What is GIST Innovates South Caucasus?

GIST Innovates South Caucasus is an eight-week pre-accelerator training program modeled after the Lean Startup methodology. We will coach teams about how to apply the Lean Startup entrepreneurship methodology and how to do effective customer discovery for problem/solution fit of participants’ ideas. By the end of the program, teams will have completed at least 40 interviews with target customers, gaining valuable insight on how to shape their product for maximum impact. The program will provide innovators with the training, mentoring, and resources they need to build their entrepreneurial skills and bring their ideas to market. The program will provide opportunities for teams to connect with local and US mentors and provide opportunities to interact with innovators from the region.

At the end of the training, teams will have an opportunity to pitch their ideas to investors and ecosystem partners at a Demo Day.


Important Dates


We will accept up to 20 teams (2 members per team) for this program. We encourage teams to apply as early as possible.

  • REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED: 8 January 2024 to 16 February 2024
  • Announcement of selected participants: 15 March
  • In-person kick-off in Tbilisi: April 19-20
  • Virtual Sessions: April 21-May 30
  • In-person closing and demo day in Tblisi: May 31-Jun 1

Selected participants will be eligible to attend:

  • A two day, in-person opening workshop in Tbilisi
  • Six weeks of virtual coursework and guided study to accelerate startup development
  • A two day, in person closing workshop and demo day

Applicants must be a citizen of Armenia, Azerbaijan, or Georgia. Please read the entire eligibility requirements before applying.

Innovates South Caucasus FAQs


Q. How do I apply?

A. The APPLICATION IS AVAILABLE on this page from 8 January, 2024 - 16 February, 2024. Once it is available, click the APPLY NOW button, create an account on GISTNetwork.org, and complete the application. 

Q. Can I complete the application in a language other than English?

A. No. All application questions must be answered in English.

Q. Is knowledge of English required to participate?

A. All instructors will be native English speakers.  At least one member of your team must be proficient enough in English to participate in the one-on-one meetings with the instructors. 

Q. How much of the course is in-person versus virtual?

A. There will be 2-day in-person opening workshop in Tblisi followed by 6 weeks of virtual training. The program will conclude with a 2-day in-person workshop and Demo Day.

Q. What is the average age of selected participants?

A: The age of the selected participants is usually between the ages of 18 and 40.

Q: How much of a time commitment (hrs/week) should be expected from selected participants during the entire program? 

A: You should expect to spend an average of 10-15 hours per week.

Q: Do I need a fully working prototype to apply or will a proof of concept (very rough prototype) suffice? 

A: A fully-working prototype is not required. A proof of concept will suffice. The purpose of this program is to talk to potential future customers to help shape the initial minimum viable product.

Q: Do I need Intellectual Property (IP) to participate?

A: No.  But if you do have IP we will not ask you about it during the program nor will we expect you to share that information. This program is not about your technology - it is about the process of exploring market potential and whether you are solving a need in the marketplace.

Q: What specific measures will help prevent IP theft? 

A: IP information will not be shared by anyone during this program.

Q: Can the same person apply with multiple teams?

A: We will only accept one application per applicant.

Q: Can the same team apply with multiple projects? 

A: Each team can only submit a single innovation.

Q: Are there any fees for participants in the program?

A: No. All fees are covered by the program.


GIST Innovates Successes

Vamekh Kherkheulidze of Elven Technologies

Elven Technologies is a high-tech personal protection equipment (PPE) company. Our first product is a technologically-advanced full body fire-proof suit with a cooling system to keep firefighters safe in the line of duty and help save lives.

Nataliya Limonova of GIOS

GIOS is designing an interactive platform for the delivery of remote and blended learning. In addition to keeping students engaged in the educational process, the platform aims to support teachers in organizing remote and hybrid teaching by providing them with a flexible course builder, interactive material library, assessment, and analytics.

Djordje Dimitrijevic of SignAvatar

"As a Balkan startup, you might think that having cool technology is enough. But as a GIST Innovates the Balkans alum, I discovered the real key is understanding your buyer. Through customer interviews, you'll learn how to position your business to meet customer needs. This program marries Balkan creativity with American business strategies, helping you fine-tune your ideas and truly connect with your target market. And along the way, you'll also make some great friends." 

Nina Levikj of Brummell

In the U.S. nearly 5k motorcyclists die annually for not wearing suitable motorcycle gear. The Brummell Blazer is a perfectly engineered piece of equipment that looks like an elegant blazer from the outside, but has the same features of a motorcycle jacket from the inside. 


About the Implementer

GIST Innovates is administered by VentureWell. VentureWell is a nonprofit organization with a mission to cultivate a diverse pipeline of inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs driven to solve the world’s biggest challenges and create lasting impact. In 27 years, VentureWell has helped bring scientific and technological advancements in the fields of energy, agriculture, water, environment, and healthcare to millions of people in more than 90 countries. 15,000 innovators have been trained and supported by VentureWell, who have created over 3,000 businesses that have gone on to raise over $3.5B in private and public investments. VentureWell’s large network of partners span the fields of higher education, research, government, and industry, and includes many leading private and public partners including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of State (DOS), The Lemelson Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

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