Slovenia Can Succeed With Courage and Boldness

Business Development Delegation to Silicon Valley
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Silicon Valley, September 20–24, 2016. The Business Development Delegation has concluded its visit to Silicon Valley. What did they see there and what can they use back home? Why are such visits important for Slovenia and the Slovenian economy? How can they help in the realization of the vision "Slovenia – a green reference country in digital Europe"?

The business development delegation visited the following companies: IBM Executive Briefing Center, Cisco, HPE, Nasa Ames Research Center, BCG Digital Ventures Center, Microsoft, Salesforce, Uber, Celtra, Tesla, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google. The members of the delegation took part in a discussion at Stanford University with the most successful Slovenians in Silicon Valley, members of different generations whose knowledge is changing the world (you can watch a video of the event at siol.net). The delegation also attended the inauguration of ABC Global Home, the first European business accelerator in Silicon Valley.

The Business Development Delegation was organized by AmCham Slovenia with the support of the public agency Spirit Slovenia. AmCham Slovenia executive director Ajša Vodnik offered the following comment at the end of the trip: "Our desire is to inspire positive changes. With this trip we have done just that. We have encouraged optimism and shown where opportunities lie. The trip brought together members of the business community, representatives of the government and members of the scientific community, and has strengthened our conviction that our vision of 'Slovenia – a green reference country in a digital Europe' is the right one. Through courage, hard work, decisiveness, perseverance and boldness things will be better for everyone. This is what we can learn from all those Slovenians who have found success in the USA."

Boris Koprivnikar is Slovenia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Administration. In the context of the "Slovenia – a green reference country in digital Europe" initiative, he is responsible for coordinating government activities in the field of digital transformation: "The visit was focused on the introduction of modern business models based on digital technologies such as the leasing of space, transport and so on. Our models are not reliant on US technologies but we do want to establish contact with these corporations in order to adapt them for use in Europe, because we all understand that these technologies are facing major difficulties in the European context. Three main areas need to be addressed in the field of the collaborative economy sector: the employment status of the person providing the service. Because this is not a company employee. Taxation and the flow of data and money, so that this is clear and direct, transparent and the same as for everyone else. And finally, consumer protection. These are the areas that are quite different in Europe than in America, and it turns out that US corporations are also very interested in open collaboration, because they are encountering difficulties in the introduction of these new models in every European country. And we want to be a reference here, without just introducing something blindly. We are looking for opportunities, but opportunities that are acceptable under our laws."

And how was the visit seen by those members of the business community who took part in it and by successful Slovenians in the USA?

Boris Horvat, GoOpti and Abelium, offers this summary of his observations on the visit to Silicon Valley companies: "Innovations, an insight into the future, technologies and organization of global disruptors such as Tesla, Google and Uber is always useful as a mirror for everyone who takes the development of high-tech products and services seriously. Because we live in a 'multi-local world', we will need to add a Slovenian or European face to all these technological trends and innovations."

Hubert Golle, product manager at Robotina, made the following point with regard to the fact that Robotina is developing its own technology: "It is extremely important to understand global trends in the implementation of solutions on technology platforms. That is why it is interesting to hear how the leading companies in the world think about the future, while at the same time we are interested in how we can develop our own platform, in collaboration with some of these big names, and find joint niche solutions that enable a breakthrough."

Maja Mikek, Celtra co-founder and CFO: "Celtra owes its success in the first place to Slovenian talent and Slovenian infrastructure, including the education system, financial support and a generally favorable environment that allows many Slovenians, both at home and around the world, to realize their dreams and ambitions. With visits and exchanges of opinion like this we are on the right path, first to hear about and then to realize as many conditions as possible that enable successes at the highest level – in the business enterprise sector, in science, in leadership (of countries and corporations), in the organization of societies. In this way we will inspire many more little "Celtras", which will have a very positive effect on the development of the Slovenian economy and Slovenian society." 

"Silicon Valley is a constant inspiration, thanks to the incredible positivism and commitment of those who work there, and a living proof that dreams can come true. If you think that it's already difficult to find your way through the enormous quantity of data that surrounds us, believe me, it's only going to get worse. New ways of collecting information are arriving at great speed, along with IoT and three billion new online users.  The winners in all this will be those who are able to draw rational conclusions from the abundance of data and use them to simplify life and improve business. It's not only going to be about the total automation of everyday tasks, it will also be about predicting events in the future and, in the next phase, proposing decisions. That is why the "top guns" of Silicon Valley are developing new software platforms, improving artificial and machine intelligence, investing in virtual reality and universal Internet access," said Halcom CEO Marko Valjavec.

Peter Hajdu, general director Cisco South-East Europe at Cisco Systems, says that Slovenia is lucky to have a minister like Koprivnikar who understands the importance of using technology for people's good. He adds that the business community also plays a major role: "We believe that Slovenia has everything it needs to be able to use technology better. What is very important in the current moment is increasing the interest of Slovenia's business community and government in the better adoption of technology, since adaptation has already happened on the user side. And this is where the added value of this delegation lies."

In the light of everything we saw and heard on the trip, it is clear that a shared vision, courage in realizing it, cooperation between the state, the business enterprise sector and the scientific community, the opening up of the country and connections with successful Slovenians in the USA and elsewhere around the world are the ingredients of a recipe for success that we must combine in order for Slovenia to become a reference country.

The Business Development Delegation was organized by AmCham Slovenia with the support of the public agency Spirit Slovenia. Those who took part in the delegation gained an insight into the thinking and activity of leading development centers and the companies that are establishing the key platforms of the digital transformation. Following last year's visit led by Prime Minister Miro Cerar, the initiative behind the organization of this economic delegation to the US came from AmCham Slovenia. Those who took part are companies who recognize the opportunity offered by the "fourth industrial revolution" while at the same time as being well aware of what awaits those who fail to adapt in good time or fail to take an active role. The government was represented on this trip by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Administration Boris Koprivnikar, with the full support of the Prime Minister.

More information about the Business Development Delegation is available here.