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The Uniquely American Commodity Doing Great Things for the Economy and Diplomacy Through State Department Programs
As I sat to the left of the Singaporean Ambassador to the Netherlands at a dinner during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2019 , one question was pulling on my curiosity, What is Singapore not doing well?
Three years earlier, I visited Singapore and fell in love—a fanatic kind of love. My frequent visits to their Urban Redevelopment Authority responsible for long-range planning only reinforced my love for and background in sustainable economic development. I founded the company Realty Sage which applies intelligence to sustainability data (renewable energy, energy efficiency, etc…) in the residential real estate industry – so Singapore was my ideal “Garden City” – urbanism and smart city principles meet nature.
The technology embedded in the Singaporean streetscapes, the multi-purposing of facilities and how this tiny island is actually growing in size and in greenspace felt like a walk through Disney’s Tomorrowland showcasing the future of sustainability and technology. So, I finally turned to the Ambassador and the European Regional Vice President to the Singaporean Economic Development Board and asked, “You do you a lot of things right, but what is that you want to improve?”
“Entrepreneurship,” replied the Regional Vice President to the Singaporean Economic Development Board.
The response came much quicker than I expected, but it wasn’t surprising. I have traveled to many places in the world and I have lived in Mexico and Spain. The entrepreneurial spirit is one of the greatest American qualities and it is admired across the world.
Harnessing the American Entrepreneurial Spirit
The US Department of State is advancing diplomacy and supporting American entrepreneurs in some pretty incredible ways.
I've been a US Speaker for the US Department of State since 2017, but this was my first time attending the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Many Americans may not be aware of these programs and their positive impact across the globe. Here is a bit more about why I think that these programs are incredibly valueable to fostering both entrepreneurship and diplomacy.
The Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES)
The 9 th annual GES “Future is Now” theme included the topics; Food, Connectivity, Energy, Health and Water and was co-hosted with the Dutch government at The Hague, Netherlands. Each year a different country co-hosts the summit with the US. Thousands of entrepreneurs and hundreds of investors from over 130 countries congregated over a three-day event creating immeasurable collaboration and business opportunities.
The World Forum’s lobby [bottom left], center hall [bottom right] and the “Amazon” room [top]
The Dutch government provided a stunning venue at the World Forum and transformed conference rooms into spectacular gathering spaces. The “Amazon” room, for example, had a vibrant waterfall projection and live plants throughout, resulting in an “Amazon-like” atmosphere.
But this was no ordinary conference.
Entrepreneurship is a positive and inspirational topic that can transcend politics, geography and cultural differences. Entrepreneurs networked, met with foreign leaders, and attended panels and speeches focused on start-ups and the thematic industries. World leaders and influencers delivered powerful speeches about the role entrepreneurship has to solving our world’s greatest problems. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, the Mayor of The Hague, Ivanka Trump, the CEO of Mastercard Ajay Banga and Queen Maxima of The Netherlands were among those who spoke.
GES2019 Closing Ceremony, Ivanka Trump [center]
Many speeches also lauded the rising role of female entrepreneurs. Approximately 35% of the GES attendees were female -- a much greater average than typical entrepreneurial events. One of my favorite photos from the summit is the one below with all women; 3 entrepreneurs, an investor and the Mayor of The Hague.
At the GES2019 Opening Ceremony, the Mayor of The Hague [center] and Realty Sage Founder, Kari Klaus [far right]
The GES provided opportunities for Americans, and people from all over the world, to participate in a global movement centered around innovation and collaboration. While major events like the GES happen annually, diplomacy work never ends.
Check out t he GES
The US Speaker Program
American embassies utilize the US Speaker Program as just one of their many tools to create better relationships abroad. The basic premise of the US Speaker program is to bring locals, especially university students, together to listen and to speak with Americans about their experience or expertise.
During my speaker programs in Hungary and the Czech Republic, I spoke at nearly a dozen venues including the American embassy, a multitude of learning institutions and even at a campsite in the Hungarian countryside. I toured a sustainably-built university, a start-up co-working space in Prague and a Hare Krishna commune in Hungary.
Kari Klaus at the American Embassy in Prague, Czech Republic through the US Speaker Program
Students are always excited to learn about American entrepreneurship and sustainability. High-schoolers asked about innovation and how to “get rich quickly” as an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, I had to tell them that while it could be personally rewarding, entrepreneurship is one of the riskiest and most difficult career paths anyone can take --- the success rate is close to a mere 10%. Sitting by the campfire in the Hungarian countryside, the university students were eager to learn about how renewable energy subsidies spurred American technology and entrepreneurship, creating opportunities to improve battery technology and to manufacture PV solar systems in places like West Virginia coal country. I explained how those government incentives created a trickle-down effect expanding existing industries and creating opportunities for new ones.
In Hungary, Kari Klaus discussing sustainability and entrepreneurship with university students through the US Speaker Program
I also showed the university students how to replicate something totally American and absolutely necessary for any campfire — s’mores. While talking about solar farms, I showed the Hungarian students how to properly “roast” a sugar-coated banana flavored marshmallow to the right gooey perfection.
Like American entrepreneurship, and s’mores, there are a lot of things that Americans do very well.
Entrepreneurship is one of America’s greatest exports. It is something that is coveted even by the most advanced countries in the world. The many programs through the US Department of State allow Americans to share and learn from others -- building both diplomacy and our economy.
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