Opening Remarks by Douglas Kramer Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs U.S. Embassy Moscow at the Junior Achievement Entrepreneurship and Innovation Tournament (November 20, 2014)
I am very pleased to be here today at the opening of the Junior Achievement Entrepreneurship and Innovation Tournament.
The tournament takes place during a worldwide event: Global Entrepreneurship Week. Global Entrepreneurship Week started in 2008, with host organizations from 77 countries. This year millions of people from 139 countries will participate in thousands of events and activities around the globe to promote entrepreneurial education and activities, and celebrate innovators who launch startups, drive economic growth and create jobs and prosperity.
Personal Experience as an Entrepreneur
The subject of entrepreneurship has a personal tie for me, because shortly after I graduated from university, an old friend and I decided to become partners and founded a firm that specialized in removing paint and rust from metal products, using a chemical process.
We obtained some investment, took out loans from a local bank, purchased and installed the necessary equipment, and then set about the hardest job of all – finding customers to purchase our service.
Initially, we thought we would be able to concentrate on serving hobbyists, who liked to restore antique automobiles, but it soon because evident we would need industrial customers to provide the necessary volume of sales. Various sorts of industries in our home region of Minnesota found our service helped them save money. If a part they made had faulty paint or had become rusty, our processing could clean up the part and allow it to be re-used, which usually was cheaper than re-making the part.
My partner and I had to learn all aspects of business: sales, compliance with regulations, accounting, taxation, and dealing with employees, including both hiring and firing. We remained a small business, and never had more than 10 employees.
After running the business for seven years, my partner and I sold the business. He went on to other business ventures, and I joined the diplomatic service. No, we did not become terribly wealthy running the business, although we did make a living. We also learned a lot, including how much hard work it is to start an enterprise. That said, it was a rewarding experience for me.
My family has an entrepreneurial tradition. My father started several companies. Both my sons work in start-up companies.
Entrepreneurship in Russia
The entrepreneurial environment here in Russia has expanded in past few years. Some key organizations that empower young entrepreneurs include Skolkovo, OPORA-Russia, the Center for Entrepreneurship, the GSEA, and, of course, Junior Achievement.
We see growing interest in entrepreneurship in Russia. Last summer Russia hosted its first Annual Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovators Conference and “Startup Village.”
This spring Russia hosted the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Congress. This event is now the largest annual gathering of the global entrepreneurial ecosystem. Over 153 countries gathered in Moscow to explore new ideas, remove roadblocks and solve global issues around entrepreneurship.
The United States applauds the efforts of Russia’s entrepreneurs. We believe the growth of entrepreneurship opens new opportunities for commercial, scientific, and personal partnerships between our two peoples.
Russia is an important member of the global entrepreneurship community, and on behalf of the American Embassy I congratulate all of you here today for sharing in that spirit of creativity and innovation.
Joining you today are other colleagues of mine from the U.S. embassy and several business and economic experts from the Moscow area. We are all excited to see you make your best efforts in today’s tournament. I know Nina is now going to give you the instructions for your task.
Good luck to everyone!