Hungarian looks for entrepreneurial opportunities

Daniel Szabo was born in Hungary in June 1988, a year and a half before the fall of the Berlin Wall. That is often marked as the start of Soviet Bloc countries’ sometimes painful transition to democracy and capitalism.

Before democracy, Mr. Szabo said, there was no provision in the law to start a new business, which meant entrepreneurship was virtually nonexistent. In that sense, modern entrepreneurship in Hungary is about as young as Mr. Szabo, who looks a bit younger than even his two dozen years and ornaments his suit shirts with Vespa scooter cuff links.

Daniel Szabo
  • Age: 24
  • Hometown: Budapest, Hungary
  • Occupation: Intern, Global Entrepreneurship Week in Washington, D.C., and a graduate student of international management, Corvinus University of Budapest
  • Vision: “We believe that young people have the resources and capabilities to answer the pressing issues of the world. If we have the brilliant ideas, then we just need the networks and we need the visibility to get the products out there.”

Mr. Szabo is among 1,300 young people attending the One Young World summit in Pittsburgh through Monday.Mr. Szabo’s interest in entrepreneurship was sparked when he entered Your Big Year in 2010, a sort of pan-European scavenger hunt that is supposed to test a contestant’s creativity, problem-solving and entrepreneurial drive with a series of challenges.

He made the finals in the first challenge — to get a document from his hometown to Liverpool, England, as quickly as possible — by driving through the night to Slovakia and finally to Vienna, where he sent it the rest of the way by express delivery.The competition linked him up with mentors who got him interested in entrepreneurship and showed him that it takes more than a good product or good idea to be successful.

“I realized that the roots of this movement in Hungary are there but there’s so much room for development and you can just grow it so big,” he said.

Since then, he has started entrepreneur clubs in Hungary to help give start-ups and big thinkers connections to funding networks and know-how to take their products to market outside of the country. Hungary has just 10 million people, so getting a product to the international market is critical.

“The number one challenge is to get international exposure and to be able to launch not only in the domestic market but preferably somewhere else more developed, like the United States,” he said.But because capitalism is so new in Hungary, Mr. Szabo said the tools that entrepreneurs, inventors and start-ups use in the United States — like venture capitalism and angel funding — are underdeveloped.

“People don’t really understand angel investments for example … that’s really important for an entrepreneur to secure the initial capital that’s needed to launch and to cover the first few months of operation,” he said. “That’s sometimes a challenge in Hungary.”

That’s where he comes in. He believes entrepreneurship can get a jump start in Hungary by introducing these “international best practices.”He argues that Hungary is fertile for entrepreneurship. The labor market in Hungary is highly skilled and relatively cheap, as is the cost of living. It’s a “good value,” he said.

Today, he is an intern with Global Entrepreneurship Week in Washington, D.C., helping to plan the organization’s signature event — a series of competition and networking events around the globe in late November. He’ll return to Hungary at the end of this year to finish his degree.

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