Feb 4, 2020

Armenia’s position as a new innovation center

When it comes to international centers of technology and innovation, the first that come to the mind are cities like San Francisco, London or Tokyo. And how about Yerevan, capital of Armenia? This small, but dynamic country is constantly evolving, opening new centers of innovation, becoming and IT hub day after day. Armenian developers have established and successfully run startups that are used globally.

IT in Armenia is not just another sector in the economy, it is also a strategically important area that is designed to set up a unified eco-system with the involvement of developers from all over the world. In late 2019 Yerevan hosted World Congress on Information Technology – WCIT 2019 where more than 3,000 participants from more than 70 countries joined together around discussion of IT trends globally, e.g.  smart cities, health care and financial technologies, to name a few.

Needless to say, that this was a grand event for Yerevan with major role in the city’s significance for the country, as WCIT 2019 marks the first time in its 40-year history that the Congress was hosted by a small developing nation like Armenia. WCIT remains one of the most influential events in the global tech community, continuing to attract large international crowds and illustrious speakers including the likes of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, former US President Bill Clinton and more.

IT in Armenia – confidently pacing towards innovation hub

This year’s WCIT topic was the Power of Decentralization: Promise and Peril. Experts explored how information and communications technology is transforming our lives for better and for worse, including its impact on profits and prosperity, safety and security, democracy and humanity. The Congress hosted one of the most comprehensive discussions on technology and its effects on society in the WCIT’s 40-year history.

Following a keynote address by national security expert and author Richard Clarke, renowned CNN Business anchor Richard Quest gave start to this year’s panel series in his signature style by moderating a discussion on the opportunities and threats associated with fast-pacing technology automation. Among panelists were such outstanding speakers as Tech Freedom’s Ashkhen Kazarian, entrepreneur Narayana Murthy, Cambridge University’s Christopher Markou, futurist Martin Ford, artist James Bridle and University College London Business Analytics program director Daniel Hulme.

Panel discussions also evolved on governance in the digital age, financing for innovative tech startups and the challenges of ‘augmented’ humanity.

Belarusian-origin entrepreneur and motivational speaker, Gary Vaynerchuk opened the second day of the Congress to a crowded audience. However, the main event remained the entrance of Armenian-American beauty-mogul and social media personality Kim Kardashian West.

Following her one-on-one with Salesforce board-member Magdalena Yesil, Kardashian West revealed her intention to launch production of some of her beauty lines in her homeland of Armenia. Then she joined a panel with fellow American-Armenian entrepreneur and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, founder of Armenia’s biggest tech success story Hovhannes Avoyan and GIPHY founder Alex Chung to discuss the effects of social media on our society.

On the third and final day of the conference, System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian together with Matthew Feeney of the DC-based Cato Institute elaborated on how dramatically technology changes the way humanity relates to democracy in a panel moderated by remarkable intellectual Evgeny Morozov.

Ott Vatter, head of Estonia’s e-residency program appeared on a Blockchain panel with Canadian-Armenian crypto leader Henri Arslanian before wrapping up WCIT 2019 with a final panel on the digitization of medical records with the CEO of Armenia’s e-health agency, Avet Manukyan, moderated once again by Ashkhen Kazarian. 

The Armenian tech community also jointly awarded the winners of three startup lightning rounds with $25,000 prizes each, moderated by CNN tech and business correspondent Samuel Burke, TechCrunch editor-at-large Mike Butcher and Intel’s Carolin Seward respectively. 

Meanwhile, ministers of technology from dozens of countries attended a private seminar hosted by both the Armenian Ministry of High Technology and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss the effects of technology on cross-border diplomacy, statecraft, education and more.

Throughout the Congress, dozens of leading tech companies from around the world participated in a large exhibition in the lobby of the Soviet-modernist Demirchyan Complex. The largest, and arguably most controversial, came from Taiwan, which has been one of the largest supporters of WCIT 2019, having contributed financially to WCIT and sending a 70-member strong delegation to the Congress. Smart Taiwan and Taiwan Excellence pavilions proved to be among the most popular on the exhibition floor, attracting long lines of curious visitors.

Being one of WCIT 2019’s official sponsors, the Moscow City Government also marked the day by exhibiting some of its new ‘smart city’ technology at the Congress. Russia has made headlines for repressive tendencies in recent years, making its facial recognition technology and other tools feel somewhat out of touch with this year’s theme of decentralization. This was an issue that Alexey Parabuchev, CEO of Moscow Agency of Innovations, addressed during the Smart Cities panel.


IT in Armenia and COAF – Children of Armenia Fund

Analysis of IT sector as the key industry of Armenia, necessitates a closer look at the IT education system in Armenia. In many countries, children in small towns, as well as in even larger populated settlements most often are deprived of access to state-of-the art technological resources. In Armenia, however, the situation is different: COAF, the Children of Armenia Fund, enthusiastically exercise all efforts towards filling this gap in the educational system of the country. 

The Foundation was established by Garo Armen in 2003, one year after his casual visit to a poor village. Currently, this non-commercial organization conducts more than 30 extracurricular programs in which students of any region have an opportunity to enroll. Classes vary – children study engineering, marketing and languages, as well as attend yoga, dance and theater performances. Two years later, students become a fairly developed generation with a confident prospect into the future. 

Also, the COAF SMART Center has created a Learning and Innovation Center in Lori region of Armenia. Here students and parents can gather and communicate not only with each other but also enjoy master classes by experienced teachers and guest speakers. For the villages which are located far from the SMART center, COAF has set up SMART classrooms in schools, which are indeed mini-hubs of innovation each.   

COAF provides proprietary platforms for children who are located far beyond the borders of larger cities. Famous singers, actors, designers and even the Prime Minister and President of Armenia visited the COAF SMART center to share their knowledge and experience. As Flora, a member of the COAF team puts it, it is of paramount importance that children from rural communities be provided with equal opportunities to receive training in IT field, which are more widely available to Armenian larger cities. “It is important that we attract celebrities visiting Armenia to share their experiences in our small communities, and not be limited only with the capital”, – she explained. COAF makes sure that children across all Armenian communities grew with a sense of confidence, empowerment and trust in their future and get access to adequate level of education to build the future of the IT in Armenia.

IT in Armenia – Center of creative technologies for students

With only basic knowledge, it is impossible to develop information technologies, therefore the Armenian state creates various organizations that allow students and schoolchildren to acquire the necessary skills in technology, art and science disciplines. To that end, TUMO flagship center was established in Yerevan, which accommodates over 15 000 students who attend classes on animation, music, graphic design, game development and other topics after the lessons in school. 

TUMO’s Board of Directors is comprised of Serj Tankian , and also Katherine Sarafian from Pixar. Successful entrepreneurs and celerbrities are also invited on an occasional basis (e.g. Kanye West, who visited Armenia in 2015).

IT in Armenia is more than just an industry which is experiencing upward trend; it is on a permanent way to further development of its potential and new achievements. For example, TUMO students continue to stay in touch, experimenting with different ideas, joining efforts with others, sharing knowledge both for individual and professional development. Some students continue to teach at TUMO after completing courses. For example, Alex, who founded Pyramidz with his friends in TUMO, is now keen to transfer his knowledge to younger students. It is a kind of gratitude for the educational opportunity which is possible nearly nowhere else at the same quality and free of charge, as in TUMO.

IT in Armenia – the role of TUMO in developing the skills of a growing generation

TUMO places great emphasis on self-learning skills, which are then complemented by workshops and lab tests. This curriculum design is based on the theory of loose parts. Developed by an architect named Simon Nicholson, the concept says that children need to be provided with building blocks to create their technology giant. It is better to involve children in the process of creating something than to give them ready-made materials. As a result, TUMO has many opportunities for endowed kids with artistic skills.

IT in Armenia is constantly improving the educational system, revealing great opportunities at the global level to the younger generation. At WCIT2019, TUMO held a booth to share its mission with visitors, and Marie Lou Papazian, CEO, spoke at the conference. Thanks to its educational model, TUMO hopes to complement the school system in Yerevan and some other cities to help Armenian youth become creative and innovative.

IT in Armenia – a variety of innovative companies

In addition to empowerment of educational institutions, IT in Armenia is experiencing a rise in the number of start-ups as well. Several world- famous companies have already been founded, and their development models are successfully deployed and used by private and legal entities in many countries of Europe, the CIS, and the USA. The main users of Armenian start-ups are China and the United States, in a smaller scale, as well as Iran, India, Russia, Ukraine, Europe.

IT in Armenia can be characterized as rich technological heritage paired with state-of-the art, constantly developing information companies, which are expanding boundaries outside Armenian and reaching out to global innovation domain. Such companies cover a wide range of industries that are economically and strategically important for many countries. For example:

  • Ucom telecommunication (main sponsor of the international conference WCIT 2019);  
  • New digital network All.Me;
  • Software ServiceTitan in the form of applications for home care;
  • PicsArt platform with its active community.

These are few examples of the whole scope of achievements of Armenia in the field of IT.  It is necessary to specifically highlight Krisp – a unique tool for active noise reduction in real time. The application is designed to eliminate background noise during video and audio calls.

PicsArt operates based from an office in Yerevan. Its co-founder Hovhannes Avoyan spoke about his experience in creating a company and organizing a platform with active community. The company places special emphasis on the community in which users share experiences, communicate and find new opportunities. It is this strategy that has brought popularity and rapid development of the project.   

IT in Armenia – comprehensive support for new startups

The IT business in Armenia is attractive in view of another important advantage – there are a large number of organizations and centers that support many forms of technological breakthrough. In addition to a progressive technological base, the Armenian IT industry has venture capital funds, business angels and private investors ready to invest in the development of both standard and scientific startups. The policy of the government of the country fully supports not only to the quick start of companies, but also acts as a flagman of reforms aimed at increasing foreign investor confidence and attract long term investments into the sector.

Also, a set of tax incentives apply for IT companies in Armenia: particularly when starting a business in a free economic zone, foreign investors are exempt from taxes, with the exception of tax on employee income. By the way, in Armenia it is possible to open an IT company without a real office, i.e. it can be accomplished remotely, and as fast as within one business day. For this, a non-resident will not even need to visit the country – our specialists will draw up the necessary package of documents. 

On the other hand, when a foreign businessman brining in investments chooses to settle in Armenia for living, it brings about a range of benefits, in particular:

  • quick execution of real estate purchase and sale transactions;
  • obtaining a residence permit for investments under the state program, which started in 2019;
  • obtaining Armenian citizenship and a second passport after three years of permanent residence in Armenia (or at least 183 days a year);
  • high business profitability at a low cost of living;
  • government’s commitment and consistency in ensuring elimination of corruption at all levels of government;
  • magnificent nature with incredible hospitality of the local population.

Those who plan to conduct activities in the IT sector in Armenia should also know that it is fairly easy to find and hire qualified specialists – developers, designers, programmers. Armenian education in the field of information technology allows you to produce real benefits by employing specialists having no less than world-class knowledge.

If you are interested in opening an IT company in Armenia, opening a bank account in a local bank or purchasing real estate in the Armenian jurisdiction, contact us at [email protected].

Our employees will save your time in many areas: you will not need to understand the Armenian legislation and learn the language in order to properly submit documents for starting a business or registering an account. All you need is to contact our consultants who will guide you through setting up your business in Armenia, specifically in IT sector, and build your future with confidence and ability to generate return on investment in short time.