“It took me 127 years to return to Armenia,” says Dr. Armen Kherlopian, a US-born Armenian raised in New York. Dr. Kherlopian is the son of Armenian immigrants from Lebanon and Syria. His talents, skills and discipline have led him to become a guiding force in Armenia’s tech industry.
Dr. Kherlopian’s parents would instill in him a strong sense of Armenian identity by talking about Armenian history and by appreciating the culture and its lore. As a result, Dr. Kherlopian never lost sight of his heritage. It was through his participation in the Birthright Armenia program he was able to connect with the memory of his grandfather who was born in Aintab in 1895.
Dr. Kherlopian first visited Armenia in 2002 through a language program run by the University of Michigan. He went back again in 2005 with the Birthright Armenia program, an Armenia-based NGO that reunites Diaspora Armenians with their homeland and allows participants to give back to their country by interning in fields of their expertise. Its sister organization The Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) is designed for Diaspora Armenians who are at least 32 years old and foreigners to volunteer in Armenia.
The Birthright Armenia program “initiated my relationship with Armenia as a country, including discovering the landscape, different facets in the culture and its place in the world. It helped me make my Armenian identity that much more tangible,” explained Dr. Kherlopian. During his 10 weeks as a volunteer, Dr. Kherlopian worked as an engineer at Nork Marash Cardiac Hospital and at the International Affairs Office at the Ministry of Health. Ultimately, Dr. Kherlopian would earn his bachelors and masters degrees in biomedical engineering from Columbia University, and his Ph.D. in biophysics from Cornell University. Dr. Kherlopian believes that “education can pay dividends,” and the only thing that can outmatch his education is his career.
Dr. Kherlopian’s education has led him to become a scientist, an innovator and an angel investor. He has worked for world-renowned AI companies, Ivy League universities and NASA-backed research institutes. Currently, he sits as either a board director or advisor at Embodied, Cognaize and Scylla, which are three of Armenia’s largest tech companies.
Dr. Kherlopian helps guide these companies toward growth and success. While he is a major vein in the heart of Armenia’s tech industry, in many ways he is also a gatekeeper as well. Dr. Kherlopian is a co-founder of BAJ Accelerator, which organizes, mentors and finds investors for startups in Armenia and around the world. Dr. Kherlopian sees high technology as the enterprise to grow Armenia’s economy, which is the reason behind his tireless work.
Dr. Kherlopian believes that Armenia’s future rests on the high technology industry. He often brings up the example of Estonia. In 2004, Estonia’s GDP was valued at $12 billion, and with the innovation of Skype, the Estonian GDP had doubled by 2008. Dr. Kherlopian believes that Armenia can follow suit, if not do better. Strong startups are “the champions of the economy and can influence the leaders that have an understanding of international markets and know how to develop innovative solutions,” said Dr. Kherlopian.
While Dr. Kherlopian could undoubtedly use his skills in any country, he says he wants to be in Armenia. “There are certain things to understanding the situation on the ground, and that requires being on the ground. As I rose in my career, I always had Armenia in my heart and mind,” said Dr. Kherlopian, who recently delivered inspiring remarks at the Starmus Festival, hoping to encourage attendees to join the growing enterprise of Armenian technology.
Dr. Kherlopian spends every day trying to foster collaborations by “making the teams around me stronger.” Whether he is guiding a multi-million-dollar company or mentoring a new startup, Dr. Kherlopian’s inclusive and generous spirit has manifested into opportunities for people to find their place in their careers in Armenia.