Reaching for the American Dream: The Story of Young Armenian Tech Entrepreneur Hovhaness Marukyan Zirekyants

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By Monique Svazlian

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

LOS ANGELES — It’s not often one gets to meet a young, successful banker-turned-tech-entrepreneur of Armenian descent. As Armenians, our parents tend to encourage us down traditional career paths where one can make a good salary, save one’s pennies and eventually buy a house and start a family. Veering off course and taking big risks on an unknown venture is usually frowned upon. But that is exactly what Hovhaness Marukyan Zirekyants decided to do at the age of 28 at the peak of his career.

Hovhaness or “Hov” as he likes to be called, has a familiar story similar to many Armenian immigrants. His parents are professional musicians trained in Armenia who came to the United States to give their children a better future when Zirekyants was 15. At the age of 18, he started working as a bank teller and later went on to become a Private Client Banker for Chase Bank, making a six-figure salary. As soon as he got his first job, his mother spoke to him the importance of saving money, and he opened his first savings account. By the time he was 27, he had saved enough money to purchase his first house.

But as he continued down this traditional career path, something inside of him was brewing. “When I worked in banking, I could see a lot of money related stress in people. I’d been saving about 30-50 percent of my income since I first started working, and ultimately it’s what allowed me to leave my job. But many people I serviced didn’t have the same savings skills. That’s when the idea of Savely was first born.”

Although he had achieved what most would consider “success” at a fairly young age, Zirekyants knew there was something more he was meant to do. His original plan was to get an MBA at a top business school to pursue his dreams. “I got a 62 percent the first time I took the GMAT and then a 71 percent. I thought I needed a prestigious degree for people to take me seriously. But a friend challenged me one day and asked me ‘why do you even need an MBA?’ And it just shook me awake. A few days later I told my boss I was quitting and abandoned my pursuit of an MBA.”

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It was with just an idea that Zirekyants approached his mom with his dream of launching an app. “Before I left Chase, I told my mom what I wanted to do. And I put it plainly to her. I said we didn’t come to America to be slaves in the system. We came here to make something of ourselves. Not surprisingly, she agreed and fully supported my decision to leave Chase.”

With that green light, Zirekyants quit his job, sold his house and invested all his money into launching an app called Savely designed to help people save money toward their next travel adventure. It took him nearly six months of non-stop research on behavioral science and goal achievement that led to the initial concept and design. Then he was able to find a co-founder and a UX designer who joined the team to start Savely. “We aren’t really a financial app or a travel app, we are a goal achievement platform. The reason why I chose money as a focal point is because I wanted to help people reach their goals. Saving money is a universal idea people can relate to. At Savely, we help you quantify your future.”

He goes on to talk about the reasons why people have a difficult time saving their hard-earned money. “There are three main reasons why people don’t save: they lack direction, they don’t know how to begin and they don’t know how to get to their goal. With Savely, let’s say your goal is to go to Paris for two weeks. We help you identify how much you’ll need for air fare, hotel, food, etc., you set the date when you want to go, where you want to go and we tell you how much you need to save each week to be able to afford to go on that trip. Once you figure out how to do it and what to do, you need to keep going, but many people don’t stay motivated and it is why they don’t reach their goals. We’ve addressed this in the design as well — users are able to save the money for that trip with Savely and then able to book flights, hotels, etc.”

When I asked whether he would have made such a leap in his career without the support of his family, Zirekyants imparted some inspiring advice. “If you look for an excuse to not do something, you’ll find a thousand reasons not do it. If you don’t have supportive parents or a supportive boss or a supportive partner, you can still do it, and you should. If you have an idea and want to pursue it, you have a responsibility to do so. It’s not a choice anymore.” Sage advice from an ambitious young man much wiser than his years.

To download Savely, visit www.savely.io

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