Why Turkey is becoming the next hot startup scene

On November 21, 2012 by murat

(Photo: demo of a proximity-sensor based marketing platform from office hours)

I’ve just spent a week in Istanbul, attending conferences, hosting open office hours for two days, meeting with local investors and hosting another Entrepreneurs Roundtable event. I was stunned by the amazingly high levels of energy, enthusiasm and activity. From my observations over the past 20 years, we’ve hit the inflection point for startups where things are now starting to take off exponentially.

Turkey is in the ‘building the first generation of entrepreneurs” phase and will soon transition into the next phase as some of these successful founders will exit and start angel investing and their startups will start spawning groups of successful entrepreneurs just like the ‘paypal mafia’.

I was given an office by Bosphorus for three days at Bahcesehir University and had open ‘ofice hours’. The quality was off the charts. The companies that are applying to ERA have very strong global ideas and they have startup experience from existing successful startups.

The passion for entrepreneurship is in the air.

Educational institutions
Education is very strong in Turkey and especially highly qualified technologists are coming out of universities in droves.

And large educational organizations such as Bahcesehir University as well as Sabanci, METU, Ozyegin and Bilkent are fully focusing on entrepreneurship. I taught a very interactive ‘startup workshop’ at Bahcesehir University to a full auditorium, which was a lot of fun.

At Bahcesehir University, they are identifying and mentoring promising young entrepreneurs and enabling them to pursue their passions by sending them to take classes at Stanford over the summers.

Qualified investors are starting to increase, like Baris Aksoy of Intel Capital, who moved to Istanbul from California earlier this year.

New funds and early-stage programs are also starting to proliferate, creating a great support environment for local entrepreneurs.

Popular culture
The TV program “You have an idea?” is the Turkish version of “Shark Tank” and doing very well on TV. Entrepreneurs and investors are being featured all over the press. Students are growing up wanting to be entrepreneurs, instead of bank clerks.

Turkish entrepreneurs and investors with extensive startup experience who are living abroad are coming back to help and get involved with the local scene, like Baris Karadogan, Aydin Senkut, etc. The local culture is being shaped very positively thanks to the involvement of these extremely savvy entrepreneurs/investors.

While five years ago it was a barren land when it came to getting support for startups, now qualified startup lawyers, co-working spaces, consultants and sponsors are easy to reach. Turkish Economy Bank who also sponsored Turkish Technology Network, is very involved and supporting the ecosystem.

Community building
Local entrepreneurs are organizing and networking through a multitude of events while
Didem Altop at Endeavor is doing wonderful things for entrepreneurs. Also global startup events such as Startup Weekend are making stops in Istanbul as well as regular hackathons, meetups, etc. We have also been organizing Entrepreneurs Roundtable events in Turkey for the past 3 years.

Landing back in New York, the first thing I thought was how excited I got back in Turkey meeting with all the amazing entrepreneurs and investors, more than ever before.

Next step is, we really would like to bring a Turkish startup to our Winter 2013 program at ERA in New York and create an even stronger startup community in Turkey that will spawn many successful startups in the years to come.

Application deadline for ERA Winter 2013 program is November 30th: http://eranyc.com/apply


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