The Global Innovation Forum and Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration hosted a brunch on Sunday, March 11 in Austin, Texas. The event brought together corporations, startups, community partners and government officials from around the world to share best practices to support global startup success.


— Participants Included —

Tricia Van Orden, Deputy Director, Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee Secretariat, Department of Commerce ITA //  Jon Davies, Head of Early Stage Technology, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise// Paul Godinez, Partner, Bailey Duquette // James Cummings, VP Business Development, London & Partners // Ross Allen, Director for the USA, UK Department of International Trade // Tim Hwang, Founder & CEO, FiscalNote // Marc Oshima, Chief Marketing Officer & Co-Founder, Aerofarms // Laura Citron, CEO, London and Partners // Lucie Hubert, Senior Trade Adviser, Business France // Becky Tallent, Director of US Government Affairs, Dropbox // Sonia Lee, Strategic Management & Global Partnerships, D.CAMP // Kenise Hill, Director of the Global Entrepreneurship Program, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, U.S. Department of State // John Howard, Director of Public Policy, Dell // Brandon Chew, Regional Director (San Francisco Bay Area), Singapore Economic Development Board // Evan Engstrom, Executive Director, Engine // Lisa Besserman, Founder, Startup Buenos Aires // Ali Syed, Global Development Coordinator, Capital Factory // Even Walser, CRO, Decibel Insight // David Dicko, CEO, SkyLights // Lise Yacoub, Co-Founder and CEO, MAD // Keiichi URUGA, Deputy Director of IT Innovation Division, Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry // Susan Penfield, Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton // Mathilde Michaut, Responsable d’exploitation, Histovery

— What We Learned —


Startups Are Engaging Globally With the Help of Technology

“We can enable local production in farms and communities and our thesis is about how we build responsible farms in major cities all over the world. We currently have projects in development in the Middle East, Europe and China.” – Marc Oshima, Co-Founder, Aerofarms

“We’re MAD – a marketplace to help artists with visibility and funding for their projects through collaboration with various brands. We are currently based in Paris and Beirut and are here in Austin in order to discover the market and see how to prepare for moving to the U.S.” – Lise Yacoub, Co-Founder and CEO, MAD

“We put VR on planes as passenger in flight entertainment and soon we will be in the consumer space to put a box office movie theater in your pocket. We started in France and moved to the U.S. Our first customers were European and now within basically a month, we have American customers.” – David Dicko, CEO, SkyLights

“We are a London-based digital experience analytics firm with offices in Germany, the UK and France as well.” – Even Walser, CRO, Decibel Insight

“Argentine entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of staying insular. When they create their startups, their goal is to go global from day 1.” – Lisa Besserman, Founder, Startup Buenos Aires

“When I think about the tools that are most critical to my ability to do my job it really comes down to communication and collaboration. I couldn’t live without google spreadsheets, where we can collaborate across them. I couldn’t live without whatsapp and imessage . That has allowed us to stitch together a global business seamlessly.”- Even Walser, CRO, Decibel Insight

“My job is to make sure that Dropbox can continue to thrive in global markets. We are a U.S. based company, but 75 percent of our users are overseas – predominantly in Europe.” – Becky Tallent, Director of U.S. Government Affairs, Dropbox.

Global Entrepreneurs Face a Host of Challenges

“I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area from Paris and the two things I found most difficult were: 1. network penetration and 2. understanding cultural differences when doing business.” – David Dicko, CEO, SkyLights

“We are used to working in different markets in Europe and the Middle East, but for the US what we find hard is the networking when you’re not physically present. I think it’s really working with large corporations when you are a non U.S. based company is generally impossible from an external point of view.” – Lise Yacoub, Co-Founder and CEO, MAD

“It was the cultural differences I found most challenging to navigate. In particular when it came to hiring. As an American, I went to Europe with some preconceived assumptions around European employment law being very challenging and I ran up against some of that in the German market. When hiring in France, I learned quite quickly that not only are you looking for talent, but you’re also looking for the networked talent – people that know other people – because it is a market where relationships are critical.” – Even Walser, CRO, Decibel Insight

“Data Localization is a huge challenge for companies, especially for startups that are going to have to invest in the infrastructure in countries around the world. To think a company even Dropbox’s size could make the investment to have data localized across Europe — it could kill a company even our size.” – Becky Tallent, Director of U.S. Government Affairs, Dropbox.

“The first challenge for Americans is to recognize that there is a world out there. Just around 70 percent of Americans do not have a passport and therefore have never actually thought about exiting this country.” – Ali Syed, Global Development Coordinator, Capital Factory

Public & Private Sector Resources and Partnerships are Key

“We want to be your first friend,” said Ali Syed, who helps the 200+ portfolio companies access global markets and foreign companies enter the U.S. market through their soft landing platform at Capitol Factory – the largest accelerator program in Texas.

“There was no bridge between the tech talent that exists in Latin America and the need for cost effective technology development all around the world, so what we did is that we created a talent database with the leading dev shops and we connect them with companies in the U.S. and Europe who are looking to offshore technologies or build IT teams at a cost effective solution. This is one way we are contributing to this global conversation of how to build real bridges between Latin America and other startup communities around the world.” – Lisa Besserman, Founder, Startup Buenos Aires

“Going global is our national destiny. The Korean government helps startups go global with the help of two different Ministries: Trade and Future Planning & ICT,” explained Sonia Lee of D.CAMP. One example of the government collaboration is the KOICA program: “They select about 30 startups annually and provide grant opportunities of up to 500,000 dollars. As a part of the program, D.CAMP helps these startups by providing incubator space and a global network to expand their markets.”

“As lawyers, our job is to demystify the complex layers that can be the regulatory environments in the U.S. What we do as a company and a law firm is work with clients on getting them into the U.S. market. We have to bridge the gap between what governments require or expect and what you want to do in terms of the ideation and development of your creativity.” – Paul Godinez, Partner, Bailey Duquette

“Dell Technologies is one of our strategic partners for Aerofarms. I think it’s really critical when we think about and expand into different markets working with partners who actually have experience working in other markets as well – it gives us a line of sight in terms of operating considerations and factors.” – Marc Oshima, Co-Founder, Aerofarms

Government Policies Make a Difference

“Governments are making policy right now – with or without you. It’s important to let them know you’re out there. Most policymakers when confronted with the reality are interested in helping [startups] out because they recognize that startups are job creators in their countries and they want to give them that economic boost.” Evan Engstrom, Executive Director, Engine

“The Mayor’s International Business Program helps fast growing London scaleups to grow by going international. It’s been going for 2 years and so far the businesses have raised about 180 million dollars and created about 800 new jobs as a result of export,” shared Laura Citron, CEO, London and Partners, adding that the three reasons for its success are: the strict and selective process to determine those who join the program, the ability to respond to needs of the companies, and lastly the fact that the Mayor is very personally involved as a figurehead.

“We are taking steps including doubling the number of visas for exceptional talent, providing loans to businesses, and focusing on smarter regulation. For example our Financial Conduct Authority is very business friendly and runs a regulatory sandbox where companies can experiment.” Ross Allen, Director of International Trade in the US and Deputy Consul General in New York, UK Department of International Trade

“When you enter a new market there are a whole host of things that you have to do — recruiting, setting up the US entity, figure out how to hire in a new market, figuring out how to do market research — these are the things we offer support on so that they can focus strategically on what they need to do as a core business.” Jon Davies, Head of High Growth Technology, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise

“In Singapore we are trying to make as open an environment as possible for not just tech giants, but startups also. For example we have soft landing spaces and launchpads and try to introduce experimental regulation in areas like fintech, with a regulatory sandbox as well and a drone district. We are trying to make it a lot easier for startups to experiment and operate in the blurred lines between industries and regulation.” Brandon Chew, Regional Director (San Francisco Bay Area), Singapore Economic Development Board