Reflections of a Turkish VC, seven years on
In my last post, I reflected on trust and the pioneers of the Turkish startup ecosystem. Here are a few more “lessons” I’ve taken away in my seven years as a Turkish VC.
Resilience. When the unexpected is the norm, resilience becomes second nature. Silicon Valley may brag about innovation and failure, but Turks and those of us in the MENA region own resilience and the “pivot.”
Seven years ago, I boarded a plane at JFK bound for Istanbul. In 2010, in the wake of the global financial crisis, moving to Turkey didn’t seem like the wisest decision. Emerging markets, most pundits predicted, would shrink.
Imagine, then, trying to start a venture capital fund. I left many people wincing. “Numan will be back,” a few friends in New York said.
Seven years on, we’re going strong. A few weeks ago, I paused to trace that journey. I re-read some of the things that I’ve shared on this blog. Here are a few points that leapt out at me; points that made all the difference on that journey.
The pounding heart of tech in the region
by Karim Hussein
Egypt has been buzzing with entrepreneurial activity in recent years with ever expanding new businesses and a rich set of supporting institutions and communities. Egypt offers some unique opportunities within the region driven by a large online consumer population, a highly competitive core technology talent pool, a large untapped opportunity in financial services for an under-banked population and rapidly expanding energy demands driving the need for clean technology.
Egypt’s entrepreneurial ecosystem enjoyed some early government support in the last 10 years through several government financed technology funds and government sponsored incubation programs. Since the 2011 revolution, these have been significantly augmented by a growing ecosystem of private startup events, accelerators, incubators, angel networks, venture capital funds and community enablers. There are now over 20 accelerators/incubators, two significant angel networks in Cairo and Alexandria, several local and regional VC funds (with over $70 million in committed capital in the last couple of years), regular startup events throughout the country and an annual regional and international startup summit bringing together emerging businesses, investors, support services and most importantly eager young talent looking for exceptional opportunities.
Insider, a digital experience delivery platform for marketers, secured investment from 500 Startups to fuel its global expansion.
500 Startups is a leading global Venture Capital and Start-up Accelerator with investments in more than 1,600 start-ups in more than 60 countries.
As an innovative marketing platform at the junction of ad-tech and mar-tech, Insider provides predictive modelling and segmentation services to world’s leading brands such as Singapore Airlines, UNIQLO, New Balance, Toyota and Lenovo.
Having over 130 employees and offices in Tokyo, Singapore, London, Dubai, Moscow, Warsaw, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Istanbul, the Company is planning to use the funding to support its expansion into 17 countries by the end of the year.
Innovation has been, without question, one factor behind the excitement about entrepreneurship worldwide. From the microchip to the iPhone, the personal computer to virtual reality, new technologies have pushed progressed forward – and transformed our lives.
Among the biggest transformation: social mobility. Millions across the globe have moved out of poverty into the middle class. That is certainly true in Turkey and its surrounding region.
The biggest impact of the middle class? Spending.
The middle class has fueled growth in consumer products, in services, on the Internet – and, most importantly, in payments.
How people pay for goods and services has created the hottest startup opportunities.
We are pleased to announce iyzico raised USD13 million in a round led by Vostok Emerging Finance with participation from 212 Capital Partners and International Finance Corporation.
Vostok Emerging Finance is a part of Vostok New Ventures with more than USD600 million of Net Asset Value and investments including BlaBlaCar, Gett and Delivery Hero.
For press release and news links:
Full Press Release
2016 was a difficult year. From where I sit in Istanbul, this is what I saw: stifling emerging market growth; a plummeting Turkish Lira (20% decline); terrorist attacks in Turkey and Europe; a worsening refugee crisis; a coup attempt.
Any one of these would dissuade even the most ambitious entrepreneur in the West from launching a business. Not here. Entrepreneurs in EMEA are tough. I am in awe of the resilience the entrepreneurs demonstrated throughout the year. They did not just survive; they evolved, grew stronger and entered new markets. As you can see here: Continue reading
Assuring sustainability in your startup from the beginning especially in this environment but not strictly because of the environment is a must.
What does assuring sustainability mean?
It means, profitable growth and focusing on making money on day 1; as my father would say, “no money, no honey”.
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I started my career as a CPA in New York 13 years ago, later working in London and finally now in Istanbul. From big corporates like PwC, to being one of the first hires setting up and automating the operations of a newly formed hedgefund, TPG Axon NY also set up the office for TPG Axon London.
Next moving into venture capital, at Accel, where I discovered my interest in technology and start ups.