EPIC Instructor Spotlight: Gevorg Poghosyan
The Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) of the American University of Armenia (AUA) is proud to have Gevorg Poghosyan engaged in its extended team. As one of the most experienced and successful entrepreneurs in Armenia, Poghosyan serves both as an instructor in EPIC’s incubation program and as a facilitator in the EPIC Entrepreneurship Summer Festival 2020.
Gevorg Poghosyan is the founder of the first Armenian e-payment system, Idram; the co-founder of The Crowdfunding Formula (TCF), which is one of the world’s leading providers of crowdfunding marketing; as well as the co-founder and president of Global AM foundation, which seeks to fulfill the gaps of Armenian Startup Ecosystem by starting and supporting different initiatives, such as Business Angel Network of Armenia (BANA) and Sprint Crowdfunders’ Fund. Gevorg Poghosyan also acts as a business angel and invests in Armenian startups, such as 4U.AM.
This interview with Poghosyan touches on the Armenian startup ecosystem, his future plans, and his involvement with EPIC.
Being the founder of the first Armenian e-payment system and co-founder of one of the world’s top crowdfunding marketing companies, how do you compare the challenges of starting a company locally vs. globally?
Starting a company requires the same amount of effort no matter where you do it. You still have to work 24 hours a day, spend the same amount of energy and resources to get it done.
The most important challenges that we overcame back then was breaking the stereotypes of people with different backgrounds. Armenia is well known for its technology but not as much for its marketing potential. In the first years at TCF, we had a case when a large company from Canada was very eager to use our services but decided not to as its investors had little familiarity with our company and country. This drove us to work extra hard in big countries to gain the trust of the market and to attract such big companies to work with us. Our method was to think big, learn constantly, and exceed expectations. We kept telling ourselves that we were not allowed to think smaller than the size of the earth and humanity.
Eventually, we managed to reach the level where the world recognizes Armenia as one of the centers for crowdfunding acumen. I am happy to say that in Armenia now, we have the most sophisticated crowdfunding ecosystem.
The Crowdfunding Formula (TCF) grew crowdfunding marketing beyond Armenia, globalizing it in a short period of time. Was becoming a global company your goal from the beginning or did you discover the opportunity only later? What are the future growth plans for TCF?
In this era of the internet, there is no sense in limiting your company to the local market. We started our first tech company Idram, targeting the local market because, at the time, we were not smart enough to think globally. As soon as we realized that we should redirect our focus to the international market, we started moving in that direction right away and founded TCF.
The Crowdfunding Formula is not just a marketing agency anymore. It has grown to become a group of companies that includes several initiatives that help crowdfunders in their businesses. One of these initiatives is CrossProm, which helps in cross-promotion activities, and another one is Jungleproof, which helps every campaigner to evaluate their product-market fit. We also have many other projects.
TCF is currently in the top three crowdfunding companies in the world, and according to our projections, we are confident to be the first next year. Now, we can proudly say that the world knows Armenia as a top crowdfunding destination. This is the reason why we decided to start our new initiative, Formula Hardware Accelerator, where we are creating a physical accelerator for consumer hardware startups that want to go global through crowdfunding. Our plan is to make Armenia a physical hub for crowdfunding. The Formula Hardware Accelerator will have two batches annually, each one consisting of over five startups moving to Armenia to complete a six-month acceleration program.
You have been involved in many startups and initiatives. What were the failures and disappointments that you experienced on the way to success? And what was the driving force for not giving up on your ideas?
You don’t fail when you are not doing anything new. And all your failures are your steps forward to success. In our company, the culture of failure is among our core values. We encourage our staff to try, even if they will fail. Reflecting on my personal failures, I would say that my main failure was losing focus sometimes. Having been involved in about 75 big projects in the last 20 years, I was always doing too many things at the same time. The problem with being involved in that many projects was that I prioritized smaller goals which held me back from accomplishing my main mission. My mission in life is to create the world that I want to see, where humans are cooperating rather than competing. It is more important than my life, my family, and friends. Creating the world I want to see is my driving force.
Apart from being co-founder of a number of successful companies currently operating in Armenia, you are very active in the startup ecosystem as an instructor/advisor/mentor for young entrepreneurs. How do you evaluate the ecosystem and its potential for the future?
I think that the Armenian startup ecosystem is the most important component of the overall development of our country. We have a fast-growing ecosystem, but it is not as fast as we need it to be. We want to create a system where everyone in the ecosystem will cooperate rather than compete against one another. Our system is interconnected, where people are visibly supporting one another, such as when someone launches a product at ProductHunt. Moreover, Armenian startups from Silicon Valley also are happy to support those in Armenia. But still, I think we need to be more connected to reach the heights we aspire to.
What is your motivation for being an EPIC instructor?
EPIC has a very unique role in our ecosystem. It is solving the problem of turning students into entrepreneurs. I am very happy to be involved in EPIC. It would be great to have an initiative like this in every university in Armenia. I am always excited to see the shining eyes of our students at EPIC, answer their questions, and watch them grow to become entrepreneurs.
What advice would you give to the EPIC student teams?
Think outside of the box, get in the mindset of constant learning, and don’t follow change, lead it!