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Connecting Chicago and the Turkish startup ecosystem

Both inside and outside of Turkey’s borders, people are noticing the opportunities that a fast-growing, developing market can churn out. At an international level, 500 Startups announced the creation of 500 Istanbul, a $15M micro-fund that will invest in more than 100 Turkish startups in the next several years. 500 Startups already invested in eight companies founded by Turkish entrepreneurs: Udemy, Socialwire, Parlakbirgelecek,, Boostable, Adphorus, Mobile Action, and Koding.

In 2013, TelecityGroup, Europe's industry-leading provider of carrier-neutral data centres, acquired SadeceHosting, the leading provider of data centre and hosted services in Turkey. In 2014, Monitise, a UK-based company that builds and rolls out mobile payment solutions, acquired Turkish mobile commerce technology provider Pozitron for $100 million as a deal to expand throughout the middle east. In both deals, Tukey was cited as particularly attractive as a rapidly growing digital economy at the intersection of Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Local VCs, such as 212 Capital and Revo Capital, and government-funded technoparks are incubating startup growth as the on-the-ground engines to fuel the next big success. One such technopark, ITU ARI Teknokent, seeks to expand the local ecosystem by opening programs and services that connect local business to international markets. Chicago has been their first point of interest and office location that provides services to their startup community.

Turkish startups come to Chicago

ITU ARI Teknokent’s ITU GATE International Accelerator Program selects the best growth stage startups in Turkey to accelerate and launch into the U.S. market. To do this, ITU ARI Teknokent partners with Sente Advisory, 1871’s exclusive and official international program partner, to give business development and acceleration services. The ITU GATE program is specifically aimed at readying companies for entry into the U.S. market. The final phase of their accelerator program is a month in the U.S. - three weeks in Chicago and one week in San Francisco, followed by ongoing support for the alumni of the programs. The time is filled with face-to-face meetings with potential clients and business partners, as well as investors that take an interest in these companies. The capstone to each leg of the trip is a Demo Day showcase for the local business community.  

Demo Day at 1871

On January 21, 2016, 1871 hosted the ITU GATE Demo Night showcase of nine of Turkey’s most successful startups to Chicago. The event was a meeting of investors, executives, thought leaders and key stakeholders. The distinguished panel of judges included Chris Bordeaux the COO of Techweek Chicago, Jim Spinello CEO of Birdsong Ventures, Matty Francis the Director of Healthbox, Aziz Lalljee the Managing Director at VentureDNA and Robert Okabe the Managing Director at RPX Group, among others listed here. Keynote speakers were Professor Mohanbir Sawhney from Kellogg School of Management and Jason Fried, Founder and CEO of Basecamp. Discussion centered around furthering international opportunities between entrepreneurial communities and literally opening doors to new markets between the Chicago and Turkish ecosystems.

Mohanbir Sawhney commented on the value the ITU GATE startups and Demo Day brought to Chicago: “When you put people who come from different perspectives, from different markets, and from different cultures together, you get richer outcomes. These Turkish companies can provide insights into success in emerging markets, and that is important because those markets are the future. The startups here tonight had global products with global ambitions. This exchange is something we need to do more often.”

Chicago is a growing global hub

This was the third year and fifth group of Turkish startups to Chicago by Sente International Startup Accelerator and 1871.  As for location, 1871 is the perfect host. It was recently rated the number one incubator in the U.S. and the fourth in the world by UBI. This event is an example of Chicago’s growing dominance, not only as a domestic hotbed of entrepreneurship, but as an international focal point for global startups. The 2015 Compass Report found Chicago is the highest growing U.S. entrepreneurial ecosystem in the world. This prominence is due to its thriving, globally-connected community and exclusive collection of fast growing startups generating buzz and entrepreneurial attention such as Uptake, Groupon, GrubHub, Raise, and Avant.

To learn more about what Sente Advisory is doing in Turkey and elsewhere in partnership with 1871, please feel free to reach out and contact Sente’s team at  This is the first of a blog series, “Chicago: U.S. Global Entrepreneurship Hub,” so stay tuned for more Sente led international activity, new countries joining the program and buzz in the near future.

About Sente Advisory

Founded in 2008, Sente provides incubation and business development services to start-ups in Turkey and other emerging start-up ecosystems. Through its robust methodology and expertise in technology development and innovation management, Sente partners have assisted more than forty start-ups that have grown out of idea stage into growth companies. Its extensive network of executives and technology experts in USA help these start-ups enter into US markets based on a well-thought and tested business development plans.

Topics: Insights

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