Tag: armenia

Armenia ups the IT ante

Armenian wine makerYou can probably tell from other stories I’ve filed recently, but last week I was in Armenia for the first time to report on the high tech in the country.

There’s plenty of famous Armenians – the one in the news most recently is Kim Kardashian West, robbed of millions of pounds worth of jewellery in Paris. But others include Hovannes Adamian – inventor of colour TV, Boris Babanal – father of supercomputing in the Soviet bloc, and many many more. You can find the impressive list here.

On that page you’ll also find a list of prominent chess players. Chess is Armenia’s national game. Another very famous Armenian was George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, born in Gyumri, Armenia’s second city and formerly called Alexandropol. This city suffered a devastating blow in 1988 when it was close to the epicentre of a 6.8 earthquake which killed an estimated 45,000 people. The country has suffered other tragedies, including mass genocide of around 1.5 million people starting in the days of the Ottoman Empire, something which modern day Turkey still denies.

I must say that speeding around Armenia over a period of five days I was very impressed by the strides in IT the country is making. We visited a number of lively companies including PicsArt, Digital Pomegranate, Volo,  and Energize Global Services.

In addition, I had meetings with Microsoft Armenia, Mentor Graphics and Synopsys – I’ve covered the last two in separate articles on TechEye in recent days.

And I took in visits to Tumo – the Centre for Creative Technologies, the Enterprise Incubation Foundation, ANEL – the National Polytechnic University of Armenia, and Gtech, based in Gyumri.

digitecLast Saturday I visited a computer exhibition in capital city Yerevan called Digitec Expo 2016 where I had the opportunity to meet a large number of other companies – big and small and just starting out. As a veteran of countless trade shows all over the world, I can tell you that while this isn’t the largest, it’s certainly buzzing with activity and enthusiasm and numbers aren’t everything. See that car on the right? That’s the president’s.

Did I say I’d been to a winery? I did that too. Shame you can’t easily buy those wines and those brandies here in the UK. The Armenian currency is called DRAM and a mere 600 of those will buy you a packet of cigarettes. 600 DRAM, by the way, is around a quid.

What really struck me was the level of education in Armenia, with universities, and computer companies cooperating with other in the IT sector. The youngsters’ enthusiasm was great to see – I don’t think their palates are quite as jaded as here in the UK and America.

I’m told that IT is the fastest growing sector in the country and represents a cool five percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

All of the companies and organisations I spoke to made it clear that Armenia wasn’t aiming to compete on price for outsourcing projects – quality is the name of the IT game there, and I was certainly struck by the professionalism of the people I spoke to.

In some ways, the Armenian tech sector reminded me of the early days of technology in Taiwan – not so much the type of IT, but the willingness of the people to roll up their sleeves and to work with will and enthusiasm. From being abandoned by the Soviet Union to its own devices, my assessment is that Armenia is already going places and has plenty of room to grow more.

Did I mention that the parts of the countryside I’ve seen are beautiful too?

Volo goes global in Armenian worldwide mission

intel_ireland_semiconductor_chip_fab_300mm_waferWe had a chance last week to chat to Volo – a 10 year old company based in the capital, Yerevan, which now appears to have become a global, rather than a local, company.

Volo’s in house motto is “razor sharp thinking” – so what exactly does the company do?

It claims that it is “out innovating” other outsourcing companies in the field worldwide,  and that’s largely down to its solid engineering base and the way it approaches the market.

The company said that for the first eight years it had 24 of the best developers in the world, but few people had heard of the company.

Now all that’s changed. Its customers include Spinnaker, BMW and Accelerance and they’re just the ones it’s talking about.

Volo executives told TechEye last week: “Prospects had never heard of Armenia and people thought there couldn’t be IT in Armenia. But Armenians throughout history have invented things.”

Armenian technologeers were responsible for the first satellite to be launched – Sputnik – and Armenians also invented colour TV.

As far as outsourcing is concerned, the burning matter of the day isn’t price, but talent.

The company specialises in developing enterprise, internet of things and mobile technology for its customers.

We were told: “We are now a global company. We have big brains but small egos.”

Volo has hired superior post Soviet engineers and works with a number of big players including Microsoft.

And the company claimed that both it and the country have a progressive approach to engineering.

“Armenia has the highest proportion of female engineers than anywhere else [in the world].”

Synopsys in push to power up Armenia education

intel_ireland_semiconductor_chip_fab_300mm_waferI was in Armenia last week, courtesy, you could barely Adam and Eve it, of the British Embassy,  and was given the chance to speak to many a vendor, to students, and to regular people too, and taste the atmosphere of this ancient country.

In particular, I was privileged to interview Dr. Vazgen Melikyan, the director of Synopsys Armenia’s education department  and believe you me, that was quite an eye opener. The company is running effectively a powerhouse university.

Like its competitor, Mentor Graphics, Synopsys is investing money in bringing Armenia squarely into the 22nd century. The country is noted for its development skills – for example, an Armenian invented optical laser surgery, while another, American Armenian, Charlie Demerjian, invented an influential magazine called semiaccurate.com.

The professor said that the Synopsys aim is to cooperate with the main American universities. He said: “We select the best students after the second year.”

He said the internal university also offers a PhD programme, an IC design programme and an electronic design course.

Synopsys licenses its tools to external students with each licence worth around $1.5 million. But its students get the tools free of charge.

“We’re changing our curriculum in response to changing conditions,” said Professor Melikyan. Ninety percent of its students get jobs in the semiconductor industry and 77 percent get jobs in Armenia. The rest work for competitors such as Mentor Graphics.

Synopsys Armenia has its own library, which we saw when we were there last week, and it’s pretty impressive.

The Armenian story appears to be largely untold, although here at TechEye we’ve known about the influence its scientists and engineers have for some years. What we particularly like, resulting from our visit, is the clear enthusiasm and dynamism of the ICT industry in the country.

It’s pretty clear to us that the story needs to be told outside the confines of the IT industry – this little country is clearly going places.

Good chip engineers are hard to find

FUTURE HORIZONS ARMENIA 2016 Mentor Graphics has offices all over the world but we talked to the head of its Armenian office and she had plenty to say about finding top engineers.

Irina Dumanyan said that that she looks after 150 people in Armenia and also runs an internship programme.

Mentor has a set of different projects which are worked on by people in its offices all around the world.

But its Armenia office was never in the business of hiring cheap labour.

“Engineers are hard to find, that’s why we established the internship programme,” she said. The company puts its internees on live projects.

She said universities needed to get more savvy about what graduates will actually need in the real world.

“The university mentality should be changed and lots more investment is required,” she said.  It’s hard for Mentor to cooperate with the Armenian state university.

PicsArt spells out its plans

Hovhaness AvoyanBritish people may not have heard a great deal about PicsArt, but we certainly found out a good deal about the firm at its office in Yeravan, Armenia earlier today.

The CEO, Hovhaness Avoyan – pictured – is a serial startup guy – this is his fifth startup and started up five years ago. The company has 200 people working in Armenia and 25 in San Francisco, its headquarters.

The firm got venture funding two years ago from the already famous Sequoia.

Its engineers are based in its Yeravan, Armenia engineering hub.

The company is doing pretty well, said Avoyan, and isn’t looking to be taken over.

“We’re on a growth part. We’re not looking at acquisition,” he said today. “We’re one of the largest in the social editing platform. Our biggest competitor is Instagram.”

It’s just about to shunt out a new version of PicsArt that uses artificial intelligence. Avoyan knows all about AI, he graduated in it way back when, but the new AI is a different kettle of fish.

“AI has become very practical,” he said.

He has some strong views about the lack of backing of Armenia’s IT sector by the government. “We’d like to see more investment in universities,” he told us today. The company is considering opening an office in the UK.

Bredolab botnet operator arrested

A man suspected of running the Bredolab botnet has been arrested in Armenia today, only a day after the botnet had been taken down by a cyber security squad.

The 27-year-old man, whose name was not released, was arrested at the Yerevan Airport in Armenia on suspicion of operating the botnet of 30 million computers which was used by criminals to push spam, install malware, log passwords, and steal money.

The arrest comes within 24 hours of the Dutch High Tech Crime Unit announcing the demise of the botnet after intense efforts to wrestle control of the command servers from hackers. The operation was coordinated with the Dutch Forensic Institute and two security firms, Govcert.nl and Fox.it. 143 servers were seized from the criminals and subsequently disconnected, effectively shutting down the botnet which had been operating since July of 2009.

Infected computers which house the Bredolab malware will now receive a notice the next time they log on, telling them that their computer is infected. Directions to remove the infection will be supplied, which could see the end of many more criminal activities.

The Armenian man was arrested in conjunction with the Dutch investigation. He is accused of renting out the botnet to other criminals, which means that their details may also come into the hands of authorities, resulting in further arrests and the end of more cybercrime.