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This article was published on October 13, 2008

Is the sudden Turkish rush towards health 2.0 really sudden?

Is the sudden Turkish rush towards health 2.0 really sudden?
Şekip Can Gökalp
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Şekip Can Gökalp

Şekip Can Gökalp, born in 1984 in Istanbul, has been producing social networks since 2003 and focused on internationalization and localizati Şekip Can Gökalp, born in 1984 in Istanbul, has been producing social networks since 2003 and focused on internationalization and localization of web services. He is the Country Manager Turkey of mixxt and consults European startups in their expansion strategies into and out of Turkey. You can follow him on twitter.

As the Turkish market matures, we are starting to see more of these specialized web applications, which focus on a certain part of life. Lately, health has become one of these hot topics, as two big announcements were made within a month and a third one is on its way.

Angels join forces

That Çağlar Erol and Kerim Baran joined forces and partnered up with Dr. med. Erden Asena of was the first of these important announcements. To be clear, Çağlar Erol is the founder of ç (sold to Xing for EUR4,5m) and Kerim Baran is the founder of Yonja (sold 50% of it for USD12,5m to Mynet backed by Tiger Global). was founded in Izmir few years ago and a year ago, they moved to Istanbul and opened their office here. Doktorsitesi charges doctors for their profiles, lets private hospitals and clinics sponsor topics relevant to their specialty and shows some text and display ads.

Dr. Asena prepared an image of the frontend, which was actually not there, and showed that to 15 doctors and asked them if they would pay for a profile on a ‘portal’ like that. It was the end of 2004 and 10 of those doctors said yes. They became the first members of who would paid right ahead and the site was actually build with that money. Now doktorsitesi has 3000 doctors and more than 140k members, who ask doctors questions. Erden Asena plans with 400k members with the end of 2008.

The application itself has a way to go, but it has a strong user base. Now with the operational experience of Çağlar Erol and Kerim Baran, it has a good chance to stand against the strong newcomers.

Turkcell is coming to the web

Turkcell is the biggest GSM operator in Turkey with more than 30 million subscribers. They are also a very big technology producer with a huge tech center on the Anatolian side of Istanbul. During the Cebit Eurasia last week, Turkcell announced couple of new mobile health tools. Turkcell VP Cenk Serdar tells Timur Sırt of Teknosohbet that these tools are going to be used for remote measurement, diagnosis and treatment. This would be an essential step, because Turkey has 41% of all the MDs in three major cities. Many people from small villages have to drive kilometers to the next doctors office.

Turkcell met many active players from the health sector to find out what other needs they have and the result was a central platform to share and find knowledge on a trustworthy base. This led to the founding of, which is now in a public beta. has classic features of a social health platform but there is something that Cenk Serdar is saying during the interview, which I think will be really important in the long run. He implies some kind of an API which will allow other health companies (labs, hospitals, software developers etc.) to build their own applications and publish them on Turkcell has the power to bring the big players of health to come to If you look at the about page of saglik365, you will see the logos of very important Turkish and international companies, including Intel and Siemens.

The vision of an API shows that Turkcell as a GSM operator has found the right people to work with them on web. We’ll see if they will be successful on their first social applicaion in web, or not.

And the bogeyman

Doğan Online -part of Doğan Holding; the biggest media holding in Turkey- is running the Turkish version of; Real Age is a concept of Mehmet Öz and Michael Roizen, which are famous mostly because of their book “YOU: The Owner’s Manual”. There is a huge form to fill out with deepest behavorial, medical, psychological information about yourself, which in the end will be used to determine your real age, hence the name. Some insiders say that more than 2,5 million people –only in Turkey- filled out the form. And of course, the time is coming near, where Doğan will use this mountain of valuable information about individuals to make money.

Doğan Online is now working on a social application based around The details are not clear, but it will most probably have a similar positioning to others; Q&As, groups, doctors’ profiles etc. Even though Doğan has messed up a lot in the past years, they still have a strong presence and of course a huge media power to back up this kind of service. 2,5 people potential members are also something that should be taken in consideration. Doğan is often blamed by web professionals in Turkey for their habit to build bad products and lower the bar by doing so. But Turkish users don’t really sense the difference between good and bad, if that’s the case. That’s why, I still believe that Doğan will be -at least- annoying for others, who count on massive traffic and popularity among the people.

Why this rush is actually not sudden

Health is something where nobody can afford to cut on expenses and the changes of the health/insurance system in Turkey made it a very open and big market. Within years, very big health corporations emerged and many were bought by foreing companies. A research made by my colleague Mehmet Ayan shows that more than USD10 billion were invested into private health, which makes it a pretty clear goal for buyers and sellers. Until 2023, it is planned to double the number of MDs. At the end 2008, 77 new state and 100 new private hospitals will be build, which means a growth of apprx. 15%.

These numbers make it very easy to understand, why all of a sudden, even Turkcell is trying to be a part of the ‘new’ communication tool, which in the future will play a very important role in patients’ decisions about which doctor or hospital they’ll go to. I don’t think that Turkcell or Doğan plan of an exit, but will surely be open for buyers in a couple of years. However, this probability will not be there before two or three years have passed and doktorsitesi has become a million dollar business.