07:10 | 23.06.16 | Interviews | exclusive 24843

Seedstars manager: Armenian startups are highly qualified

On June 25, 12 startups will participate in the local stage of Seedstars Yerevan startup contest, which will be held at American University of Armenia.

The Armenian winner will join 64 winners from other countries to take part in the regional stage and then the final in Switzerland, where the ultimate winner will receive USD 500 000 investment from Seedstars.

The contest is jointly organized by Microsoft Innovation Center Armenia and Seedstars World.

Ahead of the contest, Itel.am talked to Seedstars Regional Manager for CEE/MENA Igor Ovcharenko.

- 12 startups were picked for the final this year. Which directions do they represent?

- Startups in Armenia are rather highly qualified, and to be honest, it was a big surprise for me. In general, we received 66 applications, 45 out of them completed. The majority were mobile applications, only 1 startup represented hardware. Eastern Europe is very famous for this direction, so it was surprising that hardware didn’t receive much interest in the framework of the contest in Armenia. There is also a number of SaaS platforms, several B2B, B2C.

- What did you know about tech ecosystem in Armenia before coming here?

- First, I knew that Armenian startups think out of the box and don’t view Armenia as their primary market. They are particularly interested in American, European or other markets, and that’s where they try to develop their business. It’s great, as you aim high from the beginning.

Second, Diaspora plays a huge role. I learned that, for instance, Tumo Center was initiated by Armenians from Diaspora.

This is my first visit to Armenia, and I hope that I will gather more data and meet many people before it ends.

- What do you think are the main mistakes that startups make during pitching, the most crucial part of Seedstars?

- The main reason of failure at pitching is a too technical presentation. It is often unclear what the teams want, what their business model is and how they intend to earn from it. They have a wonderful product, but they don’t know how to sell it, how to draw attention. Most likely, they are very hard-working and talented people, and if they find a person, a co-founder to deal with business issues, they will get the right mix for success.

We will hold a pitching class in Yerevan the day before the contest to help the participants avoid such mistakes.

- What surprises should Armenian winners anticipate?

- In the first week of December, the regional forum will be held in a place we’ll reveal later. It will be marked by the launch of our acceleration program as well. We realize it for the first time. The online program will last 3 moths, from January until the end of March, and focus on startup development. Then Demo Day will be held in Switzerland. We will defray the participants’ expenses, except for visa. The final is scheduled to take place in that period.

The winners will also get an opportunity to have consultations at the final with media representatives and investors, as well as use online services of our partners.

The winner of the final in Switzerland will receive USD 500 000 investment. Special prize will be awarded to the startup that presents the best solution for improvement of education in rural communities. We have other prizes too, which we’ll reveal later.

Narine Daneghyan talked to Igor Ovcharenko