Chigozie Nelson, CEU student at Economic Policy in Global Markets MA
The first week was intense of the CEU iLab Bootcamp was enlightening for the participants, and their enthusiasm did not waver as they looked forward to the events arranged for the second week.
After the introductory sessions on Monday and the lectures about working in teams, Tuesday ushered the participants into the nitty-gritty of generating a business idea, writing a successful business plan and the stages of the entrepreneurial cycle.
A faculty member of the iLab, professor Gyorgy Bogel, taught the participants about generating business ideas and the criteria for selecting the best one which would both meet the customers’ need and generate revenue for the founder. Armed with the knowledge of how to come up with a winning business idea, the teams had the task to discuss business ideas and select the concept which they thought was best using predetermined selection criteria.
Bright and early on Wednesday morning, each team made a 3-minute presentation of their business idea to the entire group and responded to questions raised by the other participants in the process. The industries represented by the teams’ business ideas include education, law, human resource management, and mixology. After the presentations, in a simple faux-investment exercise, all participants voted for the concept which they thought was the best out of the 5, and Rightroz, the idea of having a comprehensive legal database which will be helpful to travelers, got the highest number of votes.
Professor Gabor Baranyai, a faculty member of the iLab, taught about the stages of the entrepreneurial cycle from the inception of the idea to the exit of the firm from the market. He also gave insights on how to write a successful business plan and how to come up with the value proposition of a business. With this new knowledge, the teams had to identify and state the value which their ideas would provide to their potential customers, which was followed by suggestions from the other groups.
Faculty member, professor Joy Chan, brought financial mathematics to the classroom on Thursday and Friday as she taught the basics of finance and accounting. She introduced the three essential financial statements; income statement, cash flow statement and the balance sheet, while giving a detailed analysis of the components of each one, using an existing company as a case study. She taught the participants about making accounting decisions, and the teams had the task of preparing financial projections for their ideas, to see what the idea promises in terms of profitability.
The sessions with Joy Chan were comprehensive, as the participants who were not previously familiar with the financials of a firm are now better able to understand the components of a firm’s financial statements, as well as the most critical indicators to observe before investing in a firm.
During the week, the participants had several opportunities to meet the founders and co-founders of the iLab teams. Jelena Länger, a co-founder of the Longevity Project, gave a brief lecture on Tuesday about the process of generating the business idea and how she formed her team. She explained the business model of Longevity Project and the value proposition, stressing the need for the value of the business to be relevant to customers such that they are willing to pay for it, and that the value which a firm offers should be “…defendable and long-term.” Jelena also touched on the issue of team building, emphasizing the need to have a team of people with complementary knowledge and skills which are useful in driving the business.
Michael Bist, the founder of The Tailor Network, joined the participants on Wednesday afternoon. He shed light on the details of the business model of The Tailor Network, as well as their marketing strategy. At the end of the day’s sessions, the participants proceeded to the Kharviv rooftop terrace to meet and interact with other founders and co-founders of the iLab teams in a brief cocktail-style networking session.
In a speed mentoring session on Thursday evening, the teams had the chance to pick the brains of some of the iLab mentors and ask questions about their team projects and business ideas. Each group had an estimate of 10 minutes with each mentor, which they tried to maximize to obtain useful information for enhancing their proposed business idea.
The week ended on a positive note on Friday evening, with an interactive session hosted by the iLab director, Andrea Kozma; faculty member, Eva Halasz; and the Managing Director of BlackRock in Budapest, Melanie Seymour. The participants had the chance to ask questions about entrepreneurship, education and time management. When asked about how to handle team building, Melanie stressed the need for an entrepreneur to “…always hire people smarter than you”, to have a diversity of thoughts in a company. When asked about time management, she likened responsibilities to juggling balls and asserted that one would always have to “…make conscious decisions to put some balls down…” to avoid excessive stress. She also pointed out the importance of investing in a business with a realistic business plan instead of one which promises huge profits but may be too good to be true.
With participants from different backgrounds, building new friendships and working together in teams, it is only natural that there would be some conflict of interests among the team members, but the strength of a team lies on the bond which the members can establish with one another. The three main takeaways with regards to team building from this week: Luca from Brazil, a member of the CashBackU team, stresses the need for individual team members to put their interests aside and focus on the collective goal of the group. Jelena Länger, the co-founder of the Longevity Project, points out the importance of having team members who have complementary skills. Melanie, BlackRock MD, emphasizes the need for an entrepreneur to have people who are smarter than them on their team.
Overall, it was a highly productive week. The participants had the chance to learn about the intricacies of developing a business, beginning from the generation of a business idea, writing a business plan, planning the marketing, building teams, as well as the essential financial statements and financial indicators.