Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) Turkey is led by Hilal Gerçek. We caught up with Gerçek on the pride her organization and country takes in their GEW campaign and how those at the Habitat Association and all of their counterparts work to to raise consciousness about entrepreneurship, develop a stronger entrepreneurship ecosystem and spread the word with all individuals, NGO’s, private sectors and governments within one single week to create a bigger impact. She also discussed how COVID-19 has impacted Turkey and which aspects of this new economy worry Turkish entrepreneurs most: the loss of existing customers and not being able to find new customers, followed by delayed payments. Gerçek believes Global Entrepreneurship Week will play a major role in bringing their ecosystem together and helping them refocus to mend the current consequences post COVID-19.
This article is part of a series highlighting successful GEW hosts from around the world.
ABOUT YOUR COUNTRY’S STARTUP ECOSYSTEM
GEN: Tell us about the startup ecosystem in your country. What are its main characteristics? If you could change one thing to make it better, what would it be? Who are the stars of your country’s ecosystem?
Gerçek: The entrepreneurship ecosystem is rapidly developing in Turkey – and especially because of the fact that universities are building science parks and developing support programs for entrepreneurs. In the last few years, young people have become much more inclined to be an entrepreneur. As we observe those enterprises, we see that most of them are in technology. Although the ecosystem support mechanisms are increasing, we still need to improve our public policy and investments. The most important step we must take for the development and strengthening of the ecosystem is through increasing the number of collaborators and the quality of cooperation. It is essential that investors, entrepreneurs and other support mechanisms cooperate both internally and with other stakeholders. When ecosystem stakeholders begin to establish qualified collaborations, it creates a leverage effect and strengthens the structure. All stakeholders play an important role here. As we embrace and fulfill these roles, local and global success stories will increase.
Insider is one of the stars in Turkey. It is a Growth Management Platform (GMP) working to help digital marketers drive growth across the funnel – from acquisition to activation, retention, and revenue. Insider is the first Turkish venture to receive investment from Sequoia Capital. They completed the Serial C investment tour with Silicon Valley-based, Riverwood Capital with $32 Million this month. The total investment amount of Insider has reached 47 million dollars with this tour.
Another star in Turkey is Yemek Sepeti. It is Turkey's first online food ordering site that enables users to order food from their favorite restaurant through the internet. The company received $44m funding from global growth investor General Atlantic (GA).
A final ecosystem star in Turkey is Trendyol. Trendyol is a mobile commerce company in Turkey and the MENA region. It was founded in 2010 by Demet Mutlu, and it is located in Istanbul. Trendyol has over 15 million customers and over 2,000 merchants at the platform. Trendyol received more than $50 million dollars in investment by Tiger Global and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. In September 2014, the company received another investment from EBRD.
ABOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION
GEN: Tell us about your organization. What does it do to support entrepreneurs and/or grow your startup ecosystem?
Gerçek: Habitat Association (Habitat) is a Nonprofit and Nongovernmental Organization working on sustainable development. Habitat’s work encourages building capacity, equal access for opportunities, participating in decision-making processes, increasing social and environmental awareness and developing crucial skills. In addition to implementing capacity building projects on technology, entrepreneurship and financial awareness, Habitat also contributes to local and national public policy. Habitat supports sustainable development with all of its efforts. Habitat supported the foundation of mechanisms such as youth culture centers and The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) youth and women entrepreneurs’ committees.
Particularly, Habitat Entrepreneurship Program develops projects and/or programs aiming to develop an entrepreneurial perception in the society, increase the production of technology-oriented innovative ideas and generate sustainable business models. It also acts as an intermediary for entrepreneurs to meet with mentors and investors; and provides seed and development grants within the scope of projects.
In addition to the program, Facebook İstasyon is launched in partnership with TOBB and Habitat, in order to increase the cooperation and information sharing by supporting the development of Turkish community and economy. Facebook İstasyon is the first Community Hub launched in Turkey with Facebook’s mission of giving people the power they need to build communities and bringing the world closer together. Facebook İstasyon aims to be a physical place gathering and integrating many communities, businesses, NGOs and journalists so that they can share ideas and work together. Furthermore, 12 Local Community Hubs are in the setup phase.
ABOUT GLOBAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP WEEK
GEN: When did you decide to get involved in Global Entrepreneurship Week and why?
Gerçek: We began celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week in 2008, when it was hosted by Endeavor. Habitat joined its executive board in 2013. Until 2018, Habitat and Endeavor have carried out GEW together. The last 2 years, Habitat has organized GEW with the support of 20 institutions and universities. Although its main purpose is to encourage young people to consider entrepreneurship as a career option, GEW has become a platform that brings together more than 300 stakeholder institutions operating in the ecosystem – including NGOs, universities, entrepreneurs, investors, private sectors, the media and government institutions. Habitat decided to get involved in GEW in order to raise consciousness about entrepreneurship, develop a stronger entrepreneurship ecosystem and spread the word with all individuals, NGO’s, private sectors and governments within one single week to create a bigger impact.
GEN: How does GEW support the other work that your organization does?
Gerçek: Global Entrepreneurship Week helps to bring entrepreneurial ecosystems together and aims to help build networks. Institutions come together and create campaigns for GEW. We bring entrepreneurship ecosystems together to talk about the year’s topic and create new campaigns. We also bring together all shareholders to inform them about GEW and to support them on what they're personally doing in their campaign. So, in hindsight, new collaborations are established.
GEN: What do you hope to achieve with GEW 2020?
Gerçek: Habitat hopes to bring entrepreneurial ecosystems together. GEW also helps us focus on the consequences of COVID-19 and what we can do post COVID-19. It is obvious that entrepreneurs draw conclusions after COVID-19 and change their route. So, it will be a good opportunity for them to share their experiences and learn from each other.
YOUR RESPONSE TO COVID
GEN: How has the COVID19 pandemic impacted your country’s startup ecosystem? What measures are being taken to protect small business owners, if any? — And how do you think GEW will play a role in uniting entrepreneurs during this difficult time?
Gerçek: In April, Endeavor published a survey to find out how entrepreneurs are keeping up with this rapid change and to see what measures they've taken on account of it. The point of the survey—that collected information from about 250 people—was to give players in the Turkish ecosystem an idea of how COVID-19 would affect the startup community.
90% of the respondents have switched from home to office. The part that worries the participants most is both the loss of existing customers and not being able to find new customers, followed by delayed payments. Almost 65% of the participants took measures to reduce expenses. Most of these measures have been to cut operational expenses or expenses such as marketing / business development / purchasing. 75% of the respondents foresee a decrease in 2020 profit targets. The biggest financial affects other than profit targets are foreseen as a decrease in HR budgets such as termination of financial resources, postponement of funds / grants / investments or complete cancellation and dismissal. If the current agenda continues, the distribution is equally different among those who state the time period that the resources will be exhausted. The restriction of transportation and customs issues has affected the entrepreneurs doing business abroad, in terms of sales, marketing and business development.
Furthermore, Business for Goals Platform reported that most of the companies affected heavily were micro-scaled business. In addition, 76% of the companies surveyed say that the number of employees has not changed. However, most of the decrease in employment occurred in micro and small businesses.
The Turkish Government has introduced an economic stimulus package, introducing a mix of financial support, credit support and employment-related measures to help citizens and businesses weather the COVID-19 crisis.
GEN will play a role in bringing the entrepreneurship ecosystem together and focusing on the current consequences of COVID-19 and post COVID-19.