A team of students from the American University of Armenia won the first prize of the Fintergration Hackathon, organized by Dom-Daniel and Microsoft Armenia. The project of Erik Arakelyan, Hakob Tovmasyan, Karen Galstyan, and Hrach Hakobyan received the descriptive title “Simply the Best.” It is the first victory of the team and the first hackathon won by AUA students.
What is a hackathon, you ask? During hackathons,people with technological background come together to work on software solutions within a set period. Fintergration aimed at uniting the financial industry and digital technology to give the idea of how those two will work together in the future. The entire week was dedicated to training and preparation for the day of the Hackathon, which took place on October 28 in the Dilijan Training and Research Center and lasted for 18 hours. The teams competed for three prizes: “Simply the Best” (610.000 AMD), “Technological Breakthrough” (377.000 AMD), “Truly Artistic” (233.000 AMD). As a result, 25 teams of different expertise and many local and international experts in IT field came together to exercise their imagination and skills.
“We didn’t even think about winning during the competition. We just did our best,” Erik admits. They won and took home not only the prize and the original project, but also memories of both exhausting and exciting day.
Everything started with an email. “Karen and I received an email almost at the same time. I looked at him with the question, ‘Are we going?’ Erik tells us. “Karen said, ‘Yes, we are going.’ That’s how we found each other.” Hrach and Hakob joined the team later. The team was supposed to be much bigger, but on the day of the hackathon the mobility of the team worked in their favor. “We knew that we were ready to listen to each other,” Eric says. From the very beginning, they understood that it was impossible to create the perfect product. They divided the work into two parts – web and application – and worked on developing the solutions.. At least, until the pitching.
“Everything was all over the place when it was the time to talk about the product. It was challenging but very interesting” Karen confesses. “That’s when the character of the team comes into the play. When you manage to get things done in extreme situations, it means you have a great team.”
Victory, however, wasn’t handed them on a silver platter. “The hardest part was when one of the softwares provided by organisers stopped working four hours before the end of the Hackathon. At that moment, Karen said that finishing the product was not as important as being ready to present what we had,” Erik confesses. “ ‘We need to get some rest if we want to have a good presentation,’ was Karen’s advice. We went to the room and slept for half an hour. It was one of the most important decisions our team made. It also was the best half an hour of my life.”
It worked, and their idea was received well by the jury and other teams alike. The problem they decided to tackle was connected to the confusing stock market: many of us, are confused by the world’s puzzly language. “On the stock market, companies buy and sell shares. It is complicated. For example, after the news exploding Samsung phones reached the masses, the prices for shares of the company quickly dropped,” Karen explains. “Our idea is to create software which will read news for you and evaluate how it will affect shares of one or another company.”
The result of their work iss the virtual helper Vitto. It’s a tool that tries to provide suggestions about the future of the company on the stock market. It’s aim is to take the information that only financial analysts understand and translate it into simple language. You can satisfy both your ambitious and educational needs with the help of their application. “If you ask Siri how Microsoft is doing, it will tell you about the position of the company right now. Our Vitto will give you the insight into the position of the company in the future,” Erik explains.
Nonetheless, the product still has a long way to go. “What we did for the Hackathon was enough. We understand that right now, we cannot create the finite product. We need people who understand finances much better. Maybe there is a better way to go. We just wanted to show that it was possible to do what we did,” Karen admits. “We made Vitto publicly available right after the Hackathon. We like the idea of democratizing artificial intelligence. Our team members are interested in machine learning, but it is not enough. Many people, both in Armenia and outside, can develop the concept much faster and with better quality.”
It will not come as a surprise that the product was not oriented on the local market. Armenia does not have a well-developed stock market. However, Armenian IT industry never limited itself with political borders. “It is out of doubt that Armenia has ambitions to become one of the leading IT countries in the region,” Hrach says. “But, in my opinion, what is lacking is proper mentorship and education. In Armenia, larger companies either do not mentor younger specialist or have short programs which usually do not last long enough.
“The Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) at AUA, ideally, should become the hub which will connect people working in the field of technologies and create a community,” Karen states optimistically. “Even though the idea is still a bit abstract, the work has already started. It’s possible that we will become the Europe’s Silicon Valley in 10 years.”
The team has done a great job in bringing their knowledge and experience together for the Hackathon. Their AUA education did not go unnoticed. “AUA helped us see new directions and opportunities and taught us how to learn. In reality, it has more valuable than some of the practical knowledge,” Hrach, a senior at AUA, admits. The entire team nodded in agreement. “Even working in the team – putting together a presentation, distributing task – is something we learned how to do at AUA,” Karen continues.
The four guys were not the only team from the AUA with potential. The other team of AUA students won the “Technological Breakthrough” prize on the Hackathon. Many group members have just entered the University but have managed to do something very interesting and present the idea very well. “Many of us have at least some experience in the field.” Karen admits. “You could see where they were going. What I also respect is that they agreed to give the cash price they received charity. We’ll probably divide what we got among ourselves and move on”
In the end, the team has an advice that is applicable to any situation. “The secret is that motivation does not work. If you want to do something, try to jump above your head and do it,” Karen shares his wisdom.
This may be the first victory of the team on the Hackathon but clearly not the last one. The team expressed a desire to take part in similar events in the nearest future. We hope to hear about them again. We will be there to write about their victories.