Margaret Ryan at the 2020 Startup Grind Global Conference
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Margaret Ryan (BAB ‘17) Participates in 2020 Startup Grind Global Conference

3 min read

The American University of Armenia (AUA) is proud to share that SOFETCH, an Armenian startup co-founded by AUA alumna Margaret Ryan (BAB ‘17) and Larisa Hovannisian, was selected to participate in the Grind category at the 2020 Startup Grind Global Conference in Silicon Valley, on February 11-12, 2020. Developed by an all-girls team, SOFETCH is a consumer service platform that connects beauty providers, beauty care consumers, and salon space owners. 

SOFETCH enables better economic alignment between the three main, often disjointed, beauty segments: customers, beauty service providers, and salon owners. As a result, it will create a healthier economy that delivers higher quality services to customers, while unlocking the beauty service provider’s full earning potential. The application will be available on iOS and Android in March 2020.

Another recent achievement of SOFETCH is winning first place at Neruzh, an interactive Diaspora Startup Program for entrepreneurs of Armenian descent, organized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, together with the Ministry of High-Tech Industry.

Tell us about your startup SOFETCH.

Our primary ethos is to help beauty service providers earn more money for their services directly from their customers. We built a multi-sided marketplace platform that efficiently connects the three stakeholders – the customer, beauty service provider, and the place from which the service is provided. Our goal is to become the most cost-effective way of booking, providing and receiving beauty services. With just a few taps, a beauty provider can create and grow their independent beauty business. After initial testing in Yerevan, Armenia, we are looking to expand to Moscow, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

How has your education at AUA contributed to your current success with SOFETCH?

During my years at AUA, I learned how to master pitching. My classes were usually project-oriented, meaning we had to come up with solutions to an existing problem and present them as viable ones. This enabled me to properly research, brainstorm, and test my hypothesis until arriving at a solution. Moreover, classes in finance and marketing facilitated my basic understanding of starting a business.

What is the most important takeaway from the 2020 Startup Grind Global Conference?

“Community is everything. In your product, in your relationships, in your life. Beyond receiving investments and forming strategic partnerships, immersing yourself in a community of like-minded people is exceptionally valuable. When meeting other entrepreneurs you realize that the problems that you’re experiencing are problems experienced by the majority. The lineup of speakers included executives from Uber, Google, Atrium, Adobe, Kickstarter, etc. All of the speeches were informative and touched upon many important subjects like company culture, growth, entrepreneurship, scaling and funding. However, the most important takeaway was the power of building the right community – its impact is immeasurable.

What’s your advice to women in tech who want to establish a startup?

My advice is – do it. Do it now! Do it fast! Many people told me to slow down and do things in a “normal” manner. What is normal, anyway? My short but somewhat successful journey proves otherwise. But also, don’t take my advice. This is the hardest lesson to learn – no one knows everything. Everyone has an extremely subjective view, and that’s important to keep in mind when listening to feedback. Choose the people you want to seek advice from because of their narrow but incredible experience in some field. But don’t take it as the ultimate truth. Pick and choose what you think would serve your company best, and move on to creating. Be open to change and pivoting. If you want to be an entrepreneur, get comfortable with taking your idea apart on a daily basis, and putting it back together – bit by bit. If your business model and product aren’t constantly changing, something is not right. If it’s too calm and too good to be true, it probably is.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.

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