In March 2016 CEED Armenia launched the Armenia – US IT Acceleration Program of Enterprise Incubator Foundation, Government of Armenia, and the World Bank. The goal of the program is to help Armenian technology startups connect to Silicon Valley and succeed in the global markets. It started with local acceleration activities, as a result of which 5 startups will be selected to go to the Bay Area to meet with potential investors, clients, and partners. The visiting entrepreneurs will also have a chance to pitch their products at the Armenia IT Startup Forum, which will take place in the Bay Area on June 10 as part of the program.
The local acceleration program includes a range of training sessions on topics of particular relevance for startups, including product-market fit, minimum viable product (MVP), business models, fundraising, sales, key performance indicators (KPIs), legal issues, intellectual property (IP), etc. The sessions are led by experienced entrepreneurs, investors and experts from Armenia and abroad. The participants have had a chance to learn from such accomplished instructors as Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of priceline.com, seasoned business executive and investor (based in Chicago); Naeem Zafar, founder and CEO of TeleSense and entrepreneurship instructor in the MBA program at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley (based in Silicon Valley); Amoor Avakian, co-founder of successful companies in Israel, Netherlands, and Armenia and CTO of Ginosi (based in Yerevan), Jaka Levstek, serial entrepreneur and CEO of D.Labs (based in London), and many others.
Another important element of the local acceleration is creating opportunities for the participants to practice their pitches and receive valuable feedback that can help build better products and communicate more effectively with potential investors. In order to provide global perspectives, CEED has engaged international investors, such as Sam Sezak, Partner at Blue Heron Capital (Portland, OR), to listen to the pitches and share their comments and recommendations. In the upcoming sessions the participants will receive feedback from Max Gurvits, Director for CEE, CIS, and MENA at Cross Border Angels; James Hunt, Managing Partner at Lavrock Ventures (Washington, DC); and Ronald Weissman, Chairman of Software SIG at Band of Angels (Silicon Valley). In addition to his experience as an investor, Ronald Weissman has extensively worked with Steve Jobs and has valuable insights to share about working with a visionary entrepreneur.
The local acceleration activities will culminate in the Demo Day scheduled on May 14. Having heard the participants’ pitches, the selection committee will choose 5 most promising entrepreneurs who will be provided with an opportunity to travel to Silicon Valley and will receive additional assistance to prepare for meetings with potential investors, clients, and partners. Moreover, an orientation program in the Bay Area will be organized to provide an introduction to this entrepreneurship ecosystem and create opportunities for the Armenian startups to meet some of the key players. It is expected that this experience will strengthen the ties between Armenia and Silicon Valley and pave the way for many similar undertakings in the future.