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EPIC Hosts Magdalena Yesil and Vahe Kuzoyan for Discussion on Entrepreneurship

YEREVAN, Armenia ‒ On October 11, the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) of the American University of Armenia (AUA) hosted Magdalena Yesil and Vahe Kuzoyan for an intimate dialogue on their experiences as entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, as well as their views on the entrepreneurial climate in Armenia.

Yesil is an experienced entrepreneur, venture capitalist, author and board member of many of the world’s top technology companies. She was the first investor and a founding board member of Salesforce and the founder of Broadway Angels, a group of women angel investors. Her book, Power UP! How Smart Women Win in the New Economy, was released in November of 2017 and showcases  the empowerment of women in the startup culture. Yesil graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and master’s in Electrical Engineering.

AUA President Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian noted, “Magdalena is a good friend of the University in several ways. Aside from contributing to our scholarship program, on several occasions she has presented seminars to our students on her vast experience as an entrepreneur, an angel and a venture capitalist. Students always find her talks inspiring and have many questions to ask. She was a panelist at the launching of our “Yes, Armenian Women Can!” campaign and was featured in the campaign video. She is a strong advocate of women entrepreneurs, as is evident in her recent book, Power Up: How Smart Women Win in the New Economy.”

Kuzoyan graduated from the University of Southern California with degrees in Computer Science and Neuroscience. Soon after, he co-founded ServiceTitan, which has recently surpassed a billion dollar valuation and was named to Forbes 2018 Cloud 100 list. Kuzoyan and co-founder, Ara Mahdessian, are currently finalizing plans to open an engineering office in Armenia.

The central theme of their discussion was the concept of mitigating risk and overcoming failure. They spoke about how people hold themselves back from  fear of failure when starting new ventures, placing emphasis on how entrepreneurs should be comfortable taking risks and not allowing failure to define their actions or who they are. They discussed the various ups and downs that they have had in their careers, underscoring that the most successful entrepreneurs are those that continue to be aggressive and bold in the face of risk and potential failure. This perspective was important for potential EPIC entrepreneurs, as Armenia traditionally breeds a more conservative risk-averse climate.

During the Q&A session, topics ranged from the prospects of remote work in Armenia to the future of foreign investment in the country. Regarding remote work, both agreed that the internet is a leveling medium, you can do the work from anywhere in the world as long as you have the necessary skills. Though, Kuzoyan noted, there is still a need for in-person interaction in order to develop the bandwidth and skills to become a great engineer.

Yesil and Kuzoyan also agreed that Armenia attracts foreign investment. As long as the idea, business model, and financing strategy are sound, investment will follow. Kuzoyan noted that there are other capital creation requirements besides attracting investments, such as creating human capital by assembling a pool of skilled labor. Both acknowledged the need for Armenia to produce more engineering and business-minded college graduates.

A current AUA student, Angelina Khachaturyan (BAB ‘21), articulated her impressions of the event in these words: “Besides being informative Magdalena’s speech was very inspiring. It was a great pleasure to listen to her speak about authoring the book ‘Power Up,’ which is about entrepreneurship and women power. She told us about her failures and encouraged us to continue and never focus on failures. Also, she spoke about her venture capitalist experience. She considered herself a bridge between many startup companies and money angels. Among the companies she has had a chance to work with are PicsArt, SalesForce, and many others. The most interesting advice she offered at the end is  “Never Be Polite” in business platforms.”

For a full video of the dialogue or for more information on future events, check out EPIC’s Facebook page!

The Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) is a platform for promoting entrepreneurial education, cross-disciplinary collaboration, and startup venture incubation. EPIC provides an ecosystem for the American University of Armenia’s (AUA) emerging entrepreneurs consisting of first-class facilities and collaborative workspace, programs and events, and a network of mentors, advisors and investors. EPIC fosters the understanding and application of entrepreneurship with students and faculty at AUA to craft high-impact multidisciplinary ventures.