On Friday, I attended the IRC Ege Technology, Innovation and Venture Capital Days event. I must say, it was an eye opening experience. I have to give credit to the organizers: they worked hard to attract a relevant crowd to Izmir, which remains a secondary region in terms of tech innovation in Turkey.
Entrepreneurship HAS to be RESCUED from the triangle of VC, academia and government!!! I felt this to a point in NY, but in Turkey, partly due to the relative naivete of the entrepreneurial community, the grip is tighter. The concept of "entrepreneurship" is held hostage by the finance community (to a point including the advisor crowd of lawyers and accountants), academics and bureaucrats.
The primary point I’d like to make is that the conference was extremely BORING. Three or four panelists sit behind a table. A political moderator asks pre-determined questions. The audience is not really connected to what’s discussed. The result is basically a waste of time.
To give an example, after a long debate on Venture Capital, one audience member, the founder of a 25-year old elevator company, stood up and asked, "So you’ve been yapping for two days now. But who’s going to answer my question? I have a great company. Let’s assume that everything in my company is by the book. How much money will you give me, at what length of time, and at what interest rate?" As absurd as the question was given the forum, it was so right on.
As could be expected, no one answered the poor chap. He should not have been there. Actually, the whole conference should have been programmed with him, and those like him, in mind.
I met a remarkable person at the conference, Yigal Erlich. He was one of the original partners at the Israeli national Venture Capital program, Yozma. The story of Yozma presents a very critical lesson for the Turkish government, if there is the intent to kick-start this field in Turkey.