Opening of Amway Business Center Berlin

Berlin, September 6, 2013
Ambassador John Emerson

Thank you, Michael Meißner

Doug de Vos and the entire Amway team, congratulations on the opening of Amway’s first business center in Germany.  Amway is one of the largest private companies in the United States.

It is a worldwide leader in direct selling, with more than three million Independent Business Owners.  Amway’s success in the US and around the world is based on one essential conviction – namely, that personal opportunity and economic opportunity go hand in hand.  Amway has a unique business model; but as the company name suggests, this broad philosophy, a philosophy based on the idea that anybody in a free society can “dream big” and succeed, is indeed part of the American way.

But it is not just the American way.  Around the world, the city of Berlin is a symbol of freedom. The contemporary partnership between our two countries was in many ways grounded here in this city.  It was based on the recognition that freedom, opportunity, respect, and hope – or in short, the idea of “dreaming big” is a universal ideal.

During the Cold War, the German-American and trans-Atlantic partnerships were based first and foremost on security.  But if the postwar era was about our shared security, the 21st century can be about our shared prosperity.  They too go hand-in-hand.

Today Berlin is not only a symbol of individual and political freedom; it is also a symbol of entrepreneurial freedom.  I am from California.  We have Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach.  Here in Berlin, you have Silicon Allee.

I have heard a lot about Berlin as a location for start-ups and for new and innovative companies, especially in the areas of Internet technology, gaming, media, and design.

Professor Ripsas, Staatssekretär Velter, Herr Bussler, ich entschuldige mich, dass ich nicht bis zum Ende der Diskussion bleiben kann. Ich bin aber wirklich sehr daran interessiert, mehr über die Start-up-Kultur in Berlin zu erfahren.  Ich glaube wir haben einige gemeinsame Interessen.

Professor Ripsas, State Secretary Velter, Mr. Bussler, I apologize now that I will not be able to stay for the entire panel discussion but I am definitely interested in learning more about Berlin’s start-up culture.  It’s very obvious that we share some overlapping interests.

Since my hometown of Los Angeles and Berlin are sister cities, I plan to build on our common interests and further develop our strong commercial and research relationships.  And that applies throughout Germany.  One way we can do that is by encouraging entrepreneurship, which is what Amway is all about.  Entrepreneurship reinforces the value of free markets and open trading systems.  On both sides of the Atlantic, small and medium-sized companies, often family-owned, are the backbone of our economies and also a primary source of jobs.  Start-ups in particular are one of the strongest drivers of job creation.  They have a huge impact on economic growth and political stability.  Entrepreneurship is also a powerful way for individuals to improve their own economic circumstances.  It empowers people.

As Doug de Vos knows– and his father before him knew – entrepreneurship is very much a part of the American way.  Despite the economic volatility of the past few years, a majority of Americans continue to believe they have the capabilities and the opportunities to start a business – and succeed.

This is not only represented in California’s Silicon Valley, but also the creative energy of the movie industry, the art world, and the great research universities that are now surrounded by entrepreneurial parks.

The German word for entrepreneur is “Unternehmer”.  And so by definition, an entrepreneur is someone who “does something.”  As in Goethe’s Faust,”Im Anfang war die Tat!”  And the way to entrepreneurial success is creativity, innovation, and a willingness to take some risks.

One difference I have heard between the German and American experiences, is that failure is a setback here for entrepreneurs, especially for start-up businesses.  It is almost a requirement for success in the US.  A venture planner will not ask why someone failed, but what they learned from the experience.  American entrepreneurs expect to have to “try and try again.”  Or again to quote Goethe, “Unmöglich ist’s, drum eben glaubenswert.”

And so, Doug, I hope that one of the things that entrepreneurs will learn here at this center is perseverance.  “It’s fine to celebrate success,” as Bill Gates once said, “but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

For our part at the Embassy and our five Consulates General, we will build on the success of our trans-Atlantic partnership by tapping in to the energies of entrepreneurs and innovators.  We have a long tradition of mutual trade and investment; and TTIP, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement, currently under negotiation, offers enormous opportunities for entrepreneurs –not only in Los Angeles and Berlin but in communities around the world.  One lesson we have learned over the past several decades is that global prosperity – and that includes entrepreneurship – is in everybody’s best interests.

With TTIP, we can have a trade agreement that speaks to the future and addresses the needs of our younger generation.  Technology and globalization have shaped their world.  There is much we can learn by building on the creative energy and the innovation of our young people.

We can do this by connecting the energies of young entrepreneurs and innovators, whether they come from Silicon Beach in my California home or Silicon Allee, here in my new home; or whether they are part of the Amway family or any other of the strong business networks that connect our economies and our societies.  They share the amazing opportunities that freedom, democracy, mutual respect, and a good measure of hope and optimism bring.

And I want to thank you, Doug, Michael, and all who are part of the Amway family for all that you have done, and will do, through the work of this new Business Center.  We wish you all the best.