Ambassador Pyatt’s Remarks at MITEF Greece Startup Competition’s “Pitch Night”

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Delivered (virtual) 

Thank you, Gerasimos.  Chairman Spyridakis, it’s really great to be back doing another one of these MIT Enterprise Forum Greece events.  I’m so proud of the partnership that the Embassy has maintained over these years.  And I also have to say how impressed I am to see how this entrepreneurial space has grown during what is now my five years here in Athens.

I also want to congratulate you for pulling this event together virtually.  I suspect I’m not the only one here who much prefers to do these things live and in person, but it’s terrific that you were able to keep the momentum going this way.

I also want to say what a great pleasure it is to see Linda Plano again, and Linda, thank you for being such a stalwart partner of the Embassy and MIT Enterprise Forum Greece, and bringing your expertise to help lift up this story.

I look over the summary of the pitches that we’ll be hearing tonight, 31 different proposals.  I’ve done these a number of times now, and I’m really impressed to see the growing sophistication of both the business case but also the ideas that are coming out of Greek young people.  It goes to something that I have felt strongly from my first weeks in this country, which is that Greece’s highly skilled workforce is going to be its single greatest asset as it recovers from a ten-year economic crisis and now a year and a half of the global pandemic.

And I know this is one of the reasons why you have so many major American companies who are looking much more closely at Greece.  I was delighted to hear, Gerasimos, that you have AWS, Amazon Web Services, as one of your sponsors now.  Of course, they’re a new arrival here, along with big expansions by Pfizer, by Cisco, by Deloitte, by Microsoft, Digital Realty.

These are all companies that are coming to Greece because they recognize that the human talents that are here and the opportunities that they have to grow the business investment and commercial partnership between our two countries.  I’m hugely proud of this.  I’m hugely proud of the work that the Embassy has done to support this dynamic over many years now.

You’ll remember, Gerasimos, I used to say when I first arrived here, I’m a Californian, I really believe in the power of technology, the power of entrepreneurship, the transformative power of this sector, and I think we’re starting to see that in Greece today.  You see it even through this terrible year and a half of the global pandemic.

I think one of the silver linings is the way in which Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ government has used the pandemic as an opportunity to accelerate the digital transformation, the delivery of digital governance, improving the government’s digital tools, but also working with big American companies including flagship investments like Microsoft’s new cloud computing center.

We’ve also made progress on a new Science and Technology Agreement between our countries which was signed by our two governments last September in Thessaloniki.  This will increase access to scientific materials and facilities, while strengthening Greece’s startup ecosystem and promoting investment by building partnerships between our laboratories and educational institutions.

We also continue to work very closely with Minister Kerameus and the terrific team at the Ministry of Education to promote collaboration and exchanges between Greek and American academic and research institutions, all of which are part of accelerating this process of extraversion, helping Greece to succeed in a globally connected and digitally powered future.

We’re going to keep at this.  We’ve very proud that we’re incorporating entrepreneurship and technology issues into our celebration of the Greek bicentennial, looking not just to the past, but also to the future of the relationship between our countries.  We’re working with the Athens Science Festival, The Hellenic Initiative, and other programs that you’ll hear more about as the year unfolds.

I want to finish by saying how excited I am to see the growth that’s happening in this sector.  I don’t think that anybody can predict that all 31 of the companies that are pitching tonight are going to ultimately succeed, but what’s clear is that there is a new dynamic in Greece, and the United States is very proud to be both a participant in that process, but also a facilitator of it, and the Embassy in particular.

So thanks all, I’m very eager to hear all of the different presentations.  And again, Linda, huge thanks for staying engaged in this area, and I hope we’ll have you back in Athens in real life before too long.