11:55 | 30.06.14 | Articles | exclusive 6365

HIVE wants to encourage a vibrant startup ecosystem to continue to grow in Armenia

HIVE is a Hovnanian Foundation project. Last year, HIVE’s three cofounders, Nina Kouyoumdjian, Laura Bilazarian and Hrag Hamalian came together to conceptualize an online space for Armenian techies, innovators and founders from all over the world to network and focus on economic development in Armenia. Recently the project website Hivestart.com was launched. Mediamax has talked with director of HIVE, Glen Dalakian II.

-HIVE is the first virtual network and accelerator for Armenian startups and mentors from around the globe. How is HIVE going to help startups around the world?

- Users can sign up and create a profile which allows them to search for talents and skills of other members and also apply to be accelerated by HIVE.

Acceleration means that we provide seed investment for each tech startup and for the next 6-9 months one of our advisors works with that start up as a mentor.

After that period, we help them to find their next round of investment to really scale their company. HIVE is not only targeting Armenians from Armenia, but Armenians all across the diaspora. This is the only way to fill any gaps in the Armenian startup ecosystem.

- As mentioned on your website, you have already selected your first startups to accelerate.

- Yes, so far we have funded four projects. The goal is to have different selection rounds annually. At the end of the year we will be looking to invest in our next round and will choose 3-5 more projects.

When we first began screening startups early this year, we heard pitches from over 20 great Armenian startups from all over the world. In the next round, we narrowed the circle to the seven that best fit our criteria and in April we held a live Google Hangout pitch session with all of them. Our advisor panel asked questions and provided feedback for each company. Afterwards, the advisors voted and selected the final startups we are accelerating today, including:

- Discotech is a premier nightlife app, allowing users to browse tables, sign up for free guest lists, book table service, buy tickets, and get VIP access to their favorite clubs. Right now it is functional in Los Angeles and Las Vegas and will expend to other cities soon;

- News Deeply is a new media and technology firm dedicated to improving the user experience of complex global issues. Their first project is called Syria Deeply and provides in depth news coverage of the entire Syrian conflict. They are creating a replicable content platform for other topics and clients;

- AthElite is the first truly comprehensive, interconnected and engaging sports database. It allows users to discover unique datasets and create or share content about their favorite sports moments. All of the statistics from every professional sport in the U.S. will be searchable on the site;
   
- Browsy transforms your Pinterest fashion boards into your own personal shopping catalogue and allows you to easily price compare when shopping online.

- All four startups which you have mentioned are in the early stages of their development. Do you also fund ideas stage startups?

-Right now we don’t directly fund idea-stage startups. The projects we accelerate need to be in development with at least some traction. Right now we are looking at startups in the seed stage.

But HIVE has a ton of resources for idea stage startups and budding entrepreneurs. One of our goals is to help these idea stage companies get to the next stage where we could invest in them.

Individuals can create online profiles via the website and find other people to hire, partner with or directly invest in their company. We are about to launch some great new tools as well to encourage online mentorship and map the global Armenian tech ecosystem. We already have nearly 300 members signed up to the website since our launch in New York on May 22nd.

- Are there any deadlines for companies to apply for HIVE funding?

- Companies can apply any time. Each of the startups we are looking to fund should have at least one cofounder of Armenian heritage, they don’t have to live in Armenia. But we do want each of our portfolio companies to look to hiring in Armenia as they scale – this is very important to us. We are looking forward to working with startups all around the world.

-The next launch event will take place in Yerevan on July 2nd. What will be discussed during that event?

-Before heading to Yerevan, we just hosted our first launch event in New York on May 22nd with over 100 attendees. On July 2nd we will gather at the TUMO Center in Yerevan to launch HIVE in Armenia. By the time we come to Yerevan we plan to have more tools and resources available for members on our website. These include tools for people to find mentors and directly network with other members to find talent, cofounders and other resources via the HIVE platform.

The goal of the Yerevan launch is to share the 2.0 version of the website with more of these social features. Following that, we will also host an event for the community in San Francisco and hopefully elsewhere.

- What is the most important thing about HIVE for you?

- For me the most important thing about HIVE is the connecting value. It’s the first time that serious steps are being implemented to bring all stakeholders in the Armenian tech space together. Anybody can create a profile, find an employee, a founder, an entrepreneur, a high level manager, or investor. The beauty of the platform is that everybody can contribute and everyone can benefit.

We are trying to encourage companies around the world to invest in Armenia and encourage them to hire in Armenia, so we help our portfolio companies and network members to connect with talent and resources in Armenia. We think this is one of the strongest ways to support development of Armenia.

We want to represent Armenian startup potential to the world. We also want to encourage a vibrant startup ecosystem to continue to grow in Armenia, because lots of interesting projects are just popping up to support entrepreneurship there. The buzz is definitely building among young Armenians looking to go into a tech field or those hoping to start their own companies. We want to support them with the resources they need by tapping the most successful entrepreneurs in the diaspora to serve as mentors and by filling in the gaps in investment, talent, and knowledge through this connectivity. 

Glen Dalakian II was interviewed by Narine Daneghyan