I recently talked to a journalist about the State Department's entrepreneurial delegation to Athens, and she asked, "Why Greece?"
It wasn’t a hard question to answer, and there were a lot of answers to give. In the wake of a devastating financial crisis, the Greek people have made tremendous sacrifices as their government pursues reforms to rebuild the economy. Promoting entrepreneurship is a vital element of these reforms, and there is quite a bit that self-funded American entrepreneurs and investors can do to help. After all, Greece is an important U.S. NATO ally, and we want to see the country return to stability and play a leadership role in regional trade and energy initiatives.
This isn’t the first time that the State Department's Global Entrepreneurship Program (GEP) has led a delegation, but this was the first to an EU member state. Now the time is ripe to exchange ideas with an important U.S. ally in the developed world. This experiment, in part, should help U.S. businesses, since our volunteer delegates are successful in their own right and have expressed a desire to buttress businesses in both the United States and Greece. For example, delegate Phil Meldrum owns Foodmatch, which seeks out high-quality agricultural products worldwide to sell at home and abroad. Another delegate, Greek-American angel investor Thanos Triant, wants to coach Greek business owners and create stronger links between Athens and Silicon Valley.
Another novelty of this delegation is that we concentrated on coaching businesses with proven track records, to help them improve processes to grow both in revenues and in people employed. Unlike prior delegations, which focused on "startups," each of our delegates in Greece had the opportunity to meet with individual small and medium enterprises to give the Greek founders new perspectives on how to create more jobs.
For two young entrepreneurs with a new solar panel technology, who have filed patent requests in 15 countries after receiving their patent in Greece, the delegation will mean introductions to solar companies that might be able to use the product. For the owner of fifteen bistros across the country, it means access to the technical expertise she needs to propel that franchise into markets outside Greece. For the creator of a virtual shopping mall and other innovators, it could mean being connected with the investors who can bring their ideas to the next level.
After every delegation, I wish I could flash forward to see what will develop from the wheels we set in motion. This trip is no exception, and I have every confidence that we’ll see opportunities turn into realities.
About the Author: Caron De Mars serves as the Global Entrepreneurship Program Director in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.
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