Interview with Berge Ayvazian, UBM Tech, Boston

For its June issue team talked to Berge Ayvazian, 4G World Conference Chair and Practice Leader at UBM Tech. Mr. Avazian visited Armenian on March 22, 2014 and chaired iGyumri Idea and Tech Conference in Gyumri Armenia. Lets see where starts his success story. Through your 23 year career at Yankee Group, you directed more than 100 consulting projects. Can you please share with us more about how you started and what were the key successes in your career?
Berge Ayvazian: I have always been interested in media and communications technology, and I had the opportunity to focus my education in these fields at Bucknell University and University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communications.  After completing my MA, I moved to Boston in 1979 to join a boutique consulting firm where I spent 7 years conducting projects in the broadcasting and cable TV industries.  I then joined Yankee Group in 1986 and expanded my research consulting practice into telecom, broadband, wireless and computing.  Yankee Group grew rapidly in the 1990, expanding into new fields and opening offices in Europe, Asia and Latin America.  I directed more than 100 consulting projects during this period. I became CEO when the founder sold Yankee Group in 1998. and I later sold the company to Reuters to continue our expansion plans into mobile, Internet and e-commerce. You have worked with 4G network technology and witnessed the mobile internet revolution first hand. What are some key technologies Armenian startups should be focused on to give them an advantage in the now competitive mobile App and device market?

Berge Ayvazian:
The tech market has been heavily influenced by 4G and fiber network technologies and mobile internet, and now cloud computing and virtualization. We have some great Armenian start-up success stories, including:
·    Integrien whose real-time performance analytics solution has been absorbed into VMware’s vCenter virtualized cloud management
·    Vivacell which became Armenia’s leading mobile operator and 4G technology leader, now part of Russia’s leading mobile operator MTS
·    Ucom which has built Armenia’s largest next generation fiber network and is planning a new 4G mobile internet network across the country
·    PicsArt whose popular mobile photo editing app with 130 million downloads also supports a mobile social network of more than 13 million artists worldwide
But newer Armenian startups need to focus on some key technologies and gaps that can give them a sustainable advantage in the highly competitive mobile Internet, App and device market. You are the Conference Chair for 4G World India . Most Armenian companies are focused on Western developed countries like Europe and North America. Are there any trends in markets such as India and China that Armenian companies should explore? How can Armenian companies and entrepreneurs explore such opportunities (e.g. through partnerships?)
Berge Ayvazian: I co-founded 4G World five years ago and have now chaired the conference both in the US, Eastern Europe, Thailand, China and India.  I have seen several trends that Armenian companies should explore, where local Internet and mobile app companies have been able to leverage fast growing and highly scalable markets in India and China in order to expand into other developing regions in Asia and Africa.  Armenian companies and entrepreneurs need to explore similar opportunities through partnerships.  For example, Buy. am is a new online shopping mall with more than 50 shops and a wide range of goods from more than 100 leading brands.  If successful in a small market like Armenia, the start-up e-commerce website could be extended into other remote developing markets in the region.  This model is similar to the way Alibaba grew from a start-up founded in a Chinese apartment into the trailblazing internet retailing giant in China, soon to be the world’s largest e-commerce market.

4G LTE trends and successful deployments You have have been involved in the Armenian IT sector since the late 1990s.  Can you share with us how you got involved and what has happened since then? What would you suggest our readers on how they can also get involved?

Berge Ayvazian: I was an early investor in one of the first Armenian tech companies, Boomerang Software, which was a pioneer in e-commerce and Internet security software market.  I was among a few Armenian Americans that formed the Armenian High Tech Council (Armentech), and were later invited to form a partnership with Armenia’s Union of IT Enterprises (UITE) to promote the growth of the sector beginning in 2000.  Together we launched, the Armenian High Tech Portal to promote Armenian companies in key US, European and regional IT/software markets, funded in part by a grant from the World Bank.  Armenia has set its sights on becoming a post-Soviet Silicon Valley, and has opened a new information and high tech office in Silicon Valley in December 2012. The original Armentech has become the Armtech Congress with over 1,000 members on Linkedin, and we will hold our fifth global Armenian high tech conference in New York City in October 2014. What are your thoughts on the recent growth of Armenian IT sector? Do you like the direction the industry is taking? What are examples of companies that are finding success in Armenia and could inspire others? Lastly, what you think is the best direction for the Armenian IT industry?
Berge Ayvazian: High tech has become one of the largest and fastest growing sectors in the Armenian economy, and we have attracted some of the world’s largest and most success tech companies to invest and open development centers, including Synopsys, Microsoft, VMware, Mentor Graphic, GFI Software and Atos Origin.  There are between 20-30 local software companies within Armenia, and some such as Synergy International Systems have expanded rapidly in competitive global markets.  We have begun to launch new innovative start-ups such as Lionsharp, Digital Pomegranate and Instigate, and we have extended the tech economy from Yerevan to Gyumri.  But I see 2-3 major challenges facing the continued growth of Armenia’s high tech sector during the next five years:
·    limited and slow growing pool of trained tech workers with the skills companies can quickly leverage
·    over dependence on a large foreign companies in a few sectors  such as semiconductor design
·    narrow view of high tech as a separate sector whose growth depends on foreign investment and exports
We need to quickly expand the labor pool, emphasize innovation and entrepreneurship, and promote a domestic and regional market where software, apps, and IT technologies can help to transform and grow other economic sectors, such as energy, water resources, agriculture, medical/heath care and tourism. Can you please share with our readers your impression and thoughts on the iGyumri Conference, the new Gyumri Technology Center and prospects of Gyumri becoming a true hub for creativity and technology.

Berge Ayvazian: I was pleased to chair the iGyumri Conference, showcase new start-ups and help launch the new Gyumri Technology Center during my last trip to Armenia.  Several companies including Apaga Technologies and Digital Pomegranate have already decided to locate in Armenia’s second city, and the Gyumri Information Technologies Center (GITC) will offer training to leverage local creativity and technology as an economic development tool. I believe these initiatives will help make Gyumri a prosperous international tech city driven by education, innovation and entrepreneurship.