Fifty women-owned businesses in Armenia have made substantial leaps forward through the “Investment Readiness Program for Women-owned Firms”. The initiative enabled the beneficiaries to develop and improve business skills and boost their businesses’ investment readiness by giving impulse to further progress in the form of creating new jobs, expanding the network of leading industry experts and investors, and securing investments.

The first round of the program ended with impressive results, as the participating firms networked extensively and had excellent achievements to show at the end of the round. Implemented by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in partnership with the Government of Japan through the Enterprise Incubator Foundation (EIF) and Granatus Ventures, the program aims to boost the investment readiness and attractiveness of women-owned companies, support them, and connect with leading industry experts and investors.

For the first round, 99 applications were received from 6 regions (Lori, Tavush, Ararat, Aragatsotn, Vayots Dzor, and Shirak) and the capital of Armenia, Yerevan. The selected firms operate in very different fields: AI, biotech, healthtech, IT, agriculture, tourism, and education.

It was a comprehensive journey for the participants: the program was carried out with a rolling schedule with 2 tracks for high and medium-investment-ready businesses. The implementation model was designed with already-developed success stories on how to engage and encourage women entrepreneurs to succeed in Armenia and globally.

Through online modules and offline tailored group sessions, group mentorships, workshops and technical advisory delivered by experienced trainers the beneficiaries gained practical skills and knowledge to improve their business and financial models, increase investment readiness, and soft skills, and develop fundraising strategies and pitch decks. Through 1:1 mentorship and coaching sessions with mentors, the program supported women-owned businesses to design scalable and commercially viable product offerings and obtain the required growth capital. The program also included a series of networking and pitching events to create linkages to a network of potential partners and investors and provide access to international acceleration programs and investors.

The participating women learned key skills needed in entrepreneurship: value proposition and brand image, revenue and business model creation, market research, customer validation and discovery, go-to-market strategy creation, and pitch deck development.

According to Bagrat Yengibaryan, Director of the Enterprise Incubator Foundation, the “Investment Readiness Program for Women-owned Firms” is graduating change makers.

“We work with women entrepreneurs from the regions who has untapped potential. But I do believe, that if given targeted skills, mentorship, and directions, their engagement can boost the economy of Armenia through innovative businesses,” he said.

Need assessment was conducted before the launch of the program and after the completion of the 1st round, and the results were summed up to measure the participants’ progress.

The participating women have gained knowledge through courses and mentorship, which helped them get investment. As a result of the 1st round of the program, 7 businesses at a very early stage of development have already secured investments of over$687,000. These businesses operate in the fields of AI, biotech, healthtech, IT, and education. They attracted funds from Granatus Tech4SDG, a leading VC in Armenia, as well as angel investors focused on early-stage high-tech companies. Negotiations are underway for other participants. U.S.-based NRG Ventures committed $400,000 to another participating business, which is working on video interviewing software.

Another U.S.-based company, eLab Next (a leading provider of software for laboratories) is in talks with one of the program participants operating in healthtech. In particular, this startup works on digital pathology and AI decision support system for brain cancer.

A different approach is in place for the participants, whose businesses are in more traditional fields such as agriculture. For instance, the program is working to get pre-sales and partnership status with leading local restaurant chains for a local olive producer from the Tavush region and a loan investment for a local cheese producer from the Lori region.

“We have found and handpicked the women-led tech companies in Armenia that have great potential to grow and have helped them to a better position in securing the necessary funding to support their growth ambitions. We have tapped into our widespread network in order to bring the best-tailored mentors to them and give them access to the investment community. A few of them already closed funding rounds and many are in the process”, said Manuk Hergnyan, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Granatus Ventures. 

The participating women have provided feedback on their experience in the program. Most beneficiaries marked improvement in business skills and models, a stronger ability to develop sales strategies, and significantly better access to investment platforms. One of the goals of the program, job creation, is fulfilled as well: 22 participating businesses hired 71 new employees, and 20 others increased their revenue during or after the program. The data on the new jobs shows that most jobs are technical (34) or administrative (21). The number of part-time jobs is quite large – 20, and there are executive jobs created as well (6). The new jobs are divided almost equally between women (31 jobs) and men (27).

As the second round of the program opened, more women-owned businesses have a chance to apply and access opportunities for growth and networking. The second round will put even more emphasis on practical skills and one-on-one mentorship sessions to enhance the skills taught in these areas. The women who have graduated from the program can now use all those skills in real-life situations to further develop their businesses and continue on the path to success.