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AUA Student Entrepreneurs Sweep Awards at Startup Boost Weekend

YEREVAN, Armenia ‒ On April 25-28, 2019, the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) of the American University of Armenia (AUA), jointly with the Catalyst Foundation, organized the Startup Boost Weekend (SBW) Vol 5 at the French University in Armenia (UFAR). The event was supported by the EU-SMEDA Project ‒ European Union’s Support to Small and Medium Enterprises Development in Armenia.

More than 120 students with different backgrounds, skills, and competencies from 12 universities throughout Armenia came together to initiate new startup business concepts and then pitch their ideas to a jury, all during a 54-hour hackathon. This time, the first, second, and third prizes were awarded to teams comprising AUA students.

The first prize winning team is uniQ, a platform that connects social media influencers and small businesses with writers who come up with unique captions for their posts on social media accounts. The goal of this business venture is to save time and money in the process of creating captions. Moreover, the platform also aims to provide customers with hashtags that will help them grow and gain more post engagements.

Nver Kassis (BAB ‘20) from uniQ shares, “Initially, Anzhela Poghosyan, Araksia Milek and I signed up to the Startup Boost Weekend without knowing what we were getting ourselves into. Sharing the same vision, mentality and backgrounds, we have always discussed different business opportunities to pursue together. However, each of us is skilled in a different field of business. Overall, the experience of the Startup Boost Weekend was stressful and competitive, but most importantly unique and unforgettable. All three of us are currently junior students in AUA’s BAB program. Combining all our strengths, we became the dream team and developed uniQ. The idea arose from the issue that has always been relevant to us. The need for creating engaging social media captions is becoming more apparent, especially in today’s world, where your friends, family, audience, and most importantly your potential employers form an impression about you through your profiles. We believe you are what you post.”

The second prize went to Worthie, an online survey tool integrated with an Honesty-Check System aimed at making survey participants honest while helping survey creators make accurate decisions. Mariam Gyulumyan (BAB ‘20), Founder of Worthie, together with her teammates is currently enrolled in the 12-week EPIC incubation program. “We decided to participate in the SBW because, firstly, we need to pitch to as many people and as many times as possible so as to get feedback on our survey tool and improve it. Secondly, we wanted to share the idea with the mentors and get their professional feedback. Thirdly, we needed some funding to invest in a server or make an explanatory video. And lastly, of course, to have some fun!” Gyulumyan notes adding that “The atmosphere was very friendly, talking to people in a way as if you had known them for years. Our next step is to improve our prototype, which we have already planned how to do and are working on it.”

Cool Collab took the third prize. It is a gamified website through which students can work on real projects, open source competitions, and challenges proposed by companies. Through working on companies’ projects, students will be able to get a rating. These rating points will later contribute to finding a dream job. Cool Collab  allows students to gain hands-on experience, whereas companies get exposure to talented students in the market while getting their projects completed at lower prices.

“During the first pitching session, our team, consisting of three AUA students, presented the initial idea. After the session, we got enough “likes” and enlarged our team accepting two more students from UFAR and ASIPC [Armenian State Institute of Physical Culture and Sport]. However, after discussing our initial idea with the mentors and preparing a lean canvas, we understood that the idea is not good enough and will not work. Therefore, we started thinking about entirely new ideas.

It was at the end of the second day when we understood that we couldn’t come up with a great idea; we even thought we were not going to pitch the next day. Our friends and mentors from Hero House inspired us, and by the final pitching session, we had our idea and the presentation ready. The presentation went well and our team, eventually, took the third place,” tells Hermine Grigoryan (BAB ‘20) from Cool Collab.

“The success of AUA’s students at Startup Boost Weekend speaks to the well-developed entrepreneurship program at the University. By offering a variety of entrepreneurship and new venture courses in our curriculum and then providing our student with hands-on, practical experience through internships, capstone projects, and, of course, EPIC, AUA provides the tools, knowledge, and experience for our students to have the confidence and drive to innovate and create,” commented Arman Arakelyan, Operations Manager at EPIC. “We encourage these teams to use the summer months productively to further develop their concepts ‒ through the Sevan Startup Summit in July and EPIC’s Create Up program in August.”

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.

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