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Armenia Startup Academy: New Opportunities for Armenian Start-Ups

Mane Gevorgyan

On October 16, the Armenia Startup Academy will be launched in Armenia, which aims to develop the Armenian start-up ecosystem by utilizing necessary knowledge and experience, and create an environment where global level technology start-ups will be born.

It will help start-ups to create products that are really needed and for which people are willing to pay.

The Academy is one of the initiatives of the Catalyst Foundation created by SmartGateVC's founders. It is implemented within the framework of the SMEDA program funded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and supported by the German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation (GIZ).

All operating start-ups can apply to the Armenian Startup Academy before October 9. As this is a pre-acceleration program, start-ups have to have completed the incubation period intended for the original idea.

Up to 15 start-ups will be selected based on applications and interviews. The duration of this educational program is twelve weeks.

The first four weeks are intended for clarifying internal and external factors associated with start-ups. During that time, the discussed topics will include work efficiency of the founders, options to improve product quality, the market and potential investors.

During the following four weeks, the market will be selected and developed, and, by the end, start-up’s strategy of “going to market” will be ready. Many factors will be taken into account: potential accelerators in the given market, user behavior, prospects of product development in the given market, etc.

The last four weeks are for preparing for market validation. It is anticipated that, at the end of the program, startups will continue to operate for some time in the already chosen market or will be included in some global accelerator to clarify the existing business assumptions.

Armenia Startup Academy is based on some of the programs used in the Silicon Valley, which have been developed and adapted to the Armenian reality. Some entrepreneurs from the diaspora expressed willingness to support the project. Many of them will be involved in the program as mentors or simply help with their advice.

The program is primarily intended for selected start-ups, but public events will be open to all. There are no restrictions on participation. It is envisaged that participants will spend most of the day in a special co-working area, which will also include meeting rooms.

Mentors, trainers, instructors, entrepreneurial assistants will work in the Academy, conveying their expertise and knowledge on specific areas. Invited speakers will lecture on a variety of topics. Five priority areas have been identified: Growth hacking, Product analytics, Customer development, Sales, Communication and Culture. Within several weeks, these topics have been thoroughly studied by previously selected seven young professionals, who will now pass their knowledge to start-ups. One of the important opportunities offered by the Academy will be the use of customer development tracking methodology. Due to this approach, which is accessible to few, it is possible to clarify the customer segment, value proposition, and optimize sales channels.

Co-founder of SmartGateVC, Hambardzum Kaghketsyan, says the Academy's educational program is intended not only for providing theoretical and practical knowledge, but also for making start-ups as ready as possible from the perspective of investors. "Venture investors, before making a decision, check ten possible aspects of the start-up. There are technical, market, financial, legal, team, customer-related and other due diligence processes. Our program includes relevant topics to address each of these ten aspects every week, " Hambardzum says.

Every three weeks, start-ups will summarize the results of their work during their presentations. During this entire period, as well as on the last day, different investors will be present.

Co-founder of SmartGateVC Ashot Arzumanyan says, "As venture co-investments are very popular, we do everything we can to make the Academy's investors acquainted with each other, follow the start-ups activities, so that they also invest in them."

After completing this program of the Armenia Startup Academy, start-ups will be ready for independent development or participation in the accelerator program, having an action plan for 6-12 months.

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