Moved from Cleveland, Ohio, USA in 2017
Tigran Asriyan moved from America to Armenia a little over a year ago.
Born in Stepanakert, he witnessed the Karabakh conflict unfold, which caused his family to flee first to Russia, and then to America, in an attempt to secure a better future for their children. Given the economic turmoil in the 90s, Tigran’s family had to start over from scratch each time they moved. This harsh period had a significant impact on the formation of Tigran’s character and predetermined his future interest in finance.
In Ohio, where they finally settled, Tigran enrolled to the University of Akron and graduated with a degree in Accounting and Finance in 2012, having developed passion for finance and investing. After graduating, Tigran decided to pay a visit to his homeland through a volunteer program called Armenian Service Program whose aim is to connect Diasporan Armenians to their roots. The group of 20 volunteers spent three weeks in Armenia providing community service and doing excessive sightseeing, which impacted Tigran’s attitude to his homeland to a degree that he felt he wanted to stay for a longer period. Soon thereafter he began his career in banking which later included a senior assurance role at EY, a multi-national financial services firm. However, Tigran always kept an eye out for one day returning to Armenia.
“When I heard about Birthright Armenia, I was ready to come back and establish a profound connection with my motherland... Back in my childhood, I was exposed to Armenian culture though very little to Armenian language, because my parents didn’t speak Armenian to me or my siblings – living in Russia they thought that we should speak fluent Russian in the first place so as to avoid bilingual issues at school.”
As a Birthright Armenia volunteer, Tigran worked continuously at the Central Bank of Armenia. A licensed CPA, he realized that Armenia needs higher productivity and more cost-effective solutions thereby deciding to stay here longer in order to contribute to the economic growth of Armenia. Tigran got involved in a long-term project aiming to bring the one of the world’s largest online payment company, PayPal, to the country but the latter did not seem interested.
“Lack of an option like PayPal stifles growth of small and medium enterprises such as the Homeland Development Initiative Foundation (HDIF) which was established to initiate, facilitate, and nurture sustainable economic opportunities for women in rural and disenfranchised regions of Armenia. The current process is quite difficult, involves sending emails back and forth and eventually a money order or cheque. Once they receive the money, HDIF then ships the product. Obviously, business cannot function efficiently like that. Americans are used to getting stuff within two or three days when ordering something via AliExpress or Amazon.” So Tigran discovered a solution to assist small businesses in conducting cross border trade deals, facilitating the shipping of handmade goods worldwide. If you’re a craftsman, you are naturally interested in enlarging the number of customers from Europe or America who can help boost your income.
Rejected by PayPal, Tigran saw the opportunity and the value of bringing digital currency to Armenia, following his thorough research of the field. The biggest challenge in Armenian is that people here are dogmatic and they prefer to own paper money believing it to have superior properties. For most people set in their ways change is hard, for example, when traditional gold was first replaced by notes, then fiat money and now digital currency. Since more than half of Armenians don’t have bank accounts due to either trust issues, cost or access, digital currencies are the perfect solution to address these problems.
“I want to build a financial company that is trusted and open to all. Bitcoin is a revolutionary currency for empowering the individual by giving back economic freedom. Thanks to the opportunity to send money directly to anyone and anywhere for free, every single person, regardless of gender, nationality and account balance will be able to access the global financial system. It’s a dream coming true.”
Tigran never bought a return ticket to America. When asked what made him stay, he smiled and said “I experienced stress in the US, but as soon as the plane landed in Yerevan, it all just melted away. Another reason was predilection for year-round sunny weather and aesthetics of the city. In addition, I never drive a car and rarely use public transportation to get around. Every place in Yerevan, starting from the office ending at the gym, is accessible within a pleasant short walk''.
Talking about problems connected with repatriation, he remarks on the difficulty of leaving one’s family and professional network and starting it all from a scratch. Tigran underlines that you should come to Armenia without high expectations in order to avoid cultural shock. “Furthermore, it doesn’t matter “how much Armenian” you are (by 20 or 50 percent) it is more essential that you change Armenia for the better. Find the courage to make the difference and become a different person yourself.”
Interview: Diana Akopyan