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Q. What’s the most inspiring place you have ever traveled to or resided in for business and why?
The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched Startup Lab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
The Red Rocks in Sedona, Ariz. are breathtakingly beautiful, but unlike other high desert areas, it’s lush, green, and you can always go and dip your toes in the creek running through the town. Sedona is peaceful and relaxing, and the physical space equals mental space. It gives me room to breathe and plot out the next steps for my companies.
When I first came to China in 2008, I realized why more and more people were interested in this country. It felt like the USA in the 1950s and ’60s. My entrepreneurial spirit was inspired by talking to the locals about business and how they came from nothing to selling anything they could to provide a better lifestyle for their family. It was the perfect place to inspire me.
There are a lot of great cities in which entrepreneurs should hang out, and each place inspires me in a different way. Visiting Tanzania stands out in my mind because it changed my perspective on running my business. It taught me that creativity is more valuable than any currency and that throwing money at problems simply doesn’t work.
In the 1400s, Sagres, Portugal was believed to be the end point of the world. I got inspiration from Sagres when looking out into the endless blue sea. I thought of how people back then believed that the world was flat, and you’d die if you sailed beyond a certain point. Then, one day, an explorer ventured beyond that point and discovered the rest of the world. That’s entrepreneurship.
The culture in Macau is diverse, and the people have an amazing sense of practicality, survival and ingenuity. My time there was truly an inspirational experience.
6. New York City
The business hustle and creativity in the city is astounding. From the Garment District to Williamsburg to Startup Alley to Wall Street, all the art, fashion, entertainment, technology and culture in New York City inspires me. Every day there are opportunities to take and passionate people who are working hard to make dreams into realities.
There were a lot of dirt roads, open space and bare land. There was also a lot of poverty there, but every person was working extremely hard to create his own success. It was extremely inspiring.
8. The Bay Area
I know it’s cliché, but for me, the Bay Area (Silicon Valley and San Francisco) is just so inspiring. There are a ton of new potential startup hubs popping up (D.C. is one of the best, according to Forbes), and that’s great to see. But there’s just something in the water of the Bay, where you can’t help but overhear entrepreneurs planning new startups and global domination. I love it.
9. South Africa
I traveled to South Africa with Richard Branson and a group of extremely successful entrepreneurs. We masterminded with each other, mentored budding entrepreneurs in Johannesburg, visited local nonprofits and even got to stay in Richard’s high-end game reserve to go on safari. It was life-changing to be able to learn firsthand from one of the most innovative business minds in the world.
The city of lights just lights me up. It’s not a business hub in the same way that the Silicon Valley is, but that’s not why I go there. I don’t visit Paris to network with other entrepreneurs; I go to be inspired and awed by its beauty, history, culture and endless French allure. When I leave, I take this light with me and use it to inspire my work back home.
Business inspiration comes when you’re challenged by new or different problems than you would face in your own culture. Helping companies with talent strategies in the States is completely different from Singapore, where unemployment is 1.5 percent and leave notice isn’t two weeks — it’s two months. It forces our business to think about how to solve client problems differently.
Everyone’s an entrepreneur in Taiwan. Malls and chain restaurants are still a relatively new concept there. They still have mom and pop shops and restaurants on every corner. It’s inspiring to see how hard people work on their small businesses. Taiwanese people are incredibly creative and hardworking. It’s doesn’t hurt that the economy (and food) are both excellent.
Nestled amid the Alps, it’s hard to deny the efficiency and sophistication of this Swiss city. With prestigious universities such as ETH Zürich, which draw the likes of Disney’s Imagineering’s Research and Development group, Zürich is innovative and savvy.