This article represents the first in a series of occasional notes to help our diaspora understand the types of companies coming out of Estonia and heading to the United States. Personally, it is an immensely fulfilling opportunity to bring my two native countries together and see both benefit. This first article is about one of the more recent events, but I can’t guarantee they will continue chronologically – there were some pretty interesting (to me, anyway) events earlier, and this autumn promises a few more.
The BIO International Convention is one of the largest conferences on the biotechnology calendar, and this year’s June 5-8 event in Boston was no different, with nearly 15,000 attendees from 65 countries. Five Estonian companies (Äio, Glamarium, BioCC, Icosagen, and Bioatlas), along with the Technology Institute at the University of Tartu and the healthtech cluster head from Tehnopol Science Park, led ably by Enterprise Estonia’s Kati Borkmann and Kadi-Liis Veiman, made the trek over in search of partnerships and clients. On June 4, the eve of the conference, members of “Team Estonia” put together a reception for these organizations and guests from the US biotech community.
What is Team Estonia? Glad you asked! Team Estonia consists of the various Estonian government agencies that support Estonian businesses abroad. In the US, this means people from the Embassy, the New York City Consulate General, the San Francisco Consulate General, the two sides of Enterprise Estonia (Estonian Investment Agency and its export-oriented sibling), and the Honorary Consuls of Estonia in a number of cities. I personally would also add to the list the various friends of Estonia we all have met over the years.
In this case, the bulk of the organizational work for the reception was done by Boston- (and Canada- and Viljandi-) based Honorary Consul Anne-Reet Annunziata, Estonian Investment Agency’s Maris Prii (Director of Investor Relations in the US, based in San Francisco), and by Alvar Soosaar, who serves as Director of US Investment and Trade at the Embassy and is a native Bostonian, with support from Anneli Leega Piiskop of the Foreign Ministry’s business diplomacy office.
As we put together the guest list for the event, we focused on wishlist individuals provided by the companies, potential partners for the companies, Boston-based investors, technical and legal experts, and market entry professionals. I later discovered that a couple of our guests were not invited, but had heard about the Estonian companies and decided to crash the event. One was a senior official from New York City’s biotech cluster, and the second an investor with ties to the Baltic region – so we dropped all charges (kidding!).
I was really happy at the immense efforts each of the Estonian companies made at networking. As many of us know, neither scientists nor Estonians are known for their gregariousness, but these Estonian scientists did an excellent job at networking – and I apologize here again for being the gregarious American pushing connections on them!
I do want to make sure to thank Anne-Reet, who does what she does for Estonia as a volunteer. In this particular case, she scrambled to find a space once she heard we were coming to BIO, and truly knocked it out of the park with Legal Harborside, which despite the rather dense fog, still gave us a view across Boston Harbor of planes landing and taking off from Logan Airport. She subsequently came to the Convention, participating in a number of meetings with US states, members of the EU delegation, and businesses.
Despite a very rainy evening depressing turnout, we surpassed our goal of a reception for 45-50 people, and feedback from the companies and our guests was overwhelmingly positive: good connections were made (hopefully to be improved over time!), and Estonia’s reputation as a source of high-quality biotech services and products was strengthened.
This autumn, we will see several delegations of Estonian companies coming to the East Coast for conferences and visits. Four in particular stand out:
- Startup Estonia-led visit to universities and tech transfer/commercialization centers in Boston, Philadelphia, and NYC;
- EstBAN (Estonian Business Angel Network) visit to Boston and NYC – following up on last year’s similar trip by the Estonian Venture Capital Association;
- AUSA (Association of the US Army) Conference in Washington – following up on last year’s successful delegation; and
- The GoGlobal Conference in Providence, RI. Held last year in Tallinn, the conference will bring a number of Estonian companies to the Ocean State.
We always are looking for constructive help for our Estonian companies looking to come to the US. Please reach out if you have thoughts on introductions, locations, or other relevant topics! I can most easily be reached at [email protected]
Director of US Investment and Trade
Embassy of Estonia in Washington