11:36 | 27.12.16 | Articles | exclusive 31217

2016: Global tech figures advise Armenian startups

Itel.am presented interviews with famous tech people throughout 2016.

From advice for startups to predictions about the future of technologies - Itel.am brings from archive the most important ideas and recommendations of the year.

Raffi Krikorian, former Twitter Vice President, current Engineering Director at Uber Advanced Technologies Center

Raffi Krikorian Raffi Krikorian


“I think that with its education system, Armenia can become a part of that market [Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning] 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.”

Paul Asoyan, team member of Google Strategic Partnership

Paul Asoyan Paul Asoyan


“I would recommend focusing on these three points during product development: big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence. I am sure that artificial intelligence and machine learning are our only future. Nevertheless, if the companies are uninterested in these directions, they should at least include parts of them, while developing their own product. I think that Armenia has a huge amount of talent, especially concerning fundamental sciences. I wouldn’t recommend focusing on mobile applications, QA, front-end development, or outsourcing. We should focus on what Armenia has always been good at - fundamental sciences and statistics.”

Ronald Weissman, President of Band of Angels, one of the oldest seed investments companies in Silicon Valley

“Human capital in Armenia is phenomenal. I visited hundreds of education institutes in the US and Europe in the course of my career. But there are only a few places in the world like Tumo, for example. Your students are very good at mathematics, chess, and are rather tech-savvy. However, Armenia has an infrastructure problem, which isn’t characteristic only for Armenia. The same is true for other small but smart countries, like Chile. The problem is that Armenian market is very small. I would like the regional market to be larger. Some measures can be taken, for instance, to co-create a market 4-5 times the size of Armenia with Georgia, Iran and Russia in order to invest capital and facilitate trade”.

Ronald Weissman Ronald Weissman


“Silicon Valley has a very open environment. Armenian entrepreneurs feel quite well there and have the advantage of the Diaspora. There is a so-called natural network. Can this network become more powerful and promising? Yes, it can. I would suggest creating an information service, where the Armenians from Diaspora can learn about tech opportunities that work in Armenia or in the Armenian communities. I know many Armenians and I tell them about Armenia’s tech potential, and they want to get involved. It is important to build bridges between Armenia and Silicon Valley, New York and other tech centers.”

Michael Kogeler, General Manager of the CEE Multicountry region at Microsoft

Michael Kogeler and Itel.am reporter Narine Daneghyan Michael Kogeler and Itel.am reporter Narine Daneghyan


“I often say if you have a fantastic solution but a bad presentation, no one will believe you. You need to move forward in coding and business directions too… Be daring, and don’t get embarrassed. I noticed that young people here are shy, perhaps because of the language barrier. Don’t be arrogant, but don’t be shy either. I would like to address my next advice to the state: IT ecosystem needs to be built, if you wish to be competitive on the international market. You can link IT to lawyers and organize another Hackathon with their participations.   If you are a baker, you are likely to be doing your job perfectly. You do not know anything about IT, yet IT can help you bake easier and provide higher quality. My third advice will be the following: do not be afraid of failures. I always tell my teams that once you manage to learn something new from your failures, you will achieve more successes in the future.”

Adora Cheung, Y Combinator partner

Adora Cheung Adora Cheung


“Don’t be afraid to apply to Y Combinator. Just filling the application is a good idea on its own - to think more thoroughly about the specific features of your business. If they don’t try, they will never get results. At least half of our startups were rejected once or more. Here you need to be obstinate and keep trying. It’s a good opportunity to come to Silicon Valley, and I think that many Armenian startups would like to operate in Silicon Valley.”

Christian Schellenberger, Managing Director of German IT Consulting BerlinerStrategen http://www.itel.am/en/news/8597

Christian Schellenberger Christian Schellenberger


“Entrepreneurship is not short-term thinking only; it requires Armenia to have companies that will think not just about the next two years, but in a scope of 10-20 years, in order to create jobs in future. It is not about selling everything right now, is it?”

“If I founded a startup here, I would focus on Armenia’s main values, the values the world might not know about. I would try to scale these values and channel them into the world. This is better than taking and adapting models from USA, Europe or Asia.”

Sam Adams, Manager for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Invest Atlanta


“I’m a huge proponent of startups traveling and learning from others in other places, but if I were building a startup here in Armenia and I needed to go to one place, I wouldn’t automatically pick the USA because it has Silicon Valley. I would go somewhere where startups are doing something similar to me because it’s always easier when people understand your business.”

Sam Adams Sam Adams


“Look at IT ecosystem as a community. That can be anything from weekly drinks with other people in startup community to attending similar conferences. Creating that sense of community and support is huge. Building a company is an incredibly difficult thing and being around people that are doing what you’re doing helps. It also helps to celebrate each other’s success”.

Maria Podlesnova, CEO at Rusbase that realizes Smart City project

Maria Podlesnova Maria Podlesnova


“Ask yourself if that is really what you want to do in your life. Building up a startup is really stressful as your success consists of 2 main components: hard work and luck. One doesn’t happen without the other.  Don’t wait for the better moment, it can be too late. Moreover, it is always too late. Don’t be afraid to work with big companies. They don’t need you as much as you need them.”

Narine Daneghyan