1st Investor Conversation with Reps from E. Europe / Middle East / Africa

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Our Economic Development Team connected with another group representing investment groups spanning Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Eygpt.
Currently, the conversation is in the exploration stage but interest seems high around innovation services.  Particularly the ability to build out start-up incubation services in key areas of technology critical for these regions.   These services would be used to support US based start-ups and the exchange of international based startups to incubate in the USA all with goals of having commercial potential to solve challenges in their regions.    Most of these technologies around water, energy, agriculture, etc would have applicability around the world so are high priority efforts for many investment groups.
What has been interesting over these past few months of hosting international delegations is not only the similarity of interests in innovation, education, and exchange,  but the vast diversity of how they view investments in different cities in the USA.   Some of the factors that seem to create the variance is determined by:
  1. Where they see the strength, growth/decline,  or emergence of industry clusters in the USA.   Cities with old brands are not attractive and cities with significant international brand and clear economic development plans for the region attract attention.  Note:  This is not always the biggest US cities that have the best plan forward and those plans are not always lead by government agencies but more private economic development companies working collaboratively across the region.
  2. Demographics of the overall region.  How international is the area?
  3. Education opportunities,  what international programs exist or willingness to develop.
  4. Current USA industries working in their region
  5. Current regional government engagement with the international region.   This is more state level vs. federal.  How proactive is has the state been to do outreach and build relationships.
  6. The vibrancy of the startup economy:  The amount of investment corporations or Venture Capitalists had made in their local region.
  7. The personal networks of the investors in partnership with other USA investors.
  8. Willingness to partner in foreign the capital stack between domestic and international money.en
  9. Vetting and background checks of all parties.
  10. Personal networks / history of past business success.
Our next step is to partner with the US Commercial Services to vet these opportunities / sources at this time.
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1st Investor Delegation from SE Asia

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Our Economic Development Team hosted a foreign delegation from Vietnam that represented a large investment hedge fund based in Singapore. This particular group was travelling to the United States representing a broad spectrum of business partnerships and evaluating investment opportunities.   Three major areas of focus included:
  1. Discussions around building new international services around Innovation, Education, and Exchange.   In particular, this group was interested in international exchange services that would facility business networking,  professional & student education, and potential for two-way access to start-ups and technology.
  2. Members of this effort also represented very large scale real estate develops in emerging countries that included both high rise living and resort properties.   They were looking for strategic partnerships to US suppliers and manufacturers in the construction of these large properties due to poor materials sourcing from China.
  3. This group is also supporting a new North American-based global financial platform and was talking with our business partners about integrating this platform under many of the large real estate / campus projects.   This platform supports a broad array of credit card and analytics features on an international scale differentiated from most of the largest platforms today.   It includes aspects of currency exchange and ability to transfer funds under a process model of governance of approvals for control and audibility.   As technology increases the ability to transfer and establish governance models at various levels of society it raises a larger global issue around the movement of capital across national boundaries.   The platforms will ultimately bring new regulation around global cooperation and security but could be certainly disruptive in the mean time.
Upon the delegation returning to Asia we have continued ongoing discussions around these opportunities.

1st Investor Conversation with Norway

B8BB1187-965D-4542-8DB6-5C84217803B5.jpgOur Economic Development Team met with investor reps from Norway.   We explored interest levels around investment in innovation, education, and exchange centers to facilitate stronger international business.  Norway has a very strong culture of innovation and education.   They were very open to looking at international partnerships.   Aspects of the discuss centered on the challenges they face in commercializing and large scale manufacturing of new innovations due to regional costs and the benefit of international partnerships to achieve those goals.   They also talked about investment criteria and key regions in the USA that they are targeting investments.   Their portfolio of interest is also a blend of short term and long term investment objectives which also dictate criteria for selection.

 

Russian Trade Minister Visit to UMN

Alexander StadnikI hosted Alexander Stadnik, Trade Representative of the Russian Federation in the United States of America, during his visit to Minnesota at the UMN on 2/25/15.   The visit included meetings with several of the science, agriculture, and engineering faculty to discuss areas of collaboration with Russian academic institutions.  My conversations with Mr. Stadnik spanned some of my experiences in innovation working at Microsoft,  innovation trends in the USA & globally,  and my current work at the UMN studying innovation centers around the globe in efforts to build those innovation assets in Minnesota.   Minnesota also has a fair sized Russian demographic and entrepreneurial community.    There is interest in creating opportunities for Russian companies, researchers and students to work collaboratively with institutions and corporations in the United States and Minnesota directly.   Since this meeting I have had the chance to meet directly with Russian representatives from their university and industry innovation centers.

Mr. Stadnik is currently based out of Washington D.C. representing trade relationships between Russian and the United States of America.    You can learn more about the USA/RU trade relationship and events at the Russian Trade Representation site.