Three Hungarian start-up companies that have already reached world-fame, Prezi, LogMeIn and Ustream co-operated to create Bridge Budapest, to which a few weeks ago the navigation software-developer NNG joined as well. I talked to Veronika Pistyur, the director of the organisation.
How did the idea of Bridge Budapest arise?
The story goes back to the year 2008 even if at that stage we were nowhere near the start. It is connected to Péter Árvai, the co-founder of Prezi, who grew up in Sweden, in a Hungarian family and this was the year he moved to Hungary to start a business here with two of his Hungarian partners. All around him he saw everybody complaining all the time, looking for objections and blaming things on circumstances and that people were talking about the fact that there were no adequate, worthwhile workplaces. He thought that the contrary can be proved right in Hungary. This was the thought that motivated the creation of Prezi as well as that of Bridge Budapest.
After the success of Prezi, Ustream and LogMeIn, a lot of people thought that these success stories could be inspirational for other people, but at the start, it was problematic that people did not know anything about these companies. In order to make others proud of these success stories and to inspire others to go for it, because if others could make it happen, they can also make it happen, they had to start spreading them. And look for others who could serve as role models to young people.
What is your main goal?
We have several goals, but only one vision. We would like to live in a Hungary where achievement and knowledge serve as the basis for the confidence that the world knows about.
The main tool system of Bridge Budapest is, in the first place, telling stories and introducing the various success stories, so that everybody can see that world success can be built starting from Hungary as well. Last year we presented positive entrepreneurial stories to the audience and we hope that with the help of them, something has started. Hungary began to get to know the ‘heroes’ of the modern era.
There are several organisations and programmes embracing and introducing start-up initiatives. In what ways are you different?
We see our difference in wanting to inspire those businesses and introduce those talents who aim at the global market. For this, we would like to give a push and inspiration to these young people to make their dreams come true. It is for this reason that we created the scholarship programme, which is not looking for entrepreneurs, but young talents. We would not like to incubate businesses, but would like to introduce a new culture, value system and various companies which differ from the classic entrepreneurial image.
It seems that this has been so successful that out of those 6 young people that we have supported to travel to the Silicon valley, two have already started their own businesses. Even if this was not our main goal and did not require this from our scholarship winners.
Are there any new scholarships coming?
Yes. We are going to open the new round of scholarships on 7th March. Several countries of Asia as well as Israel are very probably going to be included among our destinations. But this will have to remain a surprise for the moment. Asia is interesting also because it means a huge potential market and there are Hungarian businesses, for example the navigation software developer NNG, who have strategic partners in Asia and they are doing an excellent job in the sphere of commerce as well. This offers a great potential for learning. And Israel is the world’s second biggest start-up hub after the Silicon valley, which means that there are plenty of places to draw inspiration from. Besides, we also welcome foreigners in Budapest so that we can show them the Hungarian business culture and prove that there are world-level workplaces and company cultures in Budapest too.
Who can apply?
Anybody who is a creative young person and feels talented. We welcome applications in four different areas, which are computer sciences, design, marketing and sales. The last one is offered for the first time now. The programme is not connected to degrees, we do not require from our applicants to be university graduates, anybody can apply who is ambitious, open and persistent.
How open is the Hungarian society to those values that you believe in?
We firmly believe that some changes are taking place which may manifest in a certain kind of mentality change on the long run. They used to say that 20 years are necessary for real change in a society’s old habits and attitudes. I still think that this is a long process. But even in one year, some outstanding successes can take place. We aimed for this through the presentation of positive stories. Obviously, on its own, it is not enough, but the kind of optimism that we show in our approach to things is indispensable. These companies are living examples of the possibility of starting really successful businesses within a short period of time. However, for this, a good idea, persistent work and some luck are necessary. Nowadays more and more young people believe that they can have an influence on how things go in their lives and this is the key.
It must also be taken into consideration that most of society is aiming for security. However, there are more and more young people in their 20s and 30s who leave their comfort zones to look around to see what kind of opportunities are available and how they could live their lives in a different way. However, for this, they need time and extensive experience. Especially to be able to realise what is good for us and what is not. Similarly to last year, we made a research this year that we will publish during the spring. In this, we asked young Hungarian people between 20 and 35 about their entrepreneurial attitudes, their relationship to success and their image of the future. We are interested in exploring what changes have taken place since last year.
What is success?
There are a lot of models, but in our opinion, four factors are indispensable. First of all, persistance, without that, there is no success. Some luck is also needed, but more importantly, a good idea is necessary. Moreover, confidence that is based on achievements and knowledge.
What kind of tools do you use to encourage young people to dream big?
We try to reach them through different channels. And not only young people, but their parents and members of family. We did this because through them, it is easier to reach young people with our message, so that more information gets to them and if they find something that is interesting for them, they are going to look into it further. Moreover, it is important that the parents understand this new world and that they see opportunities in it for their kids so that they are not discouraged from making their dreams come true. Bridge Budapest reached its target group through the sharing of its positive stories. Our primary tool was inspiration and through this, we tried to create a bridge between the wider public and the world of global businesses starting from Hungary.
Do you get any feedback?
A lot. We published a book entitled Bridge Generation at the end of this year, written by Alinda Veiszer. We had a television series – The story of my first million – lead by Krisztina Máté, that introduced the story of 32 successful Hungarian entrepreneurs. We got a lot of feedback after each of them. The conclusion was that a new world has opened up for people, a world they previously knew nothing about. New perspectives opened up for them and the hope that in Hungary, there are potential business leaders for whom being an entrepreneur does not only mean opportunities, but responsible thinking as well.
Where will the Bridge Budapest be in 5 years?
We do not plan 5 years ahead. This culture very rarely plans so much time ahead, exactly because of the constant changing of the circumstances, the technology and the market. When we started, we could not know how fast the process was going to be and how many people were going to be open to it. Every year, we refine our system. Last year, we talked about what success was. This year our message has expanded: we would like to transmit the message that we can influence our lives, but it’s not the same how we go about doing it.
The main goal is still to be able to reach a wider public and we still believe in the telling of positive stories. Where there is sensitivity and openness to change, we can reach a wider and wider audience.
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