Turkish Tech Startups Head to Silicon Valley
July 17, 2017
Since the failed military coup in Turkey one year ago, it's been harder
for startups to attract foreign investment, said entrepreneurs at a
recent tech conference in California.
After the July 15, 2016, coup attempt, the Turkish government cracked
down on perceived opponents to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Many have
lost their jobs and thousands have been imprisoned, including
journalists, academics and activists.
For Mustafa Acet, an entrepreneur in Istanbul, the coup and its
aftermath have been a setback for the burgeoning tech ecosystem in
Turkey. He recently attended Etohum San Francisco, an event bridging the
Turkish startup community with Silicon Valley.
“We want everything to be stabilized,” he said. “We don't want any more
military coups. We just want to improve our businesses and create our
Investors are wary
The perceived instability in the country has made investors wary, he
“Definitely investors are worried about it,” said Acet, who has created
an app for water delivery. Foreign investors, in particular, don't want
to enter a country that is experiencing turmoil, he said.
The speakers at the conference didn't address politics in Turkey but
focused instead on how to build businesses, attract investors and find
The path from Turkey to Silicon Valley has been forged by people like
Eren Bali, founder of Udemy, an online education site, and Magdalena
Yesil, founding investor and board member of Salesforce and a venture
capitalist. Both spoke at the event.
Companies waiting for funding
Despite being a market of nearly 80 million people, Turkey is still
limiting for companies ready to becoming bigger, said Elif Ceylon, U.S.
program coordinator for ITU Gate, which is a program out of Istanbul
Technical University trying to bring successful Turkish startups to the
“There's some really quality engineers in Turkey and a lot of amazing
ideas but not a lot of investing going on,” she said. “There's a lot of
amazing companies that get a great start and they need funding, and
because they can't find the funding, they kind of die down.”
The companies she brings to the U.S. have proven themselves in Turkey
with revenue of around $5 million to $10 million. In the U.S., they are
encouraged to open U.S. entities to help attract investors and
Inspired by march
says she was inspired by the recent 400-kilometer protest march from the
Turkish capital, Ankara, to Istanbul.
“It made people excited again,” she said. “It made people think again
that something can change and something can happen.”
While the country marks the coup attempt's anniversary, these
entrepreneurs say the way forward will be through Turkey's talent and
“I believe in Turkey and Turkey will be a huge economy, especially
because of the entrepreneurs,” said Acet. “It will grow day by day. It
will be a powerful country. I believe. I hope.”