Invest Atlanta’s Sam Adams Shares Start-Up Knowledge at Armenian Tech Forum

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sam Adams, Invest Atlanta’s Economic Development Manager for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, traveled to Armenia in December 2016 to speak at the “Empowering Ideas Forum” sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Citizen Exchange. Councilmember Kwanzaa Hall also attended as a representative of the City of Atlanta.

The forum focused on how a developing nation like Armenia can learn how cities like Atlanta have successfully cultivated a thriving start-up and innovation ecosystem. Attendees shared some of the best practices they’ve found work best to encourage the development of local tech companies.

Adams shared how Invest Atlanta and the City of Atlanta are supporting and partnering with the start-up community, specifically through several emerging Smart City initiatives that include partnerships with tech companies to collect and analyze complex traffic data.

“I think the idea of collaboration between governments, large companies, and startups is where we see a lot of success,” said Adams. “Governments can’t make a startup successful, but they need to recognize that in the digital economy if you are not supporting startups you are effectively encouraging them to go elsewhere. Supporting the startups helps keep them where they started.”

The forum was organized with support from the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, Armenia and the Digital Communication Network (DCN). The DCN is a 2,000-member group of digital professionals from Europe’s Baltic region who come together regularly to engage in cross-sector learning and information sharing.

Armenia faces immense challenges, including a limited export market, as they seek to modernize their post-Soviet economy. Officials there have turned to the internet economy as a way to “bootstrap” their way to growth. The country has been especially focused on preparing their students to thrive in the 21st century workforce.

Sam and the forum participants toured an after-school teaching facility in Gyumri that focuses on six tech-related modules, including web development and animation. They also oversaw a pitch competition and heard from tech leaders from the U.S., Israel, and the Netherlands who spoke about their experiences in tech.

“Look at IT ecosystem as a community,” added Adams. “That can be anything from weekly drinks with other people in startup community who understand what you’re going through to conferences like this. Creating that sense of community and support is huge.”