Celebrating Women Entrepreneurship

Kate Byrnes, Deputy Chief of Mission

Global Entrepreneurship Week Reception

November 13, 2017

 DCM Byrnes:  Thank you, Sophie.  Kalispera sas.  Thank you all for being here tonight.  It’s a real pleasure.  I’ve been looking forward to the Impact Hub ever since I got here in my welcome reception.  It’s taken me a few weeks, but not too long, and it is so inspiring to talk to all of you tonight.

As you know, this is Global Entrepreneurship Week.  It’s an important week around the globe.  Something that we celebrate in the United States very well.  We’re looking forward to the summit later this year in Hyderabad.  Especially those of you who actually get to go and tell us about it later on.  But the theme of that summit is “Women First, Prosperity for All”, so we thought it was a great idea to partner with Sophie and the Impact Hub to do this event tonight and to celebrate women and women’s leadership, and to kick off this week the right way.

I have to say, it’s so inspiring to have heard from so many of you about your stories, and one of the things I’ve learned about talking with entrepreneurs is you always start with why before you talk about what you do, which is such an important aspect of that.

So let me tell you why we do this, and why we care about entrepreneurship.  Obviously, you’ve been working with my colleagues here for a long time, with Ambassador Pyatt as well, but we care about entrepreneurship because the number one priority for the U.S. Embassy in Athens right now is to help Greece come out of this economic crisis and to grow itself out of this.  Greece is important in so many ways across the relationship, but whether it’s the defense side of the cultural side or the economic side, we need a strong Greek partner, so we want to be part of this effort to help Greece come out of this and that’s through growth.  And we really believe that entrepreneurship and creativity are the best way to emerge from that situation, and the most sustainable path to the future.

So that’s why we’re engaged in all of these events across Greece for the past year, but for the year to come.  It’s why next year in September 2018 when the U.S. is the honored country at the Thessaloniki International Fair.  Innovation is going to be our key theme.  It’s why we’re going to be putting together an American pavilion that spotlights the best of American technology and enterprise, but it also has a focus on social entrepreneurship because it’s the impact of social entrepreneurs like you that not only help grow the economy, but help grow the people, and the people are the human capital that make a country prosper and that make us all successful.  So it’s just as important in terms of raising dollars and values as it is about raising people and raising people’s dignity and what they can contribute to society.

So we’re hoping that many of you will be our partners as we look towards this big moment in Thessaloniki in September, but actually in the series of key events all the way up to September where we can highlight how the U.S. and Greece are cooperating in all of these areas.

Some of the other things that we do, you’re all very aware of.  We do partner with many local organizations from Impact Hub, obviously, to Found.ation, to My Space, to MIT Enterprise Forum, to provide capacity building, to bring U.S. entrepreneurs and experts here to meet with Greek students and young startups, to try to share our experience with all of you, to learn from you, but also to bring maybe some of our successes.  We have exchange programs.  We have a number of folks in the audience tonight who have either been a part of our International Visitor Leadership Program, or will be part of our program, and that provides networking opportunities so that you guys can build the relationships and use that to work as you create this incredible change in the [Central Free Europe] Society.

What else do we do?  We do NGO capacity building.  I think the most important thing that we do is to try to bring people together, like all of you, because just as the Impact Hub brings together entrepreneurs who maybe wouldn’t have met otherwise, who are all working on these brilliant ideas in their own spaces. So by bringing them together in one space, you’re able to collaborate in a multi-disciplinary and a visionary and a creative way.  And that’s what we’re hoping for with our engagement at the U.S. Embassy that is to link communities, we help draw those links and help empower, just give those ideas that spark, that last little bit, whether it’s venture capital or just a little bit of a push that they need.

So that’s my pitch.  We are delighted to be a partner with all of you in this.  Ambassador Pyatt and I put such amazing priority on this area, again, because we believe it has value, but because, frankly, at the end of the day we go home and we feel good about what we do, and we feel good about the U.S.-Greek relationship because we’re looking to the future.

So I’ll stop there.

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