Published on Jobs and Development

Innovation marketplace spurs entrepreneurialism in Turkey

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ImageNurturing startups is not just about providing funding. It’s also about encouraging innovation and bold ideas, building a supportive network of capital and expertise, and providing opportunities for sharing knowledge.

That’s why IFC’s Istanbul Operations Center recently organized Innovation Marketplace, an invitation-only event for more than 20 local and regional companies and 16 hand-picked startups that sought to develop new partnerships and encourage entrepreneurship in Turkey.

Developing entrepreneurship is a key way for a country to develop more, better and inclusive jobs. According to the ILO, Turkey has an unemployment rate of 9.9%, one fifth of whom are categorized as long term unemployed. Furthermore, the country has youth unemployment of 17.8% and a high level of informal employment.

These are challenges that many middle income countries face. But according to a recent World Bank report ‘the Turkish labor market continues to be characterized by persistently low employment rates —particularly among women and youth—and low labor productivity.’ Encouraging entrepreneurialism is thus a key way to address these specific jobs challenges within the country.

IFC led the half-day workshop, in cooperation with General Electric and Girişim Fabrikası (Innovation Factory), the accelerator program of Istanbul’s Özyeğin University, an IFC client. Start-up companies focused on healthcare, smart energy, and industrial data management presented their businesses and received guidance from IFC and its partners, leading executives who support entrepreneurs.

Ismail Dernek, Vice President of Bozlu Holding, a leading molecular imaging and oncology services provider in Turkey and an IFC client, liked a logistics startup and had begun to consider a potential partnership. He thought the event could help create a better environment for start-ups in Turkey.

“This kind of initiative could spur the market and motivate start-ups, energizing more new ventures, business areas, and innovative ideas,” Dernek said. “Corporations and entrepreneurs will both benefit from the value added and the relationships created as a result of events like IFC’s Innovation Marketplace.”
One of the main goals of the event was to support the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Turkey. Indeed, IFC is in a unique position to act as a catalyst in our markets by bringing together corporates and startups to share industry knowledge and explore new partnerships.  Playing this role puts IFC at the center of new technological developments in the region. It gives our corporate clients a first look at new opportunities and helps startups grow. This has a clear development impact, especially for a region with underemployment problems.

Having strong partners and a good collaboration is key to making programs such as these a success. Girişim Fabrikası, Turkey’s first startup accelerator program, has handed out some TL6.5 million (US$2.23 million) grants and investment to 29 entrepreneurs since its 2011 founding.

“We surely hope to grow this initiative with our partners IFC and General Electric, creating new opportunities for startups and companies in search for new ideas, innovation, and entrepreneurship,” says Ihsan Elgin, founding director, Girişim Fabrikası.


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