SAN FRANCISCO — A group of student startup entrepreneurs from the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) of the American University of Armenia (AUA) recently returned from a ten-day tour of Silicon Valley. The students were able to experience the global center of technology, innovation, investment, and social media, meet with cutting-edge technology companies, network with other entrepreneurs, and participate in workshops and seminars with world leaders in sectors such as business and the tech ecosystem. This trip, made possible through funding by EPIC benefactor Sara Chitjian, was immensely enlightening and students returned with new ideas and inspiration for their projects and businesses.
During this tour, the group visited high-profile, cutting-edge companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, PayPal and Nvidia as well as fast-emerging companies like Doordash, Eat Club, EyeQue, Pinterest, and Parkstash. They also had meetings at Silicon Valley’s leading startup incubators, including UC Berkeley SkyDeck and Draper University. Company visits were complemented by lectures and presentations on personal and professional growth, developing an entrepreneurial mindset, and starting a business. The students were housed at San Jose State University and many of the business presentations also were hosted by the university.
The impact of the trek on AUA students was apparent. “The Silicon Valley trip was truly a life-changing experience,” said AUA 2019 graduate and Breedge co-founder Liana Hakobyan.
“The trek overall was an exceptional experience for all of us,” said Irina Tirosyan (CSE ‘19). “Attending lectures, meeting new startups, and learning more about top companies were especially helpful in shaping our entrepreneurial mindset and exposing us to innovation. Such opportunities come once in a lifetime.”
During a visit to PayPal, the students were introduced to PayPal’s Innovation Incubator and were introduced to the latest FinTech innovation. Participants visited Pinterest where the Senior Vice President of Engineering Jeremy King, who also is the former chief technology officer of Walmart, shared the stages of his journey and how Pinterest came to be. A highlight of the trip included a visit to Google, where the students were introduced to their disruptive technologies, including self-driving cars, the inner workings of Google Search, and how Google uses machine learning in Google Cloud.
There were also visits to Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley. At Berkeley, the students discussed startup ecosystems and the potential within Armenia with Dr. AnnaLee Saxenian, the dean of the School of Information. The group also visited the Amazon fulfillment center, where they witnessed the robot-enabled automated workflow of the center. Perhaps most eye-opening was a discussion and demonstration at Nvidia, where the company’s stunning vision of the future for artificial intelligence, machine learning, gaming, and visual computing – as well as the sophistication displayed by their innovation and technology – reinforced their position as an industry leader.