Turkish unicorns: Digital transformation and government support is crucial

Turkey became the 10th country to attract the most investment among European countries over two years and hosts six unicorns.

A network of entrepreneurs, start-ups, academics and researchers meet each year for the world’s biggest aviation, space and technology festival, Teknofest.

Four unicorns in the space say that unicorns must embrace digital transformation and governments must support the ecosystem and nurture small-medium sized businesses through policy but they must refrain from regulation or favouring traditional offline enterprises.

The 2020s mark an important period for Turkey with its entrepreneurial ecosystem advancing fast.

While global venture investment last year totalled $643 billion, compared to $335 billion in 2020 – marking 92 % growth year over year – a similar success story took place in Turkey, even though not a single unicorn was present in the country until 2020. Today, Turkey hosts six unicorns: Peak Games, Getir, Dream Games, Hepsiburada, Trendyol and Insider. In such a fast-developing investment ecosystem, Turkey became the 10th country to attract the most investment among European countries.

Its national target is to host 10 unicorns by 2023 when Turkey celebrates the 100th anniversary of its establishment as a Republic.

This development of the entrepreneurship ecosystem has happened with intent rather than luck, as Turkey vowed to develop an innovative ecosystem of emerging technologies through its Industry and Technology Strategy Plan for 2023. The country has established a mega technology corridor starting from Istanbul, Kocaeli to Izmir where there is a nationwide network for entrepreneurs, start-ups, academic research centres and development institutes.

The Turkish Technology Team Foundation and the Ministry of Industry and Technology also set up Teknofest. The event holds technology competitions covering 99 different categories, attracting more than 1 million visitors each year, including 150,000 teams and 600,000 participants from high schools, universities and entrepreneurs from 108 different countries.

We asked four prominent unicorns to share their views on the biggest digital transformation for the rest of the decade and how governments can provide support. Here’s what they had to say.