Connecting Armenian Entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley

Jemma Israyelyan:

Connecting Armenian Entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley

PanARMENIAN.Net - The Center for Entrepreneurship and Executive Development (CEED) Foundation has been implementing various projects to boost the development of Armenia’s IT sector, Armenia – U.S. IT Acceleration Program being among them. In an interview with PanARMENIAN.Net, CEED Director Jemma Israyelyan elaborates on past projects, upcoming endeavors and the Armenia IT Startup Forum to be held in Silicon Valley.
Ms. Israyelyan, last November we talked about CEED activities in Armenia. You told us that CEED helps businesses grow by developing, connecting and mentoring entrepreneurs so they can create jobs and in turn accelerate economic prosperity. At the time of our conversation you were launching Perfect Pitch to Investors, a program for which you invited two accomplished Silicon Valley venture capitalists to Yerevan to help Armenian entrepreneurs develop their pitching skills. How did the program go?
We were fortunate to have a very strong group of participants and truly effective instructors. Roger Strauch, Co-founder and Chairman of the Roda Group, a seed stage venture capital group based in Berkeley, California, had been a mentor in our earlier programs and consistently provided our entrepreneurs with valuable feedback and advice. Ron Weissman, a well-regarded Silicon Valley investor who worked extensively with Steve Jobs and served on the board of directors of more than 25 companies, visited Armenia for the first time to co-lead the program with Roger Strauch and shared his insights and experience with our entrepreneurs. It was rewarding to hear overwhelmingly positive comments on both sides: Ron told us this experience turned him into a strong advocate of the Armenian startup community in Silicon Valley and the participants were very generous with their praise. It became clear that we should organize such a workshop again.

Now you’re implementing another project, Armenia – U.S. IT Acceleration Program, connected to Silicon Valley. Please, tell us about it.
The Armenia – U.S. IT Acceleration Program is a project of the Enterprise Incubator Foundation (EIF), the Armenian government and the World Bank, which we are implementing together with our U.S. office. The goal is to help Armenian technology companies connect to Silicon Valley and succeed in global markets. The program will start with a six-week acceleration that includes trainings, mentorship and pitching practice. The participants will have an opportunity to work with accomplished entrepreneurs from the CEED Global Network as well as local experts. At the Demo Day, five companies will be selected to go to Silicon Valley. We will arrange meetings with potential investors, partners, and clients in Silicon Valley and will work with the finalists to help them take full advantage of this opportunity. They will also be invited to participate in the Armenia IT Startup Forum, which we’re organizing in the San Francisco Bay Area as part of this project.

Who can apply and what are the terms of participation?
The program is designed for companies with relatively mature products that have a chance to be attractive to international investors in several months. Both startup teams and established companies with new product initiatives are eligible to apply. Interested companies should fill out the application form available on our website telling us about themselves and their products. The application deadline is March 15. There is no participation fee. In addition, the program will cover a round trip to the San Francisco Bay Area and provide accommodation for the finalists during their stay.

You mentioned that the Armenia IT Startup Forum will be organized as part of the project. What are the objectives of this event?
The Armenia IT Startup Forum is a conference scheduled to take place on June 10, 2016 in the San Francisco Bay Area. It will bring together various stakeholders from Armenia, Silicon Valley, and across the world to discuss the potential of Armenian technology entrepreneurship and the ways in which Armenia-Silicon Valley collaboration can be strengthened. The role of education to unlock entrepreneurial talent will also be discussed. The five finalists of the Armenia – U.S. IT Acceleration Program will pitch their products at this event and meet potential partners and investors. We expect the Forum to create lasting relationships that will foster increased cross-border collaboration in this field.