A Two-Weeks Experience Worth Ten Years of Learning
Some life experiences are a real shortcut to becoming a better and more successful person. They are a catapult towards a deeper understanding of oneself and one’s work. They are an eye-opener that will help prioritize next steps with clarity and relentlessness.
The Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative (YTILI), in which I was honored to represent Romania within a diverse group of truly inspiring entrepreneurs from over 42 different countries, is certainly one of these experiences.
I was assigned to Denver, Colorado. I knew very little about the city prior to my departure, except for its NBA team, the Denver Nuggets. Thus my expectations were not very high regarding the possibilities to find relevant contacts for my company Babele, a crowd innovation management platform.
I was wrong. Denver has a really dynamic and cohesive entrepreneurial ecosystem that attracts companies and professionals from all over the United States. It is cheaper than California, the taxation is highly competitive, and the locals are extremely friendly.
Our mentors – Nina Sharma, Emily Winslow, and Barbara Bauer – opened this ecosystem to us and connected us to a remarkable amount of great people (including in the mayor’s and the governor’s offices, and in the Chamber of Commerce). They were so kind to give us their time, to listen to our respective stories, to analyze our challenges, and to share their knowledge so that we can advance towards achieving our personal and professional goals.
We also had to organize private meetings with relevant contacts in the area. As mentioned, the people in Colorado are so nice that it was very easy to schedule over ten meetings by just reaching out to interesting people via email.
As a result, I spent most of my time commuting throughout the city to meet people from the Gary Community Investment, Uncharted, the Watson Institute, Innosphere, the Orbis Institute, the Impact Finance Center, the Denver Foundation, TechStars, Marketshare Associate, the Posner Center, the UN foundation, the Cable Center, the Leadership foundation, and Enable Ventures. I was lucky to meet the key actors working in social innovation in the Denver area, and I even ended up connecting people in this space who did not know each other.
The YTILI program had a profound impact on my social enterprise’s development strategy. I could validate our target market and consolidate a powerful action plan to move forward. As a result, Babele will focus on providing online tools to organize intrapreneurship programs within large organizations, and we will use this revenue stream to subsidize the work that we are doing on social innovation for universities, incubators, and foundations.
This learning was further compounded by the collaborations and friendships that I could create over these two weeks. I returned to Italy with two new partners, three potential customers, and plenty of new friends, with whom we are constantly in touch and aligning on how we can create value together.
Finally, the trip would have not been as incredibly fulfilling without my team of Denver fellows. I thank them all for making that week unforgettable. Major thanks are also owed to the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, to the YTILI team, and to the German Marshall Fund for this opportunity given to us to open new doors and to meet incredible innovators, reminding us that “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.