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NRW.INVEST talks to ...

Oliver Hanisch, Head of Office NRW.INVEST USA (NORTH AMERICA) LLC / Silicon Valley

  • You have been working for NRW.INVEST GmbH in Silicon Valley since February 2017. What exactly is your job there?

I'm building a bridge from Silicon Valley to NRW. My task is to identify companies with EU expansion plans, to get in touch with them and to inform them about the opportunities NRW offers them as a business location. I advise company representatives in their decision-making and invite them to get to know NRW at first hand.

  • What arguments do you use to convince representatives of startups to take an interest in North Rhine-Westphalia?

The startups I am in contact with have one primary objective – they want to grow by orienting themselves towards Europe. Proximity to customers is very important and NRW, with its large number of DAX and medium-sized companies, is very well positioned in this respect. The great infrastructure and logistical advantages that NRW has over other states also make it an interesting location for all hardware startups, most of which produce in China and can easily sell and deliver throughout Europe via NRW.

  • Silicon Valley is regarded worldwide as a model for a successful startup ecosystem. What can strong startup regions in NRW learn from this?

In the "Valley", all stakeholders in the ecosystem are aware of their role and responsibility. Attitudes and behavior are not only known as the special "Silicon Valley mindset" but are also lived. Whether professor, mentor, investor, service provider or employees of medium-sized companies and corporations, other ecosystems can learn from this understanding of roles and the awareness of how they influence founders and the success of a startup. As soon as even a single group fails to fulfill its role, the (eco)system begins to falter. 

  • What is your personal connection with NRW?

Even though I have now lived abroad for more than 15 years of my life – or perhaps for that very reason – I have a very strong emotional bond with my home. I also know how to differentiate between my "home" in Silicon Valley and my homeland.