Startup Boost Weekend at AUA
YEREVAN, Armenia ‒ On September 14-16, the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) of the American University of Armenia (AUA), jointly with the Catalyst Foundation, held the Startup Boost Weekend II 2018. The three-day event is financed by the Private Sector Development in South Caucasus Program of the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). The Program is implemented within the framework of the EU4Business Support to SME Development (EU-SMEDA) Project, co-funded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
The Startup Boost Weekend 2018 aimed at fostering a startup culture and entrepreneurial thinking among university students in Armenia. The composition, structure and planned sessions were explicitly designed to fuel entrepreneurial spirit among students and shape a startup culture in academic institutions. Over a hundred students with different backgrounds, skills and competencies in software development, business, graphic design, and other fields had the opportunity to come together, team up, and pitch their ideas for new startups in just 54 hours.
Especially noteworthy was the collaboration among Armenia’s leading universities. Partnering with AUA were Yerevan State University, the Russian-Armenian State University, and the National Polytechnic University of Armenia that sent dozens of their students to participate in the event. Many students from regions outside of Yerevan also took part in this year’s Startup Boost Weekend.
The event had adopted a mentoring scheme that allowed participants to benefit from the advice and coaching of experienced mentors from industry and academia, including Rouben Meschian (Cambridge Semantics), Ashot Tonoyan (CEO, Inapptics), Tigran Teryan (General Manager, Vineti Armenia), Mari Barseghyan (Innovation Manager, UCOM LLC), and Prof. Michael Kouchakdjian (Director, EPIC at AUA). The focus in this round of coaching sessions was on customer development and prototyping.
On the second day, the participants learned about lean canvas design, customer development and interviewing, prototyping and pitch deck design. At the close of the weekend, the teams pitched their startup ideas before a jury panel comprising Armine Saidi (WiCastr), Vazgen Hakobjanyan (Teamable), Gevorg Safaryan (EarlyOne), Ashot Arzumanyan (Smartgate.vc), and Rafayel Ghasabyan (Rafa Solutions).
The first place winning team, Render Chain System (RCS) with its startup idea of a decentralized video rendering service, received a check for 600 euros, books, and admission to EPIC at AUA to advance its startup venture. The second place winner, the Creatr team, presented the idea of matching movie makers with investors/sponsors and received a check for 400 euros and books. One of the teams had proposed a startup focused on agriculture and livestock, a sector in need of innovation and technology development. Several other participating teams also received prizes.
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.