December 9, 2021

“EYP in itself is a school of entrepreneurship”: An interview with Alumni in start-ups and SMEs

Initiative is at the core of our organisation. Each EYP event is conceptualised, planned and executed by volunteers within our network. Each team within an EYP event is led by volunteers and through these experiences our members gain experience in leadership and project management. Many are then able to transfer these skills into a profession, initiating their own organisations whether in tech or social innovation. 

Meet our alumni: Dominik, Therese, Celia and Nora. Dominik started EYP in 2015 and is now the CEO of his own company – Incibit, where he develops mobile apps; Therese started EYP in 2008 and is now working as a Senior Production Manager for Shortcasts at a startup – Blinkist; Celia started EYP in 2010 and has since founded her own media company Twomorrow, solutions to climate change; lastly, Nora started EYP in 2011 and has since co-founded her own organisation – collaboratio helvetica where she works as a catalyst for social change. Here are their stories.

What inspired you to start your business? Did the EYP have an influence on that?

Dominik: I started my own business because I want to positively impact the lives of millions of people by developing apps that provide real value to them. EYP definitely had a huge influence on that. My time in EYP gave me many of the necessary skills and also the self confidence to start a business.

Therese: Since I first encountered the startup community in Berlin in 2010, I knew I wanted to work in this culture. I loved the fast-moving, international, diverse, young, and collaborative vibe that I was met with. It was a space where you met each other on the level of ideas and engagement, not hierarchy, and I really value that because I think it evens the playing field. I think it is likely that my love for multicultural collaboration is grounded in my experiences with the EYP, as well as my aptitude for working well with folks from different cultures and backgrounds.

Celia: I wanted to have an impact on climate change, a strategic field for our future where most of us feel helpless and don’t know where to start. My goal with Twomorrow is to educate people on solutions rather than problems, which we too often talk about in EYP. I spent 5 months travelling to 26 countries across Europe to interview companies with concrete answers to ecology and climate transition – the result is a 256 pages book. It is no coincidence that I wanted to highlight European innovations given my experience in the EYP. Most of the companies we met have received grants from the European Union, particularly from the Green Deal subsidy and we are lucky to live in a continent where ecology is at the forefront.

Nora: Collaboratio helvetica brings together key actors in Switzerland to address complex challenges and to tackle the Sustainable Development Goals. By empowering people and organisations to shift deeply ingrained attitudes and mindsets, conduct more effective dialogues, and implement new forms of collaboration, they rethink and reshape the Switzerland of tomorrow. When I look back and connect the dots, it is clear that several EYP milestones lead to what I am doing currently. Collaboratio was amongst others born out of the people I met and the ideas that emerged during Laax 2016. I am taking what I learned in the EYP and the purpose I have found forward in this new initiative. It’s more challenging to established systems than EYP is, but it contains some of the same principles around empowerment, continuous learning and co-creating solutions.

Celia and Dominik back in their EYP days!

What can entrepreneurs learn from young EYPers and vice versa?

Dominik: The other way around! Entrepreneurs can learn from EYP that work can definitely be fun! Many people get paid for their work and still complain about it while in EYP so many young people do work voluntarily and also have fun doing so. That’s absolutely fascinating! EYPers can learn from entrepreneurs to pursue ideas and projects in the long term.

Therese: Entrepreneurs can learn from EYPers about the value of an organisation having a unique culture that celebrates differences and connects its members through  similarities. EYPers know how to have fun and be goofy, they know how to celebrate each other, and they know how to form strong teams and that it is everyone’s responsibility (and privilege) to create that team. EYPers can learn from entrepreneurs to be more agile, test ideas rather than discuss them at length, and have an intense focus on the “end-consumer” or perhaps in EYPers case: “the end-citizen”.

Celia: EYP in itself is a school of entrepreneurship: I would never have the tools to launch my business if it weren’t for the skills I learnt in my time in EYP! Organising, communicating and fundraising are among the key things that are useful in my professional daily life today. My belief has always been that you don’t think it’s possible until you make it. By looking at others, we make it possible, and that’s what young EYPers can learn from entrepreneurs! On the other hand, entrepreneurs can be inspired by their innovative ideas and boldness to push boundaries further.

Nora: I can say without a doubt that I would not be where I am today without the EYP. In its amazing model, the EYP activates the inner drive of young people to move forward and we acquire valuable skills without even noticing. Why would 18 year olds otherwise contact the presidents of their countries, raise several hundred thousand Euros, lead a team of volunteers and negotiate contracts? Sure, we stumble along the way, and not everything works out perfectly – but we grow so much in the process. Beyond concrete skills, EYP taught me that magic awaits beyond my fears and that we can make our craziest dreams come true.

Nora and Therese speaking at General Assemblies!