Not Just a Tender: With Westinghouse, You Get a Key Ally. Ambassador Sabet’s Interview with Forbes Czech Republic
“Maybe you’ll meet me on the street in Prague, I’ll be the guy with the camera,” laughs Bijan Sabet, the U.S. ambassador and prominent investor, who co-founded the venture capital company Spark Capital and invested in Twitter, among others.
However, Bijan Sabet is also a passionate amateur photographer and likes to take pictures in the streets of Prague in his free time. This significant supporter of President Joe Biden took up the post of ambassador on January 31, 2023, and he soon fell in love with Prague and its beauty.
During his term as Ambassador, Sabet has several priorities. One of them is to support American investment interests in the Czech Republic, including the key tender for the upgrade of the Dukovany nuclear power plant, which U.S. firm Westinghouse is competing. Sabet has already met with Westinghouse and Bechtel representatives.
At the end of May, Sabet organized a U.S.-Czech business forum called “Innovation Environment” in Prague’s Zofin Palace. The event was attended by important personalities from the field of business and technology. The VIP guest was Sabet’s friend Biz Stone- the co-founder of Twitter, who also gave us an exclusive interview.
At the same time, we are meeting with the ambassador in Zofin Palace shortly after Defense Minister Jana Černochová signed the bilateral U.S.-Czech Defense Cooperation Agreement with her American counterpart Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon, which was approved by the government at the end of April.
The document regulates the conditions of cooperation with the American armed forces on Czech territory. According to Černochová, this is an important milestone in Czech-American relations – the minister has compared it to the day the Czech Republic joined the North Atlantic Alliance.
How does Sabet himself evaluate the U.S.-Czech partnership, what does he say about the Czech startup scene and does he want to invest here? We discussed these topics in the following interview.
How would you describe the current relations between the United States and Czech Republic? According to some politicians, they are at their best in history.
The Czech Republic and the United States have had an excellent relationship for a very long time, this has been a given historically since the founding of an independent Czechoslovakia. We have always been a key ally.
Recently, however, I heard at a Washington meeting of the foreign ministers of both countries that relations between the Czech Republic and the United states have never been better. We are experiencing a great partnership and friendship. My task is to continue the work that has already begun so well.
What are your priorities in office?
Certainly security and economic cooperation. We support American companies in their exploration of the Czech market. We also pay a lot of attention to startups and organize initiatives that promote business relationships. An example is this business forum in Zofín, and we definitely want to continue similar activities.
One of your priorities is the support of the Westinghouse company in the completion of Dukovan. Is it really the best choice for the Czech Republic? Westinghouse has had a history of meeting deadlines in the US…
National security and energy are closely linked, as we have been able to see for ourselves recently. Now more than ever, we realize that energy security and national security cannot be separated. But as far as Westinghouse’s reputation is concerned – the United States fully stands behind the company.
We believe that it has the best technology and is ready to keep its commitments to cooperate with local industry. I stand by Westinghouse as the best solution. It also offers a strategic energy connection for the future between the USA and the Czech Republic. So it is not just a tender, but relations with a strategic partner for the next fifty to one hundred years.
You met Westinghouse representatives in the Czech Republic, how do these discussions progress?
Westinghouse seeks to establish cooperation and contacts with local industry and shareholders. This is a completely strategic decision and is one of the embassy’s priorities.
You also follow the Czech startup scene, which you say reminds you of Silicon Valley. Have you found any projects in which you would invest yourself?
I don’t actively invest in anything anymore, nor do I plan to – my work is here at the embassy. However, the Czech startup environment seems great to me, I found many interesting promising projects and people here. I see technical talent, passion and desire to change the world and find new pathways in a wide range of industries. I’m not saying this is going to become Silicon Valley overnight, but you definitely have the potential.
Don’t you miss investing?
I devoted myself to investing for over twenty years and met many inspiring people, for example, that’s how I met Biz Stone. It’s part of my past, but now my work is here, I’m very happy for it and it’s very fun and fulfilling.
In addition to politics, you share photos on Twitter from your travels in the Czech Republic, recently from southern Bohemia. Have you settled here yet?
I’ve been in office for over a hundred days and it’s just wonderful here. I received a warm welcome, the people here are incredibly nice. Now, in spring it is really beautiful here in the Czech Republic. My wife and I travel a lot around the country, we were just in South Bohemia, Brno and Pilsen. We like to ride bikes and admire Czech nature.
And how often do you get to take pictures, which is your hobby?
I try my best, sometimes it’s hard to find the time, but it’s really my main hobby. I try to capture the moments of my life in the Czech Republic. I take pictures of both landscapes and people. I like to take portraits. I love meeting new people, it’s a conversational icebreaker.
Some people recognize that I am an ambassador and greet me. I recently had a chat like this with a few couples at Letná, had a few words with them and it was amazing. I also did, among other things, a portrait of David Černý, for example, who was very nice and I really enjoyed it. I hope to continue.
So can our readers meet you on the street sometime?
Sure, I’ll be the guy with the camera to reach out to!
Author: Taťána Lysková, Forbes
Photo: Michael Tomeš and Veronika Jonášová, Forbes