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US-Serbia IT business summit

Friday 12 December, 2008

I attended this event US-Serbia IT Business Summit organized by more than anyone Zoran Golubovich & co-sponsored by Serbian Unity Congress, Ministry of Telecommunications & Information Society of the Republic of Serbia, & World Trade Center Illinois.  Links to the presentations, companies from both Serbia & the US that participated are available on the webpage linked above.  Here’s what I picked up in addition to that information provided

from Q&A with Denny/Dragan Arsic, Director of Global Accounts Marketing for Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business-Serbs are strong in English & math, & new graduates rival those from Kellogg & GSB/Booth.  Microsoft’s Development Center in Belgrade is funded byHQ in Redmond & located in the same building but separately from the  local Microsoft office.

On the political side, Stuart Jones, Deputy Asst. Sec. for European Affairs from the US State Dept. noted the Serbs elected a pro-western government & is a candidate to become a member of the EU.  It’s a transportation hub on the highway to Albania & minority Serb issues must be addressed in Kosovo.

Illinois Congresswoman Melissa Bean, a descendant of Serbian relatives & former IT executive, has led trade missions to Serbia.  In Q&A said the Obama administration is coming up with a template for Free Trade Agreements which will be used to evaluate NAFTA.  We also need to recreate the abundance mentality to create broader middles classes everywhere so we can share in growth.

George Selak, Pres. of Astro Machine Corp. said in some ways Serbia is still in a horse & buggy stage & it’s not easy doing business there.  Regardless, great prospects for opportunity exist there.

Q&A with Samuel Kramer of Baker & McKenzie enlightened us in that jurisdictional issues can be solved simply by good counsel & when seeking the US government as a customer, the government does have procurement roles.

This was a very-well organized event & Zoran was not bashful about making the information presented available, including information on the participating firms.  I like the fact that they focused on successful US firms in Serbia, which many times beats presentations by non-English speakers shilling their wares.  Success stories from local firms who are working in those foreign trenches are much more convincing.  I find it interesting that this event was conceived last year in northern California & took place in Chicago.  I believe the reason is the primary organizer, Zoran, is located in Chicago.  However holding an IT conference here that was formulated in Silicon Valley & happens here is noteworthy.   I’m not a fan of hosting a lot of politicians, but given her former business & IT experience, Melissa Bean was a good addition.  I also question the relevance of trade missions, in that these meetings are only a step in the relationship building process & the expectation to sign an MOU after 1 meeting is a bit much.  It usually requires much more research, analysis, & planning to determine whether or not these foreign relationships make sense.  Granted personal relatinships are still important, even for IT businesses, but if you’re meeting a 1/2 dozen representatives in 3 hours, how focused can you be?  This is not a criticism of this particular event, rather of trade misssions in general.

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