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Proman Consulting | Chicago Style

Chicago Style

First of all, let me tell you what I will be writing about from America for a little over a month.

YTILI | Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative #YTILI is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and runs through the WorldChicago organization. Exactly 60 entrepreneurs and innovators from across 36 European countries are going to the USA, where they will work for almost 6 weeks on improving their companies, and their skills while connecting with entrepreneurship ecosystems throughout America. Being one of the two people lucky enough to be selected to represent Serbia, learning how to develop a company in the most developed market in the world, there is... for me is definitely one of the biggest things that I happened in life!


Day One

After a 24-hour journey, taking in a layover in Frankfurt, the hustle starts as soon as the wheels hit US tarmac (or asphalt as they say over this side of the Atlantic Ocean). The American Dream does not fall from the sky. They work hard and work a lot. We visited DePaul University, known for the development of entrepreneurship, in the Chicago area in particular. Great speakers and lecturers. Topics: entrepreneurship, investments, innovation, required skills, great stories from experience. Networking, networking, networking. Today I repeated more than 50 times who I am and what I do. Pitch. Pitch is a very important thing here, and that's why we will practice it for a few days in order to fine-tune our ideas as best as possible in about 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Over 60 entrepreneurs and businesses from all over Europe, people from the USA from the organization, people from the University, speakers... to meet everyone in one day, to leave an impression on everyone... it takes a lot of energy, good ideas, and knowledge. And charisma. I definitely got attention, and I have several offers for speed dating and information sharing. The speaker, Pete Wilkins, is a man who sold two startups for almost 3 billion! USD, investor, and writer have my attention for 15 seconds. I pitched him the AQOS idea of electric and solar cars. Continue, please! His attention continues, he wants to see a presentation. I still have a minute to show him the presentation, I start, and the car leaves him breathless, but... "Strahi, Im investing only in mid-west USA companies. I think to myself, shit. New but :D "I can connect you with a couple of people". I leave him with a smile on my face, and with his book and dedication inside. After a busy day, a boat ride, and getting to know Chicago. Great city! But the biggest impression of the day was the lecturer's stories. However, from the very start, the business theme prevails, and not the tourist theme, even though it is my first time in the States.


Day Two

At the beginning of the day, a hub named M HUB, which is a hub for cooperation between Hard Tech startups, entrepreneurs, manufacturers and leaders. It is home to over 12,000 members that generate annually $103 billion, and employs over 565,000 people, and is surrounded by an ecosystem of over 2,000 HardTech and digital startups.

Within the mHUB there is a Coworking space, Accelerator, production hub, as well as laboratories for manufacturing the products. Madness, I thought there was no bigger one. And then we went to 1871 Hub. And boom. 14,000 square meters business hub. This place has its own zip code. To have your own zip code in America, you have to be big. Google has its own zip code. I don't even know how to describe this place it is to entrepreneurs what the SuperBowl is to football fans. Accelerator programs for early development, and growth, more than 15 programs for founders, and various activities. World #1. 850+ alumni scaled, and almost 4 billion dollars raised in venture capital, from here they are entering Fortune 50 companies, every possible industry you can imagine, even 17 unicorns (a unicorn -a  company worth over a billion usd). Madness again. We had the opportunity to speak with several founders who shared their experiences with investments, scaling, pivoting, acquiring large clients, developing services, and the like. A million super cool things, one of them is the Pepper robot, a humanoid robot that can dance among other things 😊 Another thing is Chicago Connectory, Developed by Bosch and 1871. If you want top-level IoT in America, you have to be here. The focus is on building Industry 4.0, smart cities, mobility solutions, and everything in between. Today I was in two places in one city that generate more money annually than the total foreign trade of the Republic of Serbia.

I'm getting worried, the numbers here are 3-6 zeros more than in Europe, for example, one of the guest speakers labeled $ 25 million „a small investment in a business“, I'm afraid that when I get home, things will get "small". We'll see, I'm trying to keep both feet on the ground and my head in reality. Although, if I learned anything today, it's that if you don't dream big if you don't talk about it, it won't happen.

Otherwise, I hardly can be alone for even 5 minutes, everyone wants to meet everyone, and the grind goes on and on and on and on :D Lots of good information, opinions, tactics, new lessons, contacts, and already 5-6-7 potential for all kinds of things, both from candidates and from Americans. The quality exceeded my expectations, as did the hospitality of most Americans. Chicago catches me on the second day, its size, beauty, and all the good and the bad things. It's beautiful, and it's huge. Lots of great people but also homeless people. I like it, there are no boundaries for business, but I wouldn't live here.


Day Three

A slightly lighter day ahead. A visit to The Hatchery Chicago, a Food & Beverage Innovation Hub which is home to more than 100 food manufacturers. To begin with, we had a session about the action plan we need to create and then a session about cultural adjustment in the US where we learned things we should and shouldn't do or say in our business environment in the US. To work and not to work. Don't call a group of people guys, girls, ladies, and stuff like that.

It was also interesting to learn all about the facilities for food production and how small producers can produce and market their products from here. We had the opportunity to work in groups with 8 great mentors who revealed a lot to us, from leadership, through problems they have in their local but also global ecosystems, to methods and solutions but also investments, acquisition of large clients, entry into new markets … most of these people have a great life story. This working day ended with a tasting of wines, beers, and food produced in the incubator. Finally, a little more free time. Fun in Millenium Park, photoshooting, making fun, and joking, just as befits all these young entrepreneurs. Out of 60 of us, of course, the Balkan sect, about 10 of us all speak a similar language, and of course, we attract the most attention. Aware that I need to move out of my comfort zone and experience new cultures (my primary reason for applying for YTILI) I focus on engaging with people from whom I have never visited and would struggle to pick out on a map of Europe. There are great and very smart people, different businesses, ideas... My roommate in Chicago is Andrej, a Slovenian, so it wasn't difficult for us to get used to each other. I'm going to live with an Irishman called David in Charlotte. The Irish brother. We have a great time, like most Irish and Serbian people, 99% of the time we make jokes. Like those two from the back bench in school :D I feel it'll be a good time with him. Of the others, I think I got close with the Azerbaijani, Togrul, who already knows some Serbs. Quiet and well-mannered, but likes to joke around. Thanos the Greek, Alex the Macedonian, Bruno the Croat, Petar from Bosnia, Davide the Italian, Chris the Bulgarian, Mihai the Moldovan, Rems from the Netherlands, Yvonne from Slovenia, Elena from Romania, Filipa from the beautiful Split, Zhenya from Ukraine... I had great moments with all of them, conversations, walks, ideas... I hope I haven't forgotten anyone, but I have developed super cool relationships with these 20 or so people and I believe we will stay in touch even after the program, and I hope with the others as well. We went for drinks at the John Hancock building, 96th floor, the view will blow your mind. They barely kicked us out, but I understand. We appear everywhere in groups of at least 15/20 people. I missed the DJ and the big party at the 5-star hotel since I woke up all week between 5-6 am and was quite active all day, so tired in conjunction with the jet leg, he did his thing. 


Next stop - Charlotte, a Queen City. Waiting for a King? We will see. I'm broken and full of energy at the same time. See you next week.




Pepper Robot
John Hancock


John Hancock



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