The last decade has witnessed the rise of a resilient, attractive and rapidly evolving startup ecosystem in Istanbul. We believe that out of this dynamism Istanbul will emerge as a leading attraction spot for global technology startups.
Turkey has a population of 84 million as of 2021, of which half is under the age of 32, giving the country the largest youth population in the EU area. This young and digitally connected population makes Istanbul one of the best spots to test new ideas and products. Istanbul’s vibrant startup scene is coalescing around a host of support organizations, events, and successful entrepreneurs. There are over 80 active organizations supporting startups in Istanbul, including Plug and Play Istanbul, Endeavor and Galata Business Angels. The city hosts various events all year round. These events include Take-Off, a pitching competition for early-stage startups; TEKNOFEST, the world’s largest technology and aerospace festival and GAMING ISTANBUL, also known as GIST, which is an international game, e-sports and digital entertainment exhibit. VC-backed exits have given inspiration for both entrepreneurs and VC funds to invest in Istanbul’s startups, recognizing their ability to deliver outsized returns to investors. Success stories emerging from this community-minded startup hub include AI-powered digital marketing platform Insider, which raised $32 million from international investors last year and grocery delivery startup Getir, which raised its valuation to $7.5 billion with a $555 million round in June 2021. Hepsiburada, a fast-growing e-commerce startup, saw its market value hit more than $4.2 billion after becoming the first Turkish firm to be listed on NASDAQ. Turkish startups received nearly $1.3 billion investment in the first half of 2021, with Dream Games and Hepsiburada joining the billion-dollar league that already included Peak, Getir and Trendyol.
Ecosystem by the numbers
AI, Big Data & Analytics
Turkey is the lead AI investor in the MEA region with a total investment amounting to $3.4 billion. Close to 200 AI startups have been founded in the last 5 years and the total funding size was $39 million in 2020. One of the most promising of these startups, Tarentum AI, has raised a total of $2.1 million in funding over 2 rounds.
Reasons to move your startup to Istanbul
With various accelerator programs and a wide range of events connecting the local players with the global entrepreneurial networks, the city is offering potential synergies for future collaborations. For entrepreneurs looking to expand their global footprint, Istanbul acts as a springboard to reach EMEA markets.
Istanbul’s prominent universities, including Bogazici University, Istanbul Technical University and Yildiz Technical University, attract promising engineering talent and graduate around 55,000 STEM students annually. Affordable housing, status as an emerging startup ecosystem and a buzzing atmosphere mean that many graduates choose to make Istanbul their permanent home.
Turkey offers a comprehensive investment incentives program to help accelerate returns on R&D investments, including project based grants at a rate of upto 50%. Technoparks support R&D activities, attract investments in high-technology fields and offer incentives like corporate income tax exemption, employers’ share of social security premium support and employees’ income tax exemptions.
Istanbul Development Agency
Istanbul Development Agency is a government agency with a view to "expediting the regional development, providing sustainability and closing the interregional and intraregional gaps by improving collaborations among the public & private industry and non-governmental organizations, fostering opportune and efficient use of resources and galvanizing the local potential". İDA implements programs and supports projects and activities for the development and strengthening of the startup ecosystem of Istanbul to make it one of the prominent international entrepreneurship hubs.
Presidency of the Republic of Turkey, Investment Office
The Investment Office of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey is the official organization for promoting Turkey's investment opportunities to the global business community and for providing assistance to investors before, during, and after their entry into Turkey. Directly reporting to the President of Turkey, the Investment Office is in charge of encouraging investments that further enhance the economic development of Turkey.
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