AUA: The Chimney of New Ideas
The American University of Armenia (AUA) is about more than just coming to class. The University itself is a platform for creativity that encourages students to generate new concepts by applying their knowledge into practice. Thanks to the startup culture at AUA, now student activities go far beyond the classroom walls. The civic activities of AUA students are known for bringing innovation by combining theoretical and practical knowledge. Here are a few of the University’s latest bubbling ideas:
Three senior Business students are getting ready to launch their new application, Utem, which will be the first of its kind for Armenian users. Sargis Karapetyan, Vardan Grigoryan, and Tatul Hayruni came up with the idea during a Management Information Systems class. Originally, their assignment was to generate an idea directly linked to new information technologies. However, this assignment quickly became more than just a project on paper.
They invented what would later be called Utem mobile application, which lets users pre-order food at any chosen restaurant. By ordering through the application, users are far less likely to receive the wrong food or wait too long for an order. The application provides several filters such as restaurant cuisine, location, menu, ranking, and level of traffic inside the restaurant, to make the users’ experience more enjoyable and provide them with maximal individual service.
Their motivation behind Utem was rooted in the team’s daily experiences, and the feedback from their professors and classmates helped them develop a business model for active consumption. One of the founders, Sargis, admits that once they had the idea, it was easy for them to realize it because their previous classes provided them with marketing, accounting, and management skills. The team is now continuously working on their project and is open for cooperation. Specifically, they encourage young developers to join their team to make the project even more efficient and beneficial. Soon, the application will be available for public use.
The concept of startups is also spreading to the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Some students are generating new ideas from their class assignments, and others are using their acquired skills to further projects they started before coming to AUA.
Anstoragir (Unsigned) is by far the most popular startup in the circles of AUA students. Initially, it was a blog that would let anyone submit their art, opinion piece, poem, story, and any other visual or written work, which Anstoragir would later publish anonymously. The project does not have a specific target, and the participants are free to share any idea they have ranging from intense political topics to romantic pieces of art.
The founder of the company, Lucy Bichakhchyan, is currently a junior student majoring in English and Communications. She recalls that her main inspiration to create Anstoragir came from her personal experiences. The main concept that Anstoragir promotes is freedom of expression. Lucy says that she wants to encourage and empower others by providing them with a platform like Anstoragir.
The project exists for already two years. There are five people on the team – photographers, media specialists, and they are currently looking for journalists with interesting ideas to make Anstoragir even more open and interactive. The project is not only enjoyable but rather practical as well since it gives students an opportunity to gain hands-on work experience. With the help of collaborating young specialists, Anstoragir has also begun to work with PreGomesh.
Everyone involved comes up with new ideas that are constantly being implemented such as Թաքստոց (A hiding place). Թաքստոց is intended to be a library, where intellectual youth can gather, brainstorm, or simply enjoy the chill atmosphere of the library. “Throughout my studies at AUA, I have acquired a lot of communication, PR, public speaking and many other skills, which helped me a lot in promoting our company,” says Lucy. She also admits that there are many professors at AUA who support her by giving valuable pieces of advice. Anstoragir can be accessed via anstoragir.tumblr.com or simply by contacting the team members directly.
Another unique platform that was introduced by the current AUA students is Scrival. Scrival is a platform of simple and comprehensive tools for readers and writers. The platform provides an appropriate environment for non-linear storytelling. Based on extensive student research, similar applications were found already in existence. However, all of them required a lot of coding skills. “Our solution aims to introduce a simple yet powerful tool designed specifically for writers and become the ebook app of choice for consumers,” says the software developer of Scrival, Karen Galstyan. Scrival is currently the only platform, which enables users to choose the continuation of the story that they are reading.
Karen also recalls that his experience at AUA helped him a great deal in establishing and promoting the startup. “I started my education in AUA’s BAB program and switched to CS in my second year. This hybrid educational background helped me form an optimal mindset for project realization from both the business and computer science perspective,” says Karen. Moreover, AUA provided Scrival’s team members with more public visibility; including participating in the Digitec Expo and early mentoring from the EPIC. The platform has already been presented at numerous expositions and competitions such as the Armenian Startup Cup and UpStart. The platform is continuously growing, and the team members are ready to welcome enthusiasts to their group. For those interested, Scrival can be accessed via www.scrival.com.
Gevorg Hayrapetyan and Zaven Snkhchyan are freshmen at AUA. Their project is called Valise, which aims to provide a solution to one of Armenia’s greatest existing problems – unemployment. “The idea behind the project is to create a platform that connects students from different universities of Armenia with employers,” says Gevorg, co-founder of Valise. The platform gives students an opportunity to establish strong partnerships with numerous companies in Armenia. One major concept that separates Valise from other employment-oriented social networking services is that they require neither a resume nor a transcript, only a creative portfolio. The project is continuously developing and improving. The team already has numerous partner companies, which are looking for qualified, creative, and motivated students. “I am a Business student at AUA, and this is an essential experience for me to combine my theoretical and practical knowledge,” says Gevorg.
Those are just a few examples of innovative projects being managed by AUA students. Their academic background, understanding of the local market, and motivation pushes their startups forward, opens up new horizons for both creators and users.