- 8 Aug 2016 12:00 PM
Before coming to live in Budapest for the 3rd time in his life to build ARTCOSMOS, Michael has been living in Budapest in 2003/2004 while studying for his MBA at CEU Business School and then in 2005/2006 to work for an American-Hungarian start-up as Business Development Manager.
Prior to founding his own start-up, Michael has worked for several years as a turnaround and restructuring consultant in Germany and Switzerland, where he led the inhouse consulting team of a Swiss multinational group before moving into a global sales management role for its largest division.
1. When did you arrive in Hungary and what brought you here?
This is actually my 3rd time in Budapest, I first came here in 2004 for my MBA at CEU Business School, then returned from 2006 to 2007 to work for a local start-up.
Now I came back in 2015 to turn our startup dreams into reality. My wife (who is originally from Budapest) and myself are now working with a fantastic team of local creatives to make ARTCOSMOS.com the go-to location for unique and affordable art on the internet.
The reason we chose Budapest is that we knew the level of creative and talented people in Budapest – for me Budapest is one of the most entrepreneurial cities in Europe, even though it is still lacking a good start-up infrastructure.
2. Have you ever been an expatriate elsewhere?
Yes, I lived and worked in London and Zurich before. Both are great cities, but they do not have this ‘I can do everything’ vibe that Budapest has for me. I think the reason is the significantly higher income level which does not drive people to create small companies beside their full-time job as appears to be normal in Budapest.
Still I believe this spirit will also help Budapest to thrive – for me networks of micro-enterprises are the future and Budapest already has this, though on a small scale.
3. What surprised you most about Hungary?
I think it really was the creativity of the people – when I came here in 2004 I thought like many ‘Westeners’ that people in Eastern Europe are taught to follow orders and that creativity was a virtue of the West – boy was I wrong!
4. Friends are in Budapest for a weekend - what must they absolutely see and do?
This is the other amazing thing about Budapest – there are so many things, not just to see but to experience. For me Budapest besides all the great sides is mostly a city you want to experience by simply walking around and visiting all these wonderful small boutique cafes and restaurants.
So we usually don’t focus so much on mayor sites when we have friends here – they just love to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the beautiful architecture you find at every corner.
Still a must do in summer is spending an evening around Erszebet Ter, while in winter it is an afternoon outside in the Szechenyi bath.
5. What is your favourite Hungarian food?
Very basic - I am addicted to Kolbasz – so greasy but yummi! I also can’t keep my hands from Hungarian sweet treats like Retes and Pite, especially everything with Turos! You have not been to Hungary if you did not taste Turos.
6. What is never missing from your refrigerator?
Believe it or not – milk! I am still a milk boy who needs his glass of milk in the morning to be happy.
7.What is your favourite Hungarian word?
It is rather a phrase than a word: “Minden rendben lesz” – everything is going to be alright! As a startup entrepreneur a lot of things go wrong, so you have to believe in this phrase!
8. What do you miss most from home?
A stronger service and quality orientation! I am often shocked about both, the lack of efficiency in services whether it is in governmental offices, post, banks or even supermarkets, and the low focus on ensuring quality in what people do. In both areas I see huge potential for improvement.
But then I lived the last seven years in Germany and Switzerland, both countries who are famous for these attributes, and I can assure you also there things are not perfect.
9. What career other than yours would you love to pursue?
NONE – I left my senior management job in a multinational company to move here and follow my dream of creating a startup.
It is certainly painful on many days, but it still offers every day limitless opportunities.
10. What's a job you would definitely never want?
A 9-5 job with routine tasks and no chance to make a difference – if you work every day, it better should be on something that you enjoy and where you can create meaning.
11. Where did you spend your last vacation?
South Africa – my wife and me got married there. We wanted to have a beach wedding, complete with tuxedo and barefoot – and it was fantastic, just us and our closest family.
But now we are ‘enjoying’ the bureaucratic nightmare of getting our marriage validated in Hungary ;-)
12. Where do you hope to spend your next holiday?
We are just having our first child, so together with working on startup there is no room for long-distance holidays, so it will be beautiful Balaton together with both our parents and our little daughter.
13. Apart of temptation what can't you resist?
At the moment – running over every 15 minutes to have a look at my sleeping baby daughter – it is amazing!
14. What was your favourite band, film, or hobby as a teen?
Most have probably forgotten or never heard of the movie but I simply loved the Gremlins! They are actually a bit like my wife – so cute, but dangerous when wrongly treated!
15. Red wine or white?
Mostly red – on Hungarian wines my favorite choice is Bikaver.
16. Book or movie?
I am just reading a book by Orhan Pamuk, called ‘Snow’. I have read some other books from him before – he has a great style and it is interesting to dive with him into the Turkish soul.
17. Morning person or night person?
Definitely morning – I love to walk Budapest’s street early in the morning before starting to work, when you see some part of the city about to go to sleep and other parts trying to wake up.
18. Which social issue do you feel most strongly about?
There are many – but the one that drives me daily is the democratization of markets.
Through network effects the internet offers we can bring together micro-producer of unique and customized quality goods with everyday people – so that everyday people can more and more afford experiences previously limited to the financially privileged few.
At the same time more and more people can fulfill their dream of becoming independent and make a living from things they like to do. While large corporations focusing on computerized automation, this is where people can still create jobs and incredible value.
With a rise in handcrafted items, we might also be able to help solve other problems – when starting to produce something takes less and less capital investment, opportunities arise for the underprivileged to change their situation.
But this requires a constant investment in education – the more connected and technified our world becomes, the more important education will be!
19. Buda or Pest side?
Easy choice – Pest! I like Buda, but Pest is where the life is. When we came here there was no question for me, I had to live in the 6th district, right in the middle of the city!
20. What would you say is your personal motto?
The motto which is defining my life at the moment is ‘ART IS FOR EVERYBODY!’ – the motto of our startup ARTCOSMOS.com.