Written by László Kindrusz
The Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative, also known as YTILI, is a scholarship program for young entrepreneurs. Usually, 1 or 2 applicants are selected from almost all European countries, who can participate in a 4-week program. My co-founder came across this opportunity and showed it to me. It immediately piqued my interest because it allows you to get to know the American culture of entrepreneurship and innovation firsthand. Our company develops an internal system for real estate offices. Our goal is to help them digitize and operate more efficiently.
The application process was completely online. First, I had to fill out an application form, then participate in an interview, and a little later I received the notification that I could go to the United States. I was very happy about it, because it was my first time travelling overseas.
The program itself consists of two main parts. The first is to attend a course where you can learn various entrepreneurial skills. For us, these classes were typically online once a month, a total of 4 times. Lectures were given by Northwestern University lecturers and guest speakers. I really liked that they tried to give realistic, practical examples, there was less theoretical part in the textbook. My favorite part was when at the end of the lessons we were divided into small groups where we could discuss what we had heard with leading questions, so we could also learn from each other.
Several large American cities participate in the program, I was assigned to Chicago. It is also important to know that YITLI is organized from there, so everyone arrives there first and after the orientation, they continue traveling to their city.
First, we started with a three-day orientation, where there were presentations on how to write a business or financial plan, we got to know the local startup ecosystem, and we visited incubators. We always ended the day with some kind of cultural program, among other things, they took us on a boat trip, where they showed us the architecture of Chicago.
You could already feel how well the team was selected. At the end of the day, we set off to explore the city together as if we were old friends. Fortunately, this relationship remained, we created a closed group where if anyone has any questions, we try to help them.
After the orientation, the six of us stayed in Chicago. Here, we were all assigned to a company, where we worked four days a week. I ended up at a real estate office, where I was given a project to improve the efficiency of their internal processes and also helped with marketing issues. It was interesting to see that their internal processes are now completely digital, they don’t even have a traditional office and all the work is done online.
My fellows and I kept in touch and explored the city together after work. Chicago is an extremely diverse and exciting place, from the very beginning it became noticeable that the difference between the neighborhoods is sharper than at home. We visited Chinatown and the Mexican district. It was interesting to see how different cultures fit together, creating interesting combinations, such as one of my favorite places, where Polish and Colombian dishes were combined. Our accommodation was close to the lake, so when we had the chance, we went down to the beach for a walk or just to chat.
We ended the program in Washington D.C., where we summarized the experiences of the last few weeks and had a chance to meet former ambassadors. Because of the guests, we discussed important social issues in addition to entrepreneurial topics. This part of the program was also really useful because it helped us to move a little from the entrepreneurial business-oriented mindset to a direction where we were more aware of how we can also help our environment.
I consider myself lucky and honored to have been selected for the YTILI program. Since then, my teammates and I have been talking regularly and helping each other. During my stay, I not only developed professionally but also acquired a lot of soft skills.