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EPIC Startups Compete in GIST Innovates South Caucasus

4 min read

YEREVAN, Armenia — In a collaborative effort to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in the South Caucasus region, the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) at the American University of Armenia (AUA) has joined forces with Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) to organize a pre-acceleration program and competition. The program is called GIST Innovates South Caucasus and targets early- and idea-stage startups from the region. 

The GIST Innovates South Caucasus program offers entrepreneurs a six-week pre-accelerator training program modeled after the Lean Startup methodology. Participants learn how to apply entrepreneurial principles and conduct effective customer discovery by using U.S.-based entrepreneurial models and approaches.

The GIST Innovates South Caucasus program is the latest activity of a multi-year collaboration between EPIC and GIST. As part of this partnership, EPIC also hosts Startup Huddle Yerevan, a series of monthly gatherings for members of the startup ecosystem in the city. Startup Huddle Yerevan is sponsored by GIST and implemented by EPIC in conjunction with the Global Entrepreneurship Network.

What is GIST Innovates South Caucasus?

The GIST Innovates South Caucasus pre-accelerator training program is rooted in the Lean Startup methodology, which aligns with the core approach of EPIC’s Incubation Program. Throughout the program, teams are guided in applying Lean Startup principles and conducting effective customer discovery to validate their ideas. By the program’s conclusion, teams will have completed a minimum of 40 interviews with target customers, gathering crucial insights to refine their product offerings. Participants benefit from comprehensive training, mentorship, and resources aimed at refining their entrepreneurial skills and bringing their ideas to market. Additionally, the program facilitates connections with both local and US mentors, creating invaluable networking opportunities within the regional innovation community.

The program’s kick-off took place on April 19 in Tbilisi, with the participation of six Armenian teams. EPIC Assistant Director Nejdeh Hovanessian is actively involved as a mentor for startups in this program. He underscored the importance of this program for the participant startups, stating: “The GIST Innovates South Caucasus program is a short-term initiative designed to help startup founders learn how to make their businesses successful. It also helps them grow their professional networks beyond their country’s borders and gain insight into the startup scene in the region. I believe this program will not only provide valuable learning opportunities for the participant startups, but also lay the groundwork for collaboration within the regional startup ecosystems.”

During the inaugural event in Tbilisi, startups had the opportunity to introduce themselves, participate in workshops, and engage in networking activities. As the program progresses, startups are actively refining their ideas and gearing up for the upcoming Demo Day.

Scheduled as the culmination of the program in May, the Demo Day will see startups pitching their ideas to a panel of judges and vying for prizes from a total fund of $15,000. This event signifies the culmination of weeks of hard work and dedication, showcasing the innovative solutions developed by participants.

Armenian Startups Involved in the Program

Half of the startups selected to participate in the program are alumni of the EPIC Incubation Program. Co-founder of Starship Armenia Siranush Makhmuryan (BSCS ’27) reflected on her involvement in the program: “Being part of the EPIC Incubation Program was an incredible journey that prepared us so well for what’s to come. Now, diving into the GIST South Caucasus project feels like a natural progression. What’s truly thrilling is the chance to broaden our horizons and connect with startup communities beyond Armenia. And let’s not forget about the Demo Day — the opportunity to showcase our hard work and potentially win a prize adds a whole new level of excitement.”

Below is further information about the Armenian startups participating in the GIST South Caucasus project. 


Ecocycles is tackling urban Armenia’s drink container litter problem with an innovative deposit scheme, offering various return points and rewards like refunds or donations. Ecocycles makes recycling rewarding and impactful, standing out with smart tech and community engagement. Their approach integrates advanced sensor technology for real-time monitoring and user-friendly interfaces.


EdMap, a dynamic learning ecosystem, bridges education and career achievement in IT. Learners engage in simulated IT work environments, applying theoretical knowledge and honing soft skills like problem-solving and teamwork. They take on diverse roles, collaborating in team settings on real IT projects using industry-specific tools. Accessible via web browsers, EdMap integrates Application Programming Interfaces for industry-specific tools and incorporates data analytics to tailor learning experiences. Its simulated workspace provides invaluable real-world IT experience, setting it apart from competitors.

Starship Armenia

Starship is a platform connecting international students from developing countries to potential financing opportunities for higher education. The platform currently focuses on students from developing countries such as Armenia, India, Georgia, and so on, who are often overlooked by financial aid providers when trying to study outside their country. Additionally, its automated application feature will allow users to fill out their university financial aid applications much more quickly and, ultimately, in higher quantities, increasing their chances of success in limited windows of time.

VR Look

VR Look is a virtual reality app transforming museum engagement by offering immersive art experiences. It caters to educational centers, communities, and individuals with disabilities, providing access to art regardless of physical limitations or distance. Developed using Unity for app development and 360-degree video shooting for production, VR Look allows users to walk inside paintings, solve puzzles within artworks, and explore exhibitions.


Web3Compass is the first and exclusive web3 search engine that helps users access all hidden domains, webpages, and information on the blockchain, which are inaccessible to existing search engines.

Large companies have been selling blockchain-based domains for millions over the last five years, yet the webpages on those domains remain invisible, even for Google. Web3Compass is indexing web pages connected to the blockchain and offering next-generation search indexing for those pages.

The Hood

The Hood is an innovative online platform revolutionizing community engagement and management. Catering to a diverse audience, it offers seamless interaction and efficient management features for community members, leaders, homeowners, renters, businesses, and service providers.

Utilizing cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and geolocation technologies, it streamlines communication and transactions, fostering stronger connections and greater convenience for all.

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.