Berlin, September 8, 2017
CDA Kent Logsdon
Thank you, Cem Erguen-Müller, for giving me the chance to welcome you all to Berlin’s Startupnight – one of the biggest start-up events in Europe. Mark Nietwetberg, Deutsche Telekom is a great location for this program. The evening is just getting started, but Cem, I would like to congratulate you and Carl-Philip Wackernagel from Berlin Partner for what I am certain will be a productive and fascinating meeting for everybody here tonight.
The story of the city of Berlin is one of reinvention and renewal. It is no wonder that the start-up scene here, driven by that momentum and energy, is one of the most dynamic in Germany, in Europe, and the world.
My colleagues and I across Mission Germany love reaching out to incubators and start-up hubs in Germany. Trade and investment have long been important elements of the German-American relationship, and that relationship is vast and well-developed. What excites us are the new businesses and the new bridges that are being built as a result of innovation and entrepreneurship. With half of Europe’s business incubators, Germany is a role model in terms of supporting that spirit of innovation. I’ve met with some cool startups across the country – from Freiburg to Leipzig. And Berlin is at the center of the new networks – business, finance, technology, and people – that literally connect us across the Atlantic.
My colleagues from our SelectUSA program – who are here with me this evening – are available to counsel companies interested in broadening their activities in the United States. You can meet them at their booth in the exhibition hall and I know they look forward to connecting with you. In fact, they are currently working with a number of German start-ups that plan to grow their business in the United States. And we aren’t talking just about California! Just recently, they assisted a Berlin-based software company to open a U.S. presence, not in Silicon Valley, but in Philadelphia.
It’s no secret, however, that Silicon Valley remains the gold standard for start-ups. At a critical moment in time, it attracted a critical mass of ventures, as well as technology, money, and talent, combined with a culture that encouraged collaborative innovation. Young scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs made Silicon Valley what it is today. That is what entrepreneurship is all about. It is about people – the entrepreneurs who take risk, the mentors who help navigate difficult moments, the angel investors who fund good ideas, and the community of people who work together to share their experiences and help each other succeed.
That’s in all our best interests. That’s why we need open, free, and fair regulatory systems; and a business climate that makes it easy to start a business and get financing. Entrepreneurship also requires an investment climate that does not expect every single new idea to be a commercial success.
The experimental process entails more failure than success; but failure in turn can lead to success. This is a natural part of doing business. Venture capitalists say that failures come early; but successes take time. There is a Silicon Valley mantra: fail fast, fail often. In other places, failure means ‘hard stop.’ In the U.S. venture capital world, it can mean ‘What’s your next company?’ And what did you learn that you’ll put to use in your new venture?’ Access to early-stage capital still seems to be a much larger hurdle in Europe than in the United States. But we see change happening in terms of venture capital and angel investors in Germany – as this Startupnight shows. And that’s a good thing!
Technology is moving so quickly and in so many directions, that it can be challenging to keep up. As we have seen in both the distant and not-so-distant past, technology can also unleash disruptive change which transforms the way people live and work. At the same time, disruptive change can enable new business models, and provide an opening for new players to upset the established order. In other words, technology and innovation always surprise; and there is never a reason not to “think big.” That’s a great slogan for a great event. All the best for a successful Startupnight.