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Dutch entrepreneur: Armenian startups lack business sense

Maurice Beckand Verwee is a Dutch entrepreneur and investor, founder of CrossSpring seed accelerator and incubator.

The entrepreneur got acquainted with more than 25 startups during his visit to Armenia at the end of 2016, participated in Venture Forum of Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Program (STEP) and Empowering Ideas: Startups and Development Global Forum.

Maurice Beckand Verwee told Itel.am about his impressions of the Armenian IT sector and European trends.

“Some of the Armenian startups are successful, as they have great teams, as well as technical and commercial readiness. Other companies, on the contrary, have a lot of technology specialists on the board, which is great of course, but they need to be able to sell their products. Armenian startups mostly lack business sense,” the entrepreneur noted, adding that his company plans to invest in one of Armenian startups in the nearest future.

Maurice Beckand Verwe advises to look carefully into the market, on which a startup is going to work.

“Western European countries may offer great opportunities for Armenian startups. You can use it as a testing ground to see, if your team is capable of working internationally.  You can also get some knowledge and attract some capital along the way. I spoke to a founder of an Armenian startup during my visit to Armenia, who told me about his meetings with some people in France. He also expressed readiness to go into French market. I told him: “Ok, that is great, but first you need to make a short list of what you think is necessary for you, when you enter into a country. Observe the network of startups there and whether the government is flexible enough, observe privacy laws and whether it is easy to get your money from that country, once you decide to go back to Armenia,”” Maurice Beckand Verwee remarked.

According to the Dutch entrepreneur, there could also be some cultural differences.

“You will need to fit into that atmosphere. You may fit in perfectly in the Netherlands, but you may as well not fit in Belgium. There are so many differences, but that is also a great thing,” he notes.

Maurice Beckand Verwe emphasized that sometimes you needed to observe not only the country itself, but a specific region in that country.

“This requires a lot of efforts, but if you invest some time, you will find quite a lot of opportunities in Western European markets too. That region is currently trying to build bridges with Eastern European countries, including Armenia,” he said.  

The Dutch entrepreneur emphasized that finding qualified specialists in IT sphere was quite difficult in Europe.
“One of the issues in Western Europe is the fact that large corporations need to get all those youngsters from colleges into their companies with high salaries. We need much more people in startup industry as a result,” Maurice Beckand Verwee said.

The entrepreneur advised to travel more and establish more contacts.

“Open up the network and let people show the values. Maybe you will not like some of those things, but it is better to know it beforehand. If Armenian startups are interested, they can come over to the Netherlands for a couple of days, they can stay at our office for free and establish contacts with local startups. There are some other hubs in Europe, which cooperate with us. I am sure they are also open to receive these startups.”

Speaking about global cooperation, Maurice Beckand Verwee suggested Armenia to become a mediator between other countries.

“Iran is opening up, and I know that some Dutch companies are looking into the Iranian market. Probably they will find it difficult to do business directly with Iran. So why not do it through Armenia? I think that Armenia needs to negotiate on this both with the Netherlands and Iran,” the Dutch entrepreneur suggested.
 
Narine Daneghyan talked to Maurice Beckand Verwee

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