13:51 | 17.10.16 | Interviews | exclusive 74669

Raffi Krikorian: Armenia should move in direction of AI solutions

Silicon Valley UNLEASHED: Inside Tech’s Greatest Minds event, organized by HIVE Seed Fund, took place on October 15, Tumo Center for Creative Technologies in Yerevan.

Itel.am talked to former Twitter Vice President, current Engineering Director at Uber Advanced Technologies Center Raffi Krikorian, who came to Yerevan to participate in the event.

- We talked about a year and a half ago last time. What new developments have you noticed in Armenia’s technological sector?

photo © Mediamax

- Armenian IT shows rather strong progress. You notice it when you follow the works of, for example, HIVE or various IT companies, which apply to me for consultation. It is difficult now to tell foreigners that this product I’m showing was created in Armenia, because it could be created anywhere.

Armenian tech products are rich and mature. If people engage in this sphere more, many others will get inspired and join them.

- You said in the previous interview, “If you’re Armenian, I’ll support you”. Did many startups apply to you for support after this statement?

- Of course, many more people started emailing me. Sometimes I receive similar messages on LinkedIn and Twitter. I encourage people to continue writing to me.

- I’d like to recall something from our previous interview again. You recommended startups to “think globally”. Do you think the number of “globally thinking” Armenian startups have grown in this time?

- I think yes. The products I’m familiar with target everyone, in any corner of the world. I think it’s important to have this approach – it doesn’t matter where you are now, even the product created in Armenia at this moment can be successful on the international arena.

- How many Armenian startups are you working with now?

- There are a few, where I am in the Board or where I am an official adviser. I actually keep in touch and talk to hundreds of people.

-What would be your advice to globally thinking Armenian startups?

-Taking into consideration the trend that the world moves towards Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning solutions, it is necessary to think in that exact direction.  

Raffi Krikorian Raffi Krikorian
photo © Mediamax

I arrived in Yerevan from Washington, where I was participating in the conference on those topics, organized in the White House. I think that with its education system, Armenia can become a part of that market in 5 years.  

There are already a lot of things to do, and all should start from the bases of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. The world is moving in that direction. This is what I do at Uber Advanced Technologies Centers (self-driving cars).  Imagine these machines become as powerful as computers, and Armenia becomes a part of that process.

- Do you think that if there is an Armenian startup developing Artificial Intelligence solutions, it will be the first to attract your attention?

-Absolutely, I will talk to them.  

- Many think that it will take some years to make self-driving cars production perfect. What is your vision?
- There are three things we should take into account. First of all, the technology should be good itself, and I think there is noticeable progress in this direction. Secondly, current regulations; and thirdly, people should accept these technologies. It won’t if people do not have desire to be close to driving these cars or drive them. I think we need some time to align these three points and make them work.    

Today a number of self-driving cars operate in Pittsburg. People drive them, and it seems they are content. Car ratings are quite high.
There is also a security driver in each car, who makes sure everything goes well, answers the questions, and makes notes, if something is wrong, although those drivers are usually observers.

Narine Daneghyan talked to Raffi Krikorian