This past spring, Frederike Asael, an entrepreneur and photographer from Switzerland, participated in the three-week IVLP program designed by the U.S. Department of State entitled “Entrepreneurship as the Engine of Prosperity and Stability.” The program aims to promote small business development, innovation, and entrepreneurial acumen as paths to socio-economic wellbeing and political stability. After Frederike’s return to Switzerland, we could not pass up the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her experiences and takeaways from her trip to Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, Seattle and Austin.
First Stop: Washington D.C.
On a chilly day in March, a large group of over 80 startup ecosystem builders and entrepreneurs from all over the world met in the conference hall of a Washington hotel. The large group was split into smaller groups that would travel together and reunite with the other groups headed to Austin, Texas. In Washington D.C., the group met with received insights about the U.S. government and political system.
What was a highlight of Washington D.C?
“The conversation with the city guide in Washington D.C., who witnessed Martin Luther King’s famous public speech in August 1963 was memorable–as well as the panel discussion organized by the State Department.”
Next Stop: Pittsburgh
The metropolitan area has successfully managed to reinvent itself. The once famous steel town has become a hub for medicine and higher education in the last few decades.
What struck you the most in Pittsburgh?
“We gained valuable insight into Pittsburgh’s urban development, regional accelerators and neighborhood initiatives. I was very impressed by a Muslim woman, who runs a retail accelerator for female business owners. Moreover, the opportunity to meet women who had overcome their fears and built their own successful businesses was powerful.”
“It was impressive to see firsthand how the startup culture and the associated willingness to take risks (not being afraid of failure) is deeply rooted in the U.S. I hope that I can inspire my environment in Switzerland to be more willing to take risks in order to develop solutions for urgent global problems”.
One of the biggest highlights was the opportunity to meet participants and learn more about their cultures, values, local economies and the programs they run. We made some really meaningful, lasting friendships and are in regular contact, supporting each other and sharing our professional and personal lives.
Third stop: Seattle
Innovative female entrepreneurs, latest startup trends and accelerators: that’s Seattle, one of the world’s leading tech cities surrounded by beautiful nature.
And what surprised you the most in Seattle?
“We attended a panel discussion with four female angel investors and entrepreneurs on the theme “Investing in Women – the smart thing to do,” which made me realize how advanced the U.S. is in terms of gender equality in the workplace compared to Switzerland.”
Last Stop: Austin
“In Austin and throughout the trip, one of the biggest highlights was the opportunity to meet participants and learn more about their cultures, values, local economies and the programs they run. We made some really meaningful, lasting friendships and are in regular contact, supporting each other and sharing our professional and personal lives.”
About the IVLP:
The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. Through short-term visits to the United States, current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience this country firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts. Professional meetings reflect the participants’ professional interests and support the foreign policy goals of the United States.