1/ An ideal location, straddling two continents.
The day I landed in Istanbul, I went directly on Taksim main square, to immerse myself and feel the mood of a city full of history and diversity. I could smell honey flavors, mixed with almonds, pistachio, dates… Welcome to Istanbul, a first day of Ramadan.
Istanbul is located on either side of the Bosphorus – so straddling two continents, Europe and Asia. Turkey as a tech innovation hub is that it’s a convenient access point for the EMEA region: culturally and commercially.
It is strategically located between key markets in Europe, the Middle East, Russia and Central Asia. It has a young and educated workforce. The country’s governance is reliable and steady.
2/ A population highly engaged in new technologies
Turkey is consistently referred to as one of the most engaged markets by social media outlets, so we are lucky to have a population that is not only comfortable but highly engaged with new technologies.
Nearly half of the country’s 78 million people are on-line, giving it the fifth largest Internet audience in Europe. Turks now earn twice as much as they did just a decade ago. This makes it a phenomenal playground for rolling out new businesses.
3/ Local heroes became international big hits in e-commerce
Many of the earlier wave of e-commerce start-up attracted quite a bit of foreign attention. Several of the players like Trendyol and Markafoni are the biggest examples, and other forms of commerce (food delivery, such as Yemeksepeti). In 2011, eBay acquired GittiGidyor for 200 million $. It’s also good to remind that Groupon started in Turkey and is now an amazing international success.
In addition several incubators and angel networks have been increasingly active, including eTohum (Turkish Y Combinator), Galata Business Angels (founded by first generation internet entrepreneurs), Fit startup Factory, a pre-accelerator, and numerous university Technoparks (which provide tax incentives for office space).
4/ What are the next challenges?
There are two main challenges for Turkey’s startup ecosystem: The first is access to capital and the second is good mentorship… And both factors are improving the ecosystem in Turkey.
The lack of liquidity to back entrepreneurs in the early stage is also due to the location in an emerging country, as the majority of local funds still go to infrastructure, renovation and improvement projects.
Istanbul is definitely a city worth exploring, and NUMA will do so!
Aviva Markowicz, NUMA International Strategy.
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