YTILI: One Small Step, One Amazing Journey
Editor's note: Are you an entrepreneur or innovator looking to invest further in your venture? Click here to apply now until January 11 to the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative (YTILI) fellowship program, a unique opportunity to gain mentorship and professional development.
If you are serious about your business and personal development, participating in the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative (YTILI) fellowship is something you will not regret. My journey has taken me to three continents and on over 30 flights in the last 12 months or so. It all started with winning European Young Entrepreneur in 2017 for Eurocomply, a regulatory technology solution that helps companies comply with EU legislation such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). My entrepreneurial journey has taken me all over the world and at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, India I heard a raving review about YTILI and I thought: “I have to take part in this too!” I started working on my company in 2013 and have participated in numerous international programs – YTILI has been the most impactful for me on a professional as well as a personal level.
When I was accepted onto the program as the Irish fellow I was thrilled to hear that many of the mentors from the various cities in the United States would be flying into Lisbon to meet with all of the selected fellows. It was quite special to be in one place with the best talent from two continents. It made me feel very privileged.
A few months after out initial meeting I heard I would be placed in Boston along with eight other entrepreneurs, and in October our journey began. We were very lucky that we meshed so well as a team and were all focused on filling our limited time in this amazing city with meetings that would benefit our businesses in the long term. On the first night one of our mentors, Mike Lake, took us on a tour of Boston. All the mentors took time out of their day to attend and have dinner with us in a jazz bar afterwards.
Prior to arriving in Boston, all fellows had already lined up numerous meetings with key people in the ecosystem. Each day we would wake up at dawn to keep up with our European businesses and then dash to whatever meetings we had. It was incredibly hectic and exhausting but so much fun!
We went to Harvard, MIT, and Northwestern University, and we even met with Alex Pentland, MIT professor and co-creator of the MIT media lab, thanks to Navroop Sahdev (who herself is a force to be reckoned with in her role as a blockchain expert and YTILI mentor.) My friend and mentor, Michelle Lampa, invited me to attend a cybersecurity consortium at the MIT Sloan School of Business. Since then, I have presented to this consortium on GDPR and data supply-chain management.
If I can give future fellows any advice it would be to stay very aware of where you are when you are given opportunities like this. When I was sitting in the room at MIT Sloan, I was acutely aware that just five years before I had been writing the bare bones of a business plan while in my bed. It made me realize that success comes by doing a lot of small things really well over a long time.
We ended our stay in Boston with a tour of the beautiful town of Concord, organized by our mentor Tom Bird, and we heard all about its history and its famous former inhabitants such as Henry David Thoreau and Louisa May Alcott. After the tour Tom invited all the fellows and mentors to his home for dinner. What stays with me about that evening is the warmth of the people in Boston. Tom, his wife, and his friends were so welcoming to us, a bunch of strangers from various countries in Europe.
The second leg of our journey took us to Washington, DC where we met with all the fellows from the others cities as well as many mentors and the GMF YTILI team. Our disappointment about having to leave Boston dissipated once we met up with our friends and we spent the next three days catching up and participating in the closing conference. In Washington we visited the State Department and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came in to say a few words to all the fellows. The DC journey ended with the final pitches at GMF the next day.
I say the DC journey ended, because the YTILI journey will not end. I believe we made some friends for life and our mentor Mike Lake is visiting Athens in June and all the Boston fellows intend to fly over for a reunion. The relationships I forged in Boston are also ongoing; Eurocomply may even partner with one of the firms we met there. I am excited for the future and grateful to now be a part of the GMF family. It just goes to show that you never really know where the small act of filling out the initial application form may take you. In the famous words of Tim Cook, it might just be the pebble in the pond that causes a ripple for change.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.