Naira Paronikyan: ‘The Trek to Silicon Valley Changed My Life’
Having a startup is not an easy task. It is about creating something from scratch and motivating people to support your product or service which they had never heard of. Entrepreneurs face a lot of obstacles in terms of time and resources they have to invest in their startups, but those are possible to overcome. For a successful startup you need an idea that will solve somebody’s problem, a great team, and the most optimal way to execute it.
“Evi” is my first startup. I am glad we had applied to EPIC [Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center] as there we got inspired and motivated to create our prototype, and to test it. There we understood what a startup is and tried ourselves as entrepreneurs. I enjoyed my work and decided to continue creating and growing as an entrepreneur and striving to contribute to the development of my country.
After our incubation at EPIC, I applied to participate in the amazing trek to Silicon Valley. The trek changed my life, my mindset, and I started believing that there is nothing impossible and everyone has a chance to achieve their dreams.
There is a saying that you have to get out of the box to actually see the box. In my case, I had the chance to be outside Armenia, but not as an entrepreneur. On my way to San Francisco I was full of expectations to see something extraordinary, something that is not easily achievable by ordinary people and I looked forward to meeting people working with technologies that I had never heard of. Honestly, one of the companies almost met my expectations and that was Nvidia. It was amazing to witness what they have achieved with AI. I may even say that it is my favorite company.
However, entering most of the companies at Silicon Valley I felt like I could be one of those working there. I liked how friendly and simple they were. The atmosphere at Facebook and Google, for example, was very nice and welcoming. Their company culture encourages the employees to love their work. They provide space for their staff to stay at the company, create and work more efficiently.
At Pinterest we had the honor to talk to Jeremy King, who told about his experience of working at big companies and how he reached his goals. I also liked PayPal, where we discussed the risks that the company is encountering and how they are handling some difficulties. The speaker was so enthusiastic about his work and his presentation was so entertaining that we didn’t want the visit to end. At Amazon we had the opportunity to see their work in progress and learn more about the company. It was very organized and structured. Most of the work was done by robots that helped them deliver the products to their customers in a very short time.
It was so motivating to see Armenians in top companies like Synopsys, GoPro and Vineti. Visiting those companies helped to expand my network and even find a potential customer for my startup. We pitched our ideas and they gave us advice, suggestions of how to improve those ideas and how to grow. I felt that they really cared about our motherland and they wanted us to be the innovators who will develop our country.
Another great thing about the trek was meeting people who have or want to establish startups in Silicon Valley. We had workshops and meetups with CEOs and employees of startups such as DoorDash, ParkStash and EyeQue. They spoke about their missions, the risks they faced, the ways they overcame those, and their operations.
Finally, I was very excited to spend some time discovering the country. I got acquainted with their culture and beliefs. Learning about the waste management industry and developing a startup in that sphere, I was happy to see recycling bins in all companies and public places. That talked a lot about their culture of recycling. I could assume that they are able to consume and produce their products responsibly without harming the environment and having a positive impact on society.
I came back from the trek very motivated and excited about doing more for the development of my country. Armenia has a huge potential, especially in the IT sphere. I think that the best way to develop our homeland is by focusing on the IT industry and providing support to young people who are able to make a positive change. I am sure that in the near future Armenia will have very successful startups and will become more attractive for foreign investments. I am excited to have my input in that and I encourage each and every one to join.
Contributed by Naira Paronikyan (MSSM ‘21), a young entrepreneur who earned her BA in Business from the American University of Armenia (AUA) in 2019 and decided to continue her education pursuing a master’s degree in Strategic Management again at AUA. She has been actively involved in tech events as a volunteer and is currently a project manager at Y-Peer Armenia founded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). She is the co-founder of the startup Evi, which aims at reducing food waste in Armenia and ensuring a cleaner and safer environment for society.