14:18 | 04.07.17 | Interviews | exclusive 186287

Startup Wise Guys: Armenia is a small country with great tech

Last week Microsoft Innovation Center Armenia held the Investor and Mentorship Day, organized by Startup Wise Guys accelerator (Estonia), Paris-based StartDoon investment initiative and Microsoft Innovation Center with support from smartgate.vc and Inapptics.

Throughout the day, Armenian and foreign mentors worked office hours with 13 selected B2B and B2C startups.

As a result, OnQuark customs service solutions provider won the quota for Techchill in Riga in February, 2018. Another Armenian startup LiveBoard earned admission to Startup Wise Guys accelerator’s selection in Latvia.

Itel.am talked to representatives of Startup Wise Guys M. Wallace Green and Egita Polanska on their visit to Yerevan.

-To what extent success of Inapptics influenced your decision to visit Armenia? What are your expectations here?  

Egita Polanska. Basically Inapptics was the first Armenian startup, involved in our program. Having spoken to the founders, we realized the necessity of visiting Armenia and getting acquainted with the ecosystem.  We also met with StartDoon representatives. They were committed to visiting Armenia, so we decided to come together and create this event.

The main goal of our 3-day visit was recruiting potential startups for the next round of our acceleration program. I am impressed with the talents and quality of Armenian startups.

We were at a number of IT companies like Zangi, PicsArt, Workfront, Impact Hub and Tumo center.

Within the frames of our first visit here, we are trying to figure out the local ecosystem, main players and the extent of their interest in working with us. This will help us understand whether we should come back to Armenia for further cooperation.  

We will probably return in January to recruit new startups for our acceleration program.

Wallace Green. Startup Wise Guys has a Baltic history. Startups from more and more countries have joined the program over the years. We chose 11 companies from 8 countries in the last round of the program.

We are always looking for Europe’s best and brightest B2B startups. Co-founder of Inapptics Ashot Tonoyan told us a lot about Armenia and we decided to visit the country within the frames of our tour in 24 cities.  If we succeed in bringing another Armenian startup into our next round, we will certainly be back here in the future.

-You worked with more than 10 Armenian startups in one day and saw the pitching process. In your view, what are the specifics of Armenian startup ecosystem?

Wallace Green. Honestly, we have seen a lot of pitching in a number of cities. Each of those markets has its own dynamics.

Armenia has a very clear and at the same time strong ecosystem with a pipeline of strong companies coming out. Technology expertise is also on high level: apparently universities are very strong. It is a great opportunity for us, since we help technical founders with the fundamentals of running a business, including pitching.

Egita Polanska. Compared to other countries, Armenia has a strong tech talent: AI, math, physics are very developed here.

Nevertheless, there is a room for improvement in pitching, marketing and sales. Basically, you need to develop investment sector, promote angel networks, and I have already met people engaged in the process here.

I would also like to remark that we came here not only to recruit startups for our acceleration program. We would also like to meet main players, new partners and help the local ecosystem.

-You selected Liveboard for a fast track for your program. What were the main factors that influenced your decision?

Wallace Green. We always choose startups based on 3 criteria: a unique and different idea, opportunity for expanding market, and most importantly, the founding team. Initially early stage investors choose exactly founders.

Liveboard attracted us with its unique idea of digital collaboration, sort of Skype and whiteboard platforms combined. We also really liked the coachability of the team, as they are very open to external feedback.
By the way, we find this ecosystem + Armenian diaspora effect very interesting. Being a small country with great tech, Armenians are present on most active startup markets in the world.

Armenia is a perspective market for us. I am really curious if our acceleration model + US diaspora can essentially be a part of bridging Armenian startups with both Europe and U.S.

Narine Daneghyan talked to Egita Polanska and Wallace Green.