Technology In Istanbul

The Gotham Gal and I are winding up a four day weekend in Istanbul. She likes to blog about the places we go and things we do so if you want to read about all that visit her blog. I expect the posts on her blog will be all about Istanbul for the next few days.

There is something about the uptake of technology in Turkey that is somewhat unique. Facebook blew up in Turkey fairly early in its international phase. Foursquare’s Swarm is so popular in Turkey that you would think the product was started here. We’ve seen similar stories in other USV portfolio companies and also companies that have pitched us. So one of the things I’ve been looking at while we’ve been here are clues to the behaviors that make this happen.

The most obvious thing you see is the almost total obsession with mobile phones. Everyone has one and everyone is using them. You might think using mobile phones during meals or conversations is rampant in the US, but in Turkey it is way more rampant. It is clearly the social norm to be on your phone at the same time you are hanging out with other people.

It also seems that the phones are cheap and there also seem to be a number of wireless carriers active in the market. We got good data service everywhere we went in Istanbul. The speeds were great and the data was reliable and abundant. Phones and prepaid cards are sold everywhere. I haven’t looked deeply at any reports on this but on the surface it seems that the wireless industry (carriers and handsets) have done a good job of competing vigorously and bringing price points down and service quality up. Maybe the US could learn a thing or two from Turkey.

We also found wifi to be offered in most venues in Istanbul. I have been using WifiMap (which I blogged about a few weeks ago) and you can get wifi in almost every place you walk into around town. So for people on mobile data plans who want to offload to wifi when possible, Istanbul is a good place to do that.

Turkey also seems economically quite vibrant so most people apparently have the means to afford the basics (phone and mobile data) and yet they are not developed enough that they made massive investments in the last generation internet infrastructure (desktops, laptops, wired internet, etc). So it’s a place where social, mobile, local, messaging can take off as well as anywhere in the word and doesn’t necessarily have other older solutions to these needs.

Here is a slide I found on the Internet that is from early 2014:

turkey slide

Mobile penetration in Turkey was 84% in early 2014, likely higher now, and that is about the world average. But given the size of Turkey, the total mobile population was 68mm in early 2014, as big as many european countries.

So Turkey is a place where technology, particularly mobile, has taken off. It’s a big market and one that seems to adopt things early on. It’s a good market to pay attention to when you think about international strategies and it is also likely a good place to start companies that focus on mobile products and services.

#Blogging On The Road#mobile#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Christian Hernandez

    Istanbul has been a petri dish for social and mobile services for some time. It was a top 3 country for Facebook in 2011 (… but has also been a top country for Foursquare, Path, FriendFeed and other social services. This is driven by the demographics of its population. The country is young and so are its internet users (median age 29 http://www.economistgroup.c…. They are also highly concentrated in Istanbul and Ankara which creates network effects. Culturally they are chatty and less concerned about what they share on social media. Finally the post mentions mobile internet penetration. An important driver has also been mobile-as-a-payment platform with Turkish operators being one of the first to introduce micro-payments via SMS for games (it was already huge in 2009). Istanbul is one of my favourite cities in the world. It’s also one of my favourite cities to study the impact of adoption of new mobile/social services.

    1. fredwilson

      Ah yes. I left out the youthfulness of the place. Obviously a huge piece of the equation. Thanks for adding that

      1. Yalim K. Gerger

        I kind of wish you announced your visit and saved an hour to talk to the people in the tech sector here. It’s not like you come here often. Bummer. (or maybe you did and I missed it?)

        1. fredwilson

          I didn’t and it was on purpose. It was a four day getaway to celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary and it was not related to work. So that’s why I didn’t do that

          1. Yalim K. Gerger

            Ahhh… 🙂 … Happy 28th anniversary then… :-)… Next time, I hope.

  2. gregorylent

    “Maybe the US could learn a thing or two from Turkey”no kidding, but i doubt it … that would be unamerican

    1. Dave Pinsen

      Do you not see the irony of you leaving that comment on a blog post where Americans are discussing what they’ve learned from Turkey?

    2. creative group

      The US can learn from Turkey? The innovation that is developed in the US is used globally and all companies mentioned that are expanding in Turkey were created in the US. Any country can evaluate the methodologies of any countries successful integration of its technology but US needing to learn from Turkey is a stretch.

      1. gregorylent

        sir, it’s the competition, as said in the post above

  3. Pranay Srinivasan

    My father started business in Turkey in the late 80s and his closest business partners were from there.The pace of adaptation and forward thinking has always been amazing especially given Turkey’s proximity to fundamentalist Islamic countries. Even with the Kurdish influences in the south east (which is economically, educationally and socially the most backward region), there are stunning numbers of people who are progressive and cosmopolitan there.Despite all Islamic efforts to build a totalitarian government, the DNA is very much a vibrant and young country. It also has a great manufacturing DNA with great products at honest labour prices with free access to the EU.It’s the Mexico of Europe – without the Currency problems of the Euro, without the organized crime to the level of Mexico, and with the high quality manufacturing that could make for very interesting cross-border platforms, given it’s customs free trade border with EU and the low low transportation / trucking costs.A lot of middle class and upper middle class Turkish get educated in Germany and France and have strong European values and connections as well.Thanks,Pranay

    1. pointsnfigures

      That’s correct. My friend exiled there from Egypt. Found the people to be incredibly industrious, and lots and lots of small businesspeople.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        This suggests an entrepreneurial culture which would tie into some of Fred’s observations.

        1. Murat Karademir

          Well, as a 23 years old senior college student and entrepreneur, i would say this is not correct. So much like in India, we have great talents and energy of young people with no desire to create and disrupt things. Social pressure is so damn high here.But i have a dream. We need better ecosystem for young people to follow their ideas.

    2. Jack

      “Even with the Kurdish influences in the south east (which is economically, educationally and socially the most backward region)”. I really don’t understand how people, who have not studied the story of a people, or who are not from this country, give themselves the right to make some judgement and misinform other people and make them believe them, because of some ties of relatives aso. they have to this country.The Kurdish region is therefore “backward”, because the Turkish government has been trying to systematically destroy the Kurdish identity since the founding of the Turkish Republic, those people were taxed the same amount, but the central planners in Ankara didn’t give them a penny back, all the investments were made in the Turkish parts of the country throughout their history, the Kurds were basically robbed and betrayed.The Kurdish people are THE most forward people in the ENTIRE Middle East. The best example for this is the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq, which is de facto an independent country since the fall of Saddam. It is the most stable region and therefore got the huge bulk of the investments. The Kurds are right now the ONLY people, who are ready to fight for our values and defend their country.The “terrorist” Kurdish PKK, which is basically representing the Kurdish army in Turkey, is the only military force in the region, after Israel, which has almost an equal amount of women in their forces, just imagine that. The Kurdish HDP had a big victory in the latest elections in Turkey, where they could break the 10% fascist barrier established by the military junta in the 80ies, designed to keep the Kurds out of parlament. The Kurdish HDP did not only get the votes of Kurds, they got the votes of women, of democrats, and of many other foward thinking journalists and intellectuals in the country(the HDP is the “vibrant and young” power you are talking about, it is hardly the fundamentalist AKP, the nationalist MHP, or the Kemalist CHP, which means EXACTLY the opposite of what you are saying is true, the Kurds are the driving force). If they were to run their own government, their own country just like in Iraq, we would see people living in peace with each other, therefore stability, and therefore investments and thriving.I urge everyone who is interested in the history of the Kurdish people to check out this perfect Infoguide made by the Council on Foreign Relations…The Kurdish people are not some little minority there, they have close to 40 million people(30 million is the CIA source, but they count Kurdish only when it’s mentioned in the census, the real number of Kurdish origin is much higher), and they are even more enlightened and forward thinking than the Israelis, even though they are Muslim, their women are completely equal in society, EVEN in the military. Which WESTERN country has equal women forces fighting, not to mention Turkey or Arabic countries? Think about that. Kobani was defended almost by women only, at the same time when the Shiite MEN were fleeing in Iraq!The Kurds have been betrayed throughout their history, not only by the countries they are currently living in, but most importantly by the US, we basically let them get murdered. It is time we open our eyes and see which people have the same values as we do and deserve our help, instead of putting billions of dollars into countries and governments which are burning our flag. And the prerequisite for this is that we know the facts and educate ourselves, instead of talking about issues which we have no clue about.

  4. awaldstein

    My experience exactly.I launched some early Facebook video chat apps and dug deep into the rollouts in Turkey to understand how it happened.Two things they did well/understood:1. They hired core community personalities to kickstart the country and it started a movement that has not stopped as yet. Everyone wins from this every day.2. Younger generations moved to the cities but most everyone has rural and in Turkey, very remote roots. Facebook photo sharing was a both a behavioral/cultural/family aha that never stopped giving.

  5. barisaksoy

    Great observations. Turkey indeed has a young & tech-savvy/loving population. TR comes up on top in many social,mobile, online services/apps. 72M mobile subscribers corresponding to 92.7% penetration rate w 1 out of 3 Turks having a smartphone.….In addition to having big consumers of online/mobile services, TR increasingly creates solid entrepreneurs building great companies in various verticals, ranging from fintech to one of the strong examples of on-demand economy:….I’m sure you will be visiting here again to meet impressive startups soon.

  6. JimHirshfield

    Mobile, social, yada, yada, yada. Turkish coffee, that’s their secret sauce. ‘nuf said.

    1. Twain Twain

      It’s this…

    2. fredwilson

      Maybe that makes them hyperactive on social media 😉

      1. JimHirshfield

        Java point there.

        1. kenberger

          espressing a latte sense.

        2. kenberger

          in Istanbul, they Constantuh-no-more of our puns.

          1. JimHirshfield

            Fez up, you’re enjoying the puns.

        3. Vasudev Ram

          Wired you say that?

  7. BillMcNeely

    Here in Dallas the big push toward growing to a respected startup center is lead in part by a Turk Mike Sarimsakci . we don’t get a lot of direct foreign investors. Most of the real estate is controlled by white guy families whom the streets are named after.mike came in last year purchased a 20 year old vacant 18 story office building in the Downtown Dallas. In it we 2 respected accelerators an awesome co working space and a bunch of tech startupsmore here

  8. Twain Twain

    A Boston-based friend organized a hackathon in Istanbul, Sept 2013.Here’s a graph showing the technical skills of participants. More info: http://www.hackthehackathon…He also brought US-style hackathons to sub-Saharan Africa. V. cool.

  9. pointsnfigures

    I was there over Christmas. Pretty amazing place. Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Chora Church were breathtaking. We didn’t experience the mobile tech part because we have ATT and not T Mobile. But, I did notice people on their phones. I have a friend on Twitter that I actually met out for a beer-and we connected over Twitter when I was on wifi. Everyplace we went had good wifi. People don’t seem to abuse it like you see in the US (laptops at Starbucks). Most everyone I saw had an Android phone-and they had larger screen sizes.Historically, also an amazing place. I did a walking tour of the city and went from a very ultra conservative neighborhood where men catcalled at my wife and daughters to a place that could have been plopped in the upper east side of NYC. In the ultra conservative neighborhood, there was a lot of graffiti that was pro radical Islam. The local mosque had been turned into a sect which wasn’t legal, but under Erdogan tolerated. We had to go into a 5th century Greek Orthodox church in that neighborhood the way you used to go into a speak easy. Istanbul is getting a lot of immigration from Middle East countries that are in distress. The country has always had a “tolerant but not equal” attitude toward Christianity, and less so Judaism. I am hoping that attitude continues.

    1. awaldstein

      “The country has always had a “tolerant but not equal” attitude toward Christianity, and less so Judaism. I am hoping that attitude continues.”Hardly something to hope that it continues.

    2. Nathan Gantz

      When Turkish people get mad about something Israel does, they are allowed by Turkish government to vent this anger towards Turkish Jews. That is not tolerance. Jews have been moving out of Turkey in recent decades largely as a result of increased anti-Semitism. Only in the context of WWII or Israel’s more antagonistic neighbors could Turkey be said to be “tolerant” of Jews.

      1. Erhan Ulgen

        Nathan, you might be correct about the recent stress between Israel and Turkey. But the tolerance of Jews is more about a longer historical perspective. The sephardic jews were expelled in 1492 from the iberian peninsula by christians and they were invited to Ottoman land to their new home. Until the second world war, for almost 700 years, the jews lived in a tolerant environment in the context of time and history. In istanbul, we grew up with jewish friends and we have always lived in harmony. Unfortunately, the political problems of current Turkish and israeli governments just makes the things strange sometimes.

        1. Nathan Gantz

          Thanks Erhan, I agree with everything you have written here.

          1. Erhan Ulgen

            Thank you Nathan. You are very kind.

        2. JLM

          .There are approximately 15,000 Jews in all of Turkey. This in a country of 80,000,000 people. Most are in Istanbul.Turkey was a gateway and conduit for Jews fleeing Europe before, during and after WWII.In recent years, the level of anti-Semitism has been virulent but the small number of Jews has insulated them from any widespread harm.The Gaza Flotilla incident triggered renewed anti-Semitism.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. Nathan Gantz

  …6% of Turkish Muslims expressed favorable views of Christians and 4% were favorable towards Jews. That’s a ratio of 3:2 Christian:Jew. In Egypt Jordan and Lebanon the ratio is closer to 25:1 Christian:Jew. So the spread between ratios is a factor of 17. Based on those statistics one could argue Turkey is relatively tolerant of Jews.Not that that necessarily contradicts anything you have written JLM.

          2. JLM

            .”Tolerant of Jews”?There are only 15K Jews in the entire population of 80,000,000.The Jews are invisible.I am extremely tolerant, personally, of Aleutian Indians. Of course, I have never met one and I don’t know any but I am very tolerant.A country that supports Hamas — sworn to destroy Israel and kill all Jews — can hardly be considered to be tolerant of Jews.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  10. csertoglu

    Fred, we think that the lack of a global tech success story from Turkey is an anomaly, given the strong STEM education legacy and the number of talented engineering grads. Currently there are a few contenders for the distinction (Hazelcast and Peak Games are two examples).On the local side, the country has shown it can deliver large exits such as GittiGidiyor (to eBay for $220m in 2011) and YemekSepeti (to Delivery Hero for $589m in 2015), but the ecosystem is not as developed as places such as India or Brazil.Still, we expect to see 10+ sizable Turkish-origin tech companies emerge in the next five years.

  11. creative group

    Any developing country with GDP of 11K per capita US (2013) with political instability and corruption equals caution with any mature investment strategy.

  12. LE

    Nice place to visit, wouldn’t want to live there.…(But then again I admit my bias has existed ever since I saw “Midnight Express” and had a high school friend who’s father was a diplomat at the Turkish Embassy.

    1. Erhan Ulgen

      I saw the “Riding the Midnight express with Bill Hayes” last year. Bill Hayes, the hero of Midnight express, makes clear in his one-man show that the story was not like in the movie and he tells the real story. It might change your bias after many years:).

  13. arikan

    Great that you’re visiting Istanbul at this time, the hot summer has not completely arrived.I think in this post, your portrait of Istanbul / Turkey is a bit too consumption centric. Do not get me wrong, I find this normal given this might be your first time. But, I’d be curious if you are also interested in the creative technologists among these young-mobile-social class of people?Speaking of creativity and production, did you know in Turkey upload speed is always extremely low –avg under 1 Mbit– compared to downstream. And, Turkey has one of the world’s highest censorship of websites and social media, not to mention the record number of imprisoned journalists. On top of this, take the lack of economic policies & investment on surplus generating technology production, and the capital poured in corrupt “national development” programs and partnerships, which exploit the cultural and natural resources and give irrevocable damage (see the Networks of Dispossession mapping project for more details).Although living and working under these conditions, people still have hopes. On the one hand, you find activist groups fighting against netneutrality and mass surveillance in Turkey, on the other hand you see startups building successful products exiting from Germany to South Africa (I see already mentioned in the comments). Maybe, what contributes to this hope as much is Istanbul’s well connectedness with the global diaspora of Turkey from New York to Beijing.Also, if you’re ok to take a short distraction from your vacation, I suggest you do a short cozy semi-public discussion, I am sure you’ll get very interesting insight from the audience.Just wanted to put my 2 liras in the discussion.

    1. creative group

      Great post. Had to separate a vacation experience and the hospitality always provided by turkish hosts to that beautiful country and what is actually occurring in the country politically that actually stifles innovation.

    2. Joe Cardillo

      I’m sure you are familiar, but for anyone who isn’t Zeynep Tufekci often has good insight into Turkey in particular re: censorship, and the relationship between policy / innovation there..

    3. creative group

      This post earned the late Paul Harvey’s program ending close”Now you know the rest of the story”.

  14. SDB

    Thanks for sharing Fred. Also amazing market insights from the comments section. In mobile/wireless space, when looking to European expansion most companies have Turkey as #4 or #5 market after UK, Germany, France and Spain. It is a very chatty society and with people getting busier and distributed it has become hard to meet for a cup or two of Turkish coffee a day in person. Hence, they have created their own virtual “Mahala’s” on FB, twitter, etc.

  15. LE

    Maybe the US could learn a thing or two from Turkey.When I saw the picture that Gotham posted on pegg [1] wearing the burka (or whatever that was that covered her from head to toe) it reminded me of how screwed up religion makes people and all the problems that religion causes in the world. All of that useless (in this day and age, brainwashing). Likewise when american journalists interview religious fundamentalists and they have to cover themselves up because they are women. Same for Orthodox Jews that make women sit separate from men.[1]

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Religion is a challenge:Since religion has been around, around theworld, for a very long time, somehow formost humans there is something importantabout it.But for a very long time, religion hascaused rivers to run red with blood or,where there were no rivers, the ground tobe stained red with blood.Much of the worst in all of human historyhas been due to religion.In simple terms, the worst half ofreligion is by far the worst flim-flam,fraud, scam, (@JLM) “head fake” in all ofhuman history.The Catholics and Protestants had The 30Years War. For the last 30 years, theSunnis and Shiites have had their 30 yearswar, and that’s on top of their 1000+ yearwar — they’ve had their own 30 years wareach 30 years back for 1000+ years.Way of Life: Have lots of wives; keep allof them pregnant all the time; then sendthe sons out to kill off the sons in thenext tribe over. As long as the Arabs fighttribe against tribe, they will be a littlepeople, a silly people, greedy, barbarous,and cruel.Extra credit for recognizing the source.Hmm …, now it’s clear how they can haveso many wives.After 1000+ years, we’re talking reallyslow on the uptake.Must be the joys of the life of a sultan?From E. Fromm, two of the effectiveapproaches humans have to get feelings ofsecurity are “love of God” and “membershipin a group”, and religion is important inthe second and central in the first.By membership in groups, religion commonlyforms a condensation point forpeople to form a group and, thus, feelmore secure — soft on the inside, hard onthe outside. In some times and places,had to be in the right religion to fit inat all — otherwise were ostracized,dangerously so.The Soviets tried to rub out religion –it didn’t work.I can’t believe that any religion thepeople who walked across the dry BeringStrait had with them was significant forlong; so, the Mayans reinvented religion,a lot of religion, on their own.So, net, somehow religion meets a nearlyuniversal need.Since religion can cause such horribleproblems, the US Founding Fathers wereespecially bright to insist on both (A)freedom of religion and (B) separation ofchurch and state, both of them, atthe same time.Still, lots of people in the US keepwanting to put some of their religion intothe state, that is, use the powerof laws and government to force feedparticular religious beliefs andassociated behaviors onto others whootherwise would not want such. Moregenerally, somehow it’s nearly universalthat deeply religious people are justdetermined, at high risk of life itself,to spread or impose their religion onothers — wanted or not, maybe by suchmeans as crucifixion, burning at the stake,a bayonet, a gun, a car bomb, etc.Sure, a fear is that the Shiite followersof Ayatollah Kockamamie want to use Iraniannukes to impose their version of religionon Arabian Sunnis.ISIS? Sure: Adopt every detail of theirradical version of Sunni Islam, escape, ordie.”The beheadings, car bombs, and making sexslaves out of all girls over age six willcontinue until you infidels accept ourwise, kind, loving, gentle, merciful,forgiving God.”Sure, the Youth Group at my family’schurch, Presbyterian, looked really nice.Sure, since in K-12 the total number ofwords between me and any girl in schoolwas less than 100 with all but six nasty,it was really nice that the Youth Groupworked really hard to get me to come. Mywife’s Methodist Youth Fellowship lookedreally nice. My brother’s family isreally nice. Still, a lot ofreligion is really nasty stuff.Lesson, tell religion: (1) Stay the heckout of politics and government. (2) Noproselytizing at the point of agun. (3) Stay quiet, peaceful, and mostlyout of the public eye. (4) Nocrucifixions, locking up scientists,feeding people to the lions, burningpeople, e.g., heretics, unbelievers,at the stake, stoning people, car bombs,exploding trains, wars, etc.No more ripping off or just enslaving manythousands of peasants to build, say, theResidenz at Würzburg: http://www.residenz-wuerzbuhttp://www.schloesser.bayer…Try to build something like that foryourself, it’d really set you back.And, if you want a ceiling painted, thenjust get a long handle, a roller, and somewhite latex paint.

      1. William Mougayar

        I loved the Residence in Wurzburg. Those celing frescos are spectacular.

        1. sigmaalgebra

          “Spectacular” you say?Yup: Glad you liked them!Of course, they are by Venetian GiovanniBattista Tiepolo. And, of course, thearchitecture is by Balthasar Neumann.Both were praised by Sir Kenneth Clark inhis Civilization, also a TV series.Very much worth seeing as a tour of thecrown jewels of art history.I am seeding the data baseof my startup with as much as I can fromClark’s book.Sure, Tiepolo’s painting and Neumann’sarchitecture are among the crown jewels ofcivilization — astounding, amazing,unbelievable, beyond all reason.I’ve tried to sketch some architecture,and all I ever get is worse than totaljunk — any cardboard packing box looksbetter. So, how Tiepolo and Neumann didit way back there is totally beyond me.A lot of darned capable people. No joke.But that building really cost. “If youhave to ask the price, then you can’tafford it.”. We’re no doubt talking amove the needle fraction of thegross domestic product for Bavaria orwhatever, all for the Bishop of Würzburg.In comparison, Wagner’s opera house is ashack, with a wooden door, with a halfmoon cut in it. Just the yearlymaintenance cost of the Residenzwould buy a lot of beer and sausage atOktoberfest.There is a scene in one of the moviesStar Wars with a really grandstaircase. I always thought that themovie set designer guy justborrowed a little (omitted the cases ofsymmetry) from Neumann’s staircase at theResidenz.But somewhere, maybe some case ofreligion, I picked up an ethical sense offairness that gets me torqued at whatBavaria spent for their exalted Bishop.No doubt a lot of children in Bavaria hadless good childhoods, maybe didn’t eat,etc. Not pretty.To pick a favorite Neumann, I prefer J.von Neumann: Some of what he did I usedas prerequisites for the math I derivedfor my startup.Von Neumann is the guy on the right in…The guy on the left is S. Ulam, and he hasa now classic result the Frenchprobabilist LeCam called, appropriatelyenough, tightness. I used thatresult in a paper I published inmathematical statistics. There’s a proofof the result in, sure, Patrick Billingsley,Convergence of ProbabilityMeasures. The guy in the middle of the picture isjust a physicist!Of course, they are sitting therepleasantly chatting about little thingslike saving 1+ million US casualties –and they were fully successful.Of course Ulam is best known for theTeller-Ulam configuration which on it’sfirst test yielded an energy of 15 milliontons of TNT.Of course, there’s the Ulam quote: It is still an unendingsource of surprise for me how a fewscribbles on a blackboard or on a piece ofpaper can change the course of humanaffairs.Yup, just scribbles, just on paper.

          1. William Mougayar

            You seem to know quite a bit about it!Been to Wurzburg twice. Really beautiful town too. And the old castle on top of the hill.

          2. sigmaalgebra

            You mean the little place up on the hillin the country, Neuschwanstein,e.g.,…of Mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria?Nice little place in the country!Maybe Disney used it as a model for hiscastle in Orlando!Sure, it will be in the initial data basefor my startup!Of course, Ludwig and his castle areclosely connected with Wagner’s music,e.g., from Lohengrin with somereally nice pictures (pre-Raphaelite):…and where Klemperer really knew just whathe was doing, with, right, a really nicepainting of Tristan and Isolde.Yup, sure, that URL will be in the initialdata base, too.Yup, maybe that painting shows how it’ssupposed to be: Tristan, totally smitten(no wonder), looking at Isolde (drop deadgorgeous), and she looking 90 degrees fromhis direction — that’s just what thegirl, 13, I, 15, was in love with (stillam — can no more forget her than I canforget my own name), much prettier thanthe Isolde in the painting, did, to myeverlasting frustration. I needed a copyof Girls 101 for Dummies — Boys.Guys, those are just paintings: Don’texpect the girl you know to be that prettyor even if she is to act in suchendearing ways! Of course, if youare a knight in shining armor in a smallboat pulled by a swan with a gold chain!Of course, Lohengrin is plentyromantic stuff, e.g., a relativelydramatic, ah, bombastic, version to makeher father feel a little better aboutborrowing the $50,000 for Daddy’s LittleGirl’s wedding,…A version on organ but with the sheetmusic so that can actually see clearlywhat is going on in some of the seeminglycomplicated harmonies (much easier tounderstand seeing the actual music –surprisingly simple):…Another bombastic organ version where,again, Daddy might feel a little betterabout losing the $50,000:…Version with chorus and orchestra, closerto, or the same as, Wagner wrote it:…Yes, Daddy’s $50,000 aside, Wagner knewbest, by a very wide margin.Yes, Daddy’s $50,000 might be worth it ifshe didn’t later go for Girl’s nightout and cheat; naw, not a chance thatwould work, not even for $50,000,000.If my startup works, sure, maybe I’llvisit, and have a beer, in Bavaria!Ah, have a SchwarzwälderKirschtorte; I’ve made a decentversion. Then on to Vienna for aSachertorte; I’ve also made adecent version of that — a lot of eggsand chocolate and a little apricot glaze.While I don’t have a clue about howGiovanni Battista Tiepolo and BalthasarNeumann did what they did, and, of coursedon’t really understand Wagner, either,I’m a lot closer on Wagner, e.g., can readand analyze that score above and playedsome of his motifs on violin –surprisingly simple and a lot of fun. Andfor the cakes, I’ve actually done some ofthose.For Wagner’s Prelude toLohengrin, that’s magic. Klempererunderstood it — I just like it.Of course, Wagner did more with Tristanand Isolde:…Really good singing.Yup, from the same guy who wrote, right,the Prelude to Act I of DieWalküre, conducted by a pianist,Barenboim, with video of the orchestra socan see some of how it’s done,…with a little more from Barenboim…although I prefer “the communication,interpretation of human experience,emotion”, or, in some cases, a vicariousemotional experience, and thePrelude to Parsifal…In some ways a crackpot (and with somemisuses of his music long after his death)– wrote some really good music. Gofigure.Yup, these and related URLs will all be inmy initial data base for my startup.I know I can’t do painting orarchitecture. Hmm …. Maybe I couldwrite some music. Only one way to findout. One more reason to launch mystartup!Again, I can understand some of theculture of the US, Canada, the BritishIsles, France, Germany, and Italy, but fornearly all of the rest of the world, noway.

          3. William Mougayar

            No, it’s the Marienburg Fortress I was thinking of, actually.

  16. Guy Gamzu

    The most amazing startup in Turkey belongs to the 9,068 Turks that managed to be on Facebook without internet connectivity

  17. JLM

    .Before we all get ready to move to Turkey, it might be worth investigating its political instability and corruption. This is a country that changed its government with the involvement of the military in 1913, 1960, 1971, 1980, 1993 and 1997. One might also suggest that recent changes have come at the point of a bayonet.In 2007, the Turkish General Staff issued what was known as the E-memorandum — “e-muhitra” — which gave the people guidance as to what the military thought about the presidential elections (president is ceremonial, all power is in the prime minister’s office).The national motto is: “How happy is one who says I am a Turk.”The military declared that anyone who opposed their hand picked leader was not a happy Turk and was not going to be one.BTW, the national motto above won over #2 which was: “Long live the caliph.”Turkey is a NATO member who gives NATO pause as to why they were ever admitted.They have cozied up to the Chinese buying military hardware from them including technology which provides the big problem of espionage — the Turks telling the Chinese what NATO is doing.The Turks are reported to have provided $300MM in direct financial support to Hamas while allowing Salah Al Arouri, a Hamas leader wanted for an atrocity (June 2014 murder of three) against Israeli children, to hide in its country. Turkey is a top Hamas supporter.The Turks traded gold for oil with the Iranians which had three bad impacts: violated the sanctions regime, gave the Iranians a freely trading currency and gave the Iranians an outlet for their embargoed oil.The Turks made a gas deal with Putin which gave him an alternative source of funding in case eastern Europe spit the bit on Russian natural gas.The Turks have denied the US permission to stage military operations against ISIS from their soil.The Turks have supported anti-Assad forces in Syria which means they have supported ISIS itself. The issue is at the root of American-Turkish issues. In supporting ISIS (as anti-Assad rebels), they also supported Jabhat al Nusra, a potent Al Qaeda affiliate.In 2014, the FATF (Financial Action Task Force), an organization that tracks the financing of terrorism worldwide, cited Turkey as being a terror financier for seven years.In Turkey, you are required to register your cell phone with the government — even tourists who stay for more than 60 days.This is a country which has in place a plan to “turn off” the Internet and routinely censors Internet content.Istanbul has always been a place where different continents and cultures collide. It is a very dangerous place.Other than that, Turkey is a fun place.Sorry. None of this is intended to suggest that Fred’s observations are not valid. Really has nothing to do with that and if that is somehow inferred, my bad.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. JLM

      .Here’s a good pic.The guy in the middle is Abdullah Gul, President of Turkey in 2012. The charmer to his right is Khaled Meshaal, leader of Hamas at that time. The other henchpersons are also Hamas leaders.Not too many folks get to take a pic with these charm school guys.That’s Istanbul through the window.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. Richard

      Might be a biased sample, but Every Turkish Grad Student I studied with stayed here or wanted to stay here in the US after graduation.

      1. JLM

        .The Turkish Diaspora — primarily to Europe, Germany being the big destination — is a real thing.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      2. cemilturun

        Local venture capital is kaput Rich. Smart young people do not want to fight the local difficulties, since there is no example of a world class start-up built in Turkey.

        1. Murat Karademir

          Then she asked ; So where is this going ?As a young entrepreneur i see capital is one of the biggest problem.Nothing is happening in reality but the comment above ”it’s greatest asset and challenge”I feel like we will have a breakthrough soon.

    3. muratcannoyan

      Ain’t there always a flip side. Turkey remains a very complicated place. I still think it’s geographic, both it’s greatest asset and challenge.

      1. JLM

        .The world is unbelievably complex but just fascinating. We Americans are a very young nation. No Ottoman Empire.What is really fascinating is that even with all the complexities and the subtleties and nuances of culture and language, we all just want the same thing — bit of peace, love and happiness. Good, hard work and a sense of worth.Peace to all of us and abundance in our homes.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    4. Geoff

      Registering your phone (Or SIM card) is pretty well compulsorily everywhere!

      1. JLM

        .With the government?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    5. Erhan Ulgen

      “How happy is one who says I am a Turk.” is never intended to be being genetically Turk. It is about being the citizen of Turkish Republic, whatever race you are from. It is not any different than saying “I am proud to be american”. Nothing wrong with that. It’s not about racism. In a country where so many different civilizations lived together for centuries, you cant expect to find pure turkish genes, who are supposed to come from the middle of Asia thousands years ago..Each of your other observations need long discussions. There are some truths obviously, but I can tell you that most of your observations are very biased and it does not involve the thinking process of looking things from different sides. Please remember, there is no perfect system in the world. I am not saying that Turkey is doing everything right and has a perfect system, but to find everything negative about such a country is already a red flag for me.And istanbul is not a very dangeorus place for sure. I think i can tell this to you as someone who grew up in istanbul and traveled to approximately 100 countries.

      1. JLM

        .I did not intend to imply anything about race or “purity” by my noting the motto of Turkey. You are going somewhere, I did not take you.Every opinion — mine as well as others — always has another view and what I think from afar cannot possibly be as nuanced as that of a citizen or a neighbor which is why I tried to focus on discreet facts and not try to interpret them.I think that Turkey, as an example, is virulently anti-Semitic but I did not say that preferring to say simply that Turkey funds Hamas. Hamas exists to destroy Israel which unalterably supports a notion of anti-Semitism. Still, I did not resort to observing the obvious preferring a reader arrive at and make their own conclusions.The fact that Turkey supports and funds Hamas is whatever it is. The fact that Turkey does not allow the US to launch attacks against ISIS from its soil, similarly–is whatever it is.My comment about Istanbul being a “dangerous” place was not intended to be a comment on one’s physical safety but rather an analogy or metaphor for the danger of Turkey’s political policies.The picture I posted of the President of Turkey and the head of Hamas posing as if at a prayer breakfast evidences that “danger.”I will take great issue as to whether Turkey is a close call. A country which changes its government by military power and intervention is a faux democracy. A country who supports Hamas is not a country using its wealth for good.I am not finding everything negative about Turkey but there is a lot of negative about Turkey to find.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  18. sigmaalgebra

    Good to hear about Turkey.I know a bright guy from there, a worldexpert in very long instructionword (VLIW) computer architecture. Hegot his Ph.D. at SUNY Buffalo.Well, to connect with Turkey, three pointsabout my startup and a lesson:(1) What my startup is trying to deliverto its users (yes, it is a consumerInternet startup) should have nearlyuniversal appeal, not as universal asfood, water, sleep, sex, and conversationwith friends and family, but, otherwise,relatively universal, in particular, notlimited to or really focused on the US.(2) My startup has relatively littledependence on English or, really, anynatural language. That is, language isnot really a barrier.(3) Common news reports held some yearsago that Google has been getting morerevenue from outside the US than inside,and recently, the same was reported forFacebook. Yes, my startup is intended toget its revenue from running ads.Lesson: From (1)-(3), while initially mystartup is aimed at the US only, if peoplein the US do like what my startup delivers(supposed to be the first good or a muchbetter solution, a must have, to apressing problem — hope they willlike it), then I stand to get a slap inthe face that I need to, in words thefounder of FedEx once said to me, “gointernational”. In that case, from Fred’spost, maybe I’ll have to have an office inIstanbul or at least work with an adnetwork there (assuming such exist).I wouldn’t have guessed that Turkey wouldbe so promising.Another point: Since such a largefraction of end user client devices in theworld are just smartphones, my startupshould be designed to work well onsmartphones. Since I don’t want to writeseparate apps for many variationsof smartphones and want my user interface(UI) to be just a Web browser, I shoulddesign my Web pages to look good also onsmall screens. So, I tried to do that:I’m using only dirt simple HTTP, HTML, andCSS, and each Web page is just 800 pixelswide with large fonts, high contrast, nopop-ups, pull-downs, roll-overs, etc., anda user should be able to get by with awindow only 300 pixels wide.So, since the people in Turkey, and nodoubt some billions of people, are shorton desktops and long on smartphones, myuser interface should still be fine inTurkey, etc.!So, my UI is a special case of thatclassic principle in engineering, “keep itsimple, stupid” (KISS), simple enough thateven a fifth grader could use it — in mycase, even a fifth grader, with a littleexperimentation or a few examples, whodoesn’t even know the Roman alphabet!From all I’ve seen, I have a decent shotat understanding the basics of culture inthe US, Canada, the British Isles,Australia, France, Germany, and Italy,likely Switzerland, maybe also have a shotat the Scandinavian countries; otherwise Iwouldn’t even know how to buy a loaf ofbread.So, everything in India, Asia, the Islamicworld, around the Black or Caspian Seas,the Balkans, Eastern Europe, nearlyeverything about Russia, all of Africa,likely even South Africa, everywherepeople speak Spanish or Portuguese, are anenigma to me.Ah, right, Israel: I could probably catchon enough there to buy a loaf of bread,maybe even a pastrami on rye, if onlybecause a lot of people there are from theUS and speak English. Besides, a lot ofpeople there play violin, and I got farenough in music to understand that!Sure, I might be able to understandAntarctica — right, a lot of penguins,just move slowly and offer fresh fish!Naw, my UI won’t work for penguins!Actually, another lesson is it’s too easyto read the news about the world, see whatthe news paints as some deeply troubledcountries, and conclude that everyonethere is still back in the days of leechbleeding and astrology. But too manyexamples have slapped me in the face hardenough to accept that such a simpleconclusion is nearly always wrong and,instead, even in a country that the newspaints as totally sick-o, there can besome people plenty bright, well educated,rational, well-balanced, well-informed,with good technical, business, andinternational understanding.Lesson: Really can’t just totally give upon troubled countries. Instead,for a startup with some relatively broadappeal, give users a chance wherever theInternet reaches.Good to hear about Turkey: I needsomething like Fred’s post since I wouldnot be able to understand Istanbul myselfwithout such help!

  19. Jonathan

    Very timely…off to Istanbul this week. Indeed Turkey’s mobile market and user behavior resemble much like South Korea. Thanks for sharing

  20. William Mougayar

    This is good for mobile communications and social, but how about e-commerce? I don’t have the stats, but I think e-commerce penetration in less developed countries isn’t as high as their mobile adoption.

    1. Saikiran Yerram

      e-commerce is conducted but not the usual way. Merchants put their products on Instagram or Pinterest (cash on delivery) or something similar. The product is then delivered to the buyer’s location with the buyer paying in cash.

      1. William Mougayar

        Interesting. It keeps the grey economy going.

      2. cemilturun

        That is very true Saikiran Yerram. Lots of e-commerce happen under the hood, since taxes hurt us bad.

  21. Paul Sanwald

    We spent two weeks in turkey recently; Istanbul, Capadoccia, and Fethiye. I used foursquare extensively and left lots of tips:…We loved the culture, and everyone we met was fantastic. I was very surprised how secular it was.

  22. creative group

    Taiwan is the ninth (9th) country and the first Asian country to launch a Silicon Valley innovation office called Taiwan Innovation Center in San Jose, CA.Provides a soft landing for start up companies that come to the Innovation capital of the world. (The United States of America)

  23. ZekeV

    Reminds me of Jan Chipchase, the former Nokia mobile guy who blogs at Future Perfect about mobile tech, design, and use patterns around the world. Some really cool stuff happening in the world’s bazaars.

  24. riemannzeta

    Last time I checked, Turkey had one of the fastest population growth and the highest average educational levels for women anywhere in the world. Only Indonesia was slightly ahead on those metrics.

  25. ernynazario

    Quite a few similarities with the Philippines without the abysmal internet speeds (slowest in Asia, I averaged 1Mbps on a “3Mbps” plan over 3 months). Mobile penetration is 101% as of 2014 with a population of ~100 million. Smartphone penetration still quite low though at 15% so most platforms are still built around SMS.

  26. ShanaC

    Turky is also interesting because it is also a center of manufacturing and logistics, and some of this stuff is just starting to interplay there…

  27. Cankut

    In addition to opportunities in mobile, social, local, and messaging resulting from its demographics, Turkey holds two key competitive advantages.The first is in textile e-commerce. Turkey is a textile production hub that, despite competition from countries with lower labor costs, provides higher quality, better value for money sourcing for local clothing e-commerce companies to flourish globally.The second is in fintech. Many Turkish banks offer their customers tech platforms with more features and a better UX than those in the US and Europe. I’ve found their mobile banking experiences including solutions to track spending, transfer money, and make investments best-of-class. Entrepreneurs, local and global, have the opportunity to be inspired by these great experiences to make them even better.

    1. cemilturun

      I agree with you. Rewards point systems, payment alternatives, currency experiments in Turkey are way beyond anything I saw in the West. There is a local mechanism called “vadeli check” that is essentially an analog blockchain, a social construct that has been serving the economy for many decades.

      1. Ana Milicevic

        I agree with you both but I’m a day late to this thread. I’d be curious to see more endemic innovation crossing textile and technology out of Turkey – I’d pick that over consumer apps as being more in line with what folks are used to hacking away at for generations.

  28. Gillian Morris

    Delighted to see more people talking about Turkey, my home from 2009-2012. A few observations based on my own experience in tech over there:- I think Facebook Zero was actually pretty instrumental in spurring widespread mobile adoption, since it subsidized internet access for a period of time.- Rocket Internet, the German cloning machine, closed its 400-person office in Istanbul in August 2012, citing low margins. The Turkish entrepreneurial community loves to hold this up as an example of how you need local know-how to succeed in Turkey. I think it’s simply because the margins are incredibly low.- at least in 2012, it was nearly impossible to get world class venture financing in Istanbul for early stage plays unless you were building a clone (Gittigidiyor = Turkish eBay, Trendyol = Gilt, Peak Games = Zynga). When I tried to raise angel money, I found people didn’t really understand how to properly incentivize (example: ‘I’ll give you 30k lira (~$15k) for 60% of your company).- Coming back to the US I experienced an unexpected sense of moving backward, technology-wise. As you point out, mobile data is robust everywhere in Turkey, and it’s very cheap too. (I seem to remember I had an unlimited data plan for around 50 lira/month, or $20). I remember being in a country hotel outside of Kars, a provincial town if there ever were one, and streaming movies over internet tethered from my mobile phone. In 2011. Try and do that in the suburbs of the US today…- One thing I loved about Turkey was the fact that gender in tech wasn’t really part of the conversation. There are just as many female engineering students as men, and at least anecdotally they were more likely to end up in the CTO role (one female tech lead told me ‘Men aren’t interested in being managers of unglamorous sectors like IT; if they’re passionate engineers they’d rather build and if they have big egos they want to be CEO’).- here’s a great article from Peri Kadaster of Pozitron that touches on many points you bring up: