Say Yes For Europe: What I learnt in Budapest.

This time last week I was strolling around Budapest in the sunshine. Enjoying my last few hours in that beautiful city with almond milk Cortado in hand.

Today I'm typing from my desk in gloomy, overcast South London. So please indulge me for a few minutes as I share what I got up to and what I learnt. Feel free to imagine the sunshine on your skin as you read on...

When Alex Mitchell kindly offered me the opportunity to join the Yes for Europe's 5th European Youth Entrepreneurship Conference in Budapest it was a no-brainer! The chance to visit a new European city AND represent the IoD 99 & UK abroad? It was too good an offer to pass up.

I had a wonderful whirlwind few days in Budapest connecting with the Yes for Europe team - fellow entrepreneurs from all over Europe. Thanks to our host organisation Bridge Budapest we were able to learn about theHungarian start-up ecosystem. We met Maker Jan (and his monkey!) and also checked out Google's Brain Bar Budapest festival.

Visiting HQs of PreziUstream and Pulilab - the most successful tech start-ups founded in Budapest was a major highlight!

We were fortunate to hear from both Founders and business leaders. They sharedhow they started and scaled, their biggest failures and what the major contributors to their successes have been to date.

It was fascinating to learn that starting a business in a post-soviet Central European country is so difficult. Especially when over 33% of the general public still view entrepreneurs as criminals! This is due to various regulations and taxation challenges that start-ups face. Founders often feel forced to avoid paying taxes to get their business off the ground.

We have such a different landscape here in the UK where being an entrepreneur seen as a pretty cool career path (if only they knew!).  And any roguish behaviour at the start is a sort of necessary evil. Remember the loveable Richard Branson famously avoiding tax to pull Virgin Money out of debt in the early 1970s?

We visited Design Terminal - the enterprise support agency & incubatorfor the creative industries in Hungary. Based in a converted Bus Station with a restaurant and bar its architecture is beautiful. They offer mentoring, funding & scaling advice and business skills training for creative entrepreneurs. We heard from some of their programme beneficiaries about the support they have received and how it has benefited them.

The uber-cool Debating Futures festival Brain Bar Budapest sponsored byGoogle & WIRED Magazine was really fun. There I met the inspiring Orsi Parkanyi who runs the largest female entrepreneurs network in Australia. We had some passionate conversations about the lack of diversity on conference panels and amongst the speakers but I'll save that for another post!

We also participated in the official European Makers Week with a creativity & innovation session run by Jan M. Stieber. Jan uses robotics and everyday items to create new inventions like his robotic monkey who we were fortunate to meet in person!

Finally, I managed to make it onto one of Hungary's most popular National news channels within 24 hours of landing! A pleasure to share A Life Less Ordinary Wanted's message of positive change with the nation whilst sharing my ideas on how the tourist experience of Budapest can be improved.

So you know, a pretty normal Less Ordinary weekend really!

What a privilege to connect with so many passionate purpose-led entrepreneurs & leaders from all over our continent! I'm not on to get political online, however I feel compelled to say that my trip to Budapest only reinforced my belief that we the UK are stronger in the EU, and that I believe by being a part of something bigger than ourselves is key to our economic growth and development.

Now back home now in London, I'm feeling inspired and invigorated with a head full of new ideas on how to take all I've learnt and apply it to the business. I'm fired up to scale up our operations & social impact here at A Life Less Ordinary Wanted.

Winning the Start Up Brixton pitch last month was a great achievement. Now it's time to think about scaling up beyond the shores of the UK. I can't think of a better group of people to share my ideas with than the inspiring European entrepreneurs and business leaders that I connected with in Budapest.

Thanks so much Yes for Europe!

Over the coming weeks I will share more detail on what I learnt from the leaders we met at Prezi, Ustream & Pulilab HQ visits in a series of mini posts with afocus on exploring their leadership styles, values & culture.

Massive thanks to the brilliant Alex Mitchell for the invitation to join the delegation and represent the UK, Veronika & Roni at Bridge Budapest for your incredible planning & hosting of such a successful conference and to Luca, Dmitris, Przemyslaw and the rest of the Yes for Europe team for the fantastic hospitality & warm welcome.

PS - Check out the conference's official hashtags #EYEC5 #scaleupeurope for all of the conference posts & photos on Twitter!

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