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Newsletter ISSUE #1

For

INNOVATIVE FUTURE September 2019

Georgia’s Innovation & Technology Agency Georgia National Innovation Ecosystem Project


GENIE – Project of Real Opportunities Georgian Goverment to Support Innovative Ecosystem in the Country

Government of Georgia has prioritized developing knowledge-based and innovation-driven economic development by institutionalizing the support schemes and establishing Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA) under the supervision of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia (19/02/2014). GITA is a main coordinator and mediator in the process of building a national innovation ecosystem. The main mandate of GITA is: to create ecosystem and coordinate its development process; stimulate innovation, modern technologies and R&D, facilitate commercialization and usage of R&D; support to innovative start-ups and their competitiveness growth, facilitate cooperation between the representatives of scientists and businesses; promote digital literacy all over the country and etc. among the main functions of GITA are: contribute to building capacity and developing skills, support the enhancement of SMEs competitiveness through innovative approaches and technology solutions; provide the infrastructure for innovation and R&D; facilitation and financing of knowledge-based initiatives, innovative projects and products; implementation of programmes for stimulation of R&D in the business sector. To achieve these goals, agency implements infrastructure and capacity building projects all over the country to increase accessibility to internet and modern technologies in the regions, especially for the socially vulnerable population. Moreover, solicits capacity building activities for rural area small and medium businesses in management, product development and e-commerce.

Georgia National Innovation Ecosystem Project in the amount of US $23.5 is implemented by the Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA) with support of the World Bank Group. The project started in 2017 with its main objective to support the development of innovative infrastructure in Georgia and to increase innovative activities of firms and individuals in the knowledge-based, digital economy. The project enhances Georgia’s national innovation ecosystem through an integrated approach across three components. Innovation Infrastructure 1.1 Community Innovation Centers 1.2 Regional Innovation Hubs 1.3 Broadband-for-development Innovation Services 2.1 Building the innovation Community 2.2 Digital economy skills development 2.3 Business innovation support Innovation Financing 3.1 Start-up and Innovation matching grants 3.2 Matching grants TA and administration 3.3 Innovation financing policy TA GENIE is aimed to create integrated instruments that will support strengthening and developing innovation ecosystem in Georgia and help potential startups and innovators to get information and support for maximum growth. Project Team works on implementation of parallel programs such as Startup and Innovation Grants, Broadband for Development, Strengthening ICT Skills, TechTransfer, Bootcamps, launching Accelerator etc. Successful execution of these components will lead Georgia to enhanced innovation infrastructure, better understanding of global economy and improved skills essential for recent challenges being crucial to compete with today’s world.

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ANCE N I F O T S S E ACC

On May 31 third round of startup Matching grants was announced ending with the highest number of collected applications by July 20. 195 applicants struggled to win GEL100 000 (USD 35000) amount to co-fund the most innovative startups with highest potential of entering global market. Pitching session for the ongoing Matching Grants Round was held on September 2 and 3, 2019 to find new fortune seekers challenged to find ideas as well as its implementation patterns. 41 selected finalists who overcame first technical evaluation process and one-week coaching, made their presentations in front of

the 5 International Investment Committee members. 20 were selected by jury to grant main prize of the competition. The winners cover areas such as AI, agro sector, mechanical and bio engineering, online business and others. Detailed information about the winners is available on the website: www.grants.gov.ge Next startup grants competition will be announced in November 2019. The program is implemented by the Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA) with support of the World Bank’s Georgia National Innovation Ecosystem Project (GENIE).

Startup Matching Grants Program to Support Seed Stage Business Startup Matching Grants Program was designed to stimulate development of new innovative Startups or early-stage enterprises counting less than 2 years of their existence. The program supports seed stage businesses and projects with innovative approach or idea having potential to enter global market. The first round of the program was launched in 2018. By September 2019 three Startup Matching Grants Rounds have been completed with the total of 57 final winners. Financial contribution of a participant must be at least 10% of total project cost preferably from private, and excluding public grant sources. Currently 57 winners from previous 3 rounds are on their way to develop new products and services through received financial support. This will enable them to enter next phase of their business lifecycle. Evaluation process is composed of three key stages that help implementing agency select the best projects from the submitted proposals. Three main evaluation stages can be underlined in this process. These stages are desk review, pre-evaluation and final evaluation. After submission, proposals will be processed on 1. Innovation and Content 2. Market and commercialization 3. Management and Financial Capacity 4. Sustainability. Those applicants whose proposals have been pre-selected will be invited to pitch to Independent Investment Committee (IIC) composed of five unbiased International Experts.

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Georgian MSMEs are given a unique chance to realize their innovative ideas leading to global markets. GEL 650,000 innovative matching grants are allotted to co-finance business projects implemented by the Georgian MSMEs that are aimed at improving product, technological or business process, promoting innovation with potential of global scale. The overall objective of the Innovative Matching Grants Program is to stimulate innovation and creation of innovative enterprises in Georgia. Co-financing is defined to be 50 per cent of the total investment cost that means that the project with its value of GEL 1,300,000 will be co-funded through the GENIE project in the amount of GEL650,000. The program targets established enterprises, i.e. companies registered at least one year before the call is launched. The minimum grant requested shall be GEL 150,000.

The program enables Georgian businessmen to expand their activities, improve new products, tools, business instruments and enter global markets that will support to strengthen Georgian innovative ecosystem and Georgian economy”. The Call for Proposals for Innovation Matching Grants has been announced by GITA in May 2019 and applications submission is accepted on a rolling basis until the program budget - 3.6 million US Dollars is eliminated. Evaluation of applications and decisions on grant awards are made on a quarterly basis. Companies with a clear Georgian nexus and operations headquartered in Georgia are encouraged to apply and make their efforts in building a new economy.

“The main problem for young business in Georgia is access to finance. Private sector is not well aware about successful startups and startup ecosystem in general, so is less risky too. That’s why the program has been designed to share risks with business and at the same time support and stimulate business sector to develop” – explains the Chairman of the GITA (Georgian Innovation and Technology Agency) Avtandil Kasradze.

TO ADDRESS THE CHALLENGES AND COVER ONE OF THE GAPS IN CURRENT STARTUP ECOSYSTEM, GITA PLANS TO CREATE AND OPERATE A “SEED STAGE” ACCELERATOR The goal is to increase Georgia’s entrepreneurial ability to innovative, create a vibrant ecosystem that attracts and retains founder talent and to make it a leader of innovation and entrepreneurship in the region. To reach that goal, top performing companies and high-potential entrepreneurs from the region and all over the world will be invited to apply for the Acceleration Program that includes a greater focus on assisting local and regional startups with integration into supply chains and global markets, along with raising growth capital. The Accelerator will focus on companies that have at a minimum demonstrated, or are expressly focused on, some of the following characteristics: • Achieving early traction and proof of concept locally; • Looking for partners and resources to help them further validate or effectively modify their business models; • Finishing up MVPs or pilots and/or are seeking to adapt current products into MVPs for new markets;

• Completing proof of concept globally; • Raising Seed or small Series A rounds up to $2M USD. As GITA has prioritized establishing Georgia as a leading regional startup hub, the project has a particular preference for startups from Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Eastern Europe, India, Pakistan, Turkey and Central Asia. Founders should have global ambitions for growth. In Georgia, a natural, though not exclusive, audience would be the recipients of GITA Matching Grants. While the geography of founders will not be restricted to Georgia, the venture will be required to incorporate in Georgia as a condition to get accepted to the program. Request For Expression of Interest (www.gita.gov.ge) was released on September 25, 2019. Acceleration Program is expected to start in January 2020.

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NG I D L I U B Y T I COMMUN

BOOTCAMPS

HELP STUDENTS TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND STARTUPS The participants were selected from Tbilisi (19 participants) and 10 regions of Georgia: Kakheti (10), Mtskheta-Mtianeti (3), Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti (10), Adjara (10), Shida Kartli (11), Kvemo Kartli (10), Imereti (10), Guria (9), Racha (2), Samtskhe-Javakheti (5). Students have learnt the basis of Arduino and programming, as well as entrepreneurial and startup approaches in modern technology. This gave them the sense of how interesting and exciting technology and science could be and accelerated the change of their career path towards STEAM.

On September 7th, Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA) launched first national STEAM bootcamp for 10-12th school graders at the Georgian-American School in Batumi. The project was realized within the framework of the World Bank's National Innovation Ecosystem project, with implementation support of the Ilia State University.

The project had very positive feedback from participants, several of them decided to change their career path towards STEAM and to get more involved with innovational and technological activities. The project had very positive feedback from participants, all of them decided to get involved with innovational and technological activities.

100 high school students were selected among 1100 applicants from all regions of Georgia participated in the Innovation and Technology Camp. The purpose of the camp was to familiarize students with natural sciences and technology and to gain practical knowledge in technology and entrepreneurship, which will further assist them in choosing a career in STEAM. Seven days program was split to cover following areas: • Arduino and programming; • Lectures on artificial intelligence, robotics, biochemistry and astrophysics; • Entrepreneurial and startup approaches in modern technology; • Perform fun science experiments; • Participate in various engineering competitions.

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3000 CITIZENS OF GEORGIA WILL RECEIVE FREE TRAINING IN

ICT DISCIPLINES & PROJECT MANAGEMENT

Georgian government in partnership with the World Bank has launched program to train 3000 local ICT professionals. Overall budget of the program is 2.5 million US Dollars. The program is aimed to strengthen ICT sector in Georgia and support to export relevant ICT services to global market. On July 26, 2019 international tender was announced to find training provider. Number of training companies applied for the tender and the winner will be selected by October 2019. The consulting services include elaboration and delivery a multi-phase training Program to the competent individuals in Georgia, which will support the local labor force to meet domestic, and international market requirements in ICT field. All trainees shall be nationals of Client`s country (citizens of Georgia). The training shall comprise of specialized courses culminating in exams to obtain internationally recognized certification. A total of 3000 individual trainees are to be trained through the Program. Courses will comprise both Non-ICT and ICT disciplines including freelancing and product management, project management, front-end programming, back-end programming and database training. In addition, the training shall include specialized courses in Cisco and Microsoft software applications, Computer aided design and engineering, cybersecurity and distributed ledger technologies, in addition to training towards ISO accreditation.

The Training Provider shall be responsible for the overall management, coordination, design and delivery of trainings, which should be provided in three phases of the Program: Phase 1 (pilot), Phase 2 and Phase 3. Phase 2 will commence only upon successful completion of Phase 1. Phase 3 will commence only upon successful completion of Phase 2. Upon completion of the training course, the Training Provider shall pay for the trained program participant`s examination attendance fee. Information is available at www.bfd.gov.ge

STARTUP FRIENDLY

A PROJECT TO STRENGTHEN CONNECTIONS BETWEEN STARTUPS AND BUSINESS “StartUp Friendly” is a project of Georgian Innovations and Technology Agency, initiated by the Prime Minister of Georgia. The goal of the project is to cooperate with Georgian and international organizations to promote the rapid development of startups. The project implies identifying companies being able to offer various services for startups. Any company can join and become Startup friendly if: - Has a special offer for startups, - Can finance startups, - Cooperate with startups to develop joint projects/services. Consequently, member startups can get following benefits: - Access to the discounted products/services; - Access to the potential investors; - Access to the media coverage within resources available for the agency; - Discount on the use of conference and training rooms; - Free consultation with financial, legal and management direction;

INNOVATIVE BUSINESS SUPPORT PROGRAM

So far, more than 20 companies have made offers to startups and up to 80 startups are using them. In order to become a “Startup Friendly” company, contact Innovation Community Manager Mariam Gagua at mgagua@gita.gov.ge There are more than 200 startups in Georgia and the number is permanently increasing. More information about “Startup Friendly” is available on the website: https://www.gita.gov.ge/geo/static/121

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R NEWSLETTE K R O W T E N RS EL INVESTO G N A N A B E RGIA/GITA ABOUT GEO FAVORABLE INVESTMENT ENVIRONMENT MAKES GEORGIA ATTRACTIVE Georgia, ranked in top 6 in Ease of Doing Business worldwide, has transformed into a leading business friendly location through successful reforms. Boasting a strategic location, free trade agreements with 2.3 Billion markets, and low business costs, Georgia offers free industrial and free virtual trade zones for additional tax exemption. Through liberal visa terms and open-door policy, including investments rights protection – the country is positioned as a regional hub, a gateway connecting Europe to Asia. The local talent pool is another attraction of Georgia to the investors: a high-skilled and relatively cheap labor force makes the country competitive in the global market. Infrastructure for Innovation is rapidly growing throughout the country. State Tech Parks and Innovation Centers are operating on a one-stop-shop principle, providing access to creator-space, co-working space and training facilities, they also provide incubation/acceleration opportunities to promising high-growth innovative startups. Co-working spaces are spread around the city, encouraging networking and a bohemian lifestyle. WorkfromGeorgia is a campaign that reached global digital nomads, the platform is giving digital nomads the opportunity to benefit from co-working spaces not only in the capital but in the regions as well, providing additional technical assistance and network. In terms of innovation and startup financing, the Georgian government is providing the pre-seed and seed stage financing for startups, covering the risks and enhancing their skills for further investment opportunities. Through the World Bank support program and competitive selection process which is done by international experts from Silicon Valley and elsewhere, the Government has already more than 200 globally scalable startups with high-growth potential in the following industries: fintech, greentech, medtech, tourismtech, AI, VR, etc.

STACK - THE FIRST GEORGIAN WEB-BROWSER WITH ALTERNATIVE FEATURES AND FUNCTIONS Stack – one of the Startup Matching Grants Program winners represents an example of a local Georgian business with immense global opportunities. The first Georgian web-browser was launched in November 2018 offering an alternative way of working with multiple applications at the same time. Stack was created for those who use 5 or more applications daily (e-mails, messengers, social media etc.). Stack can fit several applications in one window giving the list of open applications on the side panel giving preference to frequently used ones. The project was initiated by four professionals: David Gavasheli – a serial entrepreneur running several successful businesses; Dachi Gubadze – who holds a PHD in Economics from Maastricht University; Zviad Sichinava – a professional web-developer with more than 8 years of international experience; and George Laliashvili – Innovation Business (startup) incubation specialist. In February 2019, the project was selected among 136 startups competing to receive a 100 000 GEL grant offered by Startup Matching Grants Program – an opportunity given by the Georgian Government to young innovators and technology startups.

Stack was also selected from 1500 participants to present as one of the 40 best startups at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. Nominated among 5 finalists of Austrian-American Startup Accelerator 360Lab contest, Stack was selected to participate in a 3-stage accelerator program and received an investment of 1 000 000 Euros to be invested gradually.

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On November 8-10, Tbilisi hosts Startup Grind Europe – Asia connect - the 3rd largest conference in the world. Startup Grind is independent startup community, actively education, inspiring and connecting entrepreneurs through events featuring founders, innovators and investors. We are bringing together speakers from the world’s most famous companies, entrepreneurs, educators and investors to share their experience. We believe that a two-day event will create a strong future for the emerging region. (https://www.startupgrind.com/tbilisi/). • We are expecting 1500 delegates, 30+ Speakers, 100+ delegates, 20+ countries. • With the improved global innovation rating (GII, 48 place), the two-day event aims to popularize Georgian technology entrepreneurship and position Georgia in the region and the world.

Drawing from over 30 countries at the intersection for Europe and Asia, SGEC will bring talented founders who are “below the radar” internationally to meet Venture Capital and other investors.

Digital Nomad / Work from Georgia Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency together with @workfromgeorgia launched the Digital Nomads’ attraction campaign in Georgia. Within the initiative, the first ever-virtual co-working platform has been created. The virtual joint co-working space www.workfromgeorgia.com is a free of charge platform, where any Georgian company/organization can be registered as a host and Digital Nomads can book the working space through it. In addition, companies can elaborate their special offers for the Digital Nomads within the platform. Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency perceives the mentioned initiative as a long-term project. Digital nomads will be reliable source for the rest of Nomads’ community and not only in terms of sharing practical information about Georgia as a tourist destination and as a country to start business.

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ATION V O N N I R O F TURE C U R T S A R F IN

Regional Hubs and Centers GITA currently runs Techpark in Tbilisi, capital and 2 Techparks in regions – Zugdidi and Telavi. 2 Innovation Centers cover Akhmeta and Rukhi regions.

EVENTS HELD IN REGIONS & PARTICIPANTS During period 2018-2019 regional Hubs and Centers hosted 245 events in total attended by more than 6 000 participants.

Males Sum

Females Sum

Akhmeta Innovation Center

1322

192

Akhmeta Innovation Center

61

Zugdidi TechPark

1718

355

Zugdidi TechPark

71

Telavi TechPark

1562

85

Telavi TechPark

67

688

144

Rukhi Innovation Center

47

Rukhi Innovation Center

Events Sum

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What Broadband for Development BfD Stands For? Broadband for Development was designed to increase internet penetration level in mountainous regions of Georgia as well as adoption and use of broadband internet services and advanced information technology. The program was targeted to cover households registered in Social Service Agency Database with score under 100 000 points and MSMEs operating also in high mountainous regions. Under the pilot phase by September 2019 nearly 400 households and 800 entrepreneurs had received services via BfD program. Services can be received via web-portal: www.bfd.ge.

The platform represents a tool to connect beneficiaries and service providers and also help to create BfD community and increase visibility of the program. A potential recipient is informed about available providers in his/her own region, to choose the best offer in terms of quality and price. When household expresses interest towards program and registers on platform to receive internet voucher, BfD program is there to finance installation cost. Further monthly payments are covered by the recipient. Program provides additional benefits to involved MSMEs such as specialized training that will help them to expand activities and sales; regional forums, where they can represent their products and services and connect with potential partners in the regions.

FARM

HANDMADE ACCESSORIES

GUESTHOUSE

A targeted communications campaign is running to support pilot phase of the program and build up awareness about existing opportunities in local communities. BfD pilot phase will give base to further development of the program in 2020 to involve more households as well as expand network of regional MSMEs to offer them targeted and tailor-made benefits for better performance and education.

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Upcoming Event - StartUp Grind 8-10 November

Content prepared by: Diana Chomakhashvili Communications Consultant Georgia National Innovation Ecosystem Project

Design: Nick Shaishmelashvili Designer Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency

For information contact: dichomakhashvili@gita.gov.ge +995577722001

Profile for Georgia's Innovation & Technology Agency

Newsletter - issue 1  

Newsletter - issue 1  

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