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Category: Silicon Valley

Open Austria: Austria opens a Consulate in San Francisco

It’s official: after many years of bugging visiting politicians and influencers from Austria, my home country opened a Consulate in San Francisco this month. In a joint effort, the Austrian Foreign Ministry and the Chamber of Commerce created Open Austria to connect companies and startups from Austria with Silicon Valley and its ecosystem.

Over the years it became more and more obvious for Austrian expatriates that the General Consulate in LA and the trade commission are too remote to interact with the most innovative region. Not least because new services and products from Silicon Valley keep having disruptive effects on Austrian industries, laws, politics, and the society.

In last November Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz toured with a delegation of startup-founders Silicon Valley companies and asked what Austria needs to do in order to get closer to this region. The result is an office in San Francisco staffed by Consul Martin Rauchbauer and Technology Officer Georg Fürlinger. Both have lived in the US before and come with complimentary skills and experiences.

To welcome and introduce them with the Austrian and European Silicon Valley community I organized a kind of speed-dating event with a number of talks highlighting the diversity of the community and its passion: Innovation Day Danube – Focus Open-Austria. With the kind sponsorship of DLA Piper, Open Austria, and Enterprise Garage we listened to eight talks and an introduction by Martin and Georg. The event in the evening of October 3rd was well attended, including His Excellency the Austrian Ambassador to the US Dr. Wolfgang Waldner and General Consul Mag. Ulrike Ritzinger.

After introductory and welcoming words Georg and Martin gave an overview of Open Austria’s tasks and plans. The following video expands into more details.

With several researchers, startup-founders, a middle/high-school teacher and corporate executives we got a broad range of efforts that Europeans pursue in Silicon Valley. Architect and Stanford researcher Andrea Jany looked at the housing situations in the Bay Area and Austria and proposed some solutions from her research.

The young startup founder Felix Krause, who sold his startup to Twitter and has been in San Francisco since then, gave an insight into his background, the story of hist startup Fastlane, and how life at Twitter has been since.

UC Berkeley researcher and president of the Austrian Scientists in North American Bay Area chapter Patricia Bubner gave an insight on the Millet Project. A grain that hasn’t gotten much love (yet) in the US, and lays out the rational for more food diversity.

The event ended with networking opportunities and many talks and discussions among the attendees. Thanks to our camera woman Ayanna Monteverdi I am able to share some of the talks as videos.

Open Austria Breakfast

Open Austria Breakfast

On October 4th in the morning Open Austria invited to a breakfast where we had a Google Hangout with foreign minister Sebastian Kurz, Her Excellency the American Ambassador to Austria Alexa Wesner, and vice president of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce Jürgen Roth.

Local Austrian entrepreneur and Updatemi-founder Michael Hirschbrich led through the program inverviewing Martin and Georg about their role, Rudolf Thaler from the Trade Commision in LA as well as the ambassador and general consul. With some delicious pastry including Austrian pancakes (“Palatschinken”), Krapfen (donuts) and more treats by Davis-based Konditorei the opening of Open Austria was well received.

A selection of pictures from the event can be browsed here.