Al Eisaian does not rule out investments in Armenian startups

09.02.2015 | 14:43 Home / News / Articles /

Co-founder of U.S.-based IconApps and founder of Integrien company, famous businessman Al Eisaian spoke about his experience, peculiarities of business environment in Armenia and future plans in his exclusive interview to Banks.am.

Earlier, on February 3, he delivered a lecture at Microsoft Innovation Center.

You can read Al Eisaian’s interview to Banks.am below.

-There are basic thoughts that the investments area of Armenia is not attractive for foreign investors. Is that true?

-I wouldn’t say it’s a bad place to invest. It all depends on the type of investments. For IT, it’s a wonderful place to invest. There are many smart people here. We have concrete examples like Joomag, Teamable, Lionsharp, Plexonic. Other question is how we can take that experience and spread it through other Armenian startups as well. We have 2 Armenian venture capitals so there is money. The question is: are companies aggressive enough in a good sense to get this money. The team that gets money must be self-confident and not shy to move forward.

-Which are the main factors which prevent the development of entrepreneurship/ business environment in Armenia?

-Lack of human resources is the first thing. The number of people who choose to study technical professions is not enough. Armenia is a great place to start a company because cost structures in Armenia are very reasonable. A lot of people have started from nothing or from very little money ($25-30.000). I would advise startups to sign up for HIVE innovation network. It’s a good venue for lots of Armenian startups to begin with.

It's important for parents to encourage their children study technical professions. It's not a government issue, not a geography thing. Market demanded professions must be studied. We have 19.000 economists, I wonder what these guys are doing after they graduate. Every single one of them in case of having technical profession would find a job.

If you study the Estonian model, that country has 13-14.000 IT professionals annually. The U.S. their number is 47.000. Just imagine if we double, triple the number of IT graduates in Armenia every year, how many new workplaces would be created.

-And which is the best age for investing?

- I’m not so much worried of age, but what’s the content of the head. I have mentees that are teenagers and have mentees that are 60 years old.  You should start as soon as you can. You have to learn from your failures.

-Which is going to be your next company?

-I’m more an entrepreneur than an investor. I build companies. I founded my new company a few months ago. The details are still a secret. But I feel its going to be the best project of my life.

-So you start a company, develop it, sell it and start a new one? Is it a strategy?

-I start a company like every 3 years. It is about something that inspires me, something that I want to bring to the world. That’s the beauty of entrepreneurship because you decide when to start and after some period of time get good at it.

-Do you create a new team for each new company or the former staff follows you everywhere?

- There are some people who go from one company to another one. But the companies are from different areas, so the teams are not always portable. And I can’t take one team into another company because it will not be honest towards the current owner of my previous company.

-Will there be any Armenians working in this new company?

-Yes, of course. There are currently 2 Armenians. It’s a central idea to have Armenians in every company I manage. I am in love with my homeland. I’m not a nationalist but I’m a nation lover. My new project will be associated with Armenia in future.

-What would be your advice to the Armenian startups currently seeking financial assistance?

-Do not afraid, and go ahead. There is always money, the question is are you ready to take this money. All my early companies needed 100 meetings to get one investor interesting in them. If the entrepreneur makes his company so attractive that it’s a privilege to invest in it, than the investment will come. I don’t know any examples in Armenia so far that an entrepreneur with a good company and good team which didn’t receive investment.  

It's very difficult to know everything in advance. Sometimes you have to do a market research, need time to get into the game. To win the game you need to be in the game, start your company and inspire people to join your team.

I often ask the Armenian startups to visit Silicon Valley for a while and understand what real competition and stress is. It’s a whole different scale. That visit makes you more serious and focused on details.

In future, it is possible for me to think of investing in Armenian startups, but currently I can’t tell any dates. Everything depends on the quality of startups.

Narine Daneghyan talked to Al Eisaian.

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