The press conference speakers included Seda Muradyan, president of the Public Journalism Club; Artashes Vardanyan, acting head of the acceleration project of the Microsoft Innovation Center; Ester Hakobyan, project coordinator at Armenia-Turkey Project of PJC; Cansu Saraç, TEPAV representative; project mentor Arsen Babayan, and jury member Emre Özbek.
Earlier on May 12 the five teams pitched their ideas and presented prototypes. The team that ranked highest on all criteria was recognized as the winning team and received financial support (four thousand Euros) from the European Union funded Support to Armenia-Turkey Normalization Process Programme to implement their business idea. Motivational awards were given in three nominations - the best technological solution, the best pitch and the most viable idea.
Seda Muradyan told the journalists how and when the Exchange of Entrepreneurs Project began. “Over one and a half year ago, with our partner TEPAV Foundation, Turkey, we were developing an idea that could link the ICT sectors in the two countries. It evolved into the Exchange of Entrepreneurs Project within the European Union funded Support to Armenia-Turkey Normalization Process Programme. Last November we hosted a delegation from Turkey to partake in the Armenia-Turkey Startup Weekend,” Seda Muradyan said.
The project emerges among others, first of all, because entrepreneurs from both countries teamed up to develop innovative ideas regardless of the closed borders and pending historic issues, Muradyan believes. The project was implemented by the Microsoft Innovation Center and the Public Journalism Club and supported by the U.S. Embassy in Armenia and European Union.
The technology Goes beyond Borders Project was presented by Artashes Vardanyan. “The project stands out as it gave young entrepreneurs a chance to have a two-month comprehensive and intensive mentorship. In late March the teams took part in the crash course during which they worked with the mentors and experts on and promoted their startups,” Vardanyan said.
The project stirred interest and received a great feedback in Turkey, Cansu Saraç said. Sarac shared thoughts on the Armenia-Turkey reconciliation and how the establishment and strengthening of business ties might enhance the normalization process. “We believe the business relations may contribute to the reconciliation of the two countries’ relations. And now at the final stage we see a great success achieved,” Saraç said.
The project made the IT sectors of the countries closer and more known to the neighbor country. “I can recall a discussion at which an investor from Turkey said he did not know anything about young entrepreneurs and good ideas in Armenia.” The TEPAV representative added she at first viewed the project as an experiment which, though, developed into an entire process. “I believe we’ll enlarge it in future, involving angel investors and creating networks,” Saraç said.
Emre Özbek shared his impressions of the ideas that are viable and aim to tackle important issues. “The ideas are important also because the teams themselves seek to solve not only others’ problems but theirs as well,” Emre Özbek said and added through the training and mentorship the startups have strikingly improved their ideas.
The speakers believe the project made it possible for the IT specialists from Turkey and Armenia to get to know one another and create a collaborative workspace.
“We had little idea how far Armenia or Turkey was from Silicon Valley. Following these visits we came to know one another’s competences better. It would be a pity if all what’s been achieved so far remained at a study level, without continuation and strengthening. Having seen the potential of the IT sector in Turkey and that of the Armenian IT, I believe we can proudly create the Ararat Valley,” Seda Muradyan said.
The press conference was followed by an award ceremony during which Evreka won the prize of four thousand Euros of the TGBB Project. Paqqy, Home Planning and Evreka were awarded the best pitch, most viable and best technological solution prizes respectively.
Arshaluys Mghdesyan, Editor-Coordinator
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