KAPTÁR faces – János Balassa

Balassa János - KAPTÁRarcok - KAPTÁR coworking Budapest

A hard-set outsider, who eventually found his place in the world
Have you seen the guy running around KAPTÁR with Caramel[1] posters under his arm? He’s János Balassa, owner and founder of InConcert, whom we thank the brand Caramel. The road of the son of a diplomat landing in the world of entertainment lead through years in the banking and finance industries, coincidental encounters and several continents.

Changing from the bank sector to the world you are living in today is not an obvious move.

No, it wasn’t. But illogical turns and unreal encounters followed one another in my life luckily with such self-evidence that my life always changed to the better. The 5 years I spent in New York thanks to the diplomatic mission of my father not only secured my command of the English language but also set the foundation of this sort of outsider existence that still represents me somehow, even today. When we returned in the ’80-s into that reality of communism. here, well that was very different from what I’d been living in before. My dad arranged that I got accepted to Radnóti High School, where they sat me down next to a little girl. We were 10. She’s my wife now.

Everything got decided quite fast if I understand correctly, right?

Absolutely not. Although my life started quite normally because I continued after finishing high school like everyone else back then. Being an obedient son, I accepted what my father had for me, so went to the College of Foreign Trade then to the University of Economics (now Corvinus), what was followed by my first job at Coopers and Lybrand[2], a big international advisory firm. And I found myself right in the middle of the world of the highest-ranking economists, rapidly acquiring the knowledge that was very current especially at the times of the so-called privatizations in Hungary.

But we’re still in Hungary and far away from the entertainment industry.

Yes, indeed, and I even had a short switch to CIB Bank, but just already just a bit after that, triggered by an ad I read in the Times, I found myself in Canada, on the Trans Canadian Highway between Toronto and Vancouver. And then, following an unlucky choice of lunch I made, I had to stop real quick to find a washroom. This is where I made the random acquaintance that put me into an investment advisory position at this picturesque town in Central Canada. These coincidental events that shaped my life in Canada so that I finally ended up settling down in Kelowna, in the semi-desert Okanagan valley in British Columbia, where I got a job at an independent advisory firm called Investors Group.  I built up a clientele already in the first year that out of the five thousand advisors working for the company, I became number 11.

So, ten were still better than you, what a shame…

It’s wasn’t such a problem, rather I became so unbearably homesick, that I decided to come home. Of course, before that, I went to Japan still to teach English for a year and had another 10 months growing a long beard and being continuously drunk, during which period I roamed through South-East Asia, from Bangkok through Laos to Vietnam. And when I had enough, I really returned home. And ended upright in the middle of the 2006 demonstrations, where rubber bullets whizzed past my mead.

And that’s when Caramel came?

No, not quite yet…, but soon. First a bit of Hungarian Development Bank, a pinch of  OTP Bank…, and then, after that. One day I went with my wife to the TV recording of the talent show Megasztár, because the girl next to whom they’d sat me back then in primary school was Kriszta Hadas, who was then working for TV2, the channel producing the show, and it was her job-related duty to be present during the recordings. I honestly had zero clues about Hungarian pop music I only know that there is LGT[3] and that’s it. And then Caramel entered the stage with his song Lélekdonor. I still believe to be one of the best Hungarian songs of all time. Following this event, on an impulse I rang up Andris Szántó I had known from the years in banking, then owner of SYMA event hall, and asked how many people can fit into SYMA. Back then it was only an exhibition hall, so he said that it can fit maybe 5-6 thousand people. Then I asked him, why don’t we organize concerts there? And there was silence on the end of the line. But really, why wouldn’t we organize concerts there? So we looked into the numbers and because he owned the place, we concluded that this could really work out well. Then we established InConcert and put together the first super-concert with Caramel. We sold so many tickets that it was a total full house and I made such a profit on this that I bought him out of the company. In the meantime, I became the manager of Caramel and we started to build up the Caramel brand that his talent deserved – because this guy is a genius. Same level as where Presser[4] is.  And working with geniuses is always fun.

And what brought you to KAPTÁR then?

Long story short, when SYMA was bought by the state, I was pretty much left alone there still hanging around my office. But then the time came when they starting asking what I was doing in one of the offices there and very politely asked me over the phone to show my lease agreement… I very politely told them I had none, then I had two weeks to move out. I knew the home office was not for me so I started to look around. I heard of KAPTÁR already and knew it was cool so I just moved in. That’s it. The truth is that despite my outsider personality, I have the feeling that, somehow, I fit here very much… there is such similar kind of people here too. This place is like a tiny island that is multicultural, independent and dynamic just the right level, and the members are really nice. It honestly feels like being in California, there’s such an attitude and it is very refreshing… All right, I stop now, I don’t really wanna overpromote it.

[1]Multi award-winning singer, songwriter, one of the leading contemporary pop-stars of Hungary. Emerged by winning the national talent TV show called Megasztár in 2005.

[2]Company merged with Price Waterhouse to form Price Waterhouse&Coopers in 1998

[3] Hungarian rock band formed in 1971. It has been one of the most influential rock bands in Hungarian rock music.

[4]Award winning Hungarian musician, composer, singer. He is a member and founder of LGTand was a member in Omega. A prominent personality of the Hungarian pop-and music culture.


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