Turkey’s entrepreneurial ecosystem: Startups for growth
Entrepreneurship is important for economic development, social integration and inequality reduction. To sustain their competitiveness, developing economies – facing external conditions such as the competitive effects of globalization and frequent financial crises – are compelled to identify key opportunities and threats in order to be more entrepreneurial, adaptive and innovative.
Turkey, as an emerging economy, needs more entrepreneurial firms, startups, and venture capitalists. With more coherent policies on creating shared value and inclusiveness, the country could quickly return to the fast-track growth pattern it used to exercise for many decades before. It could once again join the “global economic fast lane.”
It is undeniable that startups cannot operate independent of a supporting ecosystem to nurture them. In this regard, the Turkish government and other public institutions have done a solid job in laying the framework. The Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology, and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK) extend grants, subsidies, and other incentives for entrepreneurs.
Other key stakeholders including the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), in collaboration with the Turkey Vodafone Foundation and the Habitat Association, have also been making an effort since 2012 to maximize the entrepreneurial input into the ecosystem. As a result, socially responsible, environmentally friendly, and pro-poor inclusive business models are blooming in all corners of Turkey. A startup launched by two young Turkish entrepreneurs, “Whole Surplus,” is one good example.
It was recently selected by the UNDP and Impact Hub joint initiative Accelerate2030 (A2030) as one of the 10 best ventures from 17 different countries to receive tailored support for international scaling. What sets Whole Surplus apart from the other 324 applicants, is the shared value it offers to stakeholders through their Business to Business (B2B) food surplus management system. By working with retailers, food banks, producers, distributors, and recyclers, Whole Surplus maximizes donations of surplus foods to food banks and minimizes waste at the source through smart data analytics technologies, creating a shared value for all. Given that one-third of food produced for human consumption is wasted globally and the retail sector contributes five percent of this waste with a value of 50 billion euros, Whole Surplus’ effort is certainly meaningful.
Turkey also needs to take advantage of its young entrepreneurs in order to achieve substantial economic growth. New entrepreneurs could offer a significant resource with regards to being able to identify alternatives to current organization, technology, and market approaches. Maximizing the entrepreneurial environment in Turkey could also potentially reduce welfare costs and increase revenue for the government. In addition, youth enterprises could provide a sense of “meaning and belonging” to the young men and women in the developing economy of Turkey.
In recent years, female entrepreneurs in Turkey have also been quite active in establishing startups. A number of government policies and NGO initiatives are providing incentives for female entrepreneurs to enter the market. For example, the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Organization (KOSGEB), a state-owned organization founded with the objective of increasing the share and effectiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises in meeting the economic and social needs of the country, and improving the level and strength of their competitiveness, also supports women in this respect. Civil society organizations such as Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey (KAGIDER) and TurkishWin train women in starting and developing businesses, helping them to succeed as entrepreneurs. Companies founded by female entrepreneurs like Big Chef’s, Cambo, Ickale, Armut, Butigo, Trendyol, Evmanya, Bebeshop, Bonvagon, and Bonnyfood also inspire other women by setting positive examples.
With its young and educated workforce, Turkey is an attractive market for entrepreneurship. It is strategically located between key markets in Europe, the Middle East, Russia and Central Asia. The country’s economic future depends on its successful entrepreneurs and a supportive ecosystem.
Hansın Doğan is the Private Sector Manager at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Turkey Office. This is an abridged version of the original article published in Turkish Policy Quarterly’s (TPQ) Summer 2017 issue.