Armenian creators and entrepreneurs visit USC for Innovate Armenia

Some of the biggest names in technology, music and media gathered Saturday at the University of Southern California (USC) for Innovate Armenia, an all-day event showcasing Armenians’ progressive achievements and advancements in various industries, reports.

USC’s Institute of Armenian Studies, under the leadership of Director Salpi Ghazarian, organized an event that hosted Armenian influencers and trendsetters operating at the edge of innovation, both locally and across the globe.

Organizers hoped to eliminate geography and unite Armenians for a day of meaningful, two-way dialogue.

Hundreds filled Founder’s Park to participate in the day’s festivities. The outdoor square was fringed with informative booths, food trucks and a central stage where musicians, organizations and tech creators shared their work with curious visitors.

Inside Taper Hall, an indoor stage featured speakers who represented innovation in technology activism, education and journalism.

Musical performances filled the park with Armenian music, old and new. The featured melodies mirrored the innovative spirit of the day; musicians recreated traditional Armenian tunes with a modern twist. Performers included Sebu Simonian of Capital Cities, producer and composer Bei Ru, Element Band, composer Greg Hosharian and others.

Representatives from Armenian organizations presented their progress and shared stories of success in the homeland.

The Homeland Development Initiative Foundation was one such success story; the organization creates opportunities for economic growth in Armenia through the empowerment of its entrepreneurs.

Another organization, Tumo, empowers young Armenians in Yerevan through free digital and media education. Other presentations included those from startups like mobile communication app Zangi and Hive, an up-and-coming Armenian startup accelerator.

Among the event’s notable speakers were Reddit co-founder and Executive Chair Alexis Ohanian, former Twitter Vice President of Platform Engineering Raffi Krikorian and founder of Syria Deeply, Lara Setrakian.

Alexander Seropian, creator of the Halo video game series, even delivered a recorded video message for attendees.

During his speech, Alexis Ohanian discussed the colorful opportunities in technology available for Armenian creators, both in the homeland and abroad. He addressed the approaching 100-year anniversary of the Armenian genocide with a hopeful gaze, confident in Armenians’ achievements and innovative potential.

“I am fully committed to the last 100 years, but I am equally if not more excited about our next 100 years,” Ohanian said. “We as Armenians are going to have a great century.”

Lara Setrakian spoke about her work with Syria Deeply, a digital news website that focuses exclusively on reports, news updates and developments from Syria. She shared her love of the Armenian community and spoke of its budding renaissance. “There is a time for mourning and a time for building,” said Setrakian. “Now is our time for building.”

Raffi Krikorian affirmed the boiling potential for technological advancement in Armenia, where he met young thinkers who were eager to learn about software engineering. In Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, he realized: “there are sparks here.”

Ohanian added, “Everyone who succeeds is an example of how we succeeded and they failed,” referring to Turkey’s unsuccessful attempt to eliminate the Armenian people in the 1915 genocide.

Innovate Armenia painted a picture of a global Armenian community that has developed and united through technology, artistry and forward-thinking.

Geography may separate Armenia from its Diaspora, but the two remain tethered through a shared fluency in the language of innovation.

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