This year I was privileged to be a Fellow at German Marshall Fund of United States of America in “Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative”. Yes, I know the title is really long, but the experience was incredible. This program is designed for transatlantic cooperation as the name and GMF suggest. Being skeptic in the beginning, when we arrived to Lisbon for our initial onboarding meeting, my mind cleared.
Seeing 71 likeminded people from 40 different countries, running startups, accelerators and NGOs I felt in a warm and good company. Besides the my fellows, we had incredible people mentoring during the program.
Having a startup and starting to scale is really hard. Besides financial problems that you face, all the pressure that you feel from people around you and society is another part; where most of us are unprepared for. Having people with similar problems, or paths gives you an incredible freedom of talking without any prejudice is an incredible support, which is hard to get in anywhere in the world.
After onboarding in Portugal, we had our US missions in two cities. I was lucky enough to be with brilliant people and sent to Seattle, WA. Go #SeattleUnit. All fellows, basically spread to 10 different cities and had roughly 1 full week in our destinations cities. Then, all fellows rejoined at Washington, DC to close the program and become Alumni of this incredible program.
I see this program in two parts;
YTILI is a young and well-thought program designed to connect us with US counterparts, potential investors, partners and understand how the US government works on the innovation economy. Being said that was the value proposal of the program, YTILI delivers all promises.
Starting in Portugal, we had great mentors/investors to learn from. And having the chance to meet with fellows closer. It was a great week adding up to another good event - Lisbon Investment Summit.
Then, in Seattle it was an intense week of networking and customer development. For myself, it was incredible to meet with M12 Ventures, Alexa Fund, Alexa Accelerator, Amazon team, WeWorkLabs and many people who had lots to offer. Our mentor team in Seattle was great as well. I can’t thank enough to Lowell Ricklefs, Gillian Muessig, Anne Kennedy, Ryan Biava, David Harris, and I strongly suggest them to anyone planning to visit Seattle for similar reasons.
Having 70 more people, ambitious, well developed, hustling for a while all conversations are bliss. I had my #SeattleUnit, and we started a great friendship in that intense week of hustling. Peer mentoring and support helped us significantly both to our ventures and personalities.
Seeing the status of entrepreneurship in different countries brought us lots of homework for our hometowns.
And the best thing is we have a basic WhatsApp group, whatever you ask is granted at least from one fellow, which is like magic.
Good thing is, applications for 2018’s fellows is still open. If you are under 35 and in GMF zone, highly suggest that you apply for the program and love to give you a reference. It is not a program, it is an acceptance to a family, which I believe will bring lots of successful companies or impact to our own economies. More details are here -> http://www.gmfus.org/ytili-fellowship
Photo credits: If it is a good photo, most probably from Niko's Instagram. Too bad he has another startup ☺ Thanks Niko!
Another shoutout to my fellow #SeattleUnit startups.
France - https://www.knotcity.com/en/
Belgium - https://www.citizenlab.co/
Cyprus - http://politica.io/
Greece - https://hopwave.com/
Spain - https://www.ezzing.com/
Portugal - https://climberrms.com/en/
Georgia - http://vr-ex.com/
Croatia - https://arcadex.co/
Slovakia - https://ixworx.com/