Wisconsin and Luxembourg are both centrally located on their respective continents, have a dynamic business culture and welcome companies from other parts of the world. “Both territories are excellent platforms for companies looking to expand,” said Luxembourg Minister of the Economy Franz Fayot during the opening session of the e-mission that attracted over 200 participants – a majority of whom were American business representatives – on 29 – 31 March 2021.

The strong relationship was established two centuries ago, when a large number of Luxembourgers left their homes in search of a better life in the US and made Wisconsin a preferred destination. The ties between the two countries became even stronger during the Second World War. “The liberation of Luxembourg by the US army is deeply engraved in our memory,” said Gaston Stronck, Luxembourg Ambassador to the USA. “We will never forget the sacrifice of the soldiers, many of whom came from Wisconsin and some were of Luxembourg descent.”

Understanding start-ups

These links provided a foundation for the three-day mission that focused in particular on water management, fintech innovation and start-ups. “We understand start-ups, because Luxembourg has been confronted with some of the challenges they face every day,” Michele Gallo, Director at the Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy, pointed out, referring to the need to suddenly pivot in order to ensure one’s future survival. “We started as an agricultural country, moved to be a steel industry champion and created, in the 1980s, the global financial centre that we have today. Now, we are building a third wave of growth based on knowledge and our sustainable data economy.”

Luxembourg’s constantly growing start-up community is proof that the country offers fertile soil for innovative ventures. “We came to Luxembourg as we found it to be a better place to develop our technology,” said Ryan Dodd, founder and CEO of American start-up Cyberhedge that has developed a method for calculating how cyber risk impacts business value. “Our business model is also such that we have few but large customers. Luxembourg gave us access to some very large institutions.”

We came to Luxembourg as we found it to be a better place to develop our technology.

“Luxembourg is a great place to make partnerships with other companies and organisations and offers a great funding environment,” said Royce Dalby, President of geospatial data and analytics company Hydrosat which is headquartered in Washington DC. “The country is also much more friendly to environmental services like ours than the US are.”

Both entrepreneurs admit that it can be challenging to do business in another culture than one’s own, but that Luxembourg’s international environment provides many advantages. Mr Dalby has also joined the Luxembourg Space Federation where he can exchange with other companies. “We share pros and cons about how to do business and are a great support network for each other.”

A partnership for expansion

In order to help Luxembourg start-ups find the same helpful networks in the US, the Ministry of the Economy, with the support of Luxembourg Honorary Consul Mike Ansay, has established a partnership with renowned Wisconsin business accelerator gener8tor. Starting from this summer, five Luxembourg start-ups will each year have the opportunity to participate in a three-week digital programme run by gener8tor to discover the US from Wisconsin and start developing business contacts. The ministry, in collaboration with Luxinnovation and gener8tor, will select the start-ups that will be offered a place in the programme composed of workshops, training sessions and mentoring as well as interactions with local companies, investors and large enterprises.

This is the opportunity of a lifetime.

“I am sure that with the talent of our start-ups, the expertise of gener8tor and the support of the very active community of descendants of Grand Duchy immigrants to Wisconsin, this programme will prove to be a great success on both sides of the pond,” said Minister Fayot. gener8tor co-founder Joe Kirgues, himself a Luxembourg descendent, was more than enthusiastic about the cooperation: “This is the opportunity of a lifetime.”