Istanbul on the VC Map

Nubridgevetureslogo There are two very important events that will take place in Istanbul over the next couple of weeks. 

First is the NuBridge Angel Summit, organized by my friend Pamir Gelenbe, who's a London-based VC of Turkish origin.  The event brings to Istanbul a group of world-class angel investors, including:

I am also participating in the event, which will take place on January 14 & 15.  It should provide an excellent venue for Turkish internet ventures looking for angel backing.

The second event is the NuBridge Istanbul VC Summit, scheduled for January 21 & 22, which we're proud to sponsor as GHV.  I think this event will be an important milestone in the development path of the Turkish Venture Capital industry.  The event's format will resemble that of the European Tech Tour Association's events, in that a group of top-tier VCs from around the world will get a chance to meet a select group of Turkish internet and technology companies.  You can find a list of participants at the event's website and Çağlar Erol's blog (in Turkish).

I am especially excited to have a few of our GHV portfolio companies (, beFunky, Yogurtistan), as well as a personal investment of mine (, presenting.

If you are interested in being associated with either event, please contact Pamir through the event website, although I understand that attendance will be extremely tight due to space constraints.

Entrepreneurial Focus

Mark Suster has been blogging about entrepreneurial characteristics.  I like his list and agree with all of his points.

The topic has made me think about a key difference I have noticed in Turkish entrepreneurs and their counterparts in the US (and largely, western Europe): multiple, parallel ventures.

I understand this in the entrepreneurs who are emerging out of a "work for hire" service shop.  In those cases, many of the parallel ventures are off-shoots of ideas or products developed previously.

I also understand large groups of entrepreneurs. In that case there may be excess capacity at the leadership level that gets taken up by a new good idea that the team just does not want to let go.

However, it's surprising to me that a small team that's gone to work on a great idea can find time to focus on a second (or sometimes, third or fourth) project.  There's usually so much work involved in getting one idea off the ground that it should be extremely difficult to parallel process multiple projects.

One reason for the popularity of this model in Turkey may be the scarcity of capital.  Entrepreneurs don't want to put all of their eggs in one basket.  And if they don't have an outside investor who's directing them to focus on one idea, they try to progress several ventures together to see which one is getting traction.

In our investments, we try to get the entrepreneurs to focus on the idea at hand. Many times, there are previous projects they continue to be involved in, but the core focus always has to be in the company we've invested in.

My VC Presentation at Etohum

UPDATE: The folks at Etohum have just uploaded a video of my presentation on Venture Capital, on December 19th at the Etohum Entrepreneurship Camp.  The video is in Turkish.

Here's the presentation accompanying my talk on venture capital at Etohum last week.  Sorry for the tardy post.

NB. It's in Turkish.

Etohum Kampı – Girişim Sermayesi

View more presentations from Burak Buyukdemir.


Yesterday I blogged about my surprise upon seeing the Turkish virtual world Sanalika on Google's fastest rising list for 2009.  I further commented that "it has not made much of an impact in the Turkish internet scene so far".

I have since been contacted by a few friends in the Turkish gaming community who informed me that in facti Sanalika is a strong contender and that Alexa does not fairly represent Sanalika's traffic because of its flash-based site.  I stand corrected.

Turks on Google 2009: Sahadan and Sanalika?

Right after my earlier post today on top search terms of 2009, I saw that Google had just released their Zeitgeist 2009.  While it's difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison with Yahoo and Bing, the Fastest Rising List gives a taste:

  1. michael jackson
  2. facebook
  3. tuenti
  4. twitter
  5. sanalika
  6. new moon
  7. lady gaga
  8. windows 7
  10. torpedo gratis

And, yes, MJ tops this list, too! 🙂

However, what piqued my interest the most in Google's Zeitgeist this year are the Turkish entries, namely:

Sanalika, #5 in Fastest Rising


Sahadan, #4 in Fastest Rising in Sports.

Mind you, these are Global lists…

Sahadan is a Turkish sports news website, and to me, it's the less surprising of the two.  It's a solid property, a long-time resident of the Turkish Alexa 100, and given the level of interest in football in Turkey, a top Turkish site is not a far-fetched entry in the Google list.  Also notable is the fact that it's ranked above Livescore.

Sanalika, however,is a different story.  Ranking 375th in Alexa's Turkey rankings, it's a virtual world similar to IMVU or Popmundo. It has not made much of an impact in the Turkish internet scene so far, so I had to doublecheck when I saw its name on the Google list.

I still suspect Sanalika's inclusion on the list may be a quirk of the methodology used.  Curious…

Also, note KralOyun, a Turkish game portal, #6 in the Fastest Falling list.

All in all, Turks are showing their strong online presence as we've noted before.

UPDATE: The Sanalika saga continues with comments from Arda on TC Europe and Robin on TC.

Ross Dawson: Turkey’s a Hot Internet Market

My friend Ross Dawson was the keynote speaker at the IPZ2009 (interactive marketing summit) last week here in Istanbul.  It was great catching up with him and listening to his insightful social media presentation.

To follow up, he has just posted his "Five reasons why Turkey is one of the hottest Internet markets in the world".  Since I have made it my business to invest in the Turkish internet industry, I obviously agree with all of his points.

One interesting point Ross has picked out is the language skills.  He found English skills outside of the professional sector pretty weak.  However, Turks grew to be the third largest nationality on Facebook prior to the introduction of Facebook in Turkish.  Which makes me think there is a level of language skills, while not sufficient to communicate conversationally, allows one to utilize social media pretty effectively.

Ross's post would be an excellent primer on anyone interested in the Turkish internet market.

Censorship Firefox Extension

I just came across an app called Sorumlu Vatandaş (I refuse to link to them).  It's a Firefox extension that makes it easier for Turkish internet users to flag a site and notify the Turkish authorities so that site can be examined, and if found inappropriate, access blocked at the ISP level.

I find it deplorable that the internet community in Turkey is working to make censorship easier.  I also find  the graphic they have chosen to represent the "responsible citizen" ("sorumlu vatandaş" in English) quite funny. 🙂

Angels Charging Startups

Jason Calacanis is waging a war against angel investor groups charging entrepreneurs to hear their business plans.  I agree with him that this is a very unsavory practice and support him in his crusade.  I am not aware of any angel investor groups in the Turkish market who charge startups to hear pitches, but please let me know if you are know of one.

UPDATE:  Fred's post reminds me of another variant:  The startup coach.  We have a few of these here in Turkey.  If you are thinking of spending your precious cash on one, be very careful in evaluating the merits of the coach you are about to hire.

Turkish Facebook Growing Fast

Two weeks ago I wrote about the enormous size of Facebook's Turkish user population and the lack of attention that Turkish web development community was paying to it.  There have been two related developments so I thought they warrant a mention.

First, Webrazzi reports that there will be a Facebook Developer Garage event in Istanbul this weekend.  This should be interesting to all web developers.

Second, Inside Facebook is reporting that Turks are the fastest growing European nationality on Facebook, with over a million new users in September, and a total user base of almost 14.5 million.

Any and all web companies in Turkay should be paying attention to this figure and developing a Facebook strategy for their users (and probably attending the Developer Garage event).