Interview with Mr. Georges Schmit, Consul General of the Luxembourg Consultate and Executive Director at LTIO (Luxembourg Trade Investment Office) in San Francisco. How does he facilitate trade between Luxembourgish and Western U.S. or Canadian companies? How does he assist young Luxembourg-based startups to setup their offices in the Silicon Valley and expand? Learn more about his day-to-day and his main tasks.
Mr. Schmit, you are Consul General of the Luxembourg Consulate and Executive Director at LTIO in San Francisco for four and a half years now. How is it going in California? What is your day-to-day?
My day routinely starts with morning calls to Luxembourg, checking emails from Luxembourg and following up with contacts we have made here in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. I often meet with companies that have an interest in moving to Europe and I provide them with information and contacts in Luxembourg or help them plan a visit. My team and I also regularly attend events to expand our network, promote Luxembourg, and learn about new and upcoming tech trends. We also work with company representatives visiting from Luxembourg to create new business partnerships or strengthen existing ones and we prepare programs for official delegations visiting from Luxembourg for discussions with new prospects.
What are your main tasks, projects and goals?
My main task as Consul General and Executive Director in San Francisco is to represent Luxembourg in the Western Region of North America and implement the economic development policy of the country. I try to identify companies that are looking for a presence in the EU market or expand their current one. My goals are of course to bring quality projects and companies to Luxembourg but my focus is not only on outbound investment. Our task is also to facilitate trade between Luxembourgish and Western U.S. or Canadian companies as well as to assist young Luxembourg-based startups to learn from the Silicon Valley experience and to setup their offices here and expand. Finally, my goal is to develop a network of partnerships with different institutions, research centers, accelerators etc. so as to have a continuous exchange between Luxembourg and the U.S. in science, technology, and business.
How many people are working with you at the LTIO?
We have four permanent staff members at our office in San Francisco with a rotating intern from Luxembourg every 3-6 months.
The experience is invaluable and it allows these young entrepreneurs to bring something back to Luxembourg as well as set the stage for future Luxembourgish startups.
What States on the West Coast does the LTIO represent? How do you work with them?
The LTIO covers 23 U.S. States west of the Mississippi River (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming). Our office also covers 6 Provinces in Canada (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, North West Territories, Saskatchewan, and Yukon). In most of these States and Provinces, we work with the Luxembourg honorary consul network or foreign trade counsellors on a regular basis. Recently, I have traveled to a few of the South West states as well as to Utah and Colorado, and I regularly visit Seattle in Washington State as well as Vancouver in British Columbia. The key technologies or business areas we cover are ICT, cleantech, healthtech, automotive, materials and logistics.
You promote Luxembourgish companies and startups in the U.S. How?
This is something that we started several years ago as a partnership with the Plug & Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale. It is important to promote Luxembourgish companies and startups here in the U.S. because it gives value to the emerging startup ecosystem in Luxembourg. We promote these companies by announcing their achievements in our monthly newsletter and through our social media network and of course by word of mouth. We also assist them with introductions to relevant legal or other more strategic advisors.
You setup the Plug & Play Tech Center program with the Ministry of the Economy, 3 years ago. Why?
I helped setup this partnership because it gives Luxembourgish startups the opportunity to go through a 3-month intensive entrepreneurship training program. Plug & Play Tech Center provides our startups with a network of investors, renowned leaders from tech companies, founders of successful startups etc., all in the heart of Silicon Valley. The experience is invaluable and it allows these young entrepreneurs to bring something back to Luxembourg as well as set the stage for future Luxembourgish startups.
What do you think about the Luxembourgish start-up ecosystem? Is it attractive enough for U.S. companies?
There is definitely an emerging entrepreneurial tech culture in Luxembourg right now! The Luxembourgish startup ecosystem has definitely strengthened during the last few years with new incubators and accelerators emerging which gets increasing attention from foreign startups, including from California. We need to continue to improve our attractiveness including in the areas of education and immigration procedures.
What can Luxembourgish startups learn from Americans? Any other advice about Silicon Valley?
As startup founders, one should not be scared of failing; if it doesn’t work the first time it can still work the next time, because you already went through all the trials and errors of starting up a business. Also, learn from mistakes other startups made and set ambitious goals! Silicon Valley is a great place to quickly learn and develop entrepreneurial talent that you can use in implementing your project.
What are your wishes for 2014?
For Luxembourg, I wish to see increased ambition and energy to achieve new leaps of growth, and that all residents embrace technological opportunities, in business and daily life.