To leverage WiderPool’s global coverage of the innovation ecosystem, we continue to initiate new regional an country-specific arms to drive local presence of the WiderPool model in order to better identify the most promising tech startups locally that can scale their solutions to our corporate partners around the world.
Turkey represents the newest expansion for Widerpool, with its active innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem covering its sizable local market as well as its role as the gateway between the East and the West. Here we talk with Emre Ozbek, WiderPool’s Managing Partner for Turkey on the expansion strategy and potential for the region as a source for innovating-seeking corporates worldwide.
Meet Managing Partner Emre Ozbek
Tell us about your most recent background….I understand that you’ve had a few different career paths?
Following a corporate work experience for more than 20 years at international enterprises in professional services and telecom, living and working in Europe and the US, in 2012, I took several roles in Turkey’s entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem. I have experienced innovation perspectives of a multinational technology company, both internally and externally, first-hand. This provided me to have a combined exposure to both the corporate as well as the startup world.
Following my corporate career, I took active roles at some of the leading institutions and platforms on entrepreneurship, such as the Global Cleantech Innovation Program – run by UNIDO and hosted by TÜBİTAK, and the incubation programs of the Technical University of Istanbul – ITU Seed, and Acibadem’s Health Incubation Center. In addition, my leadership roles at the country’s leading micro-VC and accelerator program management office – StartersHub hosting StartupBootcamp in Turkey, an angel investors’ network – Istanbul Startup Angels, as well as a mentors’ network – Mentors Network Global, provided me with deep expertise in the mindsets of mentors and investors working with startups; two of significant support mechanisms for startups.
In addition to my WiderPool role, I am now the founder and CEO of Kovvan Innovation Agency , curating and coordinating a collaborative network of expert professionals for corporate innovation initiatives, since June 2016, based in Istanbul.
How does Kovvan overlap with what WiderPool does in the innovation space?
Kovvan is a platform of multi-disciplinary experts and institutions, collaborating to enable corporate innovation. Organizations such as IBM, Microsoft, Deloitte, Dupont are part of this expert network, as well as universities, NGOs and subject matter expert offices and freelancers. Kovvan works with private sector operators such as corporates and banks, not only for financing of their innovation projects, but also supporting them with methodologies and necessary resources.
In this capacity as a consultant on strategy and innovation, I have worked with multinationals on their market entry initiatives with new products and services. In addition, I witnessed the difference in perspectives of a family business owner versus that of a large corporate in terms of outlook (long-term vs mid-to-short term), and the reasons why enterprises must pursue innovation.
How did you initially get involved with WiderPool?
Networking is a crucial information source in the startup scene. I was introduced to Widerpool and the results oriented value proposition through a connection, and it was clear to me that a structured collaboration would create mutual benefits.
Kovvan is focused on corporate innovation and we have a 4-dimensional model to help corporates identify what type of initiative is best suited for their organization and strategy. Part of this model is to engage with startups to access the solutions they provide for the corporate’s innovation needs. Widerpool with its global reach and sound process is a great fit for this
“FINDING THE RIGHT PARTNER TO COLLABORATE WITH FOR INNOVATION WILL NOW BE EASIER WITH WIDERPOOL’S SUCCESS-DRIVEN PROCESS AND NETWORK”
WiderPool recently posted about the hottest startups in Turkey. What is the outlook in the country for innovation among corporations and startups in Turkey?
Turkey’s startup ecosystem is relatively young with a strong foundation. With the state support both to startups and universities, as well as incubators and accelerators, there is a strong starting point for the future. Along with incentives to investors, starting businesses and getting the initial support is getting easier by the day.
The corporates are starting to identify initiatives to embark on to introduce new products or services to the market, new processes to their internal operations and new business models to enable new revenue streams.
Engagement between corporates and startups is increasing in a rapid pace as we start to see more corporate VC structures established, more corporate accelerators announced and this benefits greatly by working with intermediary organizations.
What industries in the corporate or government sectors do you see as being particularly open in Turkey as possibilities for the WiderPool’s innovation model?
The economy is changing into services from products, and into platform from pipeline industries. This creates an unprecedented challenge to corporates as they are forced to change their thinking as well as business models, and they need to open up for partnerships and collaboration.
Nowadays, especially telecoms, utilities, finance, energy, services, transportation and logistics, agriculture and healthcare are the industries that are open for more innovation with high potential impact. Particularly with B2C business models, where the consumers are in tune with global developments, services and products, Widerpool’s international reach will enable new opportunities in both private and public sector.
What are some of the biggest stories on the tech startup side for disruptive innovation originating from Turkey?
The biggest acquisition of the Turkish startup scene was yemeksepeti.com being acquired by Delivery Hero. In the past, gittigidiyor.com, an e-commerce marketplace was acquired by eBay as well. Udemy.com, the online training marketplace, was founded in Turkey, by a Turkish entrepreneur, and later had a very successful global expansion. Recent examples include sinemia.com, which is on the same growth path.
Disruptive innovation is certainly not limited to startups in Turkey. Enpara.com, an online bank with no branches initiated by QNB Finansbank, has been a great success, and is yet to be replicated. In addition, we are seeing new product launches as a result of corporate and startup collaboration, such as the partnership between ECA and Cosa to enable smart applications for their heater.
Tell us about some of the first new steps you’ll be leading to launch WiderPool Turkey?
Starting in December and into early 2018, we will initiate with 1:1 meetings with interested companies. Thanks to Widerpool’s previous successes in engaging corporates with innovative solutions, we will focus on opportunities to replicate this experience in relevant industries and solutions.
Starting off with Kovvan Innovation Agency’s existing network, and expanding into interested parties, we will reach out to industry organizations to engage with corporates. We will also engage with universities, and their network of startup and young companies in their technoparks.
How broadly will WiderPool Turkey cover the country and then the ‘near broad’ region? Will you be able to showcase tech companies and open up conversations with companies looking to innovate the region?
Istanbul is not only Turkey’s economic capital but also houses regional headquarters of a number of multinationals. The nation’s capital, Ankara, hosts high-tech startups thanks to the government agencies as well as the defense industry. Izmir, the third largest city, is booming mainly with agri-tech as well as life sciences startups along with strong family businesses. Other economically strong cities representing various industries, such as automotive, agriculture, industry, textile, etc. are all within our reach to engage with both startups and corporates.
Together with Widerpool’s global leadership team and network of senior executives, we will introduce the model to the market. Engaging with corporates for business development purposes is a crucial step in the commercialization and growth of any startup and we aim to bring that two-sided-engagement to Turkey, and later to the region.
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