EPIC STRIVE Fall 2022 Graduates

EPIC’s STRIVE Graduates Class of Fall 2022

3 min read

YEREVAN, Armenia On December 10, the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) of the American University of Armenia (AUA) concluded the second round of the STRIVE program graduating a new group of promising entrepreneurs. 

STRIVE is a 10-week pre-incubation program specially targeted to individuals who take an active interest in pursuing entrepreneurship. The 26 graduates of the fall 2022 class were trained in the fundamental concepts integral to a pathway in entrepreneurship. Thus, the participants in this second STRIVE cohort immersed themselves in a comprehensive program that included practical sessions, workshops, and simulations. As a result, they gained valuable insights about how to think like an entrepreneur, developed analytical business skills like opportunity identification and problem solving, expanded their network, and exchanged ideas and experiences with guest speakers and startup professionals. They also were able to gain a deeper understanding of the Armenian startup ecosystem.

After the successful completion of the inaugural program in the spring, demand for the fall STRIVE was astounding with over 120 applying for acceptance, rendering the selection of participants highly competitive.   

Program lead Alisa Chalakhyan (BAB ‘19) described the refreshed  STRIVE program as “a fine-tuned and extended version of the  inaugural  STRIVE program launched in the Spring. In terms of the participants,” Alisa added, “the key difference from the previous batch was their diversity and occupational backgrounds. We had youth from the capital, three marzes (regions), a diasporan, as well as foreigners representing nine different industries from IT to pharma and law to education. It is this diversity and shared interest in entrepreneurship that delivered great value to everyone, including ourselves, the EPIC STRIVE program team.” 

Many of the participants were young professionals ages 18 to 35, who sought to further their career and develop skills in entrepreneurship. The program allowed them to master the key concepts of resilience, vision, and innovation, and gave them the tools for wealth management and brand positioning to navigate the industry. They also developed flexibility in thinking and taking appropriate action to successfully run a new or existing venture and become agents of change in their respective communities. 

AUA computer science student Azat Harutyunyan (BSCS ‘25) described his experience at STRIVE as “unlocking the sixth sense of an entrepreneur.” In his exit interview, he noted: “As a Computer Science major, I have always had a soft spot for entrepreneurship. In that sense, STRIVE was like Entrepreneurship 101, as it incorporated the foundational business approaches connected to startups and their practical applications, not to mention the network and connections we developed. This might be the start of transitioning my career into something more entrepreneurial.” 

The program culminated in the Entrepreneur’s Hunt, a real-life simulation with the STRIVE participants split into teams of four and tasked to put the knowledge they had accumulated into real-life entrepreneurial practice. The teams had 30 minutes to brainstorm a simple business idea that they could commercialize and two hours to test it in the local community with only a $5 pre-seed investment. To realize this goal, one of the teams utilized its members’ artistic skills to quickly create and sell unique music-themed stickers to coffee shops just as Yerevan was preparing to host the Junior Eurovision Song Contest on that weekend. Another team seized the opportunity of the fast-approaching holiday season and bundled small gift packs for children, which they sold to young families touring downtown Yerevan. On the average, the teams realized a x5 profit in a single morning, all of which was collectively donated to families of fallen soldiers. The exercise simulated the principal elements of the start-up process: coming up with an idea, identifying customers, working in a team under time pressure, understanding the challenges of selling, and so on. The biggest takeaway for the teams was experiencing the interrelationship of product, market, and business model. 

Following the Entrepreneur’s Hunt, a closing networking event was organized at the local Ground Zero venture cafe to give participants a chance to share what they had learned and communicate their plans for the future. Some planned to join together into startup teams, others decided to apply to the spring batch of the EPIC Incubator program, or continue their education to further expand knowledge, and bring innovation to their current work environment. 

Dr. Michael Kouchakdjian, director of EPIC, stated: “I commend Alisa and the STRIVE team for their continuous effort to refine and evolve the program, adding content and better targeting the needs of the community. Entrepreneurial thinking is critical for the continuous development of Armenia and the world beyond. It is through knowledge and application of creativity and critical thinking, effective problem solving, initiative, teamwork, and other entrepreneurial skills that we will empower individuals, regardless of their chosen path.”

STRIVE’s next cohort, with an upgraded program and improved capacity-building components, will commence in early 2023.

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.