As this November marks 10 years of unleashing ideas through Global Entrepreneurship Week, GEN is reflecting on the countries that have been a part of the movement since the beginning. Turkey has celebrated entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial spirit over the past decade, and Alev Ertem, communication and expansion manager at Endeavor Turkey, and the Endeavor Turkey team, answered a few questions about their GEW campaign and its impact on the country's entrepreneurship ecosystem. Istanbul, Turkey, will also be home to the 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Congress, held April 16-18, 2018.
Q: What does Global Entrepreneurship Week, and its 10 Year celebration mean for your country? How has the celebration grown in Turkey since its inception in 2008?
A: Over the past 10 years, Global Entrepreneurship Week in Turkey has evolved from one week of activities with three partner organizations in Istanbul, to six weeks of activities (starting from the last week of October and extending into the first week of December) with more than 300 partner organizations across more than 75 cities nationwide. GEW is both a driver for entrepreneurship awareness building and agenda setting, as well as a reflection of how the ecosystem is maturing and expanding over time.
In 2008, our first few activities were focused on reaching a handful of curious high school students. But fortunately, entrepreneurship is a very contagious agenda. In a little over a decade, the Turkish entrepreneurship ecosystem has grown from three NGOs and one lone visionary VC fund to include 30+ NGOs, 60+ incubators and accelerators, 40+ angel networks, 20+ VC funds, plus numerous corporate entrepreneurship initiatives. Together with 20+ members on our local GEW Turkey Steering Committee, today’s campaign is now designed to include the following elements:
- Major events in the country’s top three commercial cities
- Niche events designed around 10 annually prioritized vertical themes
- Focused lobbying events in 10 annually targeted university towns
- Economic development events in 10 annually selected villages
- Road show events supported by university entrepreneurship clubs
- Showcase events highlighting leading competitions, hackathons and mentor/investor meetups
- An inspirational nationwide media campaign
There are many joyful holiday seasons seeped in the traditions of different cultures around the world that bring people together for various reasons. And then there is Global Entrepreneurship Week, which also brings a community of people together in a spirit of hope. If religious holidays are about gratitude, and national holidays are about fortitude, then Global Entrepreneurship Week has become a universal holiday celebrating the human potential to innovate and collaborate.
Q: What impact has GEW had on your community or your country? What is your favorite, most memorable, or best GEW event from the past 10 years? Why?
A: The best part of the Turkey campaigns over the past decade includes a series of epiphanies we experienced along the way. The first epiphany was that we needed to elevate the entrepreneurship agenda onto the radar of more organizations. Very quickly, we grew from three partners to 30, and from 30 to 60, and then double each year until we reached today’s 300+ network members. But the second epiphany was that we needed to work together instead of individually to design and deliver more robust and meaningful events. Initially, it was exciting to have more partners hosting more events. But our true exponential growth in participation, and impact, happened when we convinced multiple partners to merge their events to achieve greater depth in content and to multiply the reach of their publicity efforts. And the third epiphany was that we enjoyed working together all year long. The GEW Turkey campaigns have evolved into a GEW Turkey network that supports each other, champions each other and protects each other -- very much like a work family.
Our most memorable GEW activity is probably the year we decided to film a video clip showcasing members of the GEW Turkey Steering Committee. We bootstrapped the whole effort, pitching in to buy a stack of colorful T-shirts on sale from the GAP, drafting our own script, begging a studio to produce the video, playing music and joking around in the background as we did multiple takes. It was a very fun day of bonding and the start of very meaningful friendships beyond GEW Turkey. You can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/3fHJwWgc8Nk
One of our best signature events includes the G3 Summit, hosted by the Federation of Commerce & Industry (TOBB), where more than 1,000 startups attend a speed mentoring morning with 200 VIP mentors, followed by an afternoon of keynote speakers and inspirational panel discussions. Another event that has gained a life of its own, initiated by Endeavor Turkey, includes the annual nationwide university screening and discussion of the thought-provoking Alibaba.com documentary, “Crocodile on the Yangtzee," coordinated by university entrepreneurship clubs. And, every year we introduce an entertaining, creative twist to the GEW Turkey ad campaign produced by TBWA.
In retrospect, preparing for the annual GEW Turkey campaign all year long might be the best part of the actual GEW Turkey campaign. As a totally voluntary initiative, with zero paid staff and dedicated budget, our collective ability to mobilize resources and reach 200,000 participants per year, nationwide, translates into both a huge sense of accomplishment and a valuable sense of camaraderie.
Q: How has your entrepreneurial ecosystem changed or evolved in the past 10 years?
A: A decade ago we were trying to forge a common language to describe and debate entrepreneurship. Initially, it was difficult to distinguish between small business ownership, family business ownership and high impact entrepreneurship. Since these fundamental distinctions didn’t exist, it was even more difficult to discuss alternative venture financing models, incredibly challenging to discuss legal frameworks and good governance structures, and almost impossible to address the difference between business education and entrepreneurship education.
If the vocabulary doesn’t exist, then the related concepts don’t exist. And when the concepts don’t exist, then the related behaviors and attitudes don’t exist. As part of our GEW Turkey campaigns, we decided to work backwards by using the role-model effect to showcase high impact entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, advisors and other visionary thought leaders. Global Entrepreneurship Week continues to serve as an instrumental platform to efficiently collect and disseminate such inspirational stories, as well as engage stakeholders in peer learning and exponential thinking exercises.
Today, we can showcase a plethora of student entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, health-preneurs, designer-preneurs app-preneurs, mom-preneurs, food-preneurs, agri-preneurs… You name it, we’ve got a role model willing to share the trials and tribulations of their journey. In many ways, the inclusive nature of the GEW Turkey platform helped foster a strong culture of sharing and collaboration across the ecosystem from the start.
Q: Why should people participate in Global Entrepreneurship Week?
A: GEW is a multi-stakeholder platform and there is something in it for everyone, ranging from companies, NGOs, universities and government agencies to students, entrepreneurs and investors. As a civic engagement initiative, GEW Turkey has become the most creative and efficient platform available to encourage awareness building around high impact entrepreneurship. While the GEW events are not the equivalent of a PhD in entrepreneurship, the campaign itself is a critical agenda-setting tool. Perhaps more importantly, the annual preparations for GEW truly help align the efforts of everyone trying to build the ecosystem in the most constructive and friendliest environment. And perhaps most importantly, the opportunity to connect with other colleagues across the GEW network worldwide is a gift of access to both know-how and know-who.
Q: What should the world know about GEW in Turkey?
A: Any sector-based, issue-based, city-centric or country-centric community in the world that is eager to build a strong entrepreneurship ecosystem should know that GEW Turkey has become a cornerstone in the annual planning efforts of our 300+ partner network. Every year, each partner organization adds GEW Turkey’s dates into its calendar and budget. This extraordinary level of voluntary ownership for the GEW Turkey campaign should convey two distinct messages:
- Donating time, expertise and other in-kind contributions is easy, fun and more powerful than most people think, and;
- Working together with intention in support of a specific agenda within a clear set of principles is the only way to move mountains.
Q: Are there any partners or organizations you would like to spotlight?
A: Endeavor Turkey has had the privilege of hosting GEW Turkey since its inception in 2008. In 2010, we joined forces with the Federation of Chambers of Industry and Commerce (TOBB) Young Entrepreneurs’ Council (GGK) and Women’s Entrepreneurship Council (KGK) to launch the G3 Summit in Istanbul. The TOBB G3 Summit now includes roadshows to three new cities during the year, in addition to coordinating the main event in Istanbul during the GEW Turkey campaign. In 2015, we joined forces with Habitat Association as the GEW Turkey campaign co-hosts to better leverage and engage their nationwide youth leadership network. And in 2016/2017, we added the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM) to this impressive group, in our bid to host the 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Istanbul.
Beyond our co-hosts, we must thank an impressive group of corporate volunteers for helping us build GEW Turkey’s brand and reach including: TBWA for designing our annual ad campaigns, Borsa Istanbul for hosting our annual GEW Turkey Gong Ceremony & Kickoff Conference, Youtholding for designing and managing our annual GEW Turkey social media campaigns and Privee PR for coordinating our annual GEW Turkey public relations activities.
And last, but not least, there are far too many important GEW Turkey Steering Committee Members to mention individually. But let it be known, that this steering committee embodies the essence of GEW. The impact of their “leadership by example” is undeniable. They each lobbied their own organizations, their respective partner organizations and networks with such a spirit of unity that the honor of forging a uniquely collaborative dynamic in the Turkish entrepreneurship ecosystem undoubtedly belongs to them.