Last year I discovered the application to the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative (YTILI) just a day before the deadline. I was intrigued, should I apply or not.
The fellowship is non-resident and lasts one year. During this time you are going to spend 3-4 weeks in the US, meeting the fellows through virtual round tables and 4 intense days in Europe for Summit.
Is it worth the time and the commitment? Definitely! Here are my 3 reasons to why applying to YTILI turned out to be the best decision I made in 2017.
On the 6th of September 2017 I landed in Washington. I had never been to this city, and was going to meet 49 other fellows for the first time. I did not expect that during the four intense days we spent together I would end up with so many great friends and contacts. After that we were sent all over the US, and I ended up in Boston where I made many other meaningful connections.
After I came back from the US, I spend most of the fall of 2017 travelling in Europe, visiting tech-conferences and meeting wonderful entrepreneurs I met through YTILI. I would never do that on my own, but through this network of key players, friends of friends, I got to know many interesting people and felt welcomed everywhere I went. It resulted in blog posts, articles to the Norwegian press and new relevant contacts for my business.
If you are an entrepreneur with international aspirations, you should apply. YTILI gives you a great network, and opens up so many doors to the startup ecosystem in Europe and US.
The US experience
US is a one fascinating country. I wanted to join the fellowship to understand more of how the American ecosystem is, the correlation between the American culture and their entrepreneurial mindset and what are they doing better than the Nordics. Understanding narratives is a big part of my work as a writer and an entrepreneur in Norway. That’s why I think the workshops we had in Washington were very useful. We learned about how to present yourself in an American way and met representatives from the US State Department to learn more about entrepreneurship.
When I came to Boston, my placement for the next two weeks was at the non-profit Transformative Culture Project. The fact that you actually have to be part of a workplace is also a great way to have the US experience. My host was founder the Urban Labs Malia Lazu, a really inspiring knowledgeable leader on topics like diversity, entrepreneurship, culture and history of Boston and US. One of their projects is a business accelerator entrepreneurship program. The goal is to help local aspiring entrepreneurs to start new businesses and build up the local communities in the Boston area. Here is an interview with one of their founders. It gave a glimpse in how it is to be an entrepreneur in the US. It is wonderful and kind of hellish at the same time.
Also, it costs a lot to travel to US, stay for many days in Boston, right in the middle of the city, all the talks, workshops and networking. I would not be able to afford this trip on my own, and it would take me years before I would come to US on this kind of journey on my own. I think the fellowship is an amazing opportunity to get access to the US. I am really grateful to US State Departement and German Marshall Fund of the US for the opportunity.
Almost every co-fellow I talked to the first evening in US had barely slept the days prior to departure. The life of an entrepreneur is like this, especially when you are going to be away from your team for several weeks in a different time zone. It sounds kind of paralyzing, and I bet many do not apply exactly for this reason.
I myself had just launched my book on best founders from Norway, and the last thing on my mind was to leave Oslo. However, I am happy for going. The stay in the US and the contact with YTILI afterwards really challenged my mindset and view on things. It gave me new impulses, thoughts and contacts. To think big has always been one of my leading life principles, but being in the US together with like minded people gave me the needed boost.
Today I am working on a new project that has great potential. I know for sure that this idea would never pop into my head, and I would never dare to start on this project without this fellowship.
So, if any of this feels right to you, apply 🙂
Info about YTILI
Launched in 2016, the Young Transatlantic Innovative Leaders Initiative Fellowship is the flagship program of the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative (YTILI) of the U.S. Department of State and is supported in its implementation by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF).
YTILI empowers young European entrepreneurs and innovators with the tools, networks, and resources they need to grow their enterprises and contribute more fully to economic development and job creation, security, and good governance in the region. YTILI is also a vehicle for building a transatlantic network of innovators that can contribute to an ongoing policy dialogue that strengthens the transatlantic relationship.
In 2017, the YTILI Fellowship will engage up to 100 young European leaders in a series of professional development and leadership activities that are designed to support the growth and development of commercial and social business ventures in their home communities.