It’s a warm day in Geneva. A group of young entrepreneurs from different backgrounds and cultural origins is gathered for the first of the 4-day program of the Entrepreneurship School. The educational project, in its 25th edition, is an initiative of ThinkYoung, a Brussels-based think thank which aims to improve the youth world and provide developing tools to young people. The goal of the program is to create, in groups, management projects until the end of the week – the best one will be awarded for its creativity, feasibility, sustainability and profitability.
The first speaker of the afternoon is Yonathan Parienti, CEO and founder of Horyou. Surrounded by curious faces, he has to present the social network for social good and then, be ready to answer the questions of each group for 5 minutes, in rounds. They are challenged to make as many questions as possible, to push the speaker as much as possible. Eager, they want to know about everything – funding, recruiting, partnerships, personal features.
Parienti seems happy about their passion and curiosity – it is exactly what he expects from this generation of future business leaders. “The new generation is getting ready to manage their own business very soon. Being an entrepreneur is not to wait for things to happen but to build something that is missing in the world”, he says. He is asked to tell his story – a former banker from JP Morgan and Bank of China who, after 13 years on the financial market, decided to build his own company, inspired by the dream to make the world a better place.
Like many entrepreneurs, Yonathan kept his job while he was working on the initial steps of Horyou. After a few months, he finally decided to “jump” into the entrepreneurial adventure. “At some point you have to give all your energy and time – and then you literally jump”, he says. Between 2012 and 2013, he built the team and in December 2013 he launched the Horyou platform – which now congregates a community of more than 250,000 users and 1,100 organizations from 180 countries and is currently closing its 4th investment round.
The audience is very interested about investors and partnerships – the best advice, he says, is to choose them very well. “Be certain that people that invest in your company really match your ideals and the ideals of your company. If you don’t have the right investors with you, your chance of success will be compromised”, he says. It’s not only a matter of being chosen, then. It’s a match.
Connect online and offline worlds for the social good. This is one of the missions of Horyou, but it was not an obvious choice since the beginning. “We started as a social media platform, but soon we realized we needed to be more, to truly connect with members and organizations”, he says. The first experience was with the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum, the SIGEF, in 2014, organized in Geneva by Horyou. “When we gathered 2,500 global citizens, coming from all over the world, meeting for 3 days of interactions, it was the very key moment we saw what we were doing was meaningful”, he says. The growth strategy continued with digital campaign, documentaries, the launch of Horyou blog, Horyou TV, the mobile application and other projects that made the enterprise unique and continuously innovative. Currently, Horyou team is organizing the 3rd edition of SIGEF, which will take place in November in Marrakesh, Morocco, during the COP 22. It’s, indeed, a match.
Challenges and opportunities
When asked about challenges, Yonathan is optimistic. “Life is not about failure and success. It’s about what do you do now. It is about finding the energy and resources to face whatever challenges. I find this in people we support and I get inspired by them”. As an advice for the future entrepreneurs, he says: “Challenges should be seen as part of the path for a start up. You have to plan it. You have to go for what you need. Be confident, believe in your project”.
After a few round of questions, the lecture is done. However, the entrepreneurs are not tired of asking – they surround Yonathan during coffee break and ask for more – contacts, stories, but advices over all. The last one, before leaving, is that there is not such a thing as a recipe for success. Trust your intuition, he says. It is and will be your best friend.
Written by Vivian Soares