Silicon Valley Tech Tour for Azerbaijani Entrepreneurs

From July 5th to July 14th, Khazar Ventures organized the first Tech Tour to the heart of innovation and entrepreneurship — California. During the tour, Azerbaijani entrepreneurs and investors had visited VCs, accelerators, incubators, startups, angel investors and community builders and technology companies. The reason of organizing a trip is to demonstrate the success of Silicon Valley and bring that experience, vision and attitude to the country. Khazar Ventures would like to promote the culture of tech entrepreneurship and tech investments in the country. We think that investors are super scared of investing in startups.

  • Culture — traditionally we are in favor to invest in tangible things
  • Legislation — nothing related to angel and VC investments exist in the country and no incentives at all for investors
  • Cluster of traditional investors — hard to find even a single angel investor
  • Pursuit of short-term returns
  • Scalability — the market is too small for ambitious projects
  • Lack of tech talent

It is pretty hard to find a single institution in the country who would have a vision. And adding those above-mentioned points leaves us with a very poor ecosystem with almost no fundraising for startups.
Speaking of the ecosystem, it doesn't motivate you to create some amazing stuff. No incentives for investors and almost no investors with a vision. There is little interest from the corporations, institutions, government and many other bodies. As anywhere else in the world, it is going to change. We are doing our best to change that by organizing tech events and conferences, investing in startups, inviting the best entrepreneurs, VCs and angels to the country and recently first time organizing a tour to Silicon Valley. We went a bit further and also organized the first meetup event in Sunnyvale at Innowest, gathering Azeri, Turkish, Russian and other entrepreneurs in the same ground. Innowest is an incubator supporting international and Silicon Valley startups.

No single VC and angel institution. No accelerator program in the country. How do you think it is possible to have good startups from Baku without these institutions? Adding on top lack of talent and educational problems. These are tough questions to handle. Although we have fully destroyed the heritage of Soviet engineering school after our independence, we have a bright tendency in education. Azerbaijan sends more students and people studying and working in Western and rich economies and they are always somehow connected to their home country. They bring back the knowledge, skills and the will to help the country.

Tech tour was able to demonstrate the participants a unique ecosystem interconnecting everything in quite a short time period. By being connected to different tech hubs, we could boost our own ecosystem. We are also trying to build a bridge between the country and the most sophisticated economy in the world. If we look at Israeli experience (the country is smaller territory and population-wise than Azerbaijan), the success of the «Startup Nation» happened as they had a great tech talent and a direct access to Silicon Valley: a perfect combination of money, talent and access to global markets.

Another great approach is always be connected with Azerbaijanis living abroad and who have succeeded in tech. People like Tural Badirkhanli (cofounder at Namo Media), Ismail Orujov (director of M&A at Barclays Investment Bank), Fuad Malikov (Cofounder at Hazelcast), Rustam Aliyev (CTO at BICapital),Elnar Hajiyev (CTO at RealEyes) and Garib Mehdiyev (cofounder at WeTravel) are going to be the driving power of Azerbaijan's tech ecosystem. By consistently keeping in touch and connecting them to Baku community, I believe we could do a better job.

We thought we should start from somewhere and by having an access to global tech hubs and educating our local investors and startups, we can build up our own tech hub in Baku with an easy reach to Eastern European, Central Asian and Middle Eastern markets, money and talent.

We have divided our tour into 4 parts

Tech Companies

A fun Picture at Exadel promoting Open Source
Exadel loves Open Source and has nothing to hide :)

Visiting Google HQ in Mountain View
Google HQ in Mountain View

Keeping traditions
Mammad of Khazar Ventures keeping traditions of golf at Google HQ

Mobile Action - one of the hottest startups in Silicon Valley founded by the Turkish friend - Aykut
Meeting Aykut — founder of Mobile Action

Visiting Twitter HQ
Visiting Twitter HQ

Baku Entrepreneurs at Palantir HQ in Palo Alto
At Palantir HQ in Palo Alto

Visiting Palantir

Meeting with Leonid Kitaynik - Vice-President of IP at Evernote
Meeting Leonid Kitaynik — Vice-President of IP at Evernote in the HQ of Evernote


Meeting Marvin Lao - partner at 500 Startups at 500 Startups HQ
Meeting Marvin Liao — a partner at 500 Startups

Ismail Orujov is the director of Barclays Capital in California
Meeting Ismail Orujov — a director of M&A at Barclays Investment Bank HQ in Menlo Park

Pitch Johnson is one of the founding fathers of VC industry
Pitch Johnson — founder of Asset Management abd one of founding fathers of VC industry.

Tim Draper is one of the most influential VCs
Tim Draper is one of the most influential VCs and a partner at DFJ.

Meeting Sasha Johnson - founder of GTS and Previous partner at DFJ-Aurora
Sasha Johnson is a founder of Global Technology Symposium and a partner for DFJ-Aurora.


Innowest is one of major coworkings launched by our Turkish friends in Sunnyvale
Innowest is an incubator connecting entrepreneurs, investors and mentors, a launchpad for great events and helping international startups to scale in Silicon Valley

First time we ever organized a meetup connecting a group of Azeri, Turkish, American and Russian entrepreneurs
An event we are especially proud of. Organizing the first meetup in California bringing Azeri, Turkish, Russian and American entrepreneurs all together.

Derek Andersen - CEO of Startup Grind hosted the delegation from Azerbaijan
Derek Andersen — CEO of Startup Grind hosted the delegation from Azerbaijan

A funny tshirt at Founder Institute
Good to be reminded that idea means nothing if you do not implement it

Hacker Dojo - a workplace where a community of startups, investors and mentors gather together
Hackerdojo — a community of entrepreneurs, investors and startups.

Uber cool to see John Beadle - Startup Weekend Director who came to facilitate Startup Weekend Baku
Meeting John Beadle — a director of Startup Weekend

And the rest...
We visited many great spots in San Francisco and Bay Area checking out great parks, University, nice restaurants and entertainment.

Stanford Graduate Business School Campus

This was indeed an amazing experience and it left every participant with a new vision, more risky attitude to business and love for technology startups. By changing the mindset of more entrepreneurs and investors, Azerbaijan could start a new history of tech entrepreneurs.

The next tour Khazar Ventures is planning to organize at the end of September. To get more info, contact [email protected]

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