One of the first projects we carried out as the Entrepreneurship Committee of Young Businessmen Association of Turkey was on the establishment of cooperation between “universities and the industry” to pass our experience on to the graduate students of Marmara University. Within this context, I have been giving “entrepreneurship” lectures for years and my first words to the students who were listening to the lecture with bright eyes were as follows:
“Dear friends, I really do not believe that apart from some basic knowledge, there is no “right thing” in business. Read your books, listen to your professors and us, the members of TÜGİAD and always do your research and observe. But it is time to put these into practice think and synthesize. I believe that you have the power to change many things. Some day you will be standing here and sharing your experience with students like you.”
What is entrepreneurship? I believe that in order to define entrepreneurship one first needs to understand what “creativity” is. Since I have previously written about “creativity” (See http://izellevicoskun-en.blogspot.com.tr/2009/03/on-creativity.html), I will not go into detail in this article. But I would like to remind you of Einstein’s words on creativity: “creativity is a combinatorial play; if associations are made between concepts that are rarely combined – that is, if balls that don’t normally come near one another collide- the ultimate novelty of the solution will be greater”. Studies have shown that creativity has a significant role in entrepreneurship. A simple way to define the correlation between entrepreneurship and creativity would be as follows: creativity is making something out of nothing whereas entrepreneurship is turning this new thing into a useful good or a service to make it useful. I would especially emphasize the idea of “usefulness” at this point because usefulness does not necessarily refer to making money or causing to make money. Non-profit corporate or personal social responsibility projects may certainly be examples of entrepreneurship.
On the other hand, we can also consider making the already existing better and carrying it forward entrepreneurship. What is important here is to add creative value and make the already existing different rather than to redo what has already been done. Only a decade ago, we could not imagine a device that would bring together the radio and the phone, let making video calls using mobile phones.
Entrepreneurship in Turkey
One of the most frequently used indicators of entrepreneurship is the annual number of patent applications for each country. Compared to other countries, this figure is considerably low in Turkey. Studies by KOBİ Finans show that patent applications in the first three quarters of 2007 increased by %66 and utility model applications increased by %48 compared to the same period in 2006. 2007 and 2008 data of Turkish Patent Institute reflect that domestic companies obtained a total number of 318 patents in 2007 which rose by 6.29% in 2008 increasing the total number of patents to 338. Patent registration figures of foreign capital companies in Turkey was 4472 in 2007 and the number increased to 4531 in 2008 by a 1.65% rise. Although such increase and figures are considered promising in Turkey, world average of 19 patents per billion dollars by GDP and 110 patents per billion dollars in Japan suggest that such figures cannot be as encouraging as imagine.
In addition to the above, each year London School of Business conducts a detailed study to publish an Entrepreneurship Index for a large number of countries in cooperation with the sponsors of each country. This study called “GEM Report” (www.gemconsortium.org) was first conducted in Turkey in 2006. Based on the results of the said report I believe that Turkey has enormous potential for entrepreneurship but that organization is required to allow efficient use such potential, especially from the aspects of inaccessibility of funds and lack of education as set out in the 2006 report (Turkey ranks last among 37 countries). Organization in this sense refers to at least making effort to consciously manage the risk factor in entrepreneurship…
There is no doubt that risks involve a luck factor but I personally believe that the success of an entrepreneur who lacks knowledge on how to access funds or on how to carry out feasibility studies or prepare work plans; has never heard or marketing strategies and previously thought about the company type that may be more advantageous for them; is not familiar with the concepts of intellectual and industrial property rights and lacks self-education on management should be associated with “gambling” rather “entrepreneurship”.
Currently some universities are carrying out studies to organize risks and raise awareness in entrepreneurs. As transforming the idea of entrepreneurship into a scientific field of study is a problem in itself such efforts in Turkey depends on the support of non-governmental organizations and private companies. Efforts of universities that intend spread of entrepreneurship have also gained speed in recent years and I believe that we will benefit from not restricting such improvements to business and similar fields only but instead applying these also to schools of social sciences and engineering and the like. There is no doubt that orienting high school towards creativity and entrepreneurship will result in an increase in the number of successful entrepreneurs in Turkey.
On Women Entrepreneurs
There is an association in Turkey that brings together the words “women” and “entrepreneurship”: KAGİDER (Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey) www.kagider.org. Projects led by this association have contributed to the success of a vast number of women in Turkey through opening new prospects for them. The “Bridge between Women” project that was initiated with the cooperation of (Entrepreneurship Development Center/ http://www.undp.org.tr/undp/gidem_tr.htm ), ÇATOM (Multi-Purpose Community Center/http://www.gap.gov.tr/Turkish/Sosprj/catom.html) and Yeditepe University as a social entrepreneurship project ranked among the top 20 among 724 projects and was awarded in the “Creative Development Ideas” competition organized by the World Bank. This project was initiated to contribute to the socio-economic development of women in Mardin to raise their status and to support the minimization of regional differences. The project aimed to develop an encouraging model to increase the number of women entrepreneurs in the region and lead the creation of local and marketable products in the region, development of production and entrepreneurship skills of local women’s cooperatives in the region and provision of marketing and financial support.
The Nobel Prize winner Grameen Bank – MicroCredit project by Muhammed Yunus from Bangladesh was implemented in Turkey by TOG (Community Volunteers Foundation, www.tog.org.tr ) and HSBC thus promoting many women entrepreneurs particularly from the Southeast Region to carry out successful projects. Likewise, a project similar to Mikrofinans was implemented by the Foundation for the Support of Women’s Work (www.kedv.org.tr) with the support of TOBB (The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchange in Turkey).
This year, the Women Entrepreneurs Committee of TOBB has been formed under the leadership of Ms. Aynur Bektaş who has been chosen the Women Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008 with her social responsibility entrepreneurship project to serve as an advisory committee that develops general policies on women entrepreneurship and contributes to opinion development. Other functions of this committee include giving training to women entrepreneurs and paving the way for the realization of entrepreneur ideas of women entrepreneurs through capacity development support.
It would be unfair not to mention Endeavor www.endeavor.org.tr when we are speaking of entrepreneurship. Endeavor is an association that supports entrepreneurs worldwide and carries out extremely successful work in Turkey. Every year, Endeavor chooses entrepreneurs across the world and evaluates projects in an international platform with its young and dynamic team and the experienced advisory committee. Turkey was represented by four women entrepreneurs this year with their most interesting projects.
Here are the links for those who are curious about the projects: Aytül Erçil, Vistek / www.vistekas.com; Bedriye Hülya, B-fit / www.b-fit.com.tr; Şebnem Karasu, Steamlab / www.steamlab.com.tr; Tanya Eskinazi, Takawear / www.takawear.net.
Recommended books on entrepreneurship: The E-Myth Revisited Why Most Shall Business Don’t Work and What to do About it by Michael E. Gerber; 20/20 Hindsight: From Starting Up to Successful Entrepreneur, by Those Who’Ve Been There by Rachel Thackray; How to Get Ideas by Jack Foster and The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki
You can find further information at www.entrepreneur.com, www.entrepreneurs.about.com and www.girisimcifikirler.com and useful information at www.kosgeb.gov.tr whose advisory, educational, technology development and IT related supports have been expanded to cover all services and commercial enterprises.