Startup Istanbul – The leading startup event in Eurasia. The main reason of my recent visit to Istanbul. For those of you that haven’t had the opportunity to get acquainted with this super amazing startup event, let me introduce you to Startup Istanbul: brings together founders, investors and executives and connects them with leading startups, internet companies, business angels and venture capitalists from Asia and Europe. Istanbul is the perfect setting for a tech conference for Digital Minded Companies, Ventures and Startups with global ambitions. This event provides amazing networking opportunities. At this year’s event 100 startups were selected for mentoring program and had more than 1.500 attendees from 40 different countries.
Some months ago I was selected to be a Startup Istanbul Ambassador and after amazing e-mail, skype, slack communication it was only right to meet the people “responsible” for bringing me at the startup event of the year, if you ask me. I was warmly welcomed by the main organizers of StartUp Istanbul, Burak & Asli Büyükdemir, the people who put all their time, effort, hard work and positive energy to make it all happen. It is by far one of the biggest startup events, I have had a chance to attend so far, so I was very interested to find out what’s their main motivation about organizing the biggest startup event in Eurasia?
“I believe in a holistic view of entrepreneurship, punctuating that it 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 technology and internet ecosystems, we, as Etohum, try to build this mindset both on personal and societal level. At this point, we can compare it to the local (personal) and the global (societal) and make an analogy between them. If you personally develop yourself in one topic and aim to grow with it, but the environment you live or work in is not actually ready for it, infrastructure-wise or approach-wise, you cannot go beyond the initial idea and make it happen. Or if you only think locally and work from 8am to 5pm or underrate your own brain, you cannot be successful in this new global economy, especially with the old tools of the old one: You should also go parallel with the world and improve your outlook and capabilities.
So, despite our cultural values avoiding risks or education system based on grooming “public servants”, we still encourage startups to make use of high entrepreneurial potency of Turkey, while striving for presence in global markets at the same time. We want them to fulfill their potential both on local and global levels to bring more of an effective contribution and larger perspective. The local startups can also be scaled globally, if taken the rights steps, and later 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.
So, my main motivation for organizing events like Startup Istanbul, Startup Turkey, Galvanize San Francisco and Etohum Café meetings is to help build a country where value-added, high-impact startups stimulate the Turkish economy, where angel investors believe in the startups and grow exponentially each day to help make entrepreneurship a serious career alternative, a popular university course and a prioritized item for governmental bodies in making prospective legislation that would leverage the current ecosystem deeply.” says Burak.
Even though they are organizing numerous startup events, that are now taking over the whole region, the one that stands out the most is Startup Istanbul, so let’s find out how much time does it take to prepare an event of this caliber?
“It takes us at least 6 months to prepare everything up front, including the speaker selection, team arrangements, and communication with sponsors, preparation of press kits etc. Before the main event, we also have a two-day preparation process comprised of extensive training and mentorship sessions for the selected 100 successful startups with specially selected mentors from Europe and the US. Here we help them improve their perspectives by getting exclusive startup training and tips on pitching, business model and company foundation, PR, etc…” said Asli.
When I first got involved and started researching about the event and mostly when I got the final agenda I’ve noticed that the key note speakers, mentors and everyone that was included, there was a spectrum of different backgrounds, fields of expertise, nationalities and I had to ask about how hard or easy is to select the right mentors and key note speakers and bring them to Istanbul?
“It sometimes happens to be quite hard and challenging, but always fun and exciting. First of all, we take into consideration what our audience expects, our goals for the event, and the event date and location. We also ensure that we make a mix of speakers who are not only motivational, but also humorous and educational – trying to make a nice mixture of good idea sharing. Most speakers and mentors we invite are the ones we continuously keep track of – those who are passionate and visionary about their work and the world. Sometimes we read an exceptional article or book they write, listen to their speeches with provocative views, and decide to host them in order to spread their great ideas and stories about technology, innovation, entrepreneurship, etc. in Turkey and the Eurasian region. We are looking for public figures who can inspire young generations and new startups in our country and surrounding countries. It’s important to have a nice balance of people in the industry, who really have had enriching experiences to tell, either as investors or entrepreneurs, who can take it first from the new economy and bring it to the art of entrepreneurship, for instance. Additionally, as people started learning about the events that we were organizing, we started getting more and more advices on new topics to discuss, new people to follow up.” – adds Asli.
This year 15 startups made it to the final stage and had their chance to pitch in front of the audience and the judges Steve Blank, Andrea Barrica and Teruhide Sato. One of the main questions they were asking was: Did you ask your customer/client about…? The ones that managed to pitch perfect and to give excellent answers to the judges Q’s, were (click the link to watch their pitch) #3 Taskulu from Iran; #2 iGrow from Indonesia and #1 & StartUp Istanbul 2015 winner Nims from Kenya! Congratulations the winners and to all 100 startups that got in the programme, hopefully next year they will be more than 100 and from more than 40 countries. Till then let’s find out what are the future plans for Startup Istanbul?
“We are planning to enhance the content and the diversity of Startup Istanbul in the next years. Every year, we get better and we host more startups, mentors, VCs, angel investors. For instance, this year was the first time that we hosted a startup from the Gaza region. Despite all hardships from around the world, either political or economic instabilities, we’ll continue to support one-another and help grow local and global ecosystems together.” said Burak.
It is a real pleasure meeting people like Burak and Alsi, people who are trying to uplift the eco-system and help in future development of many startups. I am grateful to have this opportunity to collaborate with them and I invite you to take part in the next StartUp Istanbul.
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Have a wonderful weekend 🙂