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Exclusive interview: Easing access to finance for scale-ups – Kenan Colpan, CEO of ITU ARI Teknopark

Kenan Colpan

Exclusive interview: Easing access to finance for scale-ups – Kenan Colpan, CEO of ITU ARI Teknopark

The ITU ARI Teknokent has generated a cumulative $3 billion in exports since its establishment. It has offices and representation in Istanbul, Chicago, San Francisco, London, Berlin and Dubai, providing business networking and related support services to its companies and start-ups across the world. Kenan Colpan of ITU ARI Teknokent points out that easing access to finance is not only important for start-ups, but also for scale-ups and angel investors. We have to develop innovative financial solutions to ease access to finance at the second, third and even further rounds of investment for angel investors and scale-ups. It was with this vision that ITU ARI Teknokent opened a new centre, this time for scale-ups.

 ITU is now home to  the only technopark in Turkey, South East Europe and the Middle East which has a start-up centre and a scale-up centre, each housed in its own building. Colpan encourages scale-ups of the world entrepreneurship ecosystem to take advantage of the scale-up exchange programmes of ITU ARI Teknokent.

Recently, a new kind of incubation center has opened at ITU ARI Teknokent, which is the technology development zone of Istanbul Technical University (ITU). The center is called “ITU MAGNET” as it aims to bring together all the start-up ecosystems of Turkey and the EMEA region.

How would you define ITU MAGNET?

ITU MAGNET will be the center for high-potential and high-growth technology start-ups that have finished the initial product development and have started their commercial life.

ITU MAGNET aims to grow a community of growth-focused, high-potential technology start-ups in order to fulfill a very important function in the start-up ecosystem.

ITU MAGNET’s primary objective is to help technology start-ups scale-up in order to get ready for international competition. High potential start-ups that have finished the early stages and have launched their products are welcome at the co-working space of ITU MAGNET after an initial screening.

Besides, ITU MAGNET is established as an approximately 2.000 m2 office space with a capacity of 280 people working at the same time.

What was the motivation behind establishing that kind of growth stage startup community?

I believe that the start-up ecosystem really needed an advanced incubation center that is dedicated to advance start-ups at a later stage. ITU MAGNET is an important initiative that will be used to fill this gap. It will be the place to go for anyone who wants to work with or invest in technology start-ups, as well as attract potential employees and mentors. ITU MAGNET has been designed to take the best incubation centers in the USA as models and will assume the roles of “incubator of incubators”, host for private incubation and accelerator of programs to support different start-ups.

Who may join ITU MAGNET?

Start-Ups, Entrepreneurs and Participants can be accepted as members of ITU MAGNET. Start-up ecosystem participants as well as investors, private acceleration programs, consultants, independent coders, designers and engineers are also invited to apply for membership at ITU MAGNET, as they are very important in creating a diverse community for start-ups.

To become a member, start-ups and entrepreneurs should:

• Have a satisfactory level of competitive advantage and growth potential with their intellectual property or their trade secrets targeting an attractive market.

• Have already launched their products in their respective markets, have started invoicing their customers or are very close to commercialization.

• Have the necessary initial investment or capital to grow and to look for new funding for faster growth.

What services are included in the membership?

Member start-ups can use the advanced facilities, the office space of ITU MAGNET and become a part of a select community of high-potential start-ups.

As ITU MAGNET grows, members of ITU MAGNET will also be able to directly access all key players of the start-up ecosystem, including investors, accelerators and media, 7/24 at the convenience of their office space.

With its comfortable office space, a full-functional prototyping lab for product development (coming soon), meeting rooms, a conference center, a pitching stage and a video-wall, ITU MAGNET provides a complete infrastructure for start-ups. By organizing regular meetings with investors, mentors and potential corporate customers, ITU MAGNET provides an unparalleled advantage for start-ups to grow.

How long may a member stay at ITU MAGNET?

ITU MAGNET’s aim is for its members to graduate in two years and have their own office space. However, membership in the community is lifetime as the alumni is expected to keep their participation in the ITU MAGNET community in order to support other start-up.

How do you position ITU MAGNET in the entrepreneurial ecosystem around the globe?

ITU MAGNET also provides soft landing services to international start-ups that want to enter the lucrative Turkish market from its commercial center, Istanbul. Istanbul is a vibrant market that is full of opportunities for both B2B and B2C start-ups. With 15 million people and thousands of companies, it provides a test-bed for start-ups to grow in a large, metropolitan area. Istanbul is actually more than a metropolitan. It is a mega city, ranking 8th out of 78 OECD metro regions in terms of population and the first city for population growth since the mid-1990s. Between 2012 and 2017, the city’s real GDP has risen by a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 6.6 per cent. Istanbul also has a great potential for angel investment and early stage funding. The city has been ranked among the top 10 cities of the World with the most billionaires by Forbes magazine in 2015 and with 28 citizens with a net worth of one billion USD.

There are 13 angel networks and an estimated 400+ active angel investors in Istanbul. With a population of nearly 77 million, Turkey is the world’s 16th and Europe’s sixth largest economy. It is forecasted to become the world’s 12th and Europe’s 5th biggest economy by 2050, according to HSBC’s The World in 2050 report. Therefore, Turkey in general and Istanbul in particular provides a good place to grow for international start-ups and ITU MAGNET provides them the necessary soft-landing space at the heart of the Turkish start-up ecosystem.

How is the relationship between ITU and ITU MAGNET?

ITU is one of the main engineering and architecture/design schools of Turkey that was founded in 1773 as the Imperial School for Naval Engineering for the Ottoman Empire. With a history stretching back over 244 years, ITU currently offers graduate and postgraduate education on a wide range of engineering fields today. It has more than 30,000 full time students across five campuses located in Istanbul. Times Higher Education has ranked ITU consistently among the top universities worldwide and one of the best universities in the BRICS & Emerging market economies. ITU is a very prestigious school with 23+ engineering degrees, which have all been accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology (ABET) of the USA, making it the top school in the World in terms of the number of ABET accreditations available at a university.

The rector of ITU, Prof. Dr. Mehmet Karaca, says that ITU MAGNET has been created with the idea of supporting the entrepreneurial spirit of ITU and it will also contribute to the innovation-based growth and the global competitiveness of Istanbul. Prof. Karaca says that we should all work to make Istanbul one of the top 20 cities of the world for start-ups and innovation. ITU provides a complete set of opportunities to help start-ups to learn, experience and scale-up. ITU MAGNET is a strategic move for Istanbul, as it seeds the entrepreneurship culture for a sustainable start-up ecosystem.

What is the role of ITU ARI Teknokent for technology development and commercialization in the entrepreneurial ecosystem?

Top-notch engineers graduating from ITU create a natural attraction for technology companies to the ITU campus. ITU’s technopark at ITU ARI Teknokent is one of the largest technology parks of Turkey with a 120,000 square meter area with 240+ companies and 6.200 R&D personnel. ITU Teknokent has generated a cumulative $3 billion in exports since its establishment. It has offices and representation in Chicago, San Francisco, London, Berlin and Dubai, providing business networking and related support services to its companies and start-ups across the world.

How does ITU MAGNET fit in the entrepreneurship programs of ITU ARI Teknokent?

ITU MAGNET is the newest member of the family of programs to leverage start-ups at different levels, and now ITU MAGNET joins ITU CEKIRDEK and ITU GATE at ARI Teknokent. The former is the best early-stage incubator of Turkey ranked as the 8th best incubator of Europe and 18th best incubator of the World by the UBI Index. The latter is the largest and the most comprehensive international acceleration program of Turkey, which has accelerated 26 technology companies and successfully soft-landed 10 of them in 2016 in order to help them grow internationally starting from the USA.

ITU ARI Teknokent is now a world-class technology development zone with its comprehensive start-up programs and technological diverse environment. With the opening of ITU MAGNET, ITU ARI Teknokent will now provide specialized programs and services for every type of company: potential entrepreneurs, early-stage start-ups, growing start-ups and established technology companies. If you have a great idea, a founders’ team, a start-up or an established company with R&D projects, ITU ARI Teknokent has varied assistance that will help you reach your objective.

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