- Posted July 25, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Turkey's Dormant Startup Scene
There is no root cause to the issue - afterall Turkey is a geopolitical powerhouse with some great universities that ought to give birth to entrepreneurs and startups that can make some noise outside of the local market.
If there's anything that can be pointed as the culprit it's the social pressures and general culture which doesn't provide a great atmosphere to entice new entrepreneurs.
Turkey is a very traditional society with classic jobs such as doctors, lawyers, and bankers regarded as the 'creme de la creme' in terms of career paths. Whether you're looking to rent a house or consider marrying someone, your career choice is something that always follows you around and becomes the first judge of your character.
Turks wouldn't be classified as risk takers and the comfort of working a stable job is one that trumps any potential entrepreneurial spirit.
Risk taking also extends to investors and financial institutions that would normally be counted on for seed capital or angel investment.
Only the safest, proven business models (usually adopted from the West) receive any significant funding. This creates a ecosystem that rewards clone startups and these have indeed gone on to become the most popular online businesses in Turkey.
The Groupon business model gave birth to dozens of clone sites with SehirFirsati.com going on to be bought out by Groupon themselves. GittiGidiyor.com, the popular Turkish auction site, is partially owned by eBay.
The business model in Turkey is clear: bring over whatever is popular in the West and hope to be bought out eventually by the leading company when/if they set their sights in Turkey.
Still, many of the web giants have not taken Turkey seriously enough as a market to even establish operations there. The leading e-commerce giant Amazon.com still hasn't bothered to set up shop in Turkey.
When I asked Cihan S., one of the prominent local tech bloggers, about the situation he pointed to the limited online shopper base in the country that currently stands under 10 million. Still users are even afraid to use their credit card for online shopping and prefer to pick up the item at brick and mortar stores.
So is anyone actually trying anything new or exciting, or is the startup scene really doomed?
To find out I recently attended an Internations.org event where many entrepreneurs are said to be found making friends with expats and others with international business dreams.
I met a few startup founders there including the CEOs of http://KuponDunyasi.com and http://ArananHediye.com . Unlike everything I witnessed myself during my research, they seemed very excited at the potential of the Turkish market. They told me about the new generation that has grown up on social media and grown weary of traditional media and their biased reporting.
They also told me a bunch of stats like Turkey having the seventh most users on Facebook at over 30 million. There's apparently even a government grant program for entrepreneurs called KOSGEB that funds startups of all forms up to 30,000 Turkish Lira (or around 15,000 US Dollars) Onur, one of the business owners in attendance at the event, also reminded me of Turkey's potential to target the ripe and very rapidly growing Middle Eastern market - which is something I had totally overlooked.
I came away from the experience with renewed hope for the Turkish startup scene. Sure, traditional values has thus far kept many out of considering startups and entrepreneurship as a legitimate career field but as technology's virtues are becoming ever more apparent (especially in the political field) - it's giving a new generation of businessman renewed hope that they too can make a difference, even if it is all by themselves.