The first Business Angel Network of Armenia (BANA) got started in summer 2017. “We were working on a project that needed some initial funding, and we already knew how difficult it can be to get early stage funding in our country. Faced with this situation, we decided it was the moment to start a Business Angel Network in Armenia. There was a real need for creating one!” claims Greg Hovhanisyan, the #ESILangel for Armenia and founder of BANA.
How do you start creating a network of investors in a country with no investment culture? That's what Greg and his colleagues asked themselves. In addition to his will, knowledge and effort, another factor would be decisive for his success: joining the Early Stage Investing Launchpad, an EU-funded initiative that connects networks of business angels and crowdfunders across Europe.
“We started talking to all the people who had the potential to invest. Eventually we got the money we needed for the start-up, that was our first success, but we continued asking people if they would like to invest in the tech industry,” explains Greg.
The search for potential investors is not an easy task, and probably even more complicated in Armenia. “Most business people in Armenia made their money with traditional business. We also realised that the wealthiest people in the country are more worried about keeping their money than multiplying it. So we had to target people with less wealth, but that could invest between €10 to 50k every year. We saw that they are more knowledgeable and they are more willing to take risks,” says the #ESILangel.
Being a member of the ESIL community was a key part of this process: “It gave us a lot of credibility and reputation when we were trying to grow the investor ecosystem. We found people were interested, but angel investing is unknown in our country. We organised an ESIL event and Brigitte Baumann (Business Angel of the Year 2015) came to give a workshop for investors. This was a great boost. Seven new investors joined the network after hearing her and five of them were women,” the founder of BANA remembers.
Brigitte Baumann in Yerevan (Armenia). Atfer hearing her seven new investors joined the network!
Participating in the #InvestorSummit held in Brussels in November 2018 was also helpful for the consolidation of BANA, according to Greg: “I met many important business angels from Europe there. It was very helpful and gave us credibility in the market. Since we are associated with ESIL, we have connections with large European networks that have a lot of experience. If we have any questions, we can go to some of the most knowledgeable people in the world for advice.”
In just two years, BANA has activated a network of 30 investors, two of them from the Netherlands and Spain. “All of them are showing interest and 15 of them have already invested. They are taking it very slowly in the beginning, but when the results come, I am sure they will start investing more,” says Greg. Throughout this learning process, other ESIL activities such as webinars and the online academy have been “very useful” for them.
Within this recipe for success we can find different factors: a successful first investment that helped to attract more investors; the great work of the founders to find potential investors in the country and abroad; and the support from ESIL in validating their credibility, enabling them to connect with other investors and providing educational tools.
Make it self-sustainable
The work for Greg and his colleagues is not finished. They want to continue growing the network and make it self-sustainable. “That’s the most difficult thing,” he points out. “We will start charging a membership fee [eventually], but for the moment we are supporting the network with our own resources.”
But this is not the only way to guarantee some cashflow. “We also realised that many people want to invest but don’t want to get involved. Together with a few other investors, we are creating an entity for managing their investments. This will be connected to BANA, so we will be providing this service to investors,” says Greg.
By organising matchmaking events, attracting investors and mentoring entrepreneurs, BANA is not only bringing investors and start-ups together, but is building an ecosystem that facilitates successful investments in Armenia.
 Armenian tech marked 27%+ consistent annual growth for last two decades
Greg Hovhanisyan, #ESILangel for Armenia
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