Mr Trömel, why is Luxembourg interesting for Texas-based companies turning their eyes to the European market?
Adrian Trömel: At a first glance, Texas and Luxembourg have little in common, but a second look reveals a surprising number of similarities. Both are areas defined by immigration – Luxembourg has the most international population in the EU, while Texas is one of the most diverse state in the US and Houston resettles more people than any other city in the country – and economies that built their initial wealth on legacy heavy industry: steel in the case of Luxembourg, and oil and gas in Texas.
At a first glance, Texas and Luxembourg have little in common, but a second look reveals a surprising number of similarities.
This history has resulted in some shared long-term strategic objectives focused on economic diversification and excellence. While Luxembourg’s industrial past laid the foundations for the country’s current expertise in material sciences, Houston excels in chemical engineering and nanomaterials. Both regions also prioritise the energy transition, climate technology, circular economy, green financing and advanced medical science. They are also both space centres. Texas hosts NASA’s space centre and a multitude of private companies in the field, including Space-X. Luxembourg is home to leading satellite operator SES and stands out for its early strategic decision to define legislation for space exploration and launch the SpaceResources.lu initiative which has attracted a number of new space companies. The country is also the largest contributor per capita to the European Space Agency.
What was the focus of the business delegation that you recently brought to Luxembourg?
The visit to Luxembourg was organised with support from the Luxembourg Trade and Investment Office San Francisco, the Chamber of Commerce and Luxembourg for Finance. The delegation was made up of 10 founders and partners of private equity, venture capital and real estate funds who wanted to learn more about Luxembourg and find out what the country could offer for them to deploy and raise capital in Europe. Thinking of the future growth of their portfolio companies, they also wanted to know how Luxembourg could help them access the European market.
Texas is often pointed out as one of the states where it is easiest to do business in the US, and they saw the similarities with Luxembourg.
The feedback from the delegation members has been extraordinarily positive. They were surprised by how everybody spoke English and how open to business everyone was. Texas is often pointed out as one of the states where it is easiest to do business in the US, and they saw the similarities with Luxembourg. They were also astonished by how friendly they were received by the local venture capital ecosystem, investors, trade associations, tax advisors, legal offices and other stakeholders, and by how diverse everybody they met was. It was obvious that everyone shared an attitude of wanting to get things done and to help international companies grow in Luxembourg and use it as a base for expansion into Europe. This has already led to the first follow-ups by the visitors.
How can you help with reaching the European market in your role as Foreign Trade Advisor?
My mandate is to facilitate bilateral economic and trade development of Texas and Luxembourg. My studies, professional activities and role as Luxembourg’ Foreign Trade Advisor to Texas enabled me to build networks in business sectors on both sides of the Atlantic. Therefore, if a Luxembourg-based company wants to explore what it means to set up an office in the US, it can reach out to me, in particular if it is active in industries where I have a wide network such as healthcare, material sciences and start-ups. I also can facilitate the conversations with American companies that are aligned with and interested in what Luxembourg can offer and connect them with decision makers, local companies, and other relevant counterparts.
You seem very passionate about connecting the US and Europe.
Most definitely. My parents are from the US and Germany and settled in Luxembourg before I was born, so I had the privilege of growing up here and making friends from all over Europe. After completing my schooling in Luxembourg, studying in Switzerland and working for a start-up in the Netherlands, I did an MBA at Rice University in Texas. This is how I got involved in the general entrepreneurship and investor space. After launching a medical device start-up, I built and grew a company setting up and operating telemedicine clinics for sparsely populated and underserved areas.
Luxembourg is a place where you very quickly get to know a lot of people and build strong networks, and Texas is very similar.
Luxembourg is a place where you very quickly get to know a lot of people and build strong networks, and Texas is very similar. After a few years in Houston, I had met many local investors and knew the leadership of the Texas Medical Centre as well as of incubators and accelerators focusing on healthtech and climatetech. Quite naturally, I started making connections between friends in Texas and Luxembourg. One thing led to another, and the Luxembourg public sector was receptive when I pointed out the economic similarities and common interests between Luxembourg and Texas. In 2022 I was formally appointed as Foreign Trade Advisor. This is an opportunity to support two countries that have given me so much to be grateful for.
You also fly Luxembourg’s colours in a quite unusual sport.
That’s right: I’m the second Luxembourger ever to compete in freediving, which involves holding your breath and swimming as far as you can, as deep as you can, or not moving for as long as possible under water. It is great fun representing Luxembourg and being part of yet another tight knit, international and open community.
What are your next steps in connecting Luxembourg and Texas?
The members of this first delegation were all from Houston, but there has been interest to potentially follow this up with another trip for funds from all over Texas. We are also exploring covering other sectors and other initiatives to strengthen the ties between Luxembourg and Texas, the Lone Star State. We will collect feedback from this visit to analyse what went well and what can be improved, and then see how we might move forward. For the foreseeable future I will remain in Texas – but I will often come back to Luxembourg.