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EPIC Entrepreneurship Hack Nights: Hacking to Success

YEREVAN, Armenia — This spring, the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) of the American University of Armenia (AUA) organized Entrepreneurship Hack Nights for EPIC residents and alumni to hear stories from successful entrepreneurs from around the world. The Entrepreneurship Hack Nights serve to create an opportunity for startup teams to expand their network and connect with experienced business people who share with them their wisdom and secrets for success, as well as discuss the challenges and experiences that they have had on their entrepreneurial journey.

The Entrepreneurship Hack Nights series started in February with Sami Abou Saab and Shahan Sarkissian from Beirut, Lebanon. With a strong background in engineering and business administration, Saab is a well-known leader, influencer, and the CEO of [email protected] Accelerator — one of the leading entrepreneurial hubs of Lebanon. Throughout his 14 years in product management and startup acceleration, Saab has designed successful fundraising and investment strategies, planned and realized high-growth impact for 34 startups in Lebanon. His story of leaving his position at Google and returning to Lebanon is an inspiring example of repatriation with courage, strength of mind, and hard work. Saab shared how he developed his sense of recognizing the potential of startups and mentoring them over the years, as well as other insider tips on what accelerators look for in startup ventures.

The EPIC resident teams later engaged in an insightful dialogue with Sarkissian, the founder and principal at Tamar Capital. This discussion about the market in Lebanon and the Middle East inspired the teams to discover new possibilities for their ventures in that part of the globe, and to draw parallels with the challenges and opportunities in Armenia. The evening ended with a friendly dialogue, networking, and slices of pizza. 

The second guest speaker of the Entrepreneurship Hack Nights series was Dork Alahydoian, a U.S.-based entrepreneur and currently senior vice president at The Skimm.  Alahydoian has worked in senior positions at several companies in the U.S., including the New York Times. He was instrumental in the digital rollout of the New York Times online — a successful strategy that set a global standard that transformed the news media.

Although this was EPIC’s first online Entrepreneurship Hack Night, it turned out to be an interactive and engaging session. EPIC teams were delighted to spend the evening with a professional whose rich background and expertise in business motivated them to work even harder on their startups. Alahydoian turned the evening into an exciting journey to the New York Times, sharing the tips and hacks he used to boost the entrepreneurial and digital environment of the company keeping it at the top for many years.

The most recent Entrepreneurship Hack Night was led by Davit Buniatyan, who has a PhD in computer science from Princeton University and is CEO and co-founder at Snark A — a computer software company based in San Francisco. The startup is well-known for being backed by Y Combinator, an early-stage seed investment vehicle in Silicon Valley. This time, the EPIC startup teams and their ideas were in the spotlight. Buniatyan addressed each team separately, helping them reflect on their progress and making them think about their ventures from different perspectives.

The high level of engagement of the teams with such interesting and experienced entrepreneurs is the crucial point of this series. EPIC will continue to invite the most prominent figures in the field to share their stories as it strives to provide the startup teams with all the guidance and inspiration necessary for establishing a successful company in the Armenian startup ecosystem.

The Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) is a platform of the American University of Armenia (AUA) for promoting entrepreneurial education, cross-disciplinary collaboration, and startup venture incubation. EPIC provides an ecosystem for 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 in students and faculty at AUA to craft high-impact multidisciplinary ventures.

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