I was initially bent on joining the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders program because of my age. I put off my academic career for later in 2011 for family and professional reasons, with the intention of renewing it after developing a number of business ventures. Since then I have not participated in any scholarship or grant programs. After receiving the invitation to the program and a quick reading of the description and terms and conditions of the scholarship, my attention was drawn to the upper age limit of the scholarship holders, which I was soon to exceed.
Before joining YTILI I had a general feeling that my companies are relatively mature and stable. Their growth was constant; together with the teams that I lead, we had a clear vision as to what we do and in what direction we intend. We have found ways to achieve the set goals and we achieved more in each subsequent year than we had planned. Thanks to YTILI, I looked at my business from a new perspective, rooted in American entrepreneurship culture, based on detailed medium and long-term planning, raising capital and building a company based on a long-term vision, not only dynamic organic development.
The most important thing for understanding the idea and process of YTILI was that it was not limited to the three weeks actually spent in the United States. The beginning of the journey of each scholarship starts with the submission of application documentation and understanding what the program intends to accomplish. At first glance, the idea of applying for a scholarship seems to be quite an academic exercise. You can safely think that it is a potentially passive participation in an ordinary training program. Very quickly, however, it becomes clear that it is a highly self-reflecting exercise with business awareness and rational planning courage based on a long-term vision. Preparing the necessary documentation and the process of going through successive stages of the application forces the future scholarship holder to rethink all perspectives regarding not only business plans, but also the general attitude to entrepreneurship and the perspectives applied to it each day in their own work environment.
After completing the application process and several weeks of waiting, I received a message about honoring the YTILA 2017-2018 scholarship. I was to start my American adventure in September. After processing all necessary documents and meeting other scholarship holders in Washington, D.C., I participated in a four-day intensive training program on American and international business contacts, including at the Department of State and German Marshall Fund of the United States. I met and established friendly relations with many young leading European entrepreneurs. Then I went to Austin, Texas. I took part in an intensive two-week training program, which was entirely adapted to the nature of my business and the challenges that lie ahead.
The two weeks spent in Austin were the most inspiring moment of my adventure with YTILI. I visited Capital Factory, one of the best Texas startup and acceleration centers. Each day brought new experiences and important lessons that influenced my understanding of my business activities in highly competitive business categories. Capital Factory organized mentoring meetings for me, legal trainings for entrepreneurs. It provided inspiring conversations and numerous platforms for the exchange of knowledge and provided me with a comfortable working infrastructure.
When my stay at Austin and Capital Factory came to an end, I felt how important it is for an entrepreneur without a business education to spend so much time in a globally leading environment focused on innovation. Importantly, the YTILI program does not end at all after returning from the United States. Further intensive elements of the program are conducted online, and contacts made with investors and mentors during their stay in the US are very intense. It is also worth adding that what is missing in the Polish entrepreneurial “startup ecosystem” is a perspective that goes far beyond locality. One that is not permanently limited to “ours” and permanently anchored in the direct experience of the domestic business environment, but allows planning based on an international vision of business and products that it develops.
Different assessment perspectives that the YTILI program imposes on scholarship holders include the perspective of scaling, capital-finance, “self-development” and motivational, as well as shaping business self-awareness. Participation in the program is not only an enormous honor on a global scale, but above all the opportunity to look at one’s own activity from these perspectives and thanks to this development of a wider competitiveness strategy than the local backyard.
Maciek Żakowski – entrepreneur awarded the title of Creative in Business, scholarship holder of the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative 2017-2018 program. Founder and CEO of the Planoia agency responsible for the most popular Polish restaurant concepts, many popular FMCG brands and special projects for the largest Polish companies. Also the creator of the Restaurant Week, Fine Dining Week and Cocktail Festival events.