Friday Interview: Orsolya Tóth

This week, I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Orsolya, a very inspiring serial entrepreneur!

Tell us a little about your background and how you got into your current role.

Since I was 17 I knew that I’d like to work in advertising – it seemed to be the perfect crossover between art and business and besides, it calmed my parents who had got real worried when I listed majors I was interested in, like philosophy.

I choose my schools accordingly, and studied economics with a focus on communication and later sociology and by 2006 I was an account assistant at Lowe in Hungary. I practically grew into digital as it started to gain more traction and online budgets slowly started to grow.

My first venture was a small online marketing agency where we gained clients like Peugeot and EDF but eventually has fallen apart because of team differences and the human element. (Kids, do not start a business with you ex significant other especially if their current partner is your best friend!)

I’ve started to work on Drungli, the adventure generator in 2011 when I moved to Italy, built it into a brand that spontaneous budget travellers recognise and love with 40 000 unique visitors a month. Unfortunately after 3 years I had to recognise that if it is not making enough money to sustain the team and again, our visions of the future are not necessarily the same it might not be the right idea to pursue, so I started to freelance and teach marketing until the day when I came across this opportunity at GrantTree. I loved how the company organisation is structured, the lack of hierarchy, the flexibility and also the fact that I could work with startups and gain a thorough understanding of the London scene, so I packed my things up, and moved.

 How do you think the startup landscape has changed over time?

I’m really happy to see the support system that has built up over the last few years. There are certainly more and more opportunities to learn, connect, raise money and this is wonderful. I always thought that the fact that socialising for the startup community almost always includes some kind of learning experience as well and how openly most people are willing to share their failures and teach others is fantastic and will hopefully lead to a wider paradigm shift in how we think about business.

I also see a slight shift towards building more sustainable businesses, learning from mistakes, aiming for revenue from day zero in order to avoid desperately having to search for funding. I really welcome this change, because the crazy evaluations happening these days are not necessarily healthy. It breeds the kind of startup people who are only in it because it is trendy, because it might make you rich overnight.

It is certainly fun to run your own company, to dream big to change things, but it is also incredibly hard, stressful, requires dedication and for you to believe in what you are building. So the more conscientious we become, the more opportunity is there to learn and find real role models, the better of we are in the long term.

 What kind of companies does GrantTree usually deal with?

We usually work with high growth, highly innovative companies, the majority of them technology startups. Some of them are well known names, such as GoCardless, Kano, Solid Labs or Duedil and we are always excited to engage in conversation with them about their products because the new ideas they bring to life are almost always entirely fascinating.

 What do you think of London as a place for migrants to work/settle in?

I think it depends on your line of work and also where are you from a lot. I never had any problems, faced discrimination and always felt very welcome in the community I am most connected to. But let’s face it, I am pretty lucky, the startup scene is very welcoming in every country and it was never a problem to connect.

The fact that London is so colourful, that it is home to so many people from all around the world makes it easier to find your own place – this was what attracted me most when I first traveled here back in 2001.

However I’m also aware that not all industries are as welcoming as the startup scene (gender equality issues aside, and again, I was also very lucky in this regard) and it can be difficult to make friends in a city where everybody is always super busy.

 Have you ever experienced any funny cultural situations so far in your time here?

I’m not sure there was anything really funny, but in the everyday life there are always small things to pay attention to. For example the use of exclamation marks; since I often do copywriting, I had to realise Hungarians use exclamation marks way more often than Brits do.

Or, in Hungary if you go into a bar, the man is supposed to go in first – something having to do with if there is a fight and chairs are flying they should be the ones catching it – and here this is obviously not the case, which means I sometimes find myself in a funny little dance in front of venue doors when I unconsciously try to let my male companion to get in first.

Twitter: @lynnalinn
Instagram: @nandylen

Orsolya is one of the mentors at the Migrant Business Accelerator.
If you wish to help migrants become entrepreneurs and change their lives for the better, get in touch with This Foreigner Can Social Enterprise