May 17, 2017
Good evening, welcome. I just wanted to take a couple of minutes to say welcome to everybody who’s here this evening. Mary and I do a lot of events at this house, but I am more excited about this one than most because one of the really extraordinary things that I started hearing about, even before I came to Greece, was the fantastic creative community in this country, the resilience of the entrepreneurial community, the exciting things that were happening in spaces of knowledge-based industries, entertainment, creativity. So, tonight is about celebrating that.
I want to say a special welcome to all of our friends who are here who are alumni of the South by Southwest program. Also, special, special acknowledgment of our government representatives who are here this evening, especially Minister Papadimitriou who I know believes passionately in the mission of stimulating Greek creative industries. And then, also, our representatives from the Hellenic Parliament – the Chair of the U.S.-Greece Friendship Committee but others as well from all different political parties. And I think it’s an important element of the commitment to building a space, building an environment to foster these industries.
So, I’m very excited about tonight. Your reputation as change-makers and trailblazers has really preceded you. I’ve looked forward to the opportunity to meet some of you, to hear about your stories. We’ve got this terrific couple of videos that the team put together that highlights some of the Greek entrepreneurs and creative individuals who are part of this year’s South by Southwest. But I think what’s important is that this is part of a five year commitment by the Embassy to doing everything that we can to support this sector of the Greek economy.
South by Southwest has earned its reputation as the top American festival for new technologies, innovation, film, and music. It’s grown from a local music festival into a global event that has transformed Austin, Texas into a hub for innovation. Over 100,000 people attend every year, which is a lot. This includes entrepreneurs, business executives, innovators, scientists, artists, designers, media and entertainment experts, technology specialists, people from the world’s top companies – like Google, YouTube, Samsung, and Sony. And I know many of you have already made connections there.
We’ve organized a lot of programs at the Embassy, over the past five years or so, to support entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, and the creative economy here in Greece. But our goal in supporting Greek SXSW participants is to help Greek professionals network with U.S. counterparts and to build economic bridges between our two countries that will help growth in Greece.
We’ve had some great, great Greek representatives over the years. I’ve been excited tonight to hear the stories of some of the companies that have really been able to build on their experience – some I’ve met before, some I’m a customer! But I have a long list here I’m supposed to do a shout-out for, so bear with me for just a second: Sotiris Bantas of Centaur Technologies; Thomas Douzis of Ergon Foods, of course; Maria Anestopoulou of Animasyros; Yiannis and Demos Doumenis of Quantimetrica; George Karnavas of Heretic Productions, great name; Lazaros Papadopoulos of Athlenda; Nikos Tsamis of Eventora, the name of the company is harder than the last name; and Yiorgos Nikoletakis of 100mentors, just to name a few.
But what I’m really excited about is how many of you have been able to leverage the opportunity that South by Southwest provided to network, to get exposure, and to develop funding. I am very, very proud of the role that the Embassy was able to play in helping you. And I hope that your experience at South by Southwest has inspired you to develop new ideas to grow your businesses.
One or two other quick shout-outs. One is to our partners at The Hellenic Initiative, without whom our support for South by Southwest would not be sustainable. They do great, great work; they represent the very best of the American diaspora; and I’m proud to count them as partners. And I’m happy to say that their entrepreneurship and their humanitarian support programs are having a huge impact here in Greece. And then I also want to thank Angelos, the founder of The International Accelerator, and his team, for their tireless support of Greek entrepreneurs – we are very proud to work with you.
We hope that, in the long run, the South by Southwest program and the Embassy’s other entrepreneurship programs will boost economic activity and employability in Greece. In just a couple of days, we’re going to actually send another delegation of Greek entrepreneurs going to the U.S. for the Select USA Summit, along with the Minister and I. And that’s going to be organized by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
I know Greece has incredible human capital and incredible potential for growth – especially in the knowledge-based economy. The challenge now is to unlock that opportunity and I’m committed to using the resources of the U.S. Embassy to continue to support U.S. partnership and Greek entrepreneurship to build our business ties.
So, I look forward to chatting more with you and hearing more about what you’ve been working on since South by Southwest. And I thank you all, again, for joining us this evening. Thank you very much.