Some markets of the new economy come first when we look at expansion possibilities of web giants. Europe, of course, because of the high penetration rate and China, with the highest rate of usage growth and more than 1 billion potential customers. It’s clearly a good idea to take a chance in those markets. But what about possible others?
Let’s take a look at Turkey. With an estimated Internet penetration of 37%, Turkey has a total Internet user amount of 26 million people. You can find more to it in this study of Sina Afra from Ebay. I wish to give an introduction to this newly blooming market, which, I think, should be on the list of every company who has the goal to be successful on a global scale.
Where is the buzz?
It is a clear fact that the Turkish society is into socializing. According to Wave 3, social networks are by far the most used Web 2.0 tool in Turkey. 67% of the Internet users have a profile on social networks, which also makes it clear why Facebook has 3.6 million users from Turkey. Myspace, Hi5, Perfspot and the local Yonja are also some of the bigger social networks that are very popular in Turkey. Next to social networks, blogging and news are the other most important areas in the Turkish Internet market. News are of course ruled by local players, which are mostly web sites of existing news providers like NTV, Hürriyet, Milliyet and Habertürk, but Google seems to be aware of the gap and launches the Turkish Google News.
E-commerce is also an important area, where the Turkish market is far from satiety. Because of some cultural characteristics, Turkish people still don’t think it is safe or clever to shop online. Surely this doesn’t mean that there is no one there. Ebay for instance made a move and bought 20% of gittigidiyor, which is the leader of the auction market.
Turkish startup scene; a newborn baby
When we look at the innovative Web 2.0 applications and services that have been built so far, we see a small amount of startups behind them. These are mostly people with international relations who have seen the future, and want to create it in their own country. 2008, however, has been a very productive year for Turkey, with many milestones. In my opinion, the startup scene was born just this year. What we’ve seen in the Valley, in Berlin, or in London, is now also happening in Istanbul. Small teams do roadshows, weekly or monthly events take place and the first VC funds were founded (Leventure, LabX, Ilab, Golden Horn Ventures etc.). Also, the first investments were raised in a way it happens in the world. For me, events, fresh startups and foreign players are important benchmarks to evaluate a country’s potential. That’s why I’ll sum these up.
Etohum is ‘the’ event, if you like to meet some great people and hear stories of successful Turkish startups. Etohum means E-Seed and aims to gather a group of young entrepreneurs to coach them through the process of starting their own company. All kind of people from different segments of the business are part of the team that is behind the organisation. Also people from abroad are invited to the events and the website is in four languages, inviting everyone to Istanbul to attend the meetings. Maslunch, Geeklunch and Likemind meetups both in Ankara and Istanbul are also followed by many. There is a Startup Weekend coming at the end of August, which will be a first for Turkey and because of the ‘concrete’ format of the event, the press shows great interest. There are some rumours of a Barcamp coming, but there has been no announcement yet.
I will just give names of some new Turkish startups, which are either lately the top topics among the community or my personal favourites. Later on, I will try to write more about Turkish startups.
- Knowband: This e-learning social network is about people, courses and tools to bind these two. Pretty cool.
- Takasmerkezi: Online shopping without money. Sell your own stuff, buy other things with the money you’ve earned.
- Mekanist: Sharing, voting, rating places and events online.
- Befunky: With tools like cartoonizer, uvatar and video
cartoonizer, these guys are trying to “change the face of internet.” Also pretty cool.
- Wridea: A service to collect, organize and manage your ideas, including some great tools for brainstorming.
- Exoin: A “publishing platform”, where you can also post geo-content.
The stranger(s) in town
Google, of course, was one of the first companies, to open an office in Turkey, which -until now- actually served more as a sales office for Adwords. Yahoo and Mypsace are other giants that finally thought on building a real operation in Turkey. The Turkish landing page of Yahoo was launched couple of days ago and Myspace is (with a little help from her bigger brother Rupert Murdoch) doing also well. When we look at the European startups, there are Kindo, Xing (bought Turkish business network for EUR4.5m), Sevenload and mixxt who are already in the market with local teams. Sevenload is making plans of a dev-team in Istanbul and Xing is already hiring more people. It is an open market, and despite the fact that it is getting more and more crowded everyday, there is still a chance for everyone. However, as the market grows bigger, expanding to Turkey will be too expensive for startups.
For me, it is obvious that Turkey will be one of the most important markets in Europe. Turkish politics and economy are on a more solid ground now and the chances that an emerging market delivers are clearly there. Turkish startups will learn how to do business on a long term based plans and bigger investment deals are going to get closed more often. This will follow to better services built by local teams, which, I think, will focus on social networks and social shopping.
About the author:
Şekip Can Gökalp, born in 1984 in Istanbul, has been producing social networks since 2003 and focused on internationalisation and localisation 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.