As director of Enterprise Incubator Foundation (EIF), Armenia’s leading ICT and hi-tech development agency, Yengibaryan has been at the forefront of enabling digital entrepreneurs to gain technical skills, business know-how, and access to capital. Since its establishment in 2002, the foundation has been implementing projects aimed at development of tech ecosystem in the country that today boasts having vibrant start-up environment, numerous R&D centers established in partnership with world’s top IT and engineering companies, as well as an extensive mentorship network that includes top entrepreneurs from all over the world. EIF has today become a standard-bearer for enabling tech innovation throughout the region.
In 2011, through an infoDev grant, EIF became the first regional lab for digital entrepreneurs, mobile application developers, and innovators in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. mLab ECA’s regional competitions have attracted teams from countries including Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Georgia.
Bagrat Yengibaryan with the infoDev team in 2013.
“We have learned that it takes a combination of talent, access to capital, global markets, and top mentors to scale the few successes we’ve had,” Yengibaryan said. “And such environments as mLab ECA are the ones that bring all these ingredients together. Not only do they serve as top spots for concentration of needed resources, they also are environments that promote success stories and motivate young people to aim higher and start their own ventures that will hopefully change the world for the better.”
The mLab provides entrepreneurs and developers a platform to enhance their technical and entrepreneurial skills. Another valuable asset of mLab ECA is its network of key actors in the mobile industry. In a 2014 study, infoDev attributed the mLab’s early success to the EIF’s broad network throughout the government and private sector. The EIF’s long list of partners includes Cisco Systems, Intel, HP, Microsoft, IBM, the European Union, WB, USAID and others.
mLab ECA was one of 13 grant recipients funded by infoDev in 2011, and was later included in the 2014 rapid assessment study titled “Do mLabs make a Difference?” The study also profiled mLab East Africa, and mLab Southern Africa. Across infoDev’s global network of incubators, the assessment recorded several results, including 100 start-ups created, $5.2 million financing raised, 280 direct jobs created by the start-ups, and over 32,000 entrepreneurs and developers reached.
To complement the first assessment, infoDev is planning a second rapid assessment, “Do mLabs still make a difference?” which will evaluate mLab ECA’s continued operations. The upcoming report will provide a longer term in-depth view on outcome results that are often lacking from entrepreneurial programs and interventions.
Meanwhile, as the EIF and mLab ECA have been working diligently to improve their support to regional entrepreneurs and innovators, Yengibaryan has played a key role in national policies and scaling up their efforts. According to the Startup Nations award committee:
“Dr. Yengibaryan has assisted the government of Armenia with ICT policy articulation and implementation, which resulted in the establishment of ICT centers to run acceleration programs and teach IT skills. These Centers are located across the country, thus decentralizing the concentration of IT resources countrywide to allow for regional development. At the same time, he promoted expanded financial vehicles through grants and Armenia’s first venture fund, as well as by advocating targeted tax incentives for IT startups, which are now being implemented via a 2015-ratified law. Dr. Yengibaryan’s contributions to policy and private sector instruments that address the entire ICT business cycle catapulted Armenia’s startup movement, and create many high-value startups with international exposure.”
Yengibaryan added, “I am very proud to be among the GEN finalists not only because it recognizes Armenia’s policy efforts in innovation and tech advancement but also increases awareness of our country as a major tech destination.”