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October, 2019
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Armen Rostamian: Our primary exports should be innovation, intellectual property, and intellectual capital
30/10/2018 17:12

Armen Rostamian: Our primary exports should be innovation, intellectual property, and intellectual capital

A couple of days ago, SmartGateVC officially announced the launch of a new project, which is called “Landed”. The aim of this project is to connect Armenians in tech all around the world with the tech community in Armenia.

The idea of this program was inspired by the spontaneous decision of Armen Rostamian, Founder and Technical Architect of GRÜV, and CTO/Co-Founder of LegatumX.  He is originally from California, and moved to Armenia this year.

Armen Rostamian has spent the last 10+ years working in tech. He started as an engineer, then moved to technical leadership. He has served in roles ranging from acting CISO, to CTO, to Director of Engineering, and most recently as Principal Architect at a Brain-Computer Interface startup, etc. But one day he decided to quit his full-time job and bought a one way ticket to Armenia. 

We had an exclusive interview with him in order to find out the real causes of his spontaneous decision and his experience in Silicon Valley.

-As we know, you have very good experience working in Silicon Valley. So, why have you decided to leave such a great center for advanced technologies and move to Armenia?

- The answer has a few parts. Firstly, I want to mention that in the diaspora we try to preserve and defend our national values and identity as Armenians. So, it has been my long-standing dream to come home. Yes, it sounds very nationalistic and romantic, but it is absolutely true. If I have the opportunity and means to come back, it means that I should. I decided to return very spontaneously, and  just bought a one-way ticket. Now I am planning for my citizenship, already have a bank account, and am making my permanent arrangements. Secondly, I am here to try to help Armenian startups as much as I can. Now, I am at Hero House trying to share my experience with young startup founders and engineers. I spend time mentoring, and give weekly lectures on Blockchain/Tokenomics topics. I also lead my own startup “Grüv” which is currently based in Los Angeles. We intend to operate and develop it here, in Armenia. GRÜV decentralizes and democratizes music economies. We hope that GRÜV makes it possible for artists to earn a living wage from music, without needing to give away money to record labels or streaming services.  We no longer need centralized record labels, or centralized publishing and distribution services. We put the power back in the hands of independent artists, independent record labels, and the fans that love them.

- The idea of the new project “Landed” was inspired by you. So, what are you going to do in the framework of this new project?

- I have noticed that now is a remarkably good time in Armenia for tech; there are very bright and smart people here. But, there is a lack of experience in this sphere. The technology sector is very new for Armenia, as opposed to San Francisco and Silicon Valley where technology and experience in tech are very advanced. Having worked for top-tier company and startups, I intend to bring that experience here. I want to mentor, educate, and enable as many bright, young, ambitious engineers, product managers, and entrepreneurs, as much as I can. I try to help the Hero House team in any way I can. Once a week, I do lectures and Q&A sessions on blockchain topics within the YLedger Consortium program. I am also here to help advise “Landed” on repatriation pain-points, and to assist anyone else who comes here - like me - to integrate into the Armenian startup and technology community. 

-Of course, you have managed to interact with some Armenian startups. Can you list some common mistakes that you see them making, for example during or before their pitches?

- Sure, there are some things that I have noticed, but I wouldn't say that startups are making blatant mistakes; I think it is more just a matter of circumstances. For example, when founders are thinking about problems and solutions, they might not apply their thinking necessarily towards - let’s say - bigger Western markets, and what their products or solutions might look like when they need to scale. With the same token, this can also be and advantage for the following reason: If we, here, don’t deal with the same problems that the rest of the world is dealing with, it also means that we are thinking about certain things in certain ways that Western competitors are not thinking about it. It gives us a degree of freedom to be creative and innovative in ways others can’t.

In terms of basic mistakes that can be very easily fixed, one of the most common mistakes that I would point out with any product, any pitch deck, any website, any proposal paper, or any other marketing material is that of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. It is very easy to fix this mistake by having someone who is a native English speaker, with strong editing skills, to go over all of their marketing, pitch material and, of course, product. When I am looking at material (pitch decks, whitepapers, marketing material, etc.) for a new product or application, I will typically run in the other direction when I notice grammatical mistakes or spelling errors. The same goes for an application (online/mobile) when I am using it, and catch such errors - especially when there’s more than one. There are investors who also think this way. Presentation needs to be pristine.

- You have great experience working in Silicon Valley. Which types of startups are most likely to be of interest to investors?

- I believe that there is a very high concentration of very intelligent and creative people in Armenia. Our primary and most easily produced export should be innovation, intellectual property, and intellectual capital. These are the things which investors, as far as I see in Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach, are definitely looking for.

In terms of trends, right now “Biotech” is very hot. Machine learning and AI are rapidly becoming more practical and interesting than ever before. Neuroscience and NeoruoTech are also very, very “hot” right now. Investors and technologists are definitely focusing there. I’ve also noticed that we’re moving out of the age of “apps,” and back into the age of hardware again. For example, there’s an Armenian startup called Grovf, who produces a small, efficient piece of hardware which accelerates database performance at an average of ten times its normal performance speeds. People have also become very obsessed with their data. So, right now, anyone who is working on anything that that has to do with deriving complex, meaningful insights and actionable intelligence from data is also probably going to enjoy interest from investors.

Photo provided by Armen Rostamian

Anahit Lalayan
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