Recent Work - BelCham

BelCham: US Market Entry & Global Expansion


Having lived in 7 countries, I know that entering a new country is extremely challenging. Few markets are more complicated for foreign businesses than the USA. As a multilingual American that has lived, studied and worked on opposite ends of the world, I love helping foreign people and businesses enter and thrive in the USA.

I was hired by BelCham, the Belgian-American Chamber of Commerce, in 2017 to assist companies growing in the USA successfully navigate entering the USA, making their first sales and first hires in the US, and thereby creating new jobs in the USA and in Belgium as well as around the European Union. BelCham was founded as a not-for-profit in New York State in 1919 after King Albert made a thank you tour after WWI, the first visit of a monarch to the USA.

As an American, I was constantly impressed what Belgian education afforded to the Belgian people and the Belgian business acumen. Belgium was the 9th foreign investor in the United States – ahead of China and Saudi Arabia in 2017 – despite being a 37th the population of the USA. On the daily basis at BelCham I met with different entrepreneurs, big businesses, and organizations planning to enter the USA.

Specifically, I had the opportunity to work with approximately 200 entrepreneurs and startups who were either planning to enter the USA, had recently entered the USA, or were building their teams in the USA. I would advise founders and CEOs about the US market, trade policies, where to setup, HR regulations, sales tactics, marketing localization, negotiating, US immigration, entity structurization, hiring, taxation, and raising finances. I would also network non-stop at the local and national level in the US with the goal of facilitating the first commercial relationships in the US for the Belgian startups. A first contract in the USA makes all the difference. For many entrepreneurs, I was the first American they could truly “trust” that just had their interest in mind. Building this level of confidence with them was incredibly meaningful for me. I needed to learn who they were and what was their company’s story to communicate to US audiences and position them for success.

At the same time, I had a number of other responsibilities including managing the non-profit organization’s budget and finances, delivering the annual audit, coordinating with embassies/multilateral organizations and the diplomatic network, and leading the organization’s IT operations. As an organization, we also organized 100 events a year across New York and San Francisco, operated a J-1 visa program placing 200 young talents in traineeships in the USA, and operating the first coworking spaces for Belgian startups outside the Benelux (located in New York and San Francisco).

Some of my major achievements at the BelCham included:

  • Organizing and hosting a roundtable between Alexander De Croo (current Belgian Prime Minister) and 16 European-American startup CEOs
  • Bringing together 19 European-American bilateral trade organizations to create an event series promoting European innovation and startups in the USA, our European-American Startup Pitch Night series
  • Developing the concept and securing initial partnerships and funding for the Benelux Catalyst, a US-focused startup accelerator for Benelux Startups. This program is partially financed by the Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy and LuxInnovation
  • Researching 100 years of history of the Belgian-American Chamber of Commerce and Belgian-American trade. Researching this 100 page project took me from the archives of the BelCham, to the New York City Archives, Library of Congress, Belgian Royal Palace and Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

European Pitch Night

In 2018, I brought together 19 bilateral trade organizations in the New York City area to create a program promoting European startups to the New York ecosystem. This collaborative European initiative brought a new platform to promising EU startups growing in the USA.

European Pitch Night - San Francisco

While a lot of European startups choose New York to enter the USA, it is undoubtable that Silicon Valley is still a major destination for innovative startups. Further away from European shores, European collaboration is all the more important. BelCham also organized European Pitch Nights in San Francisco and I was happy to help work on this collaborative program.

Belgian-American Entrepreneurship Awards Gala

Am I the only one that misses getting fancy in the world of Covid? When social distancing wasn’t de jure, we all used to get together. Each year the Chamber of Commerce would organize a high level gala to promote bilateral trade relations. I was involved in inviting and coordinating with dignitaries (Prime Minister’s Office, Corporate Leaders/CEOs), developing press materials in English and French and coordinating the donation drive for these 300-person events. I also was heavily involved in planning the centennial anniversary gala program.

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