Live from Bucharest - Sebastian Bududa
Hello, and welcome to the moon shots podcast. It's Episode 25. I'm your co host, Mike Parsons. And as usual, I'm joined by shadow and live from New York. Good morning, Sydney. Hello. Hey, listen. When I say live from New York, it sounds so exciting. It feels like we're on radio one. And now in the land on
Saturday Night Live.
Yes, I'll take either. I hope springtime is starting to come your way. But as as the weather changes. It's so great. To go into another episode, where we cover some of those fantastic people we met in Bucharest, entrepreneurs and innovators. Hopefully everyone's listened to the first show that we had from Bucharest with Elena. But we've got plenty of more wizard him to share.
Yeah, it was a jam packed program there, and Bucharest and that's why we're kind of breaking up the entire broadcast into four episodes. Because every every moon shotter that we that we spoke to, had a very interesting and unique take on innovation, and, you know, sharing their experience and the guests that will be hearing from in this episode. Sebastian Bududa is
no exception. Um, gosh. I mean, he, he really comes with a world of experience. And what's so nice is that despite him having studied at Stanford at Harvard, he's worked at just a few small startups that we always joke around like, you know, the World Bank, United Nations, McKinsey, despite all of that is incredible, down to earth. But he's, he's got this huge vision for transforming business in in Romania. And he really had a lot to share on the, on the show in Bucharest in me.
Yeah, the most interesting thing from him I feel like is he's not only, you know, connecting startups in Romania to funding and and resources but he's reimagining the way you know, the Romanian people engage civically, you know, he and he's even run for office, which I don't know that any of our previous guests have done.
Yeah. And as the first time politician, he was the he got the most votes out of any independent candidate in a sort of a classic two party system. So I mean, watch out for the his next shot at office. I'm sure he's gonna go again. And he's just got a wealth of knowledge. So well traveled. I feel like I mean, we could do a number of shows on Sebastian, he has a lot to offer in terms of anyone wishing to go out and do something in life. He's got a lot to offer.
Yeah. And I think Sebastian's story was kind of the most interesting to me just learning more about Romania and the Romanian people. So I'm really excited to share with you, our listeners, our interview with Sebastian Boucher. From our moonshots a live show in Bucharest,
Okay. Sebastian Sebastian. Thank you. We're very welcome. Make sure you are with your microphone. Love the mic. Love the mic. I
thanks. Now, listen, there's so much to talk about. I think where we want to start with you is, I would love you to tell us a little bit about your involvement with this student body that connects all these great Romanian students. I'd love you to tell us a little bit about what you've created there, and, and your role in that. And just to understand what it means to be connecting all these bright young minds. Sure.
So this country had the good fortune 20 years ago, and some to go from a dictatorship to somewhat of that democracy. And that has allowed us access to opportunities that has allowed many of us to travel abroad, and some of us to study abroad. And around 2008, I was in the states studying in California, not far from Silicon Valley. And one of my friends was going to study in the UK at King's College, and we realized that there were thousands of young men from Romania and women who would, you know, be on the same path as we were going to study abroad. And there was nobody trying to bring them together and also reconnecting them to the country. And we thought, why not everybody said can do it. He can bring Romanians together, Romanians in the diaspora, particularly cultural cultural insight again, what
is it about Romanians getting together Come on
now, I mean, in the diaspora, they say Romanians Can you know you can put two at the same table without starting a fight? And maybe it's something from back during communism. But basically it is said that unlike other other people, you know, the the Jews Italians were Irish, you know, it's hard to bring Romanians together. We, I believe we and many others have proven that myth very wrong. Right? What does that look like when you bring everyone together? Tell us a little bit about it. It's about helping people helping each other out. And many of us have, you know, are going into places abroad where far away from home far away from family and you, you know, you're in a system that's very different from the Romanian system. I often say I landed at Stanford, and I didn't know how to speak well, in English, although I did, but I didn't really have the exercise of speaking in public speaking in class asking questions. And the Romanian education system doesn't really encourage you to ask many questions. You know, it kind of like listen to the to the big boss. Yeah, yeah, just take notes. Yeah, I didn't know how to write very well, in English. I did very beautiful essays, but they weren't necessarily you know, what American universities consider. Very good. Okay. Hence my first few grades there.
Once they when they were
you're amongst friends with it, whether
any bs there was lower than a visa, oh, we're going to be minus very good,
you know. So now now. So you've created this body What's the name of it?
It's the battle SRS League of Romanian students. Right? And so how many students are involved? Well, now, that's about 15,000 Romanians around the world.
It's not me at all.
So and this was all coming from your personal experience. You get into the, into the Sunny Bay Area. Yeah, stroll down and then hang on. This is all a bit different. This is a bit hot. Maybe we should all get together and work through did did you bump
into any other fellow Romanians? wallet? Stanford? Yeah, absolutely. And there was a girl from my hometown of governance. For any of you interested, she was a former Olympic champion and chemistry very smart girl, much, much smarter than I was. And she really helped me, you know, learn the ropes and just orient myself for quickly. It was also though, about reconnecting all these bright minds back to Romania. And very few people in Norway were talking about this, the brain drain. huge issue for the country, we have about 4 million, nobody knows four to 5 million Romanians who left there's about 250,000 Romanian kids growing up today without at least one parent at home, and they went to work abroad. And sadly, for country, I think it's not, let's not generalize, but I think a lot of very good people left and trying to bring them back is very challenging, but also, I think, a requirement for a for going to grow this country again.
Yeah, so, okay. So there's a, there's another part of this, I'd like the very same thing happened for you. Because for somebody even who grew up and studied in the halls of Harvard or Stanford, the opportunity to work at the UN and the World Bank is quite remarkable. But you you chose after How long were you in the US for about 12 years? Okay, so 12 years abroad, and and you came home?
Yes, tell us about. So I guess about two and a half years ago, I was happily employed at the World Bank, and my wife who was American was happily employed and the Department of Justice and we were the very happy parents have a six month old baby girl and we decided to essentially leave all that and come here. And what's interesting is that very few people said, Good job. Many people here said, we're either nuts or I guess some a few said we're opportunists that you know, we're trying to come back Romanian steal a lot of money from the people even more than we were making it the bank or the person in the States. Wow, that ties into my political track as well.
All right, now, we want to get to that. But you gave up all of these wonderful career opportunity, what any, any person would, would die to have done just one of the and and yet you came back like, Where did you find the strength to
do this? I am more interested in like, what opportunities in speak to the fellow Romanians here. What opportunities Did you see here in Romania that made you and your wife want to come back in here.
Let me tell you the two quick stories before them. No, I think each of us is a product of our own lives, our own experiences, and my earliest memories of my life date back to 2010, some years ago, during the time when this city was in battle. We were people dying in the streets. And I was five years old back then. And I distinctly remember two images. One was my father coming in, and his workers cope with the flag on his arm band, the news crying of joy, never seen him cry before, I don't think I've seen him after. And he, you know, was feeling the hope that millions of Romanians felt, and so give us more context for the international viewers what was going on? What was this fight
as well, to know who is still empowered?
Yeah, the Romanian revolution, started out, as I guess, a riot in Timisoara and then spread throughout the country. We were in a small town in the northeastern part of the country, and for you to understand, maybe to illustrate with the story I was, I'm from a family of priests of people who serve the church, and my grandfather was a priest, and back then it wasn't a priest and communism. And so one of the things that they taught us, my parents taught us, me and my older sister in kindergarten is to is the answer to the question, Who do you love more choices for God, Joshua was the president, the time the dictator, and we were taught to say, just because if we had said God, they would have an issue as their parents. So that brings me to my second memory of those days, which was seeing this guy and his wife get shot. And they are they aired on national TV and the trial and the execution for those of you who remember, they happen so quickly that my prince literally didn't have time to pull us out of the room. And so we saw I saw at five years old, somebody with their brains, mobile for the ground God. And so I don't think you I, like I said, I'm a product of that experience. And, and growing up in the 90s there was a feeling of tremendous disillusionment after that, after the hope and the feeling that we could accomplish anything that we had the freedom not just to dream big dreams, but to accomplish them. Something kept holding us back. And I think to some extent is still does. And so I've All my life I've chased this dream of reclaiming that hope of giving help someone some way and I have I don't have the answer, but in some way, helping people help helping the country regain that hope and unleashing the huge potential that this plant
has. So let's talk let's talk about the potential of Bucharest and Romania. One of the things that really strikes me is how super bright I seem to just run into people who have have incredible educational rigor, which strikes me because I lost it to college for seven weeks. And I often meet people with two degrees, rocket scientist types, but I see enormous platform of people that are eager to learn who are curious, what are the things like let's work on brand Romania and the innovation brand of Romania like, what are we working with? What are the ingredients?
I think, again, we have to generalize, but I think it's true, you have so much creativity, this this people is really creative, good and bad, by the way. Yeah. So, you know, we have some of the most creative hackers in the world, I believe, creative artists, the Romanian movie sector is booming. We've, we're winning prize after prize. And I think in an open competition, we're not doing badly at all. And I've seen this in the in the university cities have studied that. And I've seen that in the institutions I've worked on, you put, generally speaking the Romanian among very good people from around the world, they're going to perform right very well. And you see this every year. Last year, I think we had 155 medal winners that the Olympians, various topics, math, science, and it's really in a country that has an invested a lot in education at all. It's the last thing the you in terms of
so many bright people, what's happening there?
I don't know. I think it's, some of it is genetic. Some of it is just the desire that we all share in a way to make a difference to prove to the world that people coming from this country can perform can be very good at what they do. And you see it everywhere. Like I said, in data. How many people know in every university in top 10, top 20 in the States? There's at least one math Romanian professor. It's just an example. Wow. Wow. And then, by the way, another statistic less well known the EU out of 10 fastest growing cities. Seven of them are Romanian, seven cities. Really? Yeah, distinguish, right Scrooge? It's Bucharest it's cry over weirdly enough,
no offense to anybody promote
any I love you guys. Here come the tweets.
It's Yes, it's people. It's It's It's but I showed cities across the country that in an open competition, an open market, the market? They're performing quite well.
Yeah. Okay. So we've got somebody who had 12 years in the US somebody who's brought together the 15,000 Romanian students who study abroad, we've got somebody who chose to return here who deeply believes in the potential to the creativity to the innovation that lies within Romania. So I think we'd probably have a few questions and a few areas of interest if you were to looking to Romanian, European global entrepreneurs or people with an idea and maybe the ambition to start something, what advice what sort of what's the playbook that you think we had a great one, like, just don't give up? Which is, which is great. What other advice could you give somebody who's sitting there dreaming to do something big? And where would you start? Like, what advice what counsel would you give? Do it,
just do it? Yeah, no one as seriously. I mean, you don't, you don't try, you're not going to succeed. And I've seen this time and again, people with very bright minds, very bright ideas that just don't have the courage to put them into practice. And you see it every day, I would, I would also advise them that no matter what they do with their lives, they should not check out I think, the biggest problem in the world, certainly in Romania, I think Europe, certainly in the States, probably globally, it's just people checking out of societies. Okay, can you
tell us more about what checking out looks like in
it, you see it every day, you ask people to care, to get involved, to care about their communities to go vote, to run for office, to be leaders in their communities to serve the public. And very few people are doing that anymore. And it's especially sad to see young people who are checked out, I don't care, nothing can be done, you know, the lines, I mean, you guys know them as well as I do, and how hard it is to really get people to care again, to get them to log back in. And I think, you know, the world is having unprecedented challenges. You talked about terrorism, migration, climate change, inequality, inequality, wealth gap. And we also have probably, for the first time in history, answers on these problems, and we could solve them my know, there's a famous knowledge curve, you know, by 1945, knowledge was doubling, something like that every 25 years, it's doubling every, what, 12 days today, it will double every 12 hours by 2025, thanks to companies like you guys, bay and VR and all those things. But for some reason, we're not capable of using that knowledge to solve the problems that we face. And that's lack of leadership. It's people just not caring enough just being content with their lives. And I think it's nothing sadder than somebody who live goes through their life makes a lot of money and just doesn't leave a mark. Just, you know, at the end of the road, everybody's gonna die.
Yeah, you're talking about legacy,
right? And you look back on that moment when you put your head on the pillow for the last time. And are you going to be able to say that you left behind more than you took away from the world? I think that's the ultimate test and ask yourself that question. I challenge you and live your life with that moment in mind. I know it sounds kind of grim, but it's true life is finite. We know that and the choice is ours. We live it like it is finite, then we want to leave behind more than we took away or we just sail through and be happy with our, with our life. So just do it. Yeah, absolutely. And care. So what would be a practical thing, we've got a big audience here and a big audience online. What's a couple of practical things people can start doing? start caring about what let's help people by like, let's really define you mentioned one, get out and vote. Yeah. Okay, what else can people go out and do to to get re engaged? And you know, give one What else can they go do? I would say start with small things go out in your communities and do an event on a weekend where you pick up the garbage in the streets, go out and plant the tree go out and bring your neighbors to your house and have a debate on what's going on in the world. Just put yourself out there go out and by the way, try to convince somebody on the street a stranger to care reengage to go vote do this exercise I like guaranteed it's it's one of the most challenging things you love her do well I think also very fulfilling by the way
yeah I can only imagine how did it feel when when you were getting out on the streets because you're you've done it you went out and you ran for office you know you obviously were not happy with what you were saying right and you ran for office How did that feel like to just have to start from zero build a constituency and I mean meanwhile you've you've created your own company rise consortium like you're busy with that you have a daughter who I'm guessing is off to kindergarten in primary school right absolutely wow Where do I even begin like
this is like you and you ran for office like how did that feel you exhaust city by far the most challenging but also fulfilling thing I've done in my whole life and I did it in Nance county which some of you might know no it's the county with the lowest average wage in the nation the county the county with the most people as a percentage who left to work abroad so they're not they're huge issues and very dominated by certain political forces and I ran as an independent most people that I ran into the in the streets they didn't know what an independent was that like I'm running as an independent okay but on which party list as a no no as an independent Kenya but which parties behind you no no I'm just myself okay fine. You know, you go on and try to block with
good luck with that
and it was the most is the toughest thing you've ever done thing
and I'll never forget the soul lady I ran into her into this and the streets was in front of her apartment building and I I said my spiel I'm Sebastian Volusia. I'm running for office I'm an independent and she said Oh, okay. here just trying to get a job. I understand in Parliament. And like I said, these are real engagements and people have to care. But it's possible. We Bye bye. had the best score out of all independence in the country. I can say
Hey, come on. Give it up.
What did you learn from the people that you talked to? in that? I mean, I'm sure there's
thousands of things. But what's
what are some things that you heard from your fellow Romanians that maybe you wouldn't know unless you got out into the streets and talk to people. And it's good. The list is so long,
it's humbling to go out and meet people and understand their their issues. I met an old lady who had every month she was getting a check from the government in the amount of about 47 Lee. That's about 10 bucks.
That was the Danish she was going to live off that, yeah,
I met young people who were on vacation, and we're working abroad, and their kids were at home and they were missing them like crazy. And they they felt hopeless for not having the opportunity to work in their hometown, their home county, I met entrepreneurs who are being bullied by the state and we're trying to survive and here in Romania, and but I also learned that people want to believe that there's a chance there's not a single individual that I met who was completely resigned, who had lost all hope. In fact, if you get beyond that initial conversation of all you're just looking for a job, most people are going to say, We want this country to be good. We want the world to be a better place and by the way, if somebody's going to want to do it, maybe will support them. So there's hope in the world. Wow.
an uplifting like that's a gift after all those hard yards up and down the streets introducing yourself to walk away knowing that there is resilience Yeah. And and there's a lot of good that you can believe in for the future. Absolutely. Wow, that's good. Now on I pick up on your theme a little bit, you know, put yourself out there. I think we should put chat out there don't you think?
Now before before
check goes we completely skipped a very important part of our live shows which is we have all these fantastic Romanian you've got me feeling so proud of Romania right now. You've got it. We've got to get Chad eating one of these great delicacies. Sebastian way, where would you go? Or
where I'm from? We have a tradition of baking this amazing cake which is because on UK and I think my grandmother really does the best because then I can The world doesn't every every Romanians grandma yesterday,
I don't know
just saying what is your recommendation? It's a bit messy tea. Okay.
Equally. I'll try to go
for it. Okay, now. So what's next? What? Well, well, Chad Trump's a bit and then we'll send him into the audience. What's next for you? What are you working on and tell us a little bit about what's next for submission
caps. More on all these different projects have many hats. But right now, I'm also building this business called rice Consortium. And we're building the largest network of Romanian investment experts, as we call them. They're people who are around the world trying to connect local businesses back through to Romania, and local businesses from Romania to help them expand the broad and we're having quite a quite a bit of success with that.
So that's great. But what I what I know is that your political efforts, your efforts with the students, the business that you've created, all seem to come back to this idea of celebrating
that I'm doing a PhD, by the way.
Oh, my gosh, see, he just when you thought there was nothing left that this man could do. There's, there's no what's the topic of study? It's on business. The business corruption Oh, Jesus. Heavy, not peer to peer networking.
on a different show. We need a whole show for that mentions. Does politics Alright, Chad heavy, have you You're still munching away. Okay, so we've heard delicious really is there some kind of alcohol in the cake
shouldn't be, but
it's some kind of
a sweet flavor. I'm trying to identify. Just a warning to all the viewers who Chad does operate the video screen. So it might get a little bit wonky for a lot moon shots
for a reason, though? Yeah, there we go.
Yeah, we do shots. Gelb to the moon Okay, so we've heard lots of topics, so much for Romania, to be proud about the fact that once again, it seems like there's a theme resilience and the strength to keep going and to follow your calling. I would say that's, that's something that we've taken. So let's, I see a very bright lady there who was very engaged. What, what was your biggest insight from listening to Sebastian,
I'm Alexandra. And I totally love this story. Particularly because I have friends that went to study in the UK. And the first thing they did when they got to college was to look for peers through your project. So that was completely amazing. And I personally loved the part about grit and resilience, and I find it uplifting that you can hear such topics out in the open, and I know for sure what I'm going to do next. And I have a list of friends that I'm going to bicker
and I and get under case about. So what do you care about? Do you want to go out and get involved in some sort of social campaign or stuff like that? So
great. What's your name again, Alexander. Come on. Give it up.
So there's some
troublemakers up the back. There you go. I knew I knew this gentleman wanted to ask a question.
Yeah. Hi, my name is Paul. I really enjoyed your your speech. So there is an emotional for me, and emotional topic you touched upon. So I'm a big fan of Romania as a brand. And I believe you're also right, the the 89 revolution has never ended. And the saddest part that I do find going in the streets are talking to my friends is that young youngsters, young people like us do give up and thing that they do not matter. And also in the recent history, there have been some moments where we did topple the, the, the current status. So we should have enough examples that push this, this wrong idea that we do not matter. We cannot change anything away. But still. And of course, also the idea that it's been touched upon before by Ellen as well. So if you're walking through hell, keep walking. That's something that I always like. And I believe in. And it's nice that somebody enforces that from time time. Because I also sometimes feel like I want to give up like, okay, quit. We all do. We all do. Yeah. And yeah, that's nice.
So thank you. Thank you very much. I want to kick it back to you. Like when we had a very honest discussion with Elaine are about when it gets tough. Sometimes we do feel like giving up when you feel really tired, and you're in the valley of darkness. What do you go to, to like, get yourself through that? How do you keep going? What's the thought? Do you have a practice
I did to me, it's my daughter. And you know, as any parent we love her very much. And to us. What we're trying to do was was also about her about giving her the opportunity to at least say, I have the option of staying in Romania and fulfilling my dreams. I think the young generation needs that man. You know, it's about education. It's about opportunity. I play with her a lot, you know, just silly game. Kick the balloon around Megan. I sing like Elvis some you do
Elvis as well. How'd you guys this guy? Come on. Stop. Already
know I do. I can do the lip. Oh, ok. That will be at the cocktail bar after the show.
That's Gary. What's her name? Joanne. Joanne. So guys, please not only show your appreciation for Sebastian, but let's give young Joanne who. Hopefully he's watching from home. A really big round of appreciation. Guys, please, Sebastian.
you have it. Mike. So many learnings from our live show in Bucharest.
Absolutely. I couldn't agree more. So on that note, Chad, I want to thank you. I want to thank all of our listeners. It's been great having you on board for the journey so far. And there's plenty more to come. So take care, everyone. Find us at moonshots.io. And I think that brings us to the end of the show
Transcribed by https://otter.ai