and the ecosystem offering help was available. Now, I am starting to understand what my professors in Budapest were talking about when they mentioned entrepreneurship and incubators, accelerators, co-working places. Until now it was a bit of a strange concept, now I see how very much we miss it in Central and Eastern Europe and how big the gap is between NYC and Budapest (or Bratislava). The main reasons I see are the following:
First of all, the entrepreneurial spirit is missing. There could be no question, communism with no private sector at all (e.g. Czech rep., Slovakia) or limited possibilities to do business (Hungary) has adversely affected the entrepreneurial spirit of the region. In addition to that, the region has adopted German type legal regulation and models. Failure and bankruptcy are still a stigma and can easily constitute a crime. Personal bankruptcy in many of the countries (not so in Slovakia) is non-existent or very burdensome.
Second, the ecosystem is weak. Here in NYC we saw spaces that bring like-minded entrepreneurs together, offer the affordable place where they can develop their businesses, offer mentoring, support, and investors including the government willing to invest into starting businesses. I was surprised how much investors are willing to invest in the very early stages of the business. Hearing the sums reaching tens of millions or approaching 200 million seamed so unviable in Central Europe. A very important benefit these spaces offer is that the entrepreneurs work together, help each other, participate in each other’s businesses, support each other, share each other’s successes and failures. Working in a space like that provides not only material
Third, most people from NY are not from NY and a large part was born outside the US. US and mainly NYC has done a great job attracting talent. While it is burdensome to find an employment for people born outside the US, starting a business is not as burdensome. US did a great job retraining and attracting talent. I believe Central and Eastern Europe should do more to attract and retain talent.
While scaling a business in a much more diversified European union is complicated I believe much could be done. CEU BS has undertaken to facilitating entrepreneurship but I believe it needs outside help. First of all it needs more support from CEU itself. Second, in this early stage I believe the government’s help is needed. The governments in Central and Eastern Europe should facilitate creation of co-working spaces, accelerators, incubators, and most of all should support entrepreneurship with less stringent regulation.
I feel I understand the city much more now, and can’t wait to learn more about it. NYC is a very much livable city with much to offer.
I would like to thank CEU Business School for organizing the NYC module.