“As new technologies emerged, I evolved from tackling one challenge to embracing a continuous cycle of innovation, offering novel solutions to ever-evolving problems.”
Hunter of all technology-based projects and big fan of innovation and sustainability, Necmettin Gürses shares with us his career journey, his views on the start-up ecosystem and on what makes a good investor, as well as talking about Takeoff, about volvero (of course), and enlightening us with his beautiful favourite quote.
7 min read
How about we kick off by talking about your career journey?
Sure! My career journey began with my education. I graduated from Bilgi University in Istanbul, where I studied political science. Following that, I pursued my Master’s degree and participated in the Erasmus program at Malmö University. Unexpectedly, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but I made the most of my time exploring new opportunities. During this period, I developed a keen interest in technology-based ideas and start-ups, especially their collaborations with universities, presenting excellent opportunities. Inspired by success stories like Spotify’s, I decided to pivot my career towards technology-based start-ups.
Hence, I initiated my professional journey by joining one of Istanbul’s prominent Incubation Centers and participating in the Idea to Business program. During this period, our team executed impactful projects, such as providing training to investors transitioning from conventional to start-up investments in 2020—a time when the prevalent investment culture in our country centred around real estate and traditional businesses.
Driven by a desire to contribute with my unique perspective, I furthered my career by collaborating with a private consulting firm focused on crafting grant projects. Over the course of this collaboration, I successfully authored 42 grant proposals, with an impressive 26 of them receiving approval. These projects marked a pivotal turning point in my career, fostering the development of critical thinking and project management skills.
Engaging with grant projects not only reshaped my career trajectory but also allowed me to witness the transformative power of technology. As new technologies emerged, I evolved from tackling one challenge to embracing a continuous cycle of innovation, offering novel solutions to ever-evolving problems. This experience not only deepened my understanding of the dynamic nature of the technology landscape but also underscored the importance of adaptability and foresight in navigating the ever-changing terrain of modern industries.
After that, my friend and I created our project – a platform assisting NGOs in building their digital presence – I promoted it across various platforms, NGOs, and the Islamic Cooperation Youth Forum (ICYF). Impressed by my efforts, they hired me, and I’ve been with them for three years now. At ICYF, I work in the Economic Empowerment Project department, specifically contributing to the Youth Economic Empowerment initiative.
This initiative, known as YBH (Young Business Hub), is designed to address significant economic challenges faced by young people. It employs a multi-level strategic approach, encompassing Start-ups and SMEs, Investment Summits, Bootcamps for Start-ups, and Vocational Educational Trainings. For instance, within ICYF’s economic empowerment department, when we engage in vocational/education projects in (e.g.) Uganda on the African side, we also lead technology-based projects. One notable achievement was our collaboration with the Azerbaijan government, organising two major Investment Summit events. These events successfully established a start-up ecosystem, bringing together 100 investors and over 200 start-ups in Azerbaijan, fostering synergy between the two groups. Additionally, we established the International Incubation Center in Istanbul (IIC), a pilot model initiative aimed at inspiring ICYF to adopt such centers for promoting innovative entrepreneurial development among young people in OIC countries and enhancing their skills.
“This experience not only deepened my understanding of the dynamic nature of the technology landscape but also underscored the importance of adaptability and foresight in navigating the ever-changing terrain of modern industries.”
So you know quite a bit about the start-up ecosystem! What would you say it is like in your experience?
Certainly! The start-up ecosystem, from my perspective, is a dynamic landscape that thrives on continuous innovation and adaptability. It’s a realm where staying updated is crucial, given the ever-evolving nature of technology and trends. In my experience, the value of your work and your vision is in a constant state of evolution as you encounter new ideas and technologies. For instance, my involvement with a start-up dealing with kids’ stories led me to explore AI tools like Midjourney and Leonardo.AI showcasing the transformative potential of emerging technologies. I mean open new way to learn new things. Overall, the start-up environment is characterised by its dynamic and innovative nature, fostering creativity, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.
Let’s now talk about the other side of the coin, so to speak. What makes a good investor in your opinion?
For me, a good investor goes beyond financial backing. It’s about possessing courage, intellect, and the ability to provide insight. They should serve as guiding lights, helping pave the way forward. Also, a proficient investor is an individual who comprehends the intricacies of their investments and possesses a clear rationale for their investment choices. They exhibit command over their comprehensive investment strategy and demonstrate the ability to continually enhance their portfolio over an extended period. Investors, in essence, become integral members of your team. Exceptional investors possess the skills to navigate and comprehend the complexities of your business.
They consistently inquire, seeking a profound understanding of challenges and obstacles, inspiring and actively contributing to the evolution of the entrepreneurial landscape. In Turkey exemplary investor profiles abound. Selçuk Bayraktar stands out as a prime example, extending his influence to numerous startups through tech events. For instance, the Takeoff event facilitated our reconnection with volvero in Turkey, showcasing how influential figures like Bayraktar play a pivotal role in fostering connections within the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
You briefly mentioned Take Off. Can you tell us a bit about it? And how does it work?
Take-off is an international start-up summit that commenced in 2018, rapidly evolving into the largest gathering of diverse individuals within the start-up community worldwide. This summit serves as a hub where start-ups from all corners of the globe converge. It acts as a nexus, providing a platform to connect with investors, establish new businesses, engage with mentors, and explore innovative ideas through panels, encompassing the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem.
In Istanbul alone, there are over 30 accelerators, 100 incubation centers, and 200 venture capital funds, including approximately 100 venture capitalists. Takeoff essentially acts as a gateway, unveiling the opportunities present not only within the city but also across various locations in Turkey. Beyond that, Takeoff aspires to build a global network, bridging the gap between domestic and international startups, connecting with institutions worldwide. The summit attracts entities from the MENA region, Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, Hungary, China, Malaysia, among others. Its overarching objective is to position Turkey as an alluring destination for global entrepreneurship, solidifying its role as a key player in the international entrepreneurial landscape.
“The start-up environment is characterised by its dynamic and innovative nature, fostering creativity, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.”
You mentioned you re-connected with volvero at Takeoff… which leads me to wonder, what do you think about volvero?
Volvero serves as a response to the challenges associated with human mobility, particularly in the context of escalating pollution levels in our cities and the pressing issue of global warming. In today’s urban environments, pollution has reached alarming levels, posing a threat to our atmosphere. Volvero addresses these concerns by offering technology-based mobility solutions.
Primarily, volvero tackles the problem of traffic congestion by providing car-sharing platforms. This not only enhances the efficient use of cars but also contributes to a significant reduction in carbon footprint. As we strive to combat climate change, volvero’s approach aligns with the need for eco-friendly mobility solutions.
Moreover, volvero efficiently addresses the issue of soaring car prices, a prevalent problem in many regions, including Istanbul. The platform’s presence could potentially alleviate the burden on individuals who find it challenging to afford new cars due to high inflation rates. By offering an alternative and affordable mobility solution, volvero not only contributes to environmental sustainability but also provides a practical response to the economic constraints that limit people’s access to personal transportation.
“By offering an alternative and affordable mobility solution, volvero not only contributes to environmental sustainability but also provides a practical response to the economic constraints that limit people’s access to personal transportation.”
You think we should start a pilot in Istanbul then?
Well why not? With your technology you’re solving some specific problems which affect my country too.
The final question is a bit of an odd one, but we’re going to go for it. Do you have a favourite quote?
Absolutely, and my favourite quote is quite simple yet profound: “Goodness is good.” I’ve embraced this quote since my high school days, which is around 18 years ago. My philosophy revolves around focusing on the positive rather than dwelling on the negative. I believe that when we cultivate positive thoughts, we contribute to creating a better world, and conversely, negative thoughts can have the opposite effect.
Yeah, that’s very true. And very beautiful. So thank you.
Alice Franzon @volvero