Deputy Chief of Mission Abigail Rupp at Innovation Labs Demo Day

Good evening,

I give a lot of speeches, but I have to say this is the best welcome music to any speech I have given this year, so thank you very much.

Honored Counselor, distinguished guests, judges, innovators, it is a great pleasure to be here as part of your innovation ecosystem and my second time joining Demo Day, so I am really glad to be part of this event.

We at the U.S. Embassy have supported Innovation Labs since its inception through our partnership with the Romanian-American Foundation (RAF). We work closely with them in many education and entrepreneurship areas, including business-related education in Romanian universities. For example, in addition to sponsoring Innovation Labs, RAF also partnered with our Fulbright program to design an exchange with the University of Rochester in New York to show to Romanian professors how American universities teach entrepreneurship.

Innovation Labs, what you are doing tonight, serves a crucial role in developing talent in Romania, helping engineers, scientists, and computer professionals to develop entrepreneurial skills. As Innovation Labs has grown, so has the quality of its programming, becoming one of the highest quality pre-acceleration programs in Romania and Eastern Europe.

As we just heard in the message from President Iohannis, you are helping to create a better future. And this journey has led to great success in several cases. Last year, on this stage, I talked about the success of Wyliodrin, a company developed during the first edition of Innovation Labs. They offer a development platform for building Internet-of-Things (IoT) applications, and now work with companies like Microsoft and universities like UCLA. I also highlighted ENTy, another startup that won the award for Best Product at Innovation Labs in 2016 for their disruptive solution in Ear, Nose, and Throat medicine. They also – two months after that – won the Microsoft Imagine Cup.

And then this year, both of those companies were invited to join the 2019 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, the world’s premier gathering of entrepreneurs, investors, and innovative thinkers. Secretary of State Pompeo will lead the U.S. delegation to this summit in June, next month, at the World Forum in The Hague, Netherlands. This Global Entrepreneurship Summit will showcase inspiring entrepreneurs, develop concrete business ideas, and accelerate solutions to global challenges. You are part of that ecosystem; you are contributing to its growth. I look forward to hearing back from both of those companies about their experiences at the Summit.

Entrepreneurship, innovation is the engine of any economy. Startups create new jobs, new businesses, new ways to deliver services, and the best example of creating innovation and prosperity. Small businesses do not always stay small. Ask the founders of Microsoft, Amazon, Fitbit, Facebook or UiPath. Small business ideas have changed the world and will continue to do so.

We are proud of our efforts to be part of Romania’s entrepreneurial ecosystem developing startups, mentoring entrepreneurs, and trying to create as much crosscutting collaboration among universities, investors, and established companies small and large.

We are capitalizing on American entrepreneurial experience to support entrepreneurs here through programs like our International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), where we have sent policymakers, university professors, and other pieces of your ecosystem to the U.S. In fact, Innovation Labs’ own Daniel Rosner was part of one of these exchange programs in 2017.

We also bring our American entrepreneurs to Romania to contribute their experience on the legal framework that facilitates entrepreneurship, the environments that promote small business, transparency – which is an important part of the business climate, and the whole process of taking an idea, accessing capital, and creating a product. We have engaged start-ups, business incubators, students, and academics.

Another example that is upcoming, in June as well, is that we will be hosting a stop on the “Women in Entrepreneurship: Access to Finance” European Roadshow. This is in cooperation with our Mission to the European Union and the European Young Innovators Forum. We will work with partners to hold a day of workshops and expert forums again helping connect women entrepreneurs in Romania to venture capitalists and other investors to get those ideas off the ground. So please follow us on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts to find out more about what we are doing.

I am looking forward to seeing some of the presentations tonight. As you well know certainly by now, the path from idea to product is exciting, but not always straight. To make it to this stage you have already practiced your skills through competition, you have overcome setbacks, and you have put yourselves and your products out there for others to see. That takes courage, passion, and determination. You are here to pitch your dreams to us, and that is truly inspiring.

Thank you very much and good luck tonight.