Innovative Solutions and Technologies Center was founded in Armenia jointly by IBM, Enterprise Incubator Foundation, the Armenian government and USAID. The center works in four main areas - startup acceleration, business aggregation, educational process (innovation and economy), as well as joint research with Armenian and American universities.
As Areg Gevorgyan, business development manager at the center told PanARMENIAN.Net, all four areas are inseparably linked to each other and are carried out in stages.
“Promotion is based primarily on business and technology consulting, with various events held to serve the purpose. For instance, in summer 2015, Armenia hosted the first Hackathon, based on the IBM Bluemix platform; the winners received prizes,” Gevorgyan said.
IBM Bluemix is a place for software developers to go to quickly create, deploy, and manage applications in the cloud — without dealing with any of the underlying infrastructure.
“Also, in cooperation with the Finnish Slush, a special competition was held for startups, enabling the winner to participate in a world conference in Helsinki. In other words, the center allows the local teams to meet with investors and find funding through various competitions. We are trying to establish the right connections, to correctly and competently represent the local teams in the world,” Gevorgyan noted.
IBM has its own program for startups - Global Entrepreneur. Startups, registered in the program, not only receive guidance from experts of the company, but also free software. According to Gevorgyan, startups working with cloud technologies have the chance to obtain a $120,000-worth IBM license. An Armenia team has received a $25,000-worth license for the use of the technology. Given the enormous competition, it is undoubtedly a very serious achievement.
Business Development Manager at the Innovative Solutions and Technologies Center, Artur Ghulyan explained that business skills should be developed thorough market investigation in order to have a better understanding of the exact needs of the market. The center is thus developing a variety of programs and trainings. SPSS Statistics, for instance, is being implemented for Armenian universities: this is a computer program for statistical processing of data. The program is among the market leaders in the field of commercial data products, designed to conduct applied research in the social sciences. It is widely used in banking, telecommunications and other sectors. On the other hand, various training programs are also carried out, allowing professionals to use IBM technology in a particular field.
According to Gevorgyan, Armenia, to some extent, has formed an ecosystem, in which startups and investors are already familiar with each other thanks to annual events and the existence of various funding sources.
“Every possible condition has been created in modern Armenia for startups to develop their own product and present it to the world market. We also have a venture fund, so there is no need to find major sources of funding from other countries. At the same time, there are many problems of mainly "cultural" component. It is necessary to accommodate the business skills, typical of the Armenian people, into the definition of a modern entrepreneur in order to properly realize the existing potential. Entrepreneurship should be promoted in universities. The students should know that they can use the knowledge to create their own startups, rather than seek to work in other companies,” Gevorgyan said.
Ghulyan noted, in turn, that given the size of the domestic market, Armenian startups focus mainly on foreign markets. To stabilize the business, however, extensive links, networking opportunities are necessary to give us an accurate idea of the market and its requirements.