As many of you who follow our activities will know, we decided to begin to reach out beyond the UK’s borders last year. We invited interested parties from a number of nations to join us at the MADE Festival in Sheffield and followed up with those groups that showed the most interest.
Without a doubt, the Post Privitization Foundation (PPF) led by the notable Peter Barta was the most pro-active and ambitious. We had a working agreement within a month and a project planned for 2011 begun by November of 2010.
After a lot of effort by both groups working together between Romania and the UK, the programme officially launched last week. And what a launch.
For the last two months the PPF has been trumpeting this year-long opportunity across Romania searching for 200 entrepreneurs who wanted to start a new business or accelerate the growth of an existing one. The final 200 were chosen and the first of our four boot camps (http://s4s.ly/8y) officially opened in Bucharest last Monday.
We were joined by Marius Ghenea who is best known as the lead dragon on the Romanian version of Dragons Den which is actually known as Arena Leilor or “Lions Arena” in Romanian. Marius is a dapper fellow who is one of Romania’s leading e-commerce entrepreneurs and in addition to being an angel investor he teaches entrepreneurship and is about to launch his book on starting a business.
There is no doubt that entrepreneurs are the same the world over. Our Bucharest students were full of passion for their businesses. Some of them are worth considering and will meet with success. Some of them just have a gleam in their eyes. And some may be a slight challenge to see how they will succeed.
On Wednesday we flew to Cluj in the heart of Transylvania. Cluj is a city a bit caught in the past. It was obviously a prosperous place at the turn of the last century, but like much of Eastern Europe it is catching up again.
We were warned repeatedly by Alina from PPF that “Cluj is different” which made us wonder what Transylvania had in store. And it is certainly was the case that the entrepreneurs are more serious and initially somewhat more reserved than Bucharest; but all in all they were more alike than different.
We had business proposals ranging from local auto repair garages seeking to expand their reach to the first consumer financing for breast implants in Romania, which led to a particularly interesting conversation.
I admit that one of the more enjoyable moments for me was the chance to go drinking with Marius and his friends one evening. We ended up at the Sinatra Tribute Club “My Way”, located in one of the old catacombs beneath the city. (Fitting somehow in Transylvania), singing Karaoke.
What next? We are going to be launching our web based community platform for support for the entrepreneurs. It includes a large library of resources, an open forum for questions and support and a live video service for our monthly broadcast.
We return to Romania in March accompanied by the social media expert Alexandra Samuels from Social Signals.
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