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EPIC’s STRIVE Graduates Its First Cohort

3 min read

YEREVAN, Armenia — On June 28, the American University of Armenia (AUA) Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) held the graduation ceremony of the first cohort of 22 participants of its new STRIVE program.

STRIVE is a pre-incubation program where individuals interested in entrepreneurship learn entrepreneurial concepts and discover how to become successful entrepreneurs. “STRIVE was truly a very rewarding program. Despite being surrounded by many entrepreneurs and constantly learning about startups and entrepreneurship, I had never really tried to do it myself. The program helped me grasp the concept of entrepreneurship and experience it from an entirely different perspective, which gave me comfort and confidence. Thanks to STRIVE, I was able to overcome my indecision and hesitancy,” asserted STRIVE graduate Melanya Khachatryan.

The goal of the program is to not only provide the knowledge and tools for participants to consider building their own enterprises but, more broadly, to equip them with a mindset that would benefit them in dealing with challenges and difficult situations that one often faces in life. The problem-solving, flexible, resourceful, and entrepreneurial approach taught in STRIVE could be an asset for any citizen of Armenia who values change, innovation, and development. 

Rem Darbinyan, CEO of SmartClick, who spoke to STRIVE participants, remarked, “When hiring new candidates, I always seek people with a thinking-outside-of-the-box mindset; they are the ones who act as change agents and bring greater value to any organization.”

During the final session of the program, participants had an extensive retrospective discussion on their personal goals and the program’s contribution, which helped them to reevaluate and restate their goals. In addition, they elaborated on what they would do next in their entrepreneurial journey, identifying and setting the next steps to achieve their goals after the program concludes. Some of them are considering applying to the EPIC Incubator program in September.

The closing session also included an award ceremony, during which the course attendees announced their top three most influential peers who have directly or indirectly contributed to their individual and collective learning and the development of new insight and vision. This activity was related to one of the eight foundational concepts of STRIVE — ‘community’. According to a theory of social environment, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The participants spent eight+ weeks learning and working together, significantly influencing one another.

In addition to individual prizes, the best problem-solution development team received an award for excellence in teamwork, presentation skills, and peer review. The winners earned access to EPIC facilities through the summer to continue teambuilding and advance their ideas toward launching a startup. 

The day ended with EPIC’s traditional pizza night. 

“Would all of these participants end up building their own startups? I’m inclined to say no; founding a startup is not for everyone. But if you asked me whether the program was a success, my answer would be a definite yes! What we have today is a group of 22 competent individuals that clearly understand the role of an entrepreneur not only as a potential founder but also as a problem-solver and a change agent — skills that they can use in all aspects of their lives in years to come,” noted STRIVE program leader Alisa Chakhalyan.

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.