July 7, 2020
Thank you, Dimitri. It’s great to see you and Philippos.
First of all, let me say what a pleasure it is for me to be part of this event today but also for the Embassy institutionally to continue our partnership with Found.ation and Socialinnov.
We’ve got a great legacy, including — very important for me — our signature partnership at the Thessaloniki International Fair in 2018 where your programs were really one of the most exciting parts of what I think we accomplished, and then we are really glad to be able to provide that partnership in 2019 after the elections. And I think in many ways that set the stage for where we are today.
I also want to congratulate you guys for successfully winning the support of the State Department’s Alumni Engagement and Innovation Fund to provide funding for this Tech Academy, and I think this reflects our recognition that there is going to be an increased need for digital skills among young professionals, including in Greece, as we all cope with the consequences of the global pandemic and the unprecedented economic shock that we are living through.
I’ve talked a lot about this in different forms over the past few weeks but now that Greece has gotten through the worst of the medical emergency our Embassy’s focus has really shifted to the economy and especially how do we help support the Greek government’s efforts to ensure a V-shaped recovery.
In that regard, two advantages that Greece has are, first of all, the reputational benefits that it has enjoyed because of the government’s strong management of the COVID-19 response, the way which Greek society really pulled together — and it is really striking to me after four years of living here and seeing Greece oftentimes typecast as a black sheep, a performer — Greece has now has become a model of effective governance and of course the other big part of the story is the fantastic progress of Minister Pierrakakis, Minister Georgiadis and the rest of the government team have made during this crisis in terms of pushing through the digital transformation of the Greek state and that, too, will create opportunities.
So I’m very proud of the fact that we in the Embassy have been working in this space for quite some time. I also think it is notable how American technology companies really stepped their game starting in March, as we were all coming to confront the dimensions of the coronavirus crisis — whether it is Microsoft and Cisco, Google and all the measures they took to support the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Tourism, OAED, Ministry of Digital Policy, and then also the way a lot of technology giants like HP, Oracle, IBM and Coursera and Envipco all made donations to help the Greek government response to this huge crisis.
I was glad to see in your opening slides Microsoft is one of the sponsors for this event today, and a big part of the story over the past few months has been the way Microsoft has taken an already strong presence in Greece and raised it to the next level. Of course, Brad Smith was here meeting with the Prime Minister not so long before the lockdown.
Greece took a big step forward with Microsoft with their decision to acquire legal software for government platforms and that help set the stage for Greece getting on to the Microsoft agenda in Redmond. We saw the recent acquisition bought by Microsoft and SoftoMotive, which I love because it is a good example of how the Greek startup community is beginning to incubate a globally competitive talent.
I was also very excited to see the recent acquisition of Think Silicon, a Patras company that I got to know last year by Applied Materials, one of the technology giants of my home state California. So you got a lot happening in this space. Clearly a government that has prioritized the creation of an enabling environment for the startup community, for the technology community, but there are also challenges.
So the Embassy is going to remain engaged. I’m going to be doing events later this week with the Trophy Challenge in the agrotech area, Panorama of Entrepreneurship, and we are continue of looking opportunities to bring together Greek entrepreneurs, Greek startups with mentors like you guys Dimitris and Philippos as we look for Thessaloniki International Trade Fair this year — and we don’t know quite what it is going to look like — but we are very excited to have this year a special focus on women entrepreneurs and the empowerment of women in the startup and technology space.
So, I want to congratulate you for all the progress you are making and I want to assure you that this will remain a priority for me, for the Embassy and the U.S. government and I really looking forward to hear the results of today’s conversation and talking more about all this stuff later this summer in Thessaloniki.
So, thank you very much Συγχαρητήρια for all you have done and be strong as we continue forward and thanks for the flexibility on the technology.