11:45 | 29.04.15 | Interviews | exclusive 190146

Raffi Krikorian: “If you’re Armenian I’ll support you”

It’s already a month that Twitter’s former Vice President Raffi Krikorian has been appointed  Engineering Lead at Uber Advanced Technologies Center.

Raffi Krikorian was in Armenia a couple of days ago. On April 25, he took part in HIVE Engineering Leadership Summit at TUMO Center for Creative Technologies.

Below is Itel.am’s exclusive interview with Raffi Krikorian.

-As I know you currently support a few Armenian high tech companies while being presented in U.S. market. What qualities does the Armenian startup need to have to get your attention?

-Honestly, if you are Armenian, I will probably want to help you. There are too many startups that ask for my help and it’s difficult to make them all go through but if you are Armenian I will cut the line and talk to you anyway. Just having Armenian identity is enough to get my attention. In USA these days I am very interested in an Armenian startup called CodeFights. Its founder Tigran Sloyan is from Yerevan and he has moved to USA a few years ago. There is another Armenian startup that will be launched a few months later.

-What are the most common mistakes every Armenian startup makes?

-There are a few. First they don’t show what they are building and hold it a secret too long. They want to wait until they think the product becomes perfect. But you need to show it and realize what is bad in it. The impressions can probably surprise you badly but it’s something necessary. 

The Armenian startups do not devote proper time to design. We have really great engineers but they have to learn building and finishing products. Probably it’s because of the education system here, actually maybe we don’t teach very well here it.

There are good professionals. What is missing is the connectivity to the rest of the world. Learning how to lead teams, develop soft skills and engineering management. I hope this stuff with building teams and companies will be fixed.

-Is it possible to become a good tech professional while studying in Armenia?

-Absolutely.  You can launch a website in Armenia and the world can use it. They say we need to go to US to launch a product. But you can do the same here, in Europe. PicsArt and Teamable are a great example of this.

-You have joined Uber one month ago. We were used to call you “Twitter’s Raffi”, and now have to get used with “Uber’s Raffi” nickname. What are your first impressions from the new job?

-I can really talk only about what I particularly do in Uber. I work on projects which are 5-10 years away from now. I work on very future based things. But that job is really awesome. I haven’t slept very much in last month because I really love my job and work on it really hard. But Uber's Advanced Technologies Group is a separate part of Uber.

Raffi Krikorian and Narine Daneghyan
Photo: Mediamax

-What are self-driving cars and when they will probably go to market?

-I don’t really know when they will go to the market. And I can’t confirm whether I work on that project or not. But the goal of self-driving cars is that you buy a car and it takes you from Point A to Point B. Lots of people are working on this right now. And I think this is going to be the next shift in the transportation world.

-Based on the fact that you have been with Twitter for a long period of time, you would probably know what news does Twitter currently have for Armenia? For example when to expect Armenia have place in location based trends?

-Again I can’t speak exactly but the priority of countries listed there is based on the usage of Twitter in those locations. In case if there is lots of usage in Armenia than the Twitter team would consider putting Armenia in location based trends. By the way, I know that recently hashtags in Armenian language started to work. So these are incremental steps.

-Did you know that a few Uber style services currently work in Armenia?

-Yeah, I was introduced to them.

-Would you like to introduce them to Uber at your turn?

-Yes, I will be happy to do that.

-If you were invited to have a speech at TEDx Yerevan, which topic would you choose?

- Probably something around Diaspora, about what identity means these days. I am 1/2 Armenian, my son is 1/4; Armenian, my Armenian is pretty bad, but despite this I still consider us all Armenian. A huge amount of Armenians does not live in this country and it would be interesting to know what it means to be an Armenian outside Armenia. I have some thoughts about it and would love to talk on that topic.

By the way, HIVE Engineering Leadership Summit was a great experience. I would love to see such kind of events organized again, but next time I hope we will have local speakers who would share their experience with local startups.

Narine Daneghyan talked to Raffi Krikorian.