USC to Host ‘Innovate Armenia’

Innovate Armenia hosted by USC


LOS ANGELES—On Saturday, February 21, the USC Institute of Armenian Studies will host Innovate Armenia, an all-day event on the USC campus.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on two different stages, global change-makers, trendsetters, out-of-the-box thinkers and creative artists from all walks of life will be presenting the best of innovative thought, innovative music and innovative activism. There will be booths with innovative organizations and tech companies from Armenia and the Diaspora.

“It’s time to re-position the term ‘Armenia,’ the idea of Armenia in the same sentence with ‘innovation’ – something we’ve been doing, as a nation, for thousands of years. We have innovative tech companies, creative artists, music and food. We have also invited organizations doing ground-breaking work in Armenia to develop civil society in new, untraditional ways. We’re proud to present them here, at USC, at Innovate Armenia,” said Salpi Ghazarian, Director of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies.

“In every one of today’s leading economic, technology, and social sectors, there are Armenians standing at the forefront. And many of those trendsetters will be here, with us on February 21. We hope the Los Angeles community joins us for this first-of-its-kind event,” she continued.

On an indoor stage, the headliners will be in conversation throughout the day with leading USC scholars in technological innovation, communication, engineering and the arts. Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit and deemed by Forbes as ‘the Mayor of the Internet’, will join Raffi Krikorian, who was, until recently, Vice President of Twitter and responsible for making the platform user friendly. Also on stage will be Lara Setrakian of News Deeply – an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who is on several ‘Young Global Leaders’ lists. She has created the multi-source News Deeply platform which looks at complex hot topics such as Syria or the Ebola outbreak, more broadly.

These special guests will be joined, on and off stage, LIVE and by Skype, by cutting edge entrepreneurs like Alexander Seropian who have changed the world of video games and mobile gaming. Alexander Seropian’s company, Bungee, created the video game HALO, which went on to change the place of video games in society.

Another presenter, Zareh Baghdasarian, heads Armorway, a company that uses patented game-theoretic algorithms to convert data into intelligence-driven strategies, and enhances an organization’s ability to focus its energy on understanding the competition and adversaries rather than gathering and analyzing information. He is also Entrepreneur-in-Residence at USC Viterbi School of Engineering and will join fellow tech entrepreneur Al Eisaian to talk about their ground-breaking work in Silicon Valley and in Armenia. Other names in the emerging personal robotics industry, in gaming, and other sectors will also be announced.

Several Armenia-based start-ups who are pushing the limits of the industry will be at INNOVATE ARMENIA including LionSharp, Zangi, PicsArt, and Teamable. The founders of HIVE, the first Armenian tech startup accelerator and network, will be there to share their vision.

While all these take place on an indoor stage, on an adjacent lawn, on the outdoor stage, cutting edge musicians Bei Ru, Sima Cunningham and Sebu will be joining the new, hip French band Collectif Medz Bazar for a full day of creative, edgy new music. Throughout the day, fellow musicians Antranig Kzirian, Element, Ooshatsank, and the Hosharian Brothers Band will mix the old and the new in creative ways.

“Innovation is not limited to the technological world. In Armenia, there are civic organizations which have become successful precisely because they are innovative in their methodology and the way they define their mission. Nearly a dozen such organizations will be here to talk about what they do and how they do it,” explained Ghazarian.

These organizations include the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies, CivilNet Internet television, the Homeland Development Initiative Foundation, Birthright Armenia, the Impact Hub, Repat Armenia, Urban Lab, Paros Charitable Foundation, the Armenian Center for Contemporary and Experimental Art, the American University of Armenia, the Houshamadyan Project, the Foundation for the Protection of Wildlife and Culture, and some others. “It’s an opportunity to meet and speak with the creative people who are making change in Armenia,” Ghazarian continued.

An all-day event would not be complete without food. Innovative food is part of the program, served up by the generation that inherited the innovative hot-lunch-truck business which Armenians initiated in Southern California nearly half a century ago.

The offerings will be healthy, tasty, creative food that is both familiar and new.

“Admission is free. Parking is easy. Take the 110 freeway south, get off at Exposition, make a right, and USC is right there. There will be signs all around and students to point you in the right direction,” concluded Ghazarian.

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