The Gazelles of Turkey

This article is written by Mohammad Eslim, a Contributor Author at Startup Istanbul.

Dr. Erhan Erkut received a BSc in Industrial Engineering from Bogazici University in 1980 and a Ph.D. University of Alberta School of Business during 1985-2005. He is a member of the Canadian Operational Research Society. Dr. Erkut has established a Center for Excellence in Management and Management.

Turkey is not a place we could say that can be considered Silicon Valley or Berlin in the Middle East, for turkey is an emerging market that is still growing rapidly in terms of startups, capital, technology and experience.

‘Turkish Gazelles’ is a book written by prof. Erhan Erkut, the book is about companies that are possibly valued between five to ten million dollars now and whatever shot that will make it up to $100 million in the next three years. Originally the book started with fifteen company and now the number is up to forty. The author is making the book dynamic which means it will be updated every six months so you can follow these ‘gazelles’ and figure out what does it take to be a successful Turkish entrepreneur. 

There is no specific degree that will lead to entrepreneurship, as the book shows there are people with different degrees and are successful entrepreneurs. You can find every department of the engineering college, business, science and many other degrees. All of the degrees in the world can lead to entrepreneurship, and yes you might see more engineers than others but you also see people with backgrounds in physics, international relations, urban planning and media and visual arts. 

What is also surprising is that there are people who started a business and became successful without having university degrees. And another one who became a successful entrepreneur because there is no job for his degree! The thing is that it really doesn’t matter what you study or what your degree is because you can be an entrepreneur regardless. 

The professor also mentioned asking whether those successful founders were incubated or accelerated and the answer was shocking; out of twenty of those companies only four were incubated or accelerated! The reason might be partially because incubators and accelerators were still new in turkey the time they started but that dispels the myth that your business won’t succeed without accelerators and incubation associations. The other dispelled myth is that you don’t need to get government financing to scale in your business as only four companies out of twenty received government financing.  

Then there comes the other question asked in the interviews with the companies’ founders the book is about; have you worked professionally before starting up? Sixteen founders answered yes. This leads to the conclusion that you might start your company after graduation and you still have a high chance of success. In general, it doesn’t matter how many times you fail or go bankrupt or how many years you worked professionally or if you never worked at all because all you have to do is more learning in actual startups.  

The last topic discussed is it really doesn’t matter if you received support from university or not, or if it widened up your horizons or taught you scientific, analytical thinking or gave you a broad-based education or had supported you with technology; what matters is that you know what you want to do, how to do it and actually executing it!

 Those successful businessmen started as entrepreneurs as well and in an emerging market with little-to-no support for the most of them and yet they became founders of a high-valued companies. They worked hard and as fast as they can make it to reach their goals and so shall you do. Don’t give up on your business because once you do it dies with all the chance to make it real.


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