The Brain Behind Brain Bar: Q&A with the Co-Founder

Brain Bar Budapest is what you get when a team of visionaries decides to launch a technology-centric focused festival that starts where others stop. Gergely Böszörményi-Nagy, co-founder of this festival of future thinking, wanted to go beyond merely describing innovation. Rather, Brain Bar Budapest would consider the benefits — and risks — that so many stunning technological advances promise (or portend) with respect to individuals, organizations, states and civilization writ large.

Announcing Brain Bar Budapest 2016. Left to right: Christopher Mattheisen (Telekom), Edina Hael and Marta Poslad (Google) and Gergely Böszörményi-Nagy (Design Terminal)

With preparations well underway for the festival’s second installment to take place June 2–4, 2016, Böszörményi-Nagy took some time to answer a few questions about Brain Bar Budapest, where the festival is headed, and what he hopes attendees gain from the experience.

Q: What was the initial inspiration for Brain Bar Budapest?

A: The ambition was to make our communities future-proof. To become competitive, Europe needs new, dynamic platforms to exchange visions. To become more democratic, industry needs an honest and constructive format where human dilemmas of technological change can be meaningfully debated. To become better recognized as an intellectual hub, Budapest needs a global event on contemporary issues. Brain Bar Budapest covers all three bases.

Q: How is the festival different than, say, a TEDx conference?

A: I think we dig deeper. First, Brain Bar is about debates, not one-way communication. While many people are still enjoying TED talks, the time has come to open the ring and let the masterminds, their ideas and visions challenge each other. Second is inclusivity. Both on the stage and in the audience, we want to mix people from different layers of society, making sure that access is available not only for the lucky few, but also for the everyman — at least economically speaking. So Brain Bar is providing discounts to democratize participation.

Q: Why is it important to do this in Budapest?

A: This is our backyard, the city we love, a place we believe in. In the beginning of the 20th century, Budapest was the fastest growing city in Europe. Now we’re on the rise again. Theaters, music, and gastronomy are booming, there’s a developing startup ecosystem, and it’s a top spot for backpackers and international students. Quite simply, Budapest is the perfect venue for such a global forum.

Q: What do you look for when selecting speakers for the event?

A: One word: bravery. We’re looking for people with the courage not only to share their thoughts, but also to reevaluate those thoughts based on feedback or defend them against the sharpest of counterarguments.

Q: What led you to the themes of this year’s conference?

Brain Bar Budapest is a year-round operation collecting and sometimes even predicting social and technological trends. My marvelous colleagues, with diverse backgrounds ranging from the arts to technology to economics, are in perpetual motion to find relevant topics ripe for debate with brave and original champions.

Q: What do you hope guests come away with by the end of the festival?

Inspiration. As a platform of intellectual collisions, Brain Bar will never define what to think about our future — there are no cookie-cutter answers. Rather, we aim to strongly stimulate the process of opinion formulation. Only those with opinions — and those with the courage to translate their well-informed opinions into meaningful action — can move things forward.

Interview by Todd Neff