THRIVE is an AIWA-SF April project dedicated to highlighting Armenians who are doing amazing things in their personal and professional lives to better themselves and those around them. These individuals are inspiring, dynamic, innovative and interesting. Today, we feature Armen Orujyan.
Armen Orujyan, PhD, is the Founding CEO of the Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology (FAST). FAST is a nonprofit organization that reinforces Intellectual, Financial, and Network capacities of science and technology ecosystem in Armenia and beyond. Focused on producing an ecosystem that drives scientific advancement and technological innovation, under Armen’s leadership FAST has launched Startup Acceleration Programs inclusive of Startup Studios focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Biotechnology, and Robotics, an Advanced Solutions Center on AI and Machine Learning, a Creative Campus, a Fellowship for the top 10% of all PhDs in Armenia in STEM, deployed numerous scientific grants, and established the first Science and Technology Angels Network in Armenia.
Armen is also the founder and former Chairman of Athgo Corporation, one of the world’s leading entrepreneurship platforms in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council, UN Department of Public Information, and the World Intellectual Property Organization. Athgo has advanced innovation ecosystems in Europe and Africa and established recurring Global Innovation Forums at the UN and the World Bank headquarters. Armen’s pioneering initiatives have provided financial, intellectual, and network capacities to nearly 10,000 young innovators, entrepreneurs, and students from over 600 universities in 80 countries.
Armen applies his 25-year experience in entrepreneurship and his proprietary quantitative Individual Capacity and Intent methodology when architecting ecosystems to accelerate cutting-edge innovation in Fortune 500 companies and transformative inventions in startup businesses. He further provides strategic guidance on smart economic transitions to governments and leading global institutions.
Earlier in his career, Armen entered the national political arena serving as an advisor for various US political campaigns, including the Presidential. In 2001, championing opportunities for youth and the disadvantaged, Armen initiated a human rights movement that brought over 40,000 young people and concerned citizens onto the streets of Los Angeles. Leveraging the power of social media and the convening power of youth, the movement has since turned into an annual observance, attracting over 150,000 galvanized people.
In 2006, Armen joined the UN’s Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID) as a Founding Member. Under the auspices of the Chief Information and Technology Officer of the UN, he was appointed by the Secretary General of the UN and served through 2013 as co-Chairman of GAID. He was also named a UN e-Leader for ICT and Youth and selected as one of top under-40 young leaders by Asia Society. Armen further served as a Commissioner on the UN’s venerated Broadband Commission for Digital Development through 2015.
In 2017, Armen joined Rice University’ Baker Institute for Public Policy as a Member of the Board of Advisors. He is also a Managing Partner of Ignited Spaces, one of the fastest growing on-demand creative studio and office spaces in Los Angeles.
Armen earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with Honors in Political Science from UCLA and received his Master of Arts degree as well as PhD from School of Politics and Economics at Claremont Graduate University (CGU). He is a recipient of CGU’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Question: What is your life philosophy?
Doing well while doing good.
When I first landed in the United States at the age of 15, all, pretty much, was about survival since the family had limited, and unsuitable means for a life in the States. The first couple of years became all about trying to do well in life. I began working at the age of 16 and had my first business at the age of 17. Then there was a transition sometime in my mid-twenties to focus only doing good. I believe it all started when I joined then Vice President Al Gore’s Presidential Campaign. His stand and philosophy on the environment turned into an awakening for me. The most recent transformation happened in my early thirties, during 2007-2008 global recession, where I graduated into looking at life as an opportunity to do well while doing good. It has been magical since. Being focused on constructive entrepreneurialism. It is really satisfying.
Question: What is your hope for the future?
The human nature is such that we are continuously seeking to acquire more goods. There is a biological reasoning behind it all. We are programmed to survive as species. We absolutely must eat/drink and have shelter. These are no alternatives to this for any of us. These are musts in human life. As such, we continuously work on creating redundancies in life to push the possible agony of not having food or shelter and build more opportunities to experience continues harmony. In life, I seek opportunities that could eventually eliminate our dependencies and biological and physical limitations to help free the human from ferocious local and global competition so we can finally and truly experience the pursuit of happiness. Today, whether mindful or note, we are in a pursuit of survival. Just look at what is taking place around the globe.
Question: What is your favorite thing about being an Armenian?
Armenia, similar to anyone in life, has a resume. Think of how banks check your credit report/score before finding us legit and credible. Nations operate in sort of a similar way. Our national resume is long and deep. It has successes and failures. Yet, one thing that is constant and unquestionable, is its will to survive. I would associate us with a long-lived bird from classical mythology known as Phoenix. We rise time and again, regardless of the challenge. As people, we possibly do even better in the face of adversity. I hope that I have that ancient and living characteristic circulating in my blood thanks to my being born to two wonderful Armenians.
Question: How has the Armenian Culture shaped/influenced you?
I was born Armenian and in Armenia, went to Soviet Russian school from the age of 7, then moved to the United States from the age of 15, and worked around the globe from the age of 23, and now back in Armenia at the age of 46. I am a bizarre mélange of different cultures. All, for better or worse, contributing to all that I am and I do.