16:15 | 28.12.16 | Articles | exclusive 39228

Armenian tech developments in 2016

Turnover in Armenian IT sector made USD 500 mln in 2016, which influenced GDP by 6%. There are 540 IT companies in Armenia, which involve 16 000 specialists of the sector.  According to preliminary data, 20% growth will be registered in 2016.

Itel.am summed up technological year of 2016 and now presents the most significant tendencies and events of this year.

1.    Doors to Silicon Valley opened even broader

Shadowmatic won in 2 categories (Best Technical Achievement and Audience Award) during International Mobile Gaming Awards 2016, which took place in San Francisco.

HyeTech Showcase 2016 and HIVE Pitch Competition took place on April 9 at Berkeley University, which gathered together 150 Armenian entrepreneurs from around the world. A week earlier 15 Armenian entrepreneurs took part in a tour to Silicon Valley and developed their pitching skills.  As a result, ARMACAD team received USD 50 000 investment from HIVE.

Armenian Treescale startup pitched in Silicon Valley Open Doors (SVOD) technology investment conference.

Armenia IT Forum took place (in Armenian) on June 10 in Silicon Valley, within the frames of which development tendencies of Armenian IT and perspectives of entering international arena were discussed.

Armenian Immersive Education Solutions project together with 14 more startups passed the final stage of GIST Tech (Global Innovation through Science and Technology) contest, which was held in Silicon Valley on June 23-24, 2016.

Itel.am correspondent visited Silicon Valley in spring and presented Google Headquarters from the very heart of world’s tech.

2.     New opportunities for investment

HIVE Investment Fund announced the launch of HIVE Seed Fund initiative, within the frames of which the Fund will make investments and cooperate with Armenian startups from different parts of the world. From Silicon Valley to Armenia, the HIVE Seed Fund will focus on the startups, that create revolutionary technological solutions, aimed at forming a team in Armenia, which will solve global challenges.

The winners of From Idea to Market competition of the Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Program (STEP), which took place at Innovative Solutions and Technologies Center (ISTC) within Venture Forum, were announced in December. 5 out of 20 investment projects won the competition and received AMD 2 800 000 prize each to bring their innovative ideas to life.

You can read about the 4 Armenian companies that received more than USD 1 million investments this year here.

3.     Intensification of Army-IT cooperation  

Conditioned by 4-day April war, more and more discussions were underway (Armenian) on incorporation of IT into Armed Forces. Working groups from Armenian Defense Ministry and IT sector were already formed at the end of April. The initiative was aimed at mobilization of scientific potential and human resources, as well incorporating it in current military industrial system. More than 300 specialists joined (Armenian) the Mobilization program in June.

From Army to IT program was launched in August, aimed at providing fluent integration of young people, that have finished their service in the Army, as well as providing decent jobs and reducing migration risks. 15 demobilized young people have already taken part in the 6-month program, which includes 1-month practice in IT companies. Trainings for more than 80 more young people will kick off in January.   

Plenty of military solutions were introduced during the 12th DigiTec Expo, within the frames of which a number of local companies presented solutions, applicable for strengthening of the Armenian defense sector.    

ArmHiTec-2016, First 3-day International Exhibition of Arms and Defense Technologies kicked off on October 13. It was held in Armenia for the first time and was aimed at introduction and application of local military-technical achievements, promotion of investments and extension of international ties.

4.     Representatives from Uber, Google and Twitter in Yerevan

There was a techno celebration in Yerevan in October, which involved events almost every day of the month. Silicon Valley UNLEASHED: Inside Tech’s Greatest Minds was one of the most significant events, organized by HIVE Investment Fund at TUMO center. The international speakers were quite representative: Raffi Krikorian, Engineering Lead at Uber Advanced Technologies, Chris Valasek, Security Lead at same company, David Loftesness , Former Director of Engineering at Twitter, Google Representative Paul Asoyan, HIVE Seed Fund founder Nina Achadjian, Ronald Weissman from Band of Angels, one of the oldest seed investment organizations in Silicon Valley and others.

5.     First Armenian smartphones and smart watches

Technology and Science Dynamics (TSD) put ArmPhone first Armenian smartphones on sale in June. 5 models of ArmPhone were presented, costing from AMD 51 000 up to AMD 151 000.

The phones get branding and design in Armenia, the parts are ordered abroad, and models are assembled in Yerevan. The main specific features of ArmPhone are low price, Armenian interface, Armenian ringtones and wallpapers.

TSD Flex first Armenian smart watch appeared on sales in December.

6.    Towards artificial intelligence

Research lab YerevaNN, working with machine learning algorithms, opened in Yerevan this October. Its objective is to facilitate high profile research on artificial intelligence and quality teaching of machine learning and related topics in Armenia.

Founder of the lab Hrant Khachatryan told Itel.am that their main mission is to ensure competitive working conditions for students interested in science.

7.    Tech centers open

In June, Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) was opened at the American University of Armenia. It is equipped with modern generation devices, including 3D printers, 3D laser scanners, and vacuum forming devices. In January 2017 the center will launch startup incubator.

In October, Vanadzor Technology Center was opened. In the next 2-3 years it will retrain around 4000 specialist, create 900 jobs, realize projects in environmentally friendly technologies, form an architectural cluster, and provide annual support to at least 50 teams and organizations.

In November, Innovative Solutions and Technologies Center (ISTC) was opened in Yerevan. It is equipped with the latest technology and completed with IBM solutions. The center already announced the launch of ISTC research grand program, which will support projects in entering the market.

In summer entrepreneur and benefactor Ruben Vardanyan announced that the IDeA Foundation and partners were preparing to launch Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology - FAST. According to him, FAST will focus on creation of environment for tech innovations in Armenia, as well as mobilization of scientific, technological and financial resources of Armenia and the world.

8.    Competition among online taxi services

The gg vs Yandex Taxi battle began in June, when Yandex announced its decision to enter the market the next month and offer revolutionary tariffs (AMD 100 for the first two kilometers and then AMD 100 for each kilometer).

This announcement was followed by gg founder’s famous speech at Barcamp 2016, where he urged to choose local, Armenian product.

Yandex was true to their word first, and the revolutionary tariffs worked out, but gradually their price policy changed. The company began to charge AMD 200 for the first two kilometers and then AMD 100 for each kilometer. Today Yandex charges double in rush hours and bad weather. As for gg, their minimal tariff remains AMD 600.

9.    The first FinTech hackathon

On October 28-29, 21 teams took part in Fintegration, the first FinTech hackathon, at Dilijan Training and Research Centre of the Central Bank of Armenia. The hackathon aimed to unite financial services and digital technologies.

General Manager of the CEE Multicountry region at Microsoft Michael Kogeler, who attended the hackathon, told Itel.am:

“I was surprised to see such ideas, all different. It was marvelous to see what people can do in just 24 hours. In this case imagine what they can do if they cooperate for 365 days.”

10.    Blockchain and Armenia

Founder and CEO of Blockchain startup DECENT Matej Michalko told Itel.am they were going to use Armenia’s intellectual potential, resources and experience to develop blockchain technologies.

“We want to create products and solutions that enable convenient, direct, and secure exchange of digital content globally. We want to bring Blockchain Technology to mass markets and public domains through everlasting innovation and vertical Integration into Industries and systems. We want to build a team which will take Blockchain Technologies mainstream.”

It is noteworthy that USD 4.2 mln was invested to found the center (Blockchain Research and Development Hub) in Armenia as a result of crowdfunding with 4300 participating sponsors. At the moment the hub is looking for web developers in Armenia.

Tech year in Itel.am

2016 was a turning point for Itel.am as well. In the middle of the year we relaunched our website with an absolutely new design and updated software. The new “Events” section provides complete information about IT-related events in Armenia. Another section presents famous Armenians in tech industry, as well as successful Armenian apps.

We introduced 3 new series this year: Girls in Tech, IT Kids, and TechMonth.

We promise to carefully follow developments in IT sector in 2017, presenting to you the most interesting and inspirational stories.

Itel.am wishes you a year filled with technological victories. Happy New Year and a Merry Christmas!

Narine Daneghyan
Tatev Hovhannisyan