College of Business > News & Events > Coleman Entrepreneurship Center Co- Hosts Three-Day Summit for Young European Entrepreneurs
By Robin Florzak /
May 13, 2022 /
Posted in: Research and Centers /
Coleman Entrepreneurship Center (CEC) and partner
WorldChicago welcomed 42 young European entrepreneurs to DePaul University’s Loop Campus this spring for a three-day innovation summit that featured faculty and alumni entrepreneur talks and a whirlwind tour of Chicago’s startup community.
The May 11-13 summit kicked off this year’s
Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative (YTILI), the U.S. State Department’s flagship fellowship program. YTILI seeks to empower fledgling European business and social entrepreneurs to grow their ventures, foster global partnerships and boost economic development in their home communities. The CEC sought to co-host the summit after sponsoring Chicago visits by individual YTILI fellows in the past, says Bruce Leech, CEC executive director.
“This is a great opportunity for us to share our
comprehensive entrepreneurship education and the vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in Chicago with these young entrepreneurs,” Leech says. “We are working with them to share best practices in growing their businesses and promoting further collaboration with the U.S. economy. We will be hosting this conference again in 2023 and look forward to the tremendous impact of this program.”
This year’s program was delayed by the pandemic and now takes on new significance because it will help the fellows overcome setbacks caused by the pandemic, says Coleman Entrepreneurship Chair Maija Renko, who is co-hosting with Leech.
“It is so wonderful to be finally able to welcome this group to DePaul and Chicago,” she says. “The opportunity to host young innovators from Europe at DePaul feels special after the pandemic that made international travel a challenge, and
dramatically changed the business landscape for entrepreneurs in Europe and in the USA."
For 2022 cohort member Natalia Curnic of Moldova, the summit and her fellowship are a chance to see in person how American entrepreneurs scale their businesses.
“Throughout my professional experience I have worked closely with the American community, and I like very much how you think, how the U.S. innovates,” says Curnic, the co-founder and managing partner of the tourism firm GoAdventure Moldova, who also leads a sustainable development nonprofit. “With your experience and expertise, I look forward to learning how we can help our local communities develop in the long run. I am very curious to see how innovation can be addressed in small countries in the post-Soviet Union, like we are. And it’s not only about us, we are here to advocate for our countries.”
DePaul alumnus and serial entrepreneur Adam Robinson (MBA ’03), CEO of
Hireology, was among the Chicago business founders who shared their experiences and advice with the YTILI fellows. During his presentation, Robinson described the various stages of development that entrepreneurial ventures experience and suggested strategies for managing cash flows and organizational culture at each stage.
One of the biggest questions new venture founders need to answer, he told the fellows, is how much control to give up to raise money and generate positive financial outcomes. “If you can walk out of here with one thing that you can do to get closer to where you want to go,” Robinson advised, “it is to answer that question.”
After the Chicago summit, the entrepreneurs will travel to locations throughout the U.S. to complete one-month fellowships with startup founders and entrepreneurial organizations. Leech and Renko will present weekly webinars on innovation topics for the fellows during the month. In June they will reconvene with the group in Washington, D.C., for a final in-person program before the fellows leave for their home countries.
Fellow Ina Bertel, associate director of MTB-grupp, a company that promotes cycling and healthy living in Belarus, says she is grateful for the summit and fellowship because it is “a great chance for us to study and to use all these tools (we learn) in our businesses and our countries.
“We would like to understand and adopt it in our own countries to make something good for our countries, to develop them," she says. “And of course it’s great to meet new people and have new experiences. It’s exciting!”