Alexander Van der Bellen was sworn in as the Federal President of the Republic of Austria on January 26, 2017. The final election result was published on Tuesday, December 6, 2016 (including absentee ballots); Van der Bellen won the re-run of the second round with 53.79%.
On Tuesday, October 4, over 130 guests including Ambassador Wolfgang Waldner, Consul General Ulrike Ritzinger and Trade Commissioner Rudolf Thaler joined co-directors Martin Rauchbauer and Georg Fürlinger for a celebratory opening of their new office with pastries by Austrian-born pastry chef Albert Kutternig. Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, U.S. Ambassador to Austria Alexa Wesner, and the Vice President of the Austrian Chamber for the Economy (WKO), Jürgen Roth participated live from their respective offices in Vienna via a Google Hangout broadcast.
All participants were delighted by the opportunities that this new presence in the West Coast’s entrepreneurial hub presents to Austria. “Silicon Valley, with companies such as Apple or Uber and a third of the world’s venture capital is one of the most innovative regions in the world” said Foreign Minister Kurz. “With this new office, we want to build a bridge to better connect Austrian entrepreneurs with this region and grow their networks and potentials.”
Ambassador Waldner concurred, underlining the growing Austrian network in the U.S.: “I’m delighted to see our excellent network in the U.S. grow even further with this new office in San Francisco, making Open Austria the door opener to Silicon Valley for Austrian start-ups.”
Ambassador Wesner underlined the importance of California and the U.S. in general for the global IT sector: "The U.S. has a vital role in supporting and assisting entrepreneurship worldwide because of our experience, our diversity, and our entrepreneurial culture." Vice President Roth weighed in by stating that “this initiative presents a unique opportunity for Austrian businesses and adds to our existing network of opportunities”.
With the Open Austria initiative, Austria is sending a strong signal to the world’s most innovative and future-minded region. Its mission is to connect Austrian entrepreneurs, innovators, scientists and creative minds to the Valley and provide those who are already here with a home base. Another goal is to shed light on the vast creative and innovative potential of Austria. As a high-tech nation of “hidden champions” in the heart of Europe, Austria deserves to be recognized well beyond its world-famous artistic and cultural traditions.
Austrian Federal Minister for Transport, Innovation and Technology Jörg Leichtfried travelled to the United States in September.
Visit to Silicon Valley
Leichtfried visited the Bay Area with a focus on the future of mobility and Austria as an E-mobility hub. Besides inspecting the brand new Transportation Center of the “smart city” San José, Minister Leichtfried met with Professors from Stanford and UC Berkeley, start-ups, representatives of GoogleX, Tesla and BMW Technologies, as well as Austrian-born Vice President of Security & Privacy Engineering at Google, Gerhard Eschelbeck.
Austria Connect North America in Atlanta
Minister Leichtfried went on to attend the Austria Connect North America conference in Atlanta from 22nd to 24th of September 2016, organized by the Austrian Trade Representatives in the USA. This year, Austria Connect attracted an unprecedented number of more than 110 representatives of Austrian companies. Besides Leichtfried, who gave a keynote on “The Future of Innovation from an Austrian Perspective,” the wide range of speakers comprised renowned experts in the field of computer science, engineering and financial technology, who gave their insights into the future of innovation and manufacturing in the USA and in the world: Austria Connect thus positioned itself anew as a not-to-be-missed event for Austrian companies interested in doing business in North America.
Austrian Federal Chancellor Christian Kern, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, and Minister for Justice Wolfgang Brandstetter were in New York to attend meetings on the occasion of the so-called “leader’s week” of the 71st General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA) end of September.
Chancellor Kern attended the Leader’s Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis hosted by President Obama on Tuesday, September 20. He also met UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon together with Foreign Minister Kurz. Both had represented Austria the day before at the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants and held a joint press conference for Austrian and international media. Chancellor Kern also attended a reception on the invitation of Ronald Lauder at the Neue Gallerie and held bilateral meetings with H.M. the King of Jordan Abdullah II Ibn Al-Hussein, the President of Egyt Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau.
Foreign Minister Kurz delivered the official Austrian statement at the 71st UNGA on September 21.
Apart from his meetings together with Chancellor Kern, Foreign Minister Kurz met with human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Nadia Murad Basee Taha, had a working lunch with the Foreign Ministers of the Western Balkan countries, attended the EU Foreign Minister’s Transatlantic Dinner with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and held bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Libya, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. Minister Kurz also met with the UN Special Envoys for Syria and Libya as well as representatives of Jewish Organizations (AJC, ADL, and B'nai B'rith), opened an Austrian design exhibition at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York and also attended the “Austrian-American Day” reception at the Austrian Consulate-General.
Austrian Minister for Justice Wolfgang Brandstetter attended a side event hosted by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on equal access to an independent justice worldwide. He also discussed the Agenda 2030 with high-level government representatives, including the Minister of Justice of Ukraine, Pavlo Petrenko.
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The Austrian Cultural Forum New York (ACFNY) opened its fall exhibition on September 21st - a ten year retrospective of Vienna’s largest and most influential design event, VIENNA DESIGN WEEK - in the presence of Sebastian Kurz, Austrian Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs.
Curated by Lilli Hollein, the exhibition 10 Years of VIENNA DESIGN WEEK featuring the City explores the history, structure, and impact of the non-profit event, which has brought renowned international designers to the city and provided a platform for the vanguard of Austria’s young designers. The focus of the retrospective lies on a showcase of works created over the past ten years in novel collaborations between contemporary designers and celebrated Viennese manufacturers such as J. & L. Lobmeyr, Wiener Silber Manufactur, and A.E. Köchert Juweliere.
From its inception in 2007, VIENNA DESIGN WEEK’s modus operandi has been “A City Full of Design,” a slogan that manifests the festival’s desire to view design as a means of activating the urban environment. With this exhibition, ACFNY director Christine Moser and VIENNA DESIGN WEEK founder Lili Hollein decided to bring this major Austrian design event to New York audiences. 10 Years of VIENNA DESIGN WEEK featuring the City is on view until January 16, 2017, open daily, and admission is free.
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Photos: David Plakke/ACFNY
The Austrian Minister for the Interior, Wolfgang Sobotka, made his first visit to the U.S. from September 18-20, 2016, meeting the top echelon of the U.S. political security establishment including Attorney General Loretta Lynch. During his trip, the Minister also familiarized himself with several dedicated processing centers of U.S. security institutions.
On September 15th and 16th, 2016, the Embassy hosted a consular conference for Austrian Honorary Consuls as well as the Heads of diplomatic offices and departments in the U.S. Over 40 participants heeded the Ambassador’s invitation to receive briefings on the latest news on Austro-American bilateral issues, actual consular matters, as well as to share experiences on their daily consular work. Besides providing the most up-to-date information on its ongoing economic, scientific and cultural efforts in the U.S., one of the Embassy’s main objectives in this two-day get together was to strengthen the country-wide consular network.
The conference, which is held every three years, also covered updates by the head of the Americas of the Austrian foreign ministry, Robert Zischg, as well as from the U.S. Office of Foreign Missions and the Department of Homeland Security. Additionally, the Honorary Consuls were familiarized with the activities of the Austrian National Tourist Office, the Vienna Business Agency and Advantage Austria, the network of Austrian trade representatives.
Austrian Startups go down well with New York investors
From 5th to 9th September 2016, the Austrian Pitching days were held in New York and Boston for the first time. Out of 60 applicants, 11 Austrian startup teams looking for entry into the international market and second-round financing were selected to present their product and business ideas to US investors which represented health and environmental technology, software as well as on lifestyle industries on the east coast.
The startups presented their business ideas in the office space of the Samsung Accelerator. Representatives from Citi Bank, Flatiron Investors, Saratoga Equity, Rubicon Venture Capital and Brookly Bridge Ventures attended the pitch. The presentations were followed by a networking event with Austrian food and wine.
Supporting program for Austrian startups
The Austrian startups also visited the headquarters of the co-working space “WeWork”, the highest valued startup in New York with almost 10 billion USD. The program included presentations at the accelerators “Techstars” and “Entrepreneurs Round Table (ERT)”, where the young companies were able to test their pitches and get feedback from their U.S. peers. Additionally, they visited a boot camp with experts of the law firm McCarter & English, getting information on important issues including visas, financing agreements as well as property rights and ownership. The Austrians also met other European startups successful in the “Big Apple”.
From the “Big Apple” to Boston
The trip also took the startups to Boston, where they got to know other accelerators like the “Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC)” and “MassChallenge”. Talks with innovators from arguably the world’s leading technical university, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), were the jewels in the crown of the program in Boston. Apart from the well-known Silicon Valley, New York has become a hot spot for young entrepreneurs in the last few years as the world’s leading financial center provides a dynamic market environment thanks to its numerous venture capital investors and its high purchasing power. Additionally, New York is equipped with a rich offer on incubators, accelerators, mentors and universities, thus presenting an ideal habitat for startups.
The Austrian Pitching Days are part of the campaign “go-international” by the Austrian Chamber of the Economy and were organized by the Austrian Trade Commission in New York.
Descriptions and contact details of the 11 Austrian startup teams are available at www.pitchingdays.nyc.
As part of 'Austria to Austin', the Office of Science and Technology Austria hosted and connected Austrian entrepreneurs with local Austin innovators at a networking event on Thursday, July 14th, aimed at kickstarting the startup efforts of the young globally minded Austrian cohort. The Capital Factory, Austin's prime co-working set the stage for OSTA's #AustriaIs event!
In December, 3 Day Startup was awarded a generous grant from the U.S. Embassy in Vienna to lead the Austria to Austin Student Startup Exchange. Over 700 applications later, the Austin based organization, together with a myriad of stakeholders chose 18 students who would end up traveling to Austin. Two energetic weeks later, the students have started early stage companies and become innovation bridges between the U.S. and Austria.
To facilitate this process the OSTA brought in local experts such as Ben Thoma, founder of Creative Mornings Austin, Ben Dyer, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, Maja Kermath, Co-Founder of KOR 180 and Johannes Larcher, an Austrian partner at the Capital Factory, to only name a few.
In an elevator pitch setting, the resident experts elaborated on their own successes, pitfalls, and motivations on becoming immersed in an innovative ecosystem. Over delicious Austrian food and drink (courtesy of Austin’s local Austrian chef Florian Prelog) the Austria to Austin participants actively networked with the experts, making connections that matter!