Helping international companies with the expansion of their business to Luxembourg and their entrance into the European markets is a priority for the Grand Duchy’s government. In order to provide concrete support offered by specialists with a deep understanding of Luxembourg as well as of selected target countries, the Ministry of the Economy coordinates a network of Luxembourg Trade and Investment Offices (LTIOs) located in Abu Dhabi, Casablanca, New York, San Francisco, Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei, Tel Aviv and Tokyo. While the LTIOs are constantly available to inform and support companies, the yearly tech event ICT Spring is an opportunity to invite start-ups considering coming to Europe to get a first taste of business in Luxembourg.
Yuriko Matsuno, Director of LTIO Tokyo, has been involved in this initiative since the very beginning. “We first got the idea to promote this event to Japanese start-ups 10 years ago,” she recalls. “At that time, Europe was a mysterious market to many of them and they were rather looking to expand to the US or other locations. We thought that coming to ICT Spring would give them an opportunity to understand the European market and get some exposure in Luxembourg.”
Experience, exposure, local contacts
The LTIO Tokyo team saw that start-ups were looking for a first European experience, exposure and contacts with potential local partners and clients. At the same time, they felt quite insecure in this completely new context. “Having a booth at ICT Spring was helpful, but to help them get more comfortable, we also decided to organise a tour to introduce them to the local ecosystem,” says Ms Matsuno.
The start-ups were particularly happy to meet Japanese companies and have first-hand information about how they conduct business here.
The day preceding the event is therefore dedicated to tailor-made visits. The seven start-ups accompanied by LTIO Tokyo this time were invited to the Japanese embassy and visited ispace and Rakuten, two Japanese companies already established in Luxembourg. They also went to several start-up accelerators and incubators that could be a first port of call for their European offices. “The start-ups were particularly happy to meet Japanese companies and have first-hand information about how they conduct business here,” Ms Matsuno points out.
Opening European offices
LTIO Seoul director Younhee Kim brought 10 South Korean start-ups to ICT Spring 2022. “The start-ups did not know a lot about Luxembourg before coming here, but they were interested in discovering a highly digitalised country that can provide an excellent starting point for entering the French, German and Dutch markets,” says Rebecca Koo, Team Leader at the LTIO’s cooperation partner ASEIC, who played an active role in putting together the Korean delegation.
This showed the start-ups that Luxembourg is a truly international location.
Two of the Korean participants, CONTEC and Data Design Engineering, have already incorporated in Luxembourg and opened their European offices here, and a third is on the way to doing the same. “They still had some doubts before coming here, but now they are convinced,” Ms Koo says happily. The Korean start-ups also joined the visiting programme the day before the event and benefitted from incubator visits, meetings with key agencies and a dedicated information session organised by Startup Luxembourg. “Meeting people from the government and government agencies in a new country is really not easy, so this is a really good introduction to the European market. During the visits, we were also welcomed by people from many different countries. This showed the start-ups that Luxembourg is a truly international location.”
Conducive environment for start-ups
Invited by Sabrina Amiar, Senior Commercial & Economic Advisor at LTIO Abu Dhabi, Director Zoë Harries came to ICT Spring to see whether it could be of interest in the future for the start-ups located at innovation and technology hub Masdar, which focuses on sustainable development projects. “The first thing that strikes me are the similarities between Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates. Both countries have conducive environments for start-ups, high-value economies, strong government support and academic partnerships,” she says. “They are also both launch pads to regional markets. We are seeking international partnerships to help our start-ups expand internationally, and I’m very excited about the future collaboration which kicked off during this event.”
Our start-ups are happy with the contacts they have made and to see that there is a lively business community here in their sectors.
Ms Matsuno is also optimistic about the outcome of the event. “Our start-ups are happy with the contacts they have made and to see that there is a lively business community here in their sectors,” she says. “When we are back in Japan, we will organise a follow-up session where the participants will be invited to speak about their experience to other Japanese companies as well as the press. We have done this for several years, and it always attracts a lot of interest. Several of our previous participants at ICT Spring, such as ispace and bitFlyer, have opened offices in Luxembourg. I hope that after these successful few days, more will follow in their footsteps.”