“Istanbul's entrepreneurship ecosystem is thriving with a dynamic community of innovative startups, experienced mentors, and investors. The city's strategic location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, combined with its young and tech-savvy population, makes it an ideal hub for startups looking to grow and go global.”
With its young, tech-savvy population and strategic location, Istanbul is fertile ground to grow a thriving startup ecosystem. Leveraging these advantages, the nation has set a target of having up to 100,000 tech startups and 100 unicorns (“Turcorns”) by 2030.
There were 75 VC funds in Istanbul as of January 2023. Forty funds raised a collective $358 million in 2022, bringing the total amount raised in five years to then to $1.4 billion. In 2022, foreign investors participated in approximately one out of every five deals. Accel, Balderton Capital, Ceecat Capital, EBRD, Hummingbird, Felix Capital, Goodwater Capital, Goldman Sachs, Index Ventures, Qatar Investment Authority, Sequoia Capital, Startup Wise Guys, Tiger Global, and Wamda Capital all invested in Turkish startups in 2022. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development made an equity investment of up to €5 million in 500 Startups Istanbul Fund II, which targets early-stage technology-driven companies in Türkiye and in central and eastern Europe.
Istanbul Development Agency (ISTKA) runs an Entrepreneurship Result Oriented Program (2021-2023) with 24 components. In addition to regular project grants for ecosystem actors, ISTKA invests in VC funds with its $30 million fund-of-funds and helps Turkish startups grow globally by taking them to international events. ISTKA established the first Istanbul Pavilion at CES 2022, accommodating 28 Turkish startups. CES 2023’s Istanbul Pavilion hosted more than 50 startups and several ecosystem actors.
In December 2022, Istanbul-founded grocery-delivery startup Getir acquired German rival Gorillas, making Getir the biggest grocery delivery company in Europe and taking its valuation to $8.8 billion.
Ecosystem by the Numbers
There are over 200 Gaming startups and multiple Gaming-focused incubators and accelerators in Istanbul. 2022 broke the record for the amount invested in the sector in Türkiye, with 30 Gaming startups receiving a total of $437 million. Türkiye attracted the fourth highest number of Gaming deals of any country in 2022, and excluding the Getir deal, 54% of the nation’s investments were in Gaming or Fintech. Dream Games raised a $225 million Series C in January 2022, becoming Türkiye’s second Gaming unicorn.
AI, Big Data & Analytics
The National Artificial Intelligence Strategy for 2021–2025 aims to solidify Türkiye’s position in AI, including boosting employment in the sector to 50,000 people. The number of AI graduates will be increased by 10,000 within five years and AI applications developed in the ecosystem will be prioritized in public-sector procurement. No-code AI platform Cameralyze raised a $3 million seed round in February 2022. Free coding school 42 Istanbul aims to boost the ecosystem’s international competitiveness with thousands of new developers.
Türkiye has the most vibrant Fintech ecosystem in the region, with more than 600 active Fintechs, thanks to innovation-friendly regulations. In June 2022, the Turkish Parliament introduced a draft law to establish the Istanbul Finance Center, which aims to promote Istanbul as an international finance hub, develop high value-added financial products and services, and strengthen integration with international markets. Param obtained the first electronic money license in Türkiye and implemented the first Buy Now, Pay Later model in the country.
Reasons to Move Your Startup to Istanbul
Located at the nexus of Europe, Asia, and Africa, Istanbul is an ideal launch pad for global markets. Startup Istanbul supports international startups succeed in the city, and Istanbul Technical University’s ITU SEED and Innogate Acceleration Programs assist local startups looking to go global. Take Off, held in Istanbul, has grown into a leading entrepreneurship summit in the region.
Young, Tech-Savvy Talent
Türkiye’s rapidly growing population of 85 million has a median age of 33.5 years and is digitally savvy. The nation is the seventh largest market for mobile apps, based on the total number of downloads, making it an ideal testing ground for developers. Türkiye also turns out more than a million university graduates each year, including over 80,000 in engineering and related fields.
Government agencies including TUBITAK and KOSGEB, and development agencies provide extensive grants to startups. National grant program TUBITAK BIGG (Individual Young Entrepreneurship) Program supports entrepreneurs from the idea stage to market. Istanbul is home to one of Türkiye’s 18 Free Trade Zones, where companies are exempt from VAT, customs duty, and more. It is also home to 13 technoparks, and the Technology Focused Industrial Movement Program provides further support.
Selected Startup Organizations
Startup Genome Members
Istanbul Development Agency
Istanbul Development Agency is a government agency with a view to expediting regional development, providing sustainability, and closing interregional and intraregional gaps by improving collaboration among public sector and private industry and non-governmental organizations, fostering opportune and efficient use of resources and galvanizing the local potential. It is a key ecosystem builder, implementing programs and supporting projects and activities for the development and strengthening of Istanbul’s startup ecosystem to make it a prominent international entrepreneurship hub.
Key Ecosystem Players
News from the Ecosystem
Are you interested in diving deeper into this ecosystem? Drop us a message. Our Ambassadors and Partners can plug you in.