February 13, 2018
Team Arahet won the Armenian semifinal of the Diamond Challenge.
Team Arahet, consisting of four Dilijan Community Center (DCC) residents, won the Armenian semifinal of the Diamond Challenge, an international youth contest aimed at empowering the next generation through entrepreneurship. Their project, focusing on the development of eco- and agro-tourism in Dilijan, was selected from among 10 other projects pitched by young entrepreneurs from across Armenia. The teams arrived in Dilijan this Saturday in a bid to win the $1,000 USD grant and the chance to travel to the Youth Entrepreneurship Summit final at the University of Delaware in the United States in April to compete against semifinalists from 17 other countries for additional prizes.
The Live Pitch Event was organized by the Dilijan Community Center (DCC) who became Armenia’s official representative for the contest in August 2017. The event brought together established and upcoming Armenian entrepreneurs, a delegation from the US Embassy in Armenia and representatives of the Peace Corps Armenia. The official representative of the Dilijan Municipality Albert Simonyan welcomed the young participants of the contest and wished them luck.
In his motivational speech to the participants Rafi Baghdjian, CEO of IDeA Foundation, said that a lesson he had learned from his long career was that cooperation and communication are the essential skills of an entrepreneur. He especially addressed those teams who didn’t win: “Let this not winning today not discourage you and stop from becoming entrepreneurs. As Armenians we have entrepreneurial genes in us, as we live at the crossroads between East and West, North and South. We need to reactivate these genes to keep up with our ancestors’ entrepreneurial spirit!”
Rafi Baghdjian’s message was echoed in the speech of Andres Valdes, a representative of the US Embassy in Armenia, a diplomat, speaker, writer and entrepreneur, who noted that he has been very proud to work in Armenia for two years already. “Here in Armenia you are always looking at what you don’t have, but you need to look at what you do have and how many opportunities you have in Armenia!”, he said.
Among the ideas pitched by the high-school students aged 14-18 were establishing an organic cosmetics enterprise, organizing a summer movie theater in Spitak, opening a Dream Coffee House in Yeghegnadzor, creating a chatbot to improve students’ academic work and setting up a solar panel system among others. The students presented their projects in English, with some even incorporating short performances. Over a hundred judges from around the world helped to choose from among the 20 applications of the budding high-school entrepreneurs from Armenia.
During the Live Pitch Event the winner chosen to represent Armenia was selected by a panel of international experts, including Stepan S’hoyan, the Peace Corps Armenia Community & Youth Development Program Manager; Davit Iskandaryan, the Director of Dilijan Development Foundation; and Peace Corps Volunteers Gwen Hersh, Nick Pittman and Jaclyn Jayo. They found it very hard to choose the winner as all the projects were very strong. Stepan S’hoyan and Davit Iskandaryan promised to support all the 10 teams further and provide them technical, professional and project management help.
Wrapping up the event, DCC Director Roubina Ter-Martirosyan, addressed the young contestants. “You are already ahead of your peers as you had an idea, you managed to formulate it and present it to the public. I urge you to continue to be persistent and to assert your ideas in the future, and the Dilijan Community Center will provide you with all the support you need,” she said.