Hackathons and Startup Weekends. Perfect start to build a community.

We have seen a substantial increase in the number of TTOs (Teknoloji Transfer Ofisi) in Turkiye related to universities. It is part of an attempt to increase the number of startups using the knowledge from within universities and port them to successful companies. In Belgium we call them spin-offs and a great example is iMinds that functions as a platform for all universities and the business side. DEPARK is the initiative of DEU (Dokuz Eylul Universitesi) in Izmir. They were not the first but a fast rising star on the Tubitak charts. In order to offer more than a space and tax advantage, because of R&D activities, DEPARK and Stage-Co joined forces in order to start building on the community. Successful startups are built on human activity, not just because you have space to rent out. This also implies a mid and long term vision as filling a place is more of a short term challenge.

Building a community. Why would you do that? You will find a lot of answers in the interview by Brad Feld, founder of Techstars. The title is: “A Startup Community Needs a 20-year Time Horizon”. Talking about a long term. He also mapped the Boulder Model to start a community for startups. Actually it is good for any community build. It starts with activities and places and most importantly it starts with people with common goals. When you read the interview of Brad you will also notice that their is also a reason why you build a community. Create a ground for successful startups. It is not for your beautiful eyes. One of the most remarkable aspects I came across in all successful startup communities, Berlin, Stockholm, Silicon Valley, Boulder or any city, is the importance of what you could call immigrants. By attracting people from outside the local community you get a great mix. Outsiders are willing to take more risks, are more open to collaborate and always see a bigger picture as they are not restricted by the couleur local.

When it comes to starting a community for startups, place and activity are key. In Izmir we have the universities who have the place and the audience next to the coworking spaces like Originn, which play a crucial role. In terms of activities it is important that entrepreneurs are part of the initiatives. In Turkiye and specifically in Izmir we do not have a lack of entrepreneurs, but rather a lack of (successful) startups. Therefor organising Hackathons and Startup Weekends works wonders. You bring together like-minds who are willing to spend a weekend together in order to create something together. Especially Startup Weekend is a great way of going through a training, having fun and create together with people you don’t even know. So together with DEPARK we organised Startup Weekend Life Science in IBG Izmir, Hackathon Iot Izmir including an IoT Conference, Fishackathon and Hackathon Energy. We reached over 600 participants this way. It created immediately a new community, connecting strangers working on tangible projects. As Stage-Co we also organised with other partners Startup Weekends and after 6 months we can easily say that this dynamic created a platform of young people from all over the city and outside Izmir finding a common ground.

Of course this is not the end but only the beginning. After these 6 months being very active with DEPARK in Izmir we saw at least 3 potential startups kicking off. The more we create activities the more new projects will emerge. The next step is building further on this. Therefore we need more coworking spaces, programs in universities, pre-seed investors and qualified mentors.

The follow up will be crucial to be able to talk about success. We have seen that just giving some money to a young team is not enough neither just housing. In Turkey the average age of startups is very young compared with other cities. In Berlin it is 34 years for the founder. In Turkey I think it is around 26 years old. This brings a lack of management skills and specific experience alongside. That is where we need a good follow up with accelerator programs, exchange programs etc. While in the meantime keep building the community as it dissolves as fast as it is created when there is lack of activities. Build, learn, pivot, build learn, pivot. There is no other way. Yap, yap, yap, or in English: do, do and do.

Patrick Bosteels

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Stage-Co, Urla Coworking, Now Sprint! Accelerator and Creative Academie co-founder, Facilitator, Accelerator Program Manager and Mentor

Stage-Co, Urla Coworking, Now Sprint! Accelerator and Creative Academie co-founder, Facilitator, Accelerator Program Manager and Mentor