Take Off Istanbul Startup Summit: Great Startups and Great Panels

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Take Off Istanbul Startup Summit was the biggest free startup festival in the world. Thanks to our friends at Turkey Technology Team and Invest in Turkey, we were prepared for hordes of startups arriving at Istanbul.

We have received more than 2000 applications for Take Off Istanbul Startup Summit, from more than 80 different countries, all around the world. The event took place within Teknofest Istanbul Aerospace and Technology Festival, which is also a one of a kind event in its own category. For that reason, Teknofest and Take Off took place in Istanbul’s new, huge airport, which is set for official opening on Republic Day, October 29th.

Sonic boom, drones, rockets…

The new tower at the new airport, which symbolizes a tulip.

Teknofest was a great event by itself, as there were loads of activities such as rocket competitions, drone races, hackathons, great shows by world-famous Turkish Air Force and even a race between fastest vehicles in the world: F-16 fighter jet, a passenger jet, sports cars, F1 racing car and a racing motorcycle driven by world-champion Turkish driver and now a member of parliament, Kenan Sofuoğlu, who eventually win the race.

In 4 days of Teknofest, hundreds of thousands of people visited the new airport. As for Take Off Istanbul, that was a great opportunity to let people know about the startup ecosystem, as most of the visiting public were students from various age groups.

Landings before “Take Off”

Ironically, rather than waiting for “Take Off” we were expecting landings the night before. As you can guess, organizing a startup event may look like it’s all about startups, investor meetings, pitches, presentations and so on, we were also trying to handle hotel transfers, startups landing at different airports and different landing times throughout the day. We did our best to communicate with all startups to get them to their hotels comfortably.

Even if all of Hackquarters stayed awake almost all night, our day started around 5 am on the first day of Take Off Istanbul Startup Summit. We went to the hotel that our international guests were staying, Grand Cevahir Şişli, and made sure that all startups are in the shuttle buses early in the day. And some members of Hackquarters were in the new airport during that time to make sure that everything is working in 3 Take Off stages.

Starting with Great Startups and Great Panels

As I mentioned before, we handpicked 200 startups from well over 2000 applications from more than 80 different countries. Most of the startups we invited to the event has surprised us in a positive way, as there were great presentations. Our time limit was 5 minutes per startup, and our startups delivered great information in that short period. We had three different stages on the first day for Energy & Environmental, Logistics & Space & Defence and Health & Wellness. 40 startups presented in each category and after the lunch break, we had 3 panels for each relative industry with participation from worldwide professionals. (You can always find more info about our panelists and keynote speakers on our official Take Off Istanbul Startup Summit website.)

We also found some time to talk to our participants during lunch break and after presentations while we were waiting for shuttle buses to the hotel. That’s when we felt like we did a great job gathering a lot of people from different countries and various verticals in the same place.

More Panels, More Startups

While we had 3 stages on day 1, we planned as 2 stages for the remaining two verticals and 1 stage for Seedstars Istanbul, which is a part of Seedstars World.

Just like the first day, our participating startups presented their businesses to our jury in Education and Agriculture & Food stages. Each startup had 5 minutes for their pitch. We had 2 great panels with valuable professionals from relative area sharing their ideas and discussing the future of each related industry.

In our third stage for day 2, Seedstars Istanbul participants pitched their startups for a chance to attend Seedstars World and many more great awards. Stroma Vision, Limantepe Tech – ImageRAD and Piri Guide were the winners of Seedstars Istanbul 2018. You can find more about participating startups and winners in Seedstars Istanbul website.

Take Off takes over main stage

Day 3 of Take Off Istanbul Summit was a joy for all of us. There was only one main stage for Take Off Istanbul Startup Summit, which has a bigger capacity then our previous stages. And that was the point: we were expecting attendance from curious enthusiasts who want to listen to great keynote speeches, panels that include government officials, directors from leading companies of the region, VCs, directors of accelerators and more.

We started the day with an inspiring speech from Selçuk Bayraktar, CTO of Baykar and Head of Board of Trustees of Turkey Technology Team. Then our panel on “The Role of Governments and International Organizations in Empowering Youth Entrepreneurship towards Sustainable Growth” started with attendance from valuable professionals such as Arda Ermut (President of Investment Support and Promotion Agency of Turkey) and H.E. Amb. Elshad Iskandarov (President of Islamic Conference Youth Forum for Dialogue and Cooperation).

… when we hear the president is coming to Take Off Istanbul stage.

Near the lunch break, we heard that President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, will present awards to the winners of Take Off Istanbul Startup Summit, himself (Later we learned that those were just rumours).  After the lunch break break, the main stage of Take Off Istanbul was at full speed with wonderful keynote speeches by Kamran Elahian and Amr Awadallah. Unfortunately, due to our delayed programme, keynote speech of our valuable friend, Darius Moeini was canceled.

After keynote speeches, “Corporate Companies Inspiring Innovation” panel has started with the attendance of Kaan Terzioğlu (CEO of Turkcell) and Paul Doany (CEO of Turk Telekom). Again, due to our strict schedule, we merged 2 panels of “Venture Capitalists Predicting the Future” and “Startup Accelerators Disrupting Success” into one big panel.

After we completed our program, it was time to introduce winners of Take Off Istanbul Startup Summit to the audience. Our winners (which we will tell more about each in another blog post) got announced by Haluk Bayraktar (CEO of Baykar, Member of Board of Trustees of Turkey Technology Team), Selçuk Bayraktar (CTO of Baykar and Head of Board of Trustees of Turkey Technology Team) and M. Fatih Kacır (Deputy Minister of Industry and Technology, Republic of Turkey).

Geographically a bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa? Much more than that.

Some of our participants were pretty surprised to find that many startups gathered in Istanbul for a global startup event as currently, Istanbul is just a “promising” startup country. Recently there were a few huge (in Turkish standards) investments and exits happened in Turkish startup scene, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.

As Hackquarters, we aim to make Istanbul a hub for not only EMEA startup scene but also global startup scene as well. And we are not doing this just for the love of our country. Turkey is currently a land of opportunities where startup related expenses are almost free, compared to cities in our region. There is a huge room for growth in Istanbul with startup awareness increasing among students, corporations and public as well.

With Take Off Startup Summit, we were addressing the “Take Off” of startups involving in our event, but also we hope that this will be a “Take Off” for Turkish startup scene in general as well. With great opportunities such as the ones we mentioned before and government incentives, a lot of international startups are opening their Istanbul offices. And we are hoping to lure more and more startups to Istanbul.

Thank You! And we mean it!

We would like to thank every startup, speaker, panelist, investor, VC, corporate professional and people within startup scene who did generously devoted their precious time to Take Off Istanbul Startup Summit and honored us with their presence in Istanbul. We did our best to provide a great experience in Istanbul with valuable help from our friends here at Hackquarters, Turkey Technology Team and Invest in Turkey.

We will share winners of each category in separate posts. Keep following Hackquarters on our social media channels!

See you again next year!

About Gökhan Menge

Gokhan is working as marketing director for Hackquarters. He loves to research about new stuff, and write about them.
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