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Successful Final Event for SMMN Project

YEREVAN, Armenia — On August 31, 2020, the Startup-Mentor Matching Network (SMMN) project at the Akian College of Science and Engineering (CSE) of the American University of Armenia (AUA) held its closing event. The occasion focused on summarizing the project results, sharing success stories, and establishing a sustainability threshold. 

The Akian College of Science and Engineering of AUA was awarded a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Armenia to implement the SMMN project. The project created a portal for startuppers to meet potential mentors among alumni of exchange programs sponsored by the U.S. government. In addition, the SMMN project provides a platform for USG alumni to network, share their experiences with young entrepreneurs, and contribute to the economic growth of Armenia. Overcoming the obstacles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the project took a fresh spin with Seda Papoyan, the SMMN project manager.  

The project was launched in September 2019 and went through stages of networking, event pitches, and progress review sessions that provided participants with opportunities to introduce their ideas or startups for their mentors’ appraisal and feedback. 

“It is a privilege for the U.S. Embassy to be a part of this program. I want to extend a big thank you to our long-standing partner, AUA, and its team, for the hard work on this project. The mentorship matching platform has already created 30 matched pairs, allowing our alumni who have had the chance to enhance their skills in the U.S., to share their expertise and knowledge with Armenian entrepreneurs and startups,” mentioned Erika King, Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy, Yerevan.

One of the major deliverables of the project included creating a startup-mentor matching portal in the project’s official webpage. Through this portal, participants were able to register, introduce themselves, as well as search and find people with the skills they need to bring their ideas to fruition. With the help of the pitching events, participating startuppers were able to find the right mentors from their search and build a rewarding startup-mentor relationship. 

Also, the “Early Stage Startup Mentorship Guide” handbook was developed as part of the SMMN project. The handbook highlights key points related to mentorship, including the skill of mentorship, the importance of mentorship, mentoring rules and regulations, and how a mentor-mentee relationship can be successful or beneficial. 

“This has been a challenging and interesting process. As part of the longer process of project implementation, the last few months offered challenging new opportunities for learning — a process that we believe in at AUA, called lifelong learning. The reality is that we are always learning. A big thank you to the U.S. Embassy, the implementers, and everyone. This process underscores that lifelong learning is very relevant to this domain. This means synergy, when the sum of the elements you put together is greater than the parts, so there is value creation,” remarked Aram Hajian, the Dean of the College of Science and Engineering at AUA.

“I’m very glad to have taken the role and responsibility of manager of this project. I’m also very happy about the successful turnout of participants in the project. I thank the organizing parties, the U.S. Embassy and AUA, and each and every one of you. This project would have been impossible without your devotion and participation,” concluded Seda Papoyan, SMMN project manager.

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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