GIST Alumni Corner: Svetlana Jaghatspanyan of Forest Guard
Forest Guard is a smart sensor system that detects and prevents illegal logging, wildfire, and illegal transport access in forests and rest zones.
GIST: Forest Guard has been added to the Armenian government's budget. How did you work with your government to secure that funding? What type of partnership is it? Do you have any advice for other startups working with their governments?
Jaghatspanyan: As we are closely cooperating with one of the nineteen ArmForest departments, which supported us during the pilot program. The head of the department ensured that Forest Guard would be added to the Nature Protection Ministry of RA. So they asked me to send them a financial report. Based on that, they will order the system in the spring of 2020. My advice to other startups is to do networking and find channels in governmental institutions and keep in touch with them. Show your work to as many officials as possible and get feedback.
GIST: Your team recently designed and built your industrial prototype. What was that process like for your team? What were the challenges and how did you overcome them?
Jaghatspanyan: The biggest challenge was that there is a lack of professionals in my city. And there are no affordable microcontroller producers here in Armenia. There are only a few in the country, but they are expensive. So we found other solutions for both issues. I gathered twelve people with some IT background and started microelectronics classes for three months. They have just finished the classes and now work with us. And we did the board design in Armenia, but had it fabricated in China and shipped by DHL. It saves our time, which is the most important.
GIST: You were just awarded a scholarship to attend a university program in the U.S. What are you looking forward to most about that program? How do you think the program will benefit you on your professional journey?
Jaghatspanyan: Draper University is a great place to increase your skills, improve yourself as an entrepreneur and find investors. We will have lecturers such as Elon Musk. I hope to gain investment from there. It is a great location for attracting investors with my company’s scalability and big potential market for my project. And I hope to find new friends and do networking.
GIST: You have participated in a few GIST programs including GIST Business Incubation. What role has GIST played in supporting your successes?
Jaghatspanyan: First of all it builds trust. When I say I'm an alumni of a program organized by the U.S. Department of State, that changes lots of things. It gave me self-confidence. It gave me useful contacts in Chicago and Washington D.C. It changed my mindset totally.