by Xosé L. Garza (Chair of Communication)

Today we speak with Mario Alves CEO and co-founder of TAIKAI, the open innovation social network, his academic training is in the world of Economics and Management and he has more than 5 years of experience in different types of consulting and advisory firms, but the is always searching. We have asked him to tell us what a day of his life does:

A day of work for me is to be always constantly on the run. From the moment I start working until I finish, I always have things to do. Having a small team, I have to do a little bit of everything: deal with the financial stuff of the company (payments, financial documents, etc.), the business & operations side (meetings with clients, reviewing proposals, define tactics and strategy for sales), manage marketing and communication (being always in touch with our marketing agency) and product development (with daily meetings to do checkpoints and understand if we’re moving according to the company’s vision and clients’ expectations). On top of that, considering that we are a VC invested company, I also have to manage relations with investors, to make sure that they’re also happy with their investment and of course, keep our team happy.

I often joke when I say that I’m not the CEO, I’m actually a firefighter.

But what I like to do most is to think about strategy and the vision for our company. That combined with leading a great team, truly makes my day.

Good morning Mario, thank you very much for joining us today, we are doing a series of inspiring interviews for the youth and we believe that your experience will be good for them.

What has made you at a given moment to make the decision to undertake? Was it a personal reason? professional? Has time told you that you have to dedicate yourself to this?

Being an entrepreneur is something that almost everyone talks about and wants to do, but many few actually do it. It takes some courage, no doubt and it is often a lonely job. For me, personally, it couldn’t be a different way. I’ve worked for big companies with the purpose to learn and have the right knowledge to start my own business. When I was already helping others succeed in their ventures I thought: now is my time and just did it. Overthinking it is mostly what keeps you from not starting your own business and you may plan it for years, but it will never be as you planned. And that’s what makes it fun…

What does TAIKAI mean? Why this name? And what is it for you?

TAIKAI or 大会 (“coopetition” in Japanese) is the act of joining competing forces to cooperate to achieve a brighter solution together. By opening their innovation processes, companies and other organizations are able to improve the quality and speed of solution development. On the other hand, talent has we know it is being misused.

Creating TAIKAI was a response to that. It is a way to build a better future for misused talent and for companies that are looking for different solutions when they face a challenge.

One of the basic axes of your work as I understand is talent. How would you define it? And how can a young person know if he/she is talented or not?

Everyone is talented. The question is if they know it or not… We all have skills that are valuable for one organization or the other. You don’t necessarily have to be an engineer to solve an engineering problem. Sometimes it just takes to have a new set of eyes, approach or mindset to answer a specific challenge in a different way.

That’s want we want to achieve! To unlock talent’s true potential that can be used to solve a specific problem or challenge inside an organization, independently of where you come from or what you studied.

I think that another of the axes of your work are also “local elements”. AYCH is a transnational project but works with local networks. What do you think Atlantic Europe has to focus on now that we see that thanks to the pandemic, people are returning to rural areas? What would you enhance?

We have now two main movements: one is migration from big cities and the other is more digital connectivity. For me, the answer is communication. If you can create more local networks that emerge from the first movement, then you have to provide the tools for the communication to be fluid and increase the interaction between all these different networks. It will take some time, but the sooner we start improving those communication channels, the sooner we will have a better work and collaboration.

You have recently collaborated with the AYCH project, at the International Creative Jam of Santo Tirso, based on your experience in this event, do you think it is good to continue holding events for youth and talent?

More than ever, it is these types of events that make our young talent thrive. In a digital world, information is key. The more these events happen, the more information and tools these younger generations will have to improve their work, local economy, culture, social interaction, among others. And this not only creates an impact for them, but for the future generations to come into building an even better society.

You know that AYCH has worked on talent, creativity and innovation, let’s put ourselves in the case of a young person that has an innovative idea in Portugal, where you live. What does he or she have to do to make it known? Are the official channels for creativity enough? Many times, youthful ideas are not visible because they are not even born.

In my opinion, although this is already worked in some top-class university programs across Europe and the world, it is not enough. And although everything is digital now, reaching the right channels is not clear for this generation. The ones that succeed are those that usually are connected with someone with experience or some community that is able to help them with their projects, because otherwise many good ideas go to waste. The way that I see this changing is not by making this generation to adapt. It is the older generations that need to adapt their communication and reach to be on the same level as young people and help them succeed. After all, they are our future.

Finally, we are interested in knowing how you have handled the pandemic in your work and how it has affected you professionally and personally.

At the beginning of last year, when reality began to set in, we did not think that a distant illness we had heard about in China could get out of hand and reach us. After it did, in March, the concern at TAIKAI was to ensure the safety of the team and take measures   so as not to put anyone at risk. We developed a prevention plan, at the same time that we went home, and, since then, we have continued to work remotely.

Personally, the hardest thing to manage in this whole situation was not being prepared to work from home, not having set-up conditions and not being able to leave the house, but adjustments were made and no activity needed to stop.

In terms of impact in the company, I can say even with aspects that were not so positive, it was overall a positive experience for us. The greatest challenge we faced, and in a good way, was that we had to go after opportunities, open new markets and approach customers that we would not reach if the plan for 2020 had remained unchanged. It forced us to change the mindset, to quickly adapt to the new context and to make challenges exclusively digital, something we’ve been advocating inside companies for a long time and that we’ve responded to, both in terms of product and business.

But we would also be interested in knowing what you think we should do for the future, what do we do from now on?

Everything we have lived and, in particular, the experience of remote work forces us to think about whether we feel fulfilled by the work we do, whether or not we are going in the right direction and improving a little bit each day. So, I think it is important to send a message of hope, in the sense that we believe that we will make a difference and change people’s lives for the better.

A lot of this change comes from initiatives like AYCH, where you plant the seed in these younger generations and see it bloom in the years to come. For that it is important to keep having these initiatives in many different stages of the process, to make sure that these seeds turn into beautiful flowers.

Thank you very much Mario for this interview, we hope that all your dreams and projects come true, it has been very gratifying to talk with you.



These are the three winners of our t-shirt contest, thank you very much to all the participants for sending us their designs. The jury has decided to award three designs for having achieved a very close score.

All three will receive the award in the next few days.

Manoela Ferreira, Miguel Rouco and Joao Sousa they have been the winners




It is a pleasure for the AYCH project to report that two of its partners have been nominated to be French Capitals of Culture: Brestfr and Grand Angoulême.

All our support! Congratulations!



Today the jury of the AYCH T-Shirt Contest met and we have a decision. While we are writing the conclusions of the jury we would like you to see the designs that young people from AYCH have sent for the contest.

In these days we will announce the winner of this contest.
We will raffle a shirt if you compete with us.

Which one do you like the most?



Enjoy now the seventh episode of our podcast series, today we speak with Marion, an AYCH partner who works in Brestfr. Marion tells us about the importance of the AYCH project in the entrepreneurial development of youth.

The episode is now available at the AYCH channel on Spotify.


by Xosé L. Garza (Chair of Communication)

Good morning Hilda. Thank you very much for being with us today, we have contacted with the aim of know more about the imminent premiere of AYCH’s book that will take place next Monday the 8th online.

I would like to start this interview with a small review, where do you come from, what do you do, how do you get to AYCH…

I come from Venezuela. In my country I trained as a social psychologist and then I had the opportunity to do a doctorate in Sustainable Development at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. I am currently a teacher at the Nantes Atlantique School of Design (one of the French partners of the project) and I am also an independent researcher. Florent Orsoni suggested that I accompany him as a researcher on the AYCH adventure. From the beginning of the project I had the pleasure of contributing to the creation of creativity tools to work with the youth of AYCH and to write for the Toolkit.

It is said that in life you should have a child, write a book and plant a tree; What’s left to do?.

Hehehe, well it depends, is it okay if I have planted little plants or does it have to be a big big tree? The tree, I am missing the tree.

How do you manage yourself, what have you felt, faced with the challenge of making a book, and making it the final publication of such an important project for youth?

When we set ourselves the challenge of writing the book, I don’t think I was fully aware of what it involved. It all started with a lot of enthusiasm and a draft of a page that we shared online with the project partners. The book began to take shape, paragraph by paragraph as we exchanged ideas and stories about the project. At that time, no one was sure what the final result would be like, but we shared a kind of vision of how it should be and I felt great mutual trust in what we were doing. I had great support from the partners, the participants and Oenone Thomas, with whom I could constantly clarify doubts and share ideas.

A super important moment of the process was having an outside look at what we were writing. When the book had enough content and meaning, Dr. Natalia Eernstman of Plymouth College of Art did a critical reading of the manuscript. This step allowed us to give more coherence to the entire text and avoid redundancies.

Many of us know the project, but what did you intend to show in the publication, what were your priorities?

The most difficult and at the same time the most interesting thing for me was discovering and rediscovering AYCH and its people as we wrote the book. It is an incredible project that works in different cities in Europe that combines rigor with great sensitivity, which intervenes locally on global issues, that promotes experimentation and the right to make mistakes among young people when it comes to building a professional future…

I wanted to show that sensitivity and complexity in an accessible way. For this, it was essential to give a voice to the young participants. Young people tell their real stories, with their ups and downs, told with emotion and with good sense. For this very reason, we asked 4 young AYCH ambassadors to endorse the book as a preface.

We imagine that you have had to coordinate many people to make this publication, have they been collaborative? And how have you done it?

I sent many, many, countless emails. Fortunately, collaborative online editing platforms exist. During the first months of writing, partners were able to view and suggest changes directly to the manuscript, saving us a lot of time. AYCH members have a great sensitivity and openness that is manifested not only in the way they work with the young participants but also in their exchanges with me during the writing process. I couldn’t be more grateful…

I am very curious to know what you think this book will contribute to Atlantic Europe, to those countries that value supporting their young people with projects like these.

The book in general celebrates the ability of the young participants to build and shape their professional future from creativity. More specifically, I believe that the book provides the how, how AYCH partners managed to accompany these young people locally, in different contexts, individually and through collective and multicultural experiences. The book explains the key role of prototyping and enabling technologies such as 3D printing and virtual reality in the creative process; but above all, it talks about the importance of empathy, the need to connect with the other and with the complexity of current problems so that young people can make sense of the solutions they are creating.

Finally; what do you have left, what does this publication leave in you, besides work?

I am eager to continue contributing to projects like this and hope, much hope in the future of education through creativity and entrepreneurship.

Once again Hilda, thank you very much for opening this series of interviews where we intend to talk with the protagonists of our European project.



After 4 years, the Atlantic Youth Creative Hubs project of INTERREG Atlantic Area is coming to an end.

Under the direction of Hilda Zara, professor and researcher at the City Design Lab of one of the project partners, L’école de design nantes atlantique; together with the Communication Department and the Lead Partner, she has created a document that summarizes the contributions of the project and in particular the entrepreneurial skills developed by the young people of the Atlantic area.


“This book is a reservoir of many memories, experiences, people, places, and good practice. Most of all it is a reminder that with opportunity, resources, encouragement and respect all young people can be innovative, ambitious, world-aware, creative and our future.” –  Oenone Thomas, Lead Partner of the AYCH Project.


This book, entitled “Learning Through Entrepreneurship: A Creative Approach” highlights the unique role that young people play in developing ideas, as well as the different opportunities that AYCH has provided them over the past years. In the same way, key aspects of the project are addressed, such as the incubation processes in the different countries that make up AYCH, or creative jams, transnational events that bring together hundreds of young people and experts of various nationalities in the same place.

Thanks to the Atlantic Youth Creative Hubs project, hundreds of young people have been able to benefit from an international set of experts, technologies and informal methodologies; that have allowed a constant entrepreneurial development.


This publication is the opportunity to testify to an extraordinary educational adventure.”-  Florent Orsoni, Director del City Design Lab de L’École de design Nantes Atlantique


Undoubtedly “Learning through entrepreneurship: a creative approach” gives a solid image to the AYCH project, highlighting the great work carried out by both the project partners and their young people, achieving enormously interesting figures such as more than 300 workshops of various types offered or more than 145 jobs achieved for European youth.


“This book represents the need of accompany young people on a journey of the future.”– Xosé L. Garza Silvela Chair of Communication AYCH Project.


The book is available online and has been published in more than 500 copies for the various partner centres of the Atlantic Youth Creative Hubs project.


“The book shows how young people can unlock their creative potential as they make, prototype, test their ideas and have fun! The book celebrates young people’s capacity to shape their own professional future and contribute towards a more sustainable world…” Hilda Zara – Author of the book 

“Learning Through Entrepreneurship: A Creative Approach”



The Atlantic Youth Creative Hubs project from Interreg Atlantic Area has its own magazine now.

The idea behind the AYCH Magazine started with the Bright Future online game, one of the pilars of the non-formal educational tools created by our partner L’École de design Nantes Atlantique that is employed in the incubation process of the AYCH project.

In this game young people from all over the world were imagining cities of tomorrow following the global pandemic Covid-19 situation; and the participants were following different steps.

This magazine is the result of a collaboration among EDNA and different AYCH Ambassadors of the project.



In this webinar of the hub Coworking Lug2 from our partner Vida Láctea, the incubatees learnt about the use of communication applications.

Raúl Ordóñez from Sherpa Cultura Digital explains in this webinar how to use maybe the most famous communication tool in the world: WhatsApp, in a responsible and conscious way.



In this webinar of the hub Coworking Lug2 fromour partner Vida Láctea, the incubatees learnt about the use of a tool like gamification.

This is one of the varierty of formations that Vida Láctea’s hub performs during its incubation process.