Hungarian and American Youth Partner to Learn to Commercialize their Ideas

By InvestCEE Staff

August 7, 2019

Dr. Gray welcomes ELA US/International participants from Hungary and Connecticut to their week-long seminar. He explains that the team is number one. Photo taken: July 29, 2019 at Southern Connecticut State University.

Three years ago, Dr. Norman Gray and a group of Hungarians at Quinnipiac University (Connecticut, USA) partnered with ConnCAT, a local organization that supports quality educational opportunities for the under-served in the New Haven community, to train the next generation of global entrepreneurs. The project was called ELA: Entrepreneur Leadership Academy. Today there are ELA High School, ELA College Internship, ELA US/International and ELA Hungary/International all now boasting from 20 to over 90 participants.


The idea was simple: teach everyone the same core principles (Dr. Gray's "9 Steps") and build international teams. "The keys to success that we focus on," explains Dr. Gray, "are first the team, second the product, and third the intellectual property. But the team is first. And I teach them that if you have the right team of people, you can - and you will! - always pivot until you get the product right. But the team is number one."


Sunday, July 28, 10 Hungarians arrived to New Haven, Connecticut, where they joined 10 Connecticut residents for ELA US/International, hosted on the campus of Southern Connecticut State University. All the participants lived together in the dorms and worked together at their “offices” on campus every day.


As Dr. Gray explained at the opening ceremony, “Every morning, you’ll come here to your office. You’ll meet with your team, you’ll work with your team, and you’ll learn to do everything to support your team. Then at night you’ll go back to the dorm and your roommates are your family. You’ll hang out with your family and support your family. Don’t cross lines. You need to understand from Day 1 that launching a business is very demanding but you have to find work-life balance and I want you to remember that.”


This year's ELA seminars were primarily supported on the Hungarian side by the INPUT Program in Hungary and by ConnCAT on the American side. Chris Ball, Hungary's Honorary Consul to Connecticut, supported the program by speaking with the group and participating in the final day of judging finalists and awarding certificates of completion.

Left to Right: Erik Clemons (CEO and President, ConnCAT), Dr. Normal Gray (CEO, Vanessa Research), Dr. Chris Ball (Quinnipiac University and InvestCEE). Picture taken: August 2, 2019 at at ELA US's closing pitch competition, Southern Connecticut State University

During the week, the participants learned Dr. Gray’s 9-Steps from Idea to Commercialization. They broke into 6 groups, each mixed 50:50 Hungarians and Americans. Each team had to come up with an original idea, conduct market research, create a proto-type, and make a final pitch to faux investors.


The final businesses included a surfboard business, two sanitation businesses, a home plant business, a cool-material fashion business and the winning team had a unique phone charging business. The three faux investors included a research scientist to assess the technological feasibility of each idea, a marketing expert to assess the marketing/sales plan, both from Dr. Gray’s company, Vanessa Research, as well as InvestCEE’s own, Chris Ball, serving as an economist and consultant to help evaluate the overall business plan. The audience included other local businesspeople who contributed with questions and comments for the presenters.


ELA US/International was held the week of July 29th to August 2nd and comes in the middle of a month of such courses, all led by Dr. Gray. It followed ELA High School the week before where 90 Connecticut High School students went through a similar course. This, starting August 5th, 10 Americans are in Hungary where they partnered with local Hungarian entrepreneurs for a similar course as well. Ball, who also serves at Hungary's Honorary Consul to Connecticut, has supported

Erik Clemons (CEO and President, ConnCAT) talks to ELA participants about the critical life lessons they all learned during their 1-week together. Photo taken August 2, 2019, during closing ceremony where Mr. Clemons handed out certificates of completion, Southern Connecticut State University.



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