EPIC Entrepreneurship Summer Festival Plants Seeds of Cooperation Among Armenia’s Universities
YEREVAN, Armenia — August 17-23, 2020, the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) of the American University of Armenia (AUA) launched the first Entrepreneurship Summer Festival (ESF2020), an organized week-long program designed to disseminate knowledge and create enthusiasm in entrepreneurship through a unique series of online events. The program was supported by the EU4Business “Innovative Tourism and Technology Development for Armenia’’ project and jointly hosted by a half-dozen local university partners.
This year’s theme, “Reimagine Your Future,” was set to promote the philosophy of career and professional flexibility — the idea that one can modify and redirect one’s career trajectory while considering the possibility of taking the entrepreneurial route. There is outdated thinking in society that once one chooses a university major or specialization or opts for a career track, one would have limited ability to modify or reset it. Thus, the theme of the Festival focused on how, in today’s flexible and fast-moving globalized environment, it is possible (and even probable) to change or redirect career directions and choices, with an emphasis on entrepreneurial options.
ESF2020 gathered 38 speakers and panel discussants, key influencers from the Armenian startup ecosystem and professionals from various disciplines and industry sectors. Through lectures, workshops, and panel discussions, the Reimagine your Future festival spread knowledge and nurtured enthusiasm about entrepreneurship and venture creation among the audience joining from Armenia, Artsakh, and the diaspora. The ESF2020 hosted a total of 16 talks/workshops, panel discussions, and inspirational evenings. There were over 20,000 online views on both Facebook and Zoom platforms. Among the highlights of the Festival were two inspirational evenings hosted by Berkeley SkyDeck and Strategic Value Ventures, a talk and a separate international panel encouraging the participants to be self-aware and to seek periodic self-transformation to guide personal growth and reach global success.
AUA’s collaboration with local Armenian universities will serve as a first cooperative step in sharing interests, experience, and resources in entrepreneurship, a goal EPIC has embraced for long. The ESF2020 planted the seed amongst Armenian universities to establish programs in entrepreneurship while serving as a platform for future cooperation.
“The event was extremely well-organized and was able to bring together the real stakeholders of the Armenian Entrepreneurial sector. I am fairly certain that this kind of activity can generate strong connections between academia and business,” mentioned Hovhannes Yeritsyan, lecturer at Armenian National Agrarian University and co-founder of Nation in Action.
EPIC’s university partners for ESF2020 were Brusov State University, Armenian National Agrarian University, Russian-Armenian University, Armenian State University of Economics, National Polytechnic University of Armenia, and the American University of Armenia Zaven and Sonia Akian College of Science and Engineering.
Ani Hovsepyan, the representative from Brusov State University, asserted that despite its unconventional format, the ESF2020 was unexpectedly successful considering the current restrictive circumstances. “It catered great accessibility, rich topicality, and the capacity to include a wide range of target groups. The ESF2020 was actually the first attempt to establish cooperation between EPIC and ‘SMART Caffe’ Entrepreneurship Center at Brusov State University. The event outcomes exceeded the expectations of both parties. I am deeply convinced that this cooperation has laid a solid foundation for future partnerships, new ideas, and joint projects,” mentioned Hovsepyan.
The festival was held both in Armenian and English to expand its reach to a wide array of participants. It consisted of three main parts. The first was entrepreneurship afternoons which provided basic educational program content on the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, including venture creation basics, market research, financing and investment, team culture, and marketing.
The second part of the ESF2020 was dedicated to panel discussions that focused on themes of innovation and venture-building across a variety of disciplines that are not commonly associated within such discourse. They included Entrepreneurship and Agriculture, Entrepreneurship and Languages and Communication, Entrepreneurship and the Arts, and Entrepreneurship and Science. “This is a topic that should be constantly discussed. We plan a continuation of the panel ‘From Muse to Venture’ with the different representatives of the arts,” says Gevorg Poghosyan, the panel moderator and founder of The Crowdfunding Formula and Global AM.
The ESF2020 culminated with “The Future Innovator” Competition for participating individuals or teams with technology-based startup ideas. This event was jointly organized with PicsArt Armenia and Webb Fontaine Armenia. After intensive technical and pitching mentorship sessions, the teams competed for prizes from the event partners EU4Business and GIZ, PicsArt and Webb Fontaine Armenia. Three startups were the winners of the competition: Butterfly Tours, 4Future.ai, and Perfect Look.
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.