Catapult Hosts WorldChicago Fellow

Catapult is privileged to host a Fellow as part of the WorldChicago Professional Fellows Program. Andrea Cordas, Managing Director at startup accelerator SPARK Business Park in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, is spending her Fellowship in Chicago working at Catapult this month. SPARK is a privately funded accelerator with the mission to boost innovation, increase technology, and develop entrepreneurship in the region. Prior to SPARK, Andrea was Project Manager and Director of International Affairs at the Chamber of Commerce City of Mostar.

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The Professional Fellows Programs is a rigorous month-long exchange bringing emerging leaders from around the world in the fields of government, civic engagement, entrepreneurship and journalism to the United States to work at various government offices, businesses and non-profits. Fellows receive in-depth, real-world, practical experiences, and have some fun in their host cities as well. Andrea is with us at Catapult Monday through Thursday, and on Fridays she meets with the other Fellows for various educational and social experiences. At the end of her time in Chicago, Andrea heads to Washington, DC with her group to participate in the Professional Fellows Congress.

At Catapult, Andrea has quickly engaged in our community - attending events, talking to founders from our resident startups, and learning about Catapult and the Chicago tech ecosystem. We are equally learning from Andrea - sharing best practices, discussing challenges, and highlighting areas of commonality.

The Fellowship program fosters networking and the formation of partnerships to continue long after the fellowship is over. American hosts are eligible for a reciprocal exchange… so we maybe we’ll take Catapult on the road to Bosnia and Herzegovina!

We sat down with Andrea to learn more about her, the Fellowship, SPARK, and how she likes Chicago. What luck to be in our city at this historic time. Let’s hope she’s a Cubs fan!

How did you get interested in the Professional Fellows Program?

I met a friend from Sarajevo, who told me about the program and recommended that I apply. She was in Chicago last fall and became a very inspired and active entrepreneur. This got me thinking about personal development and professional goals I have for the future. I was sure that the experience would serve me well. I was looking forward to meeting the Chicago tech entrepreneurship community!

What are your goals for the month that you are here in Chicago? What do you hope to get out of the Fellowship?

My goal for the month is to understand how tech innovation and the startup ecosystem works here in Chicago. To understand this I am talking to tech entrepreneurs, academic representatives who are active in the field of education and entrepreneurship, and to different organizations who are a part of the startup ecosystem. I also hope to gain an understanding of what Catapult Chicago is and how it contributes to the success of its startups.

By the end of my Fellowship I hope to be able to say that all of my goals are reached and that when I go back home I will be able to share the knowledge and experiences I gathered during my time here. I also hope that I will have an opportunity to cooperate with some of the people I meet in Chicago and that a partnership between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Chicago will only grow stronger in the future.

Where do you work in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

Back home in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina I work at SPARK business park as a Managing Director. SPARK is a fully privately funded startup accelerator. We like to say that SPARK is a place where new technologies and lifelong learning is promoted, a place where knowledge is shared, and a place where the magic of innovation happens.

How are SPARK and Catapult similar and different?

SPARK and Catapult share a common mission of helping startups scale. However, Catapult is unique for its peer selected community of startups. We do something like that in an informal capacity, but now I am going to try and implement it formally when I go back home to SPARK.

SPARK consists of four programs: school, lab, startup and business. These make it different from Catapult. The first program (school) is focused on increasing IT literacy through educating youth in programming, design and project management. The second program (lab) helps companies solve their hardware problems and develop their hardware prototypes. The third program (startup) is a six-month acceleration program aimed at helping startups improve their products and services and increase their traction. The fourth program (business) is aimed at growing businesses that want to focus more on their core business and to which SPARK is delivering HR, marketing, research and development, and business advisory services.

What is the tech startup scene like in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina?

Mostar has a very poorly developed tech startup scene, which SPARK is changing rapidly. There is, though, a great technology park which we at SPARK cooperate with in promoting startup culture within the city.

What do you think of Chicago? What have you done since you’ve been here?

What I thought was unique about Chicago is the way in which one can quickly understand the prevalent values and see that the city is persistently supporting entrepreneurs and new technologies. I would describe it as an open society facing global challenges in a very positive manner, keeping its entrepreneurial community well-supported and connected to capital, experienced mentors and relevant business resources.  

So far, I have been to some tech meet-ups, founders’ gatherings, Chicago Innovation Awards 2016, Ideas Week 2016 and The Museum of Science and Industry. World Chicago organized a wonderful River and Lake Boat Cruise for all the Professional Fellows, so I had a sunny cruise in Chicago.

What do you do in your free time when you’re home in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

I usually take some time to read a book, then reflect on the passing day and brainstorm about where I currently am and where I want to be. My mind always has some new ideas, but with time I learned that I need to focus on those few that I consider to be most relevant for the current moment. After these moments I never miss watching some good TV shows with my husband!

Lightning Round:

What is your best app for productivity?

G Suite

What’s the best app for killing time?

Curiosity

Favorite tv show to binge watch?

The 100

Go-to food for working late?

Fruits & Nuts

Stay fit activity?

Walking in Nature