Advancing Transatlantic Relations through Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Last week, I announced our collaboration with the German Marshall Fund for the 2017 Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative (YTILI) Fellowship, a landmark public diplomacy program to connect the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators in Europe and America. The German Marshall Fund serves as a living reminder of the Marshall Plan, which provided the economic support our European allies needed to restore their democratic freedoms and security at the end of the war. 

(Right to left) Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin, German Marshall Fund (GMF) President Karen Donfried, and GMF co-chairman J. Robinson West at a luncheon discussion on December 5, 2016. [State Department photo]

Economic security is -- and always will be -- freedom’s first building block. And on the heels of Global Entrepreneurship Week, I could not have been more pleased to represent the State Department, as we continue to work to empower the people best equipped to generate economic growth and guarantee our mutual security: entrepreneurs and the investors who support them. 

Entrepreneurs often take the lead in addressing our greatest global challenges. They improve communities with the products and services they produce. Entrepreneurs also grow economies through the jobs they create. By generating this growth, they contribute to greater economic security. This is why we need to create many more opportunities for entrepreneurs and startups across our two economies. In doing so we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations, and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Europe. 

Participants from the Youth Entrepreurship School (YES) in Georgia pitch their business ideas to Charlotte (NC) Angel Investors Fund at the U.S. Embassy iSpace. [State Department Photo]

Take, for example, the effort of Archil Bakuradze, a YTILI alumnus from Tbilisi, Georgia, who partnered with the Charlotte, North Carolina Angel Investors Fund, a U.S.-based company he connected with during his fellowship exchange this summer. During this Global Entrepreneurship Week event, Archil reconnected with these investors to organize a mentoring and pitching session for young Georgian would-be entrepreneurs. With support from USAID the participants pitched their business ideas to the Charlotte Angel Investors and  the investors shared their knowledge and expertise of the business industry with participants to help them strengthen their pitches. In the end, the angel investors selected a winner and provided the prize.

We need to promote and support more interactions like this not only in places like Los Angeles and Lisbon, but also in places like Baltimore and Bucharest. The U.S. Department of State works hard to create these long-lasting connections, based on mutual ideals, respect and prosperity, and we encourage other young entrepreneurs to continue on this journey with us. 

One way we are doing this is through programs like the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative, which empowers entrepreneurs and innovators with the tools, networks, and resources to contribute more fully to economic development and job creation, security, and good governance. The application acceptance period for this fellowship will open on January 6, 2017, with the online network set to launch in March 2017. Once selected, 200 young transatlantic fellows will come to the United States for a two-week long immersive program. Following their visit to the United States, they will reconvene in Europe along with selected American participants for continued programming.

Young Transatlantic Innovation Fellows pose for a photo near the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, California. [German Marshall Fund photo]

The Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative is looking for program participants involved in a wide range of endeavors, such as developing mobile apps to transform local industries; engaging youth in their communities; and supporting fellow entrepreneurs through shared spaces, networks, and courses. Upon returning home, the fellows will stay connected to their peers from across Europe, build on their experience in the United States, and create new opportunities for innovation and collaboration across borders.

The future is in our hands and the United States and Europe must seize the opportunity to deepen those transatlantic bonds. Only by supporting and empowering our young dreamers, will our shared vision for economic prosperity and security truly flourish. 

About the Author: Charles H. Rivkin serves as the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau Economic and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears on State Department's Foggy Bottom Publication on

For more information:

Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders pose for a photo at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Palo Alto, California. [State Department photo]
December 12, 2016


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