EPIC Incubation Program Wraps Up Fall 2023 Batch With Pitch Event4 min read
YEREVAN, Armenia — The new year at the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) at the American University of Armenia (AUA) kicked off with bustling energy and excitement. While the EPIC leadership team began reviewing applications for the 14th batch of the EPIC Incubation Program in Spring 2024, the Fall 2023 cohort startups celebrated their graduation on February 8 with a lively Graduation Pitch Day. During the event, eight teams seized the opportunity to present their startups, which had undergone a 15-week cycle of idea validation, customer discovery, and business model validation. Throughout the intensive Incubation Program, teams engaged in weekly sessions, collaborated with top industry professionals, conducted numerous customer interviews, and received personalized mentorship from both local and international experts. Startup co-founders exhibited unwavering motivation and persistence, yielding successful outcomes that included securing demo users and signing initial contracts with early adopters.
The 13th batch notably distinguished itself through the inclusion of experienced early-career professionals trying to build startups, whose wealth of experience enriched the program and elevated the overall learning journey for all the startup teams in the cohort.
One such individual was Tigran Akulyan, co-founder of Zont LLC and retail head of Glovo in Armenia, who brought international experience, including a tenure at Amazon as a problem manager. Zont LLC facilitates connections between brick-and-mortar retailers and online shoppers, offering same-day doorstep delivery and an intuitive e-commerce experience through a fashion delivery app. Reflecting on his experience in the Incubation Program, Akulyan remarked, “Though challenging, the journey proved undeniably rewarding. Before Incubation, our grasp of startup dynamics was limited, but the Program provided a deep dive into essential elements for success. We honed our discipline, time management, and efficiency, delving into vital concepts like hypothesis testing and lean canvas. EPIC motivated us to refine our minimum viable product, yielding promising results as we prepare for our final product launch. Additionally, the Program enhanced my pitching skills, an area in which I previously struggled. Moreover, the 15-week journey fostered valuable networking opportunities, forging lasting connections within a community of like-minded individuals, mentors, and industry experts.”
Another standout co-founder was Hrach Avagyan, co-founder and CEO of HydraLab LLC, a software development company established in 2016. With nearly a decade of experience in software development, Hrach has collaborated with leading companies in Armenia, including Digitain. “As a team of people already experienced in building a business in the IT industry (Hydralab LLC), we came to Incubation with the goal of developing our startup journey with Tokenvest. More importantly, however, EPIC taught us an entrepreneurial mindset and how to build an entrepreneurial business with a growth mandate. The Incubation Program’s impact on my quality of life was tremendous: it helped me improve my strategic thinking and optimized my decision-making, patience, and motivation to work hard toward big goals. Thanks to EPIC’s coaching and mentorship, we saved a huge amount of time by moving in the direction that we needed,” shared Avagyan.
The Program’s highlights also featured prominent speakers who graced the sessions with invaluable insights. Among them was Rem Darbinyan, founder and CEO of ViralMango and SmartClick, a distinguished member of the Forbes Technology Council, and a seasoned venture capital (VC) investor and AI Innovation Advisor. During Darbinyan’s HackNight session, participants delved into the intricacies of startup failures and gained practical knowledge on how to circumvent common pitfalls. Additionally, the marketing session led by Hamlet Azarian, founder and CEO of Azarian Growth Agency, proved instrumental. With over two decades of experience driving growth for international businesses, including venture-backed startups, Azarian shared strategies for attracting potential customers and offered insights from real-life success and failure cases in growth marketing. This session served as a vital introduction to the marketing realm for Incubation’s early-stage startups, underscoring its importance in the journey toward startup success at any stage.
Another notable aspect of the Program was the wealth of experience brought by mentors, many of whom boasted impressive international backgrounds and years of entrepreneurial experience.
Culminating the comprehensive Incubation Program for early-stage startups, participants presented their refined ideas at the Graduation Pitch event, which was filled to capacity with entrepreneurs, investors from local angel and VC groups, and other prominent figures from Armenia’s bustling startup ecosystem. Teams confidently pitched their ideas and engaging in insightful Q&A sessions with the audience. Following the pitching session, attendees attended a reception that fostered informal conversations and networking. The gathering provided a platform for interested parties to delve deeper into the Incubation startups, explore prospects for collaboration, offer guidance, and discuss potential investment opportunities, fostering a spirit of innovation and collaboration within Armenia’s vibrant startup community.
Reflecting on the successful completion of the 13th batch of the Incubation Program, EPIC Director Dr. Michael Kouchakdjian remarked, “I am proud of all the teams, who worked very hard to advance their startups. Most gratifying was the evolution of teams composed of AUA undergrads, some of whom were first-year students who had developed an interest in entrepreneurship before matriculating at AUA through EPIC’s STRIVE Pre-U program for graduating high-school seniors.”
The graduating startups have now become integral members of the broader EPIC family. Some of the graduating teams that achieved traction and customer acceptance were invited to continue working in EPIC facilities in order to refine their business models and build prototypes while receiving ongoing support and mentorship from the Center. Moreover, select standout startups will have the opportunity to pitch again during EPIC’s annual Demo Day in June, where startups will compete to receive cash prizes. This extended support underscores EPIC’s commitment to nurturing the growth and success of Armena’s startup community beyond the confines of the Incubation Program.
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.