14 March 2007

American Embassy in Rome reaches out via web to discuss innovation and creativity with young Italian entrepreneurs

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Interesting article in Tuesday’s La Repubblica newspaper (below my English translation) about how the American Embassy in Rome is reaching out via the web and via events to discuss innovation and creativity with young Italian entrepreneurs.

“The first appointment is for Wednesday 14 March at 5pm (CET). At that time, the TV cameras will be switched on for an hour at the American Embassy in Rome. The first session of the video webchat Face2Face will then be broadcast. You can see the event online, and contribute questions via chat to a young entrepreneur. Questions are gathered and edited by a moderator who will be joining the interviewee, and will try to have as many questions answered as possible. The moderator in this first session will be another entrepreneur who will be able to add his own experience to the questions asked. It will all take place in real time, so it is up to the moderator to check the timing, the types of questions, and to make sure it all runs correctly, concisely and precisely.

The website to go to is http://italy.usembassy.gov/face2face. The email address to submit questions to is Face2Face@mail.usembassy.gov. The Embassy publicised the initiative on the internet, and by communicating it to universities, public services, big companies, and any other place they could think of where young and curious people come together. But who is behind the initiative? The answer is unusual for such a project: the American Embassy in Rome itself. Face2Face is the first of a series of major communication initiatives that this diplomatic representation in Italy is undertaking to improve the relationships between the two countries. Even though there are sometimes difficulties in understanding one another and also political controversies (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan, Vicenza), there is one area where the relationships between the USA and Italy cannot be damanged, and that is the economy. The shared interests are vital, American investments and Italian ones in the USA are too substantial for them to be compromised. And that matters to both parties.

The discussion on Face2Face will therefore focus on economic issues and will examine all the best examples that both models can offer. With the initiative being organised by the Americans, the focus will be strongly influenced by the character and the opportunities of the American model: how one studies, how the university and research environment is organised, how venture capital functions, how the USA was able to create a favourable climate to investments and employments, the flexibility of the labour market, etcetera. Later on in the series of broadcasts, they will also feature one of those Italians (and there are many) who found fertile ground and financing in the USA for their research activities, their business interests, and their entrepreneurial mindset.

The initiative is part of “Partnership for Growth”, a wider programme of communications and dialogue activities conceived by Ambassador Ronald Spogli in person. It features a series of events, conferences and meetings to improve mutual understanding and stimulate business opportunities, and also includes visits and personal meetings. However multimedia channels play a key role. For instance, a new website was set up where those who went to the US and had problems with customers can interact with American functionaries and explain their situation. Spogli, who has a background in the venture capital industry, also added a Face2Face broadcast on private equity and on the opportunities that this underestimated tool coud provide to more ‘dormant’ businesses.”

According to the Face2Face website, the first session will feature Marco Palombi, founder of Splinder, a blogging platform. He will interview Michele Appendino, one of Italy’s Venture Capital pioneers, who will answer the questions submitted by the public.

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