Eurasia’s biggest entrepreneurship, investment and networking event, Startup Istanbul, brought together startups, VCs, business angels, top executives and decision makers of the global internet ecosystem at Istanbul Lütfi Kırdar Convention & Exhibition Center. With the main sponsorship of SAP Innovation Turkey, the event hosted 100 selected entrepreneurs and 200 investors from 40 different countries in its second year where the event speakers’ predominantly put an emphasis on the holistic view of entrepreneurship, punctuating that it is has to be embraced as a matter of both personal and societal mindset.
Aiming to increase the number of digital-minded companies and create an international networking environment for the technology and internet ecosystem, Etohum, leading accelerator and seed investor organization in Turkey, hosted distinctive startups and investors from all the world in Startup Istanbul. More than 1000 attendees from Egypt to France and USA to Pakistan had a chance to meet up and network for new business opportunities while listening to the most influential speakers of the ecosystem at the event.
“Entrepreneurs don’t grow up in cages”
The conference started with a warm welcome speech by Burak Büyükdemir, founder of Etohum, who shortly yielded the floor for the opening speech of Prof. Erhan Erkut, Vice Chancellor of MEF University, who first displayed a video on Jack Ma, founder of the biggest e-commerce sites Alibaba.com, and explained how Ma turned 60,000 dollars of investment capital into 230,000 dollars in a short period of time.
“If you only think locally and work from 8 am to 5 pm or underrate your own brain, you cannot be successful in this new economy, especially with the old tools of the old one” Erkut said. “Despite Turkey’s high entrepreneurial potency, our cultural values avoiding risk, national history focusing more on military victories instead of business achievements, and education system based on grooming public servants greatly prevent us to fulfill our potential. In an environment of corporate slavery, we cannot and should not discipline entrepreneurs in cages and let them live a life of confinement.”
“We should encourage our daughters on entrepreneurship”
Etohum’s new business partner, Microsoft Ventures, was one of the highlights of the event, with Rahul Sood, General Manager of Microsoft Ventures, evaluating Turkish and the global startup ecosystem as the keynote speaker.
Having founded his first company at the age of 18, Sood talked about not only his experiences in the industry but also the best startup ecosystems in the world like Israel, USA and China, the latter being famous for its wide-ranging accelerator support and potential for business opportunities. As an advocate for women’s participation in the entrepreneurship environment, he said: “Today, in this age of technology, we need women’s professional expertise and vision more. That’s why we should do better to encourage our daughters on entrepreneurship and support them to see more of an effective contribution and larger perspective. Just think about the market potential of 70 million people in Turkey… It’s high time that you left your comfort zones and took a daring step towards building up your own focus, product, team, brand community, business culture and work ethics. You can make real an ethics-oriented local startup which can later be scaled globally and enhanced with a diversity of ideas. When you succeed, as one of your responsibilities, the next step will be to connect with and leverage your local ecosystem by mentoring the newcomers.”
“Hasan Aslanoba changed the country as a whole”
As the Founding Partner of 500 Startups, an internet startup seed fund & incubator program active in 40 countries and headquartered in Mountain View, CA, Dave McClure referred to the changing conditions within the ecosystem in the last 20 years. McClure said that before the 2000’s, it was harder for entrepreneurs to succeed because of the limited opportunities. According to McClure, things started to change after 2008 and startups had become the advantageous side: “We don’t spend loads of money on softwares and servers anymore, thanks to cloud technologies. Now our product tests don’t last for months but just a couple of days, extending over the Internet and reaching billions of users. Our sources of capital are countless compared to the old days. 15 years ago, it was a really painful to survive and become successful in the Silicon Valley as an entrepreneur. That’s why startups should stop whining and just launch! Because Silicon Valley, a model for most startups, is not a place but a crazy state of mind. It’s a state of mind full of belief in success and optimism in the face of failure.”
Calling upon investors and business angels around the world, McClure referred to Hasan Aslanoba, leading angel investors in Turkey who already made 42 angel/VC investments to internet based startups, and concluded his speech with a final message: “Hasan Aslanoba has changed the whole country. But usually investors are the real bottleneck of entrepreneurship in a given country. There’s actually no lack of talent outside of Silicon Valley. In fact, there are many bright startups here in Turkey. All you need to do is to go fund them.”
SAP’s Startup Focus support for Turkish entrepreneurs
Cafer Tosun, General Manager of SAP Innovation Center Turkey and Senior Vice President for Strategic Innovations at SAP, on the other hand, talked about the Startup Focus Program in detail which was initiated in Turkey in April 2014. Tosun’s speech focused on the current outlook of the business world and its demands for new solutions, especially in an environment where all stages of operations, from production to transportation, are digitalized on a full scale: “Now that people, machines and industries have become connected to one another, companies have reached to a point where they immensely need diverse solutions for increasingly big and real-time data. With this perspective in mind, we initialized the Startup Focus Program in 2012 as an investment towards future, and made it available to 57 different countries, 22 industries and 1500 startups since its inception. Those who would like to develop their own product over the SAP HANA Platform, we are ready to include them in our Program for free. The local startups taking part in our SAP Startup Focus Program also have an opportunity to go global.”