A Big Heart and Courage for Slovenia

Business Development Delegation to Silicon Valley: Day 5
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Stanford, San Jose, September 24, 2016. On the final day of the Slovenian Business Development Delegation to the Silicon Valley, Delegation’s 26 representatives from various industries as well as research and academic institutions visited Stanford University and the opening of ABC Global Home.

At Stanford University, the Business Development Delegation participated in a discussion with the most successful Slovenians in the Silicon Valley, representatives of all generations, who are changing the world with their knowledge. Simultaneously, an event named 'Playground of the Future' took place at the ABC Accelerator in Ljubljana, with a direct online link to what was happening at Stanford. (The video can be found here)

At Stanford, the discussion participants were: Maja Mikek, Celtra, France Rode, an inventor, Jure Leskovec, Stanford and Tomaž Štolfa, Layer. Guest speakers in Ljubljana were: Matej Potokar, Microsoft, Peter Rožič, ASEF and the State Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport Tomaž Boh.

The event was moderated by Ajša Vodnik, Executive Director of AmCham Slovenia, which is together with Spirit Slovenia Public Agency the organizer of this year's Delegation. Ms. Vodnik emphasized: "Our aim is to inspire positive change. With this visit to the Silicon Valley, we have done exactly that; encouraged optimism and pointed out possible opportunities. The Delegation brought together businessmen, Government representatives as well as researchers and strengthened the belief that the vision of "Slovenia, a green reference country in digital Europe" is indeed the right direction. With courage, work, determination, perseverance and a big heart, everyone will be better off. We can learn this from Slovenians, who succeeded in the US."

On answering the question how Slovenia can succeed, Jure Leskovec highlighted diversity and courage: "Diversity enriches us. New things grow out of it. It is not only about the young and old, men and women. Not only about Slovenians in Slovenia, but also about the Slovenians abroad. The second thing we need is courage. Let’s not first think about potential negatives. We have to be daring."

Tomaž Štolfa stressed intergenerational cooperation: "Our generation has the opportunity to help the next generation in Slovenia. In the Silicon Valley, it is standard for people to invest 10 - 15% of their savings as angel investors. Not only money, but also their time and knowledge."

Maja Mikek misses warmth and trust in Slovenia, above all: "We must begin to trust each other in Slovenia. We need to have continuity, instead of shifting our goals every two years. But we should not forget to remain human - to look into the eyes, shake hands, say thank you. Slovenia is lacking warmth and politeness, which are more important than effectiveness."

Dr. France Rode, who worked as an engineer at HPE for many years and, among other things, invented the pocket calculator, believes that Slovenia has all the resources to become a "Green Reference Country in Digital Europe": "Slovenia could become a huge laboratory for new discoveries and large companies, but these capabilities are not being used and exploited properly."

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Administration, Boris Koprivnikar responded: "I am optimistic, because our goal is to achieve everything you mentioned in Slovenia: to support universities, cooperate with businesses and foreign countries, and conduct responsible testing. We have a stable environment, good technology, high quality of life, we can add cutting-edge communication and open data. This is why we need success stories. We need to create an environment in which we will be ready to make decisions and take responsibility, which will make us faster. The environment of cooperation is developing and the willingness of decision makers is increasing. Perhaps, over time, it will be easier to succeed in Slovenia than in the Silicon Valley."

Participants at the "Playground of the Future" event, organized by Simbioza and its partners, emphasized the opportunities in Slovenia. Matej Potokar believes that: "We live in a country that has all the necessary resources for a breakthrough. The problem is not that young people are moving abroad, what we have to ensure is that their knowledge circulates back." Tomaž Boh sees the solution in excellence: "We must strive for excellence in all areas that we want to develop." Peter Rožič, highlighted an important difference between Slovenia and the US: "I went to the US as an excited Slovene. At Georgetown University, it was all about work, work, work - but such work is not tiring, it is thrilling, it is noble. The entire system wants you to succeed. In the US, it pays off to rely on your community, as it is stimulating. It makes you realize that everything you have received, you also need to give back to the community. "

"In ASEF, we strive to enable Slovenian students to study at US top-ranking universities. Businessmen and private-sector employees should also be sent to the US. We need to act globally and locally, both are important," further added Mr. Rožič.

And within the spirit of making Slovenia more open and globally active, AmCham Slovenia and ASEF signed a Memorandum of Understanding at Stanford. The aim of the MoU is to begin cooperation in the field of integration of Slovenes abroad and to jointly develop the "Believe in Slovenia" project, which aims to discover and promote the so-called "ambassadors of friendship" - Americans with Slovenian roots and successful Slovenes in the US. It also aims to highlight and connect exceptional individuals, whose achievements and positive attitude towards Slovenia can contribute to better living and business environments in Slovenia and at the same time enable a better understanding, exchange and transfer of best practices and education in both countries.

The Delegation concluded its visit with another event that was very important for Slovenia, namely the opening of ABC Global Home. ABC Global Home is not only a Slovenian Accelerator, which ranks among top 25 in the world after only two years of operation, but is now also the first European accelerator in the Silicon Valley. ABC Global home will be led by Ana Lukner.

The Business Development Delegation is organized by AmCham Slovenia, with the support of the SPIRIT Slovenia Public Agency.  Delegation participants will gain an insight into the thinking and functioning of the leading development centers and companies, which are establishing the key platforms for digital transformation. The Delegation will also consolidate the "Slovenia - a Green Reference Country in Digital Europe" initiative.

After last year's Delegation to the US, led by the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Miro Cerar, PhD, this year's initiative came from the businesses themselves, under the auspices of AmCham Slovenia. These businesses are aware of the momentum and opportunities offered by the 4th Industrial Revolution, but at the same time know very well that it is essential to adapt, and even more - to play an active role - without waiting.  With the support of the Prime Minister, this year's Government Representative, joining the Delegation, is Boris Koprivnikar, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Administration, who is also coordinating Government efforts in the field of digital transformation under the "Slovenia - a Green Reference Country in Digital Europe" initiative.

More information about the Delegation can be found here.

For more information about the Stanford event, visit:  siol.net.