This is great to write about HyeTech Minds.
I’ve launched the HyeTech Minds podcast more than a year ago when a pandemic hit the world. HyeTech Minds is a mission-driven platform with the ultimate goal to introduce Armenian innovators and founders to the world. Through one-and-one interviews, my guests shared their success stories, gave actionable tips, and lessons learned on their road to success.
From Silicon Valley to Boston, from Yerevan to Paris, I’ve hosted 25+ technology leaders, founders, entrepreneurs, innovators, and tech professionals behind some of the most successful and innovative companies and startups in the world.
In the beginning, it was a hobby to experience the world of podcasting. With the help of the CIC Providence, a co-working space located at the heart of Rhode Island, I was able to turn the idea into a successful tool for building a like-minded community that can grow and succeeds together.
The idea of HyeTech Minds came up to me a couple of years ago. While exploring the startup community on the East Coast, it was unexpected to see the power of the Armenian tech community in the USA. Surprisingly, in every meeting, I’ve attended I met an investor or founder of Armenian origin.
With their unique cultural and historic heritage, the Armenians always have been known for their contribution to music, art, and cinematography.
But not many know that Armenians have been heavily contributing to technology and science development around the globe. Just recently, Armenian descendant Artem Padaputian was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for “discovering receptors for temperature and touch.”
And I’m not only talking about those bold names, such as Alexis Ohanian, Reddit Founder, Nubar Afeyan, Moderna Co-founder, and on.
There are Armenian tech minds that we do not see or hear every day, but who are actively contributing to this global technology revolution happening in the world.
For example, Hovhannes Avoyan, the co-founder and CEO of Picsart, has created the world’s #1 creative platform and social editing app leading the visual storytelling revolution that already is valued at 1 billion and has more than 150 million monthly active creators.
Today, the Armenian ‘tech wave’ is taking the world, influenced by Armenian-led companies like Service Titan, Podcastle, PicsArt, Krisp, Digitain, BetConstruct, CodeSignal, SuperAnnotate, Exxper Technologies, and many more.
Having in mind the mission to help Armenian founders to rise above the noise in today’s overcrowded startup world, HyeTech Minds has been the unique platform featuring successful and inspiring Armenian tech communities around the globe.
What we talked about
Whether you are an investor, entrepreneur, or simply tech enthusiast, this podcast is your go-to source to discover Armenian founders and investors around the globe, learn more about the Armenian innovation ecosystems, and get insights into the investment landscape in the country.
From Silicon Valley to Boston, from Yerevan to Paris, each episode, I hosted technology leaders, founders, entrepreneurs, innovators, and tech professionals behind some of the most successful and innovative companies and startups in the world as they share their success stories, give actionable tips, and lessons learned on their road to success.
Listeners were able to gain an insight into how technology helped them to transform their business and life, how they got started, how they overcame failures and challenges.
With my guests, we also talked about the Armenian startup ecosystem, growing opportunities, and the Armenian Diaspora’s impact on it. One of the common questions I’ve asked every guest on the podcast was about the changes and improvements that need to be made in order to expand foreign investments in the country’s startup ecosystem and attract more entrepreneurs from Diaspora to launch businesses in Armenian.
On one side, it was very critical to learn insights from founders who launched businesses in Armenia. On the other hand, entrepreneurs from the Diaspora tech community look at Armenia from the lens of investors sharing their unbiased opinion on how to create more favorable conditions for investments.
I want to share some of the interesting opinions that have been expressed during our conversations.
Berge Ayvazyan, Senior Analyst and Consultant at Wireless 20/20 on 4G/5G Networks
When you’re competing with India or other countries which have huge talent pools, a small country like Armenia has to have the best education system, best training programs, and the best talent. And then we need to take that talent and rather than having it trapped inside large companies, which already view workers as a commodity rather than as an asset, to create unique companies that are on a path to develop their business and impact the global market, not just the domestic market. So we’ve seen in the startup arena in Armenia tremendous growth, both in terms of the number of companies, but more importantly, in terms of the expansion of those companies to be able to have an impact on large markets. We already have several companies that are unicorn’s and although they’re not publicly traded, they’re highly valued. They’ve raised a lot of funds and they’re growing rapidly. They’re employing lots of people. And in fact, several of them have not just a workforce in Armenia, but may be based or at least partially based in the US or other countries. And we’re seeing that happen more and more.”
Aramayis Hovhannisyan , Founder and CEO at Quality Testing Lab
We need to pay attention to our education, to our schools, to our universities, and to do things like upgrading our university classes and models. Because not every student that is completing the university course is ready to work, or ready to go into science. We need to work on our educational system. After that work on the startup ecosystem and enterprise ecosystem here.
Also, many Armenia startups have already built very good stories. They have raised some investments. We need to tell the world about these and tell about the success stories of our startups. And maybe this will be very good for the world to know about these startups and to know about Armenia.”
Artavazd Yeritsyan, CEO & Founder of Podcastle Inc.
“I cannot say what others can do, but I can say what definitely, I and people like me within the tech field can do. So the only way to do that is to try to do everything to create successful companies doesn’t matter. If you are registered in the US if you are getting funding from the US.
If you will have the unicorn company that will even in the U.S., you still will put Armenia on the map. So that’s one of the ways I believe, like PicsArt companies like Krisp, and other big tech companies in Armenia, which are really doing getting the funding and really trying to create something that the whole world will use.
I think having political stability and having a really growing economy, science and education, are also important to attract investments.”
Ashot Arzumanyan, Co-founder and partner with SmartGateVC
“Talking about the Diaspora, if you want to involve the tech in Armenia, you shouldn’t hesitate to take your ticket to Yerevan. Go there and figure out what’s happening there. And, so many people followed this advice. So many interesting people and notable people come from Diaspora to explore the scene here. They are coming not only because it’s important and beneficial for Armenian entrepreneurs, but also there is a huge potential for Diaspora to involve in Armenia and build mutually beneficial businesses here. I think there are three ways Diaspora can engage with the Armenian tech scene: 1) Mentorship, which is hands-on involvement with entrepreneurs from Armenia, helping them with their network business development with their value proposition in the United States. Basically helping them with their first steps in the US market. 2) Investments – this can be done either as Angel Investors or through Venture Capital funds and 3) Joint R&D projects – finding an Armenia-based co-founder or tech development, for more deep integration of goals and activities with people from Armenia.
Hrant Davtyan, Founder, and CEO at Pinsight
“ Many companies in Armenia are interested in hiring data scientists, but they want to hire senior people. We don’t have enough senior people in the market. What we really need to do is to have a lot of opportunities for junior specialists, and internship programs, which unfortunately are not so many. Last year when we announced our internship programs. I have only seen another internship program in the market for this year. We have to give the opportunity for more young talents to get the experience and become seniors themselves.
As for Diaspora, I think there’s a lot of things that can be done. We have a lot of smart talent in the Diaspora who can really make a positive knowledge investment in the data science sector of the country. This year, for example, together with Hero House we were running a program called the AI Incubation program. During the program, Data Science experts, mentors, and people who are very experienced in Data Science from abroad have been mentoring Armenian university students to conduct research. Students gained huge hands-on experience from top companies in Europe, the US, and the UK. I think this should become standard practice.
Another thing that can be improved is the legal aspects of doing business in Armenia. Currently, we don’t have things like employee stock options that you can give to your team if you don’t have typical investment agreements that startups have.. Those things are problematic for startups to actually legally be organized in Armenia.
So as you know, many companies are actually going out organizing themselves. In the law, they’re using clarity and stripe and similar tools. We have to improve the legal system first, and then the image of Armenia as a safe country where you can actually have a monetary investment from a nonmonetary perspective.
Mariam Gyulumyan , Co-founder and CEO at Lucky Carrot
“ I think the image of the country has a lot of things to do. Let’s say if we have several unicorns born in Armenia, that’s one thing to help with teh country’s image. Secondly, I don’t know how much we can, but we need to work with governments to make the investment, and policies to be more attractive to investors”
Aleksandr Simonyan, CEO and Founder Immensus
“I believe we should be much closer to startup founders in Armenia and also Diaspora, like in the USA and other countries. We need to exchange ideas. If we build something great, we should definitely and immediately exchange it with other people. And by doing so we can interact. And by interaction, we will certainly achieve our goals, create great products, attract investments, and solve user problems. In that case, I will say, SmartGateVC helps us personally a lot because they provided me with great connections. But there are still many founders in Armenia who do not have connections. Many of them just give up their ideas, even though they seem great to me because they do not know how to attract investments. They don’t do not know how to find people. And that’s definitely a problem.
And I believe there are many ways for us to create connections between founders in Armenia and Diaspora. Through the Internet, we can arrange online meetings with investors, or with people who know investors in Armenia or in the US. And also, I believe, we, as the founders, have to take responsibility. Because once I have some technological progress, I also need to share my ideas. I need to share my demo versus my prototypes.
Interview with Sona Veziryan, Deputy Director at BANA
“In the recent several years, Armenia’s startup ecosystem has been exceptionally growing in the recent several years. It all credits to our affordable and skilled tech talent, and of course, Diaspora plays a critical role in Armenia’s tech ecosystem.
Overall, people need to know about us that there are good companies that are born in Armenia and that there is a good Armenian tech talent that they can hire to start their startups here.
That’s sad to say, but there is a lack of information. There’s a gap in information about the Armenian tech ecosystem.
Lucy Setian, Founder of MANATEE MENTOR
“ The question is about connectivity. We are not in the best geographical space setup, as we all know, we find ourselves in probably a difficult position in being connected. If we’re better integrated internationally, we can better show the value which Armenia brings growth for the global economy. But also for us as a country, to connect our professionals with other professionals, with other investors, and the other way around. Armenia has so much to offer, it’s just a question to put it a little bit more in the spotlight. And I think, by being connected and by transmitting this value, in a neutral space, you have a huge opportunity to connect with other people from other countries to show them what Armenia really brings to the table.
Gerasim Hovhannisyan, CEO & Co-Founder, EasyDMARC Inc.
“I believe we, the most important impact can have just to show success stories. I believe in the next one, the two-year maximum we will have several very big and good success stories which can motivate others to attract new resources and new investment resources from abroad.”
Gayane Hovhannisyan, CEO & Co-Founder of noomee
“The Armenian ecosystem offers really interesting opportunities, especially for Armenia’s core system offers very interesting opportunities for startups. And still, it’s like the opportunities are growing year by year even more. But I would say that people need to concentrate also on social impact, not social impact businesses, not doing all the voluntary work.”
Karen Kachikian, Co-Founder Exxper Technologies
“I think we need more comprehensive education in schools. It’s not only about STEM education. So this is maths, physics. We need to have more. We don’t need to do just a project. We need to really dive deep and understand the physics behind it. And only by having that comprehensive education, we can have very qualified professionals in the future.
I think the university also plays a huge role here. There is already cooperation with the companies in the industry. For example, Synopsis has its educational department in Polytechnical University. There are other companies like Microsoft that do this kind of program at universities.
I think the main challenges are the lack of funding because most of the top VCs are located in the US. In Armenia, we have only four or five VCs and Angel Investment networks. I think having that ecosystem, and the development of that ecosystem here in Armenia will help a lot. Having more VCs here means having more accelerators or incubators to help startups to faster, develop their idea, validate their product and go farther.
There are also a lot of places in the legal area to improve – investments and IPO. For example, a year ago, the Government has started improvement in IPO and protection structures. I think there should also be trust from the investors. For example, if a company is incorporated in the USA, you know where to invest. They invest in a company where the questions are regulated according to US laws. They are safe. I think our Government should also create a sense of safety when people invest in Armenia.”
Alex Amiryan, CEO & Co-Founder of Stingle
“First of all, we need more security in terms of border security and calmness in the region for the investors to come. War is never good for investors and people who want to spend money in the country because one day it could just be ruined by the worst. And other than that, we have really good specialists, really good developers, really good minds. And just a little involvement and incentive from the government, I think will create a spark and people will start doing it. “
Areg Vardanyan, Co-Founder of ForgeFiction
“I see a lot of positive changes in recent years. We’re connecting the Diaspora to Armenia. There are more and more programs. They are more networking places. For example, there was a program called Armenian Virtual Bridge, connecting Armenian startups to Silicon Valley tech companies and also to Armenian in Silicon Valley. And it’s also really great to see that in the last couple of years, we are not just exploring talent, but a lot of our Armenian people from all around the world return to their motherland and start companies here.”
Karen Vardanyan, Partner at Formula VC, Fund Manager at Sprint Crowdfunders’ Fund
“Obviously there is a lot of work to do towards this direction. And in terms of taking investments from outside, there are some administrative issues that need to be solved. However, there is quite a good environment in terms of regulation in terms of taxes, in terms of administration, how you’re running the firm, and how you’re being regulated.
We need to increase the awareness about what’s going on in Armenia, because a lot of peers in the Diaspora also known as Armenians, are usually not aware of what’s going on in Armenia. They usually think that Armenia needs more charity money rather than investments because they don’t see the landscape. It’s homework for us to do as well, in order to present what’s going on in the Armenian tech scene. One of our main topics that we are trying to push forward is that whenever you are investing $1, you are not just only creating the return that you are earning, but rather, you are creating much more value for the dollar. And whenever you’re just donating that $1 It is like most probably it is lost.”
Emmanuel Ghandilyan, CEO & Co-Founder of Foldink 3D Bioprinting
“First of all, we need to encourage entrepreneurship in the Biotech field and MedTech field, because the tendencies are now going in this direction. COVID-19 pandemic and war indicate the necessity of having strong biotech and MedTech companies based in Armenia, to supply medical devices or help patient care, or supply scientific devices. The main point that government can use for encouraging entrepreneurship in Biotech should be scientific grants or entrepreneurship funding opportunities to the startups and newly established companies. There should also be exchange programs that will give opportunities to young researchers to study new technologies abroad and return to their homeland to put their knowledge and skills in their own country.
Also, it may be great to have some programs, which will encourage the Diaspora tech community to come to Armenia and start companies here. Even if they launch their businesses in other countries, it would be helpful for Armenia, to have at least the headquarter in Armenia and be present in Armenia physically.
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