Not your ordinary ads: Turkish entrepreneurs use big data for advertisement venture

Published 04.01.2019 20:06
Updated 05.01.2019 11:29
An Uber vehicle carries a FireFly smart advertisement board.
An Uber vehicle carries a FireFly smart advertisement board.

Tech startups can transform simple business models to next-generation businesses by augmenting traditional ideas with data collection. Founded by brothers Kaan and Onur Günay, FireFly is an example of such a startup using smart data collection. With its smart, dynamic advertising model, the FireFly startup paves the way for the smart city and smart mobile life projects of the future.

FireFly founders Kaan (L) and Onur Günay.

Looking at FireFly's business plan, the tip of the iceberg is location-based, dynamic and smart billboards. While below the surface it is data collection with smart cities and mobile solutions in mind.

CEO Kaan Günay started his business life after graduating from Brown University in the U.S. After completing their graduate programs at Stanford University, the Günay brothers launched their data-focused startup just 18 months ago in May 2017 at the San Francisco Airport parking lot, handing out cards to Uber and Lyft drivers.

Smart advertising boards

The smart advertising board idea reaches its goals, partially due to Kaan Günay's offer coinciding with a period when Uber and Lyft drivers often complained about a reduction in their profits. The drivers paid great attention to the idea, which increases their monthly revenue by an average of 10 percent.

Describing the location-sensitive smart advertising board, the FireFly CEO said: "We were curiously waiting to see how they would respond to our offer. But within a short period of time, we had to open a call center to respond to demands. The advertising boards allow drivers to show ads depending on time and location. Meaning even at times of high traffic, the advertising boards make it possible for drivers to address problems regarding their falling pay and increasing working hours. Different ads are shown depending on where the car is at that moment. For example, while picking up passengers in front of a gym, ads for sports brands can be shown or while at the seaside during dinner time, restaurant ads."

30 different sensors

What makes the Firefly startup different is that it creates a new advertising platform that will fund the business they wish to engage with in the future. Describing how the smart advertising boards collect data, Kaan said: "The smart boards have almost 30 sensors on them, and these sensors detect potholes and traffic conditions, which is then passed on to municipalities as part of the smart cities plan. On this subject, we prioritized five U.S. cities. We have begun working in San Francisco and Los Angeles. In the first quarter of this year, we'll be doing a study in New York. Also, within the Smart Mobility framework, we're collecting data for automobile producers and other customers. We believe that the experience created by thousands of drivers is very valuable. Next, we're thinking of beginning operations in Boston, Miami and Las Vegas, in no specific order."

App for drivers on the way

The next stage of Firefly's business plan is to increase the diversity of the fields they provide services to via an app targeting drivers. The fast increase in the number of participating drivers emphasizes the fact that the timing of the startup coincided with a period when Uber and Lyft drivers a saw drop in revenues. About the app's release, Kaan said: "We want to release our apps for drivers by the end of February. The app will help us manage the application processes for new drivers through mobile. By including some game elements in the app, we'll be able to choose better drivers. We will also have the opportunity to follow processes such as contact and payments on this app."

More Uber, Lyft drivers

The user count of new transportation services like Uber and Lyft has rapidly increased in the last three to four years. This has led to new regulatory decisions in cities like San Francisco and New York. But still, these startups managed to profoundly alter public habits regarding transportation services. Now, the competition is heating up in the data collection area. Startups, such as FireFly, collect data that will be helpful in designing driverless cars. Similar to Google's driverless cars, it allows the collection of data on any street and city used by Uber and Lyft drivers. The designs of driverless cars of the future will contain data collected by startups like Firefly.


Bayer's startup acceleration program Grants4Apps (G4A) Turkey is entering its second year. Call for applications for G4A Turkey 2019 began on Jan. 21. Chosen startups will receive TL 60,000 ($11,071) in funding, as well as a rent-free workplace for 100 days and mentorship education opportunities.

Following the application process, the G4A Turkey program will increase its scope to focus on creating new solutions, not only in the fields of human and animal health but also in agriculture and environmental health. It will also focus on creating business and technology innovations for institutional firms. Any Turkish entrepreneur older than 18 can apply with multiple projects, provided that they have a minimum viable product or a prototype and the projects provide technology, information and business solutions useful for workers and/or patients in sectors like medicine, agriculture, animal husbandry and environmental health.

More information on the Grants4Apps Turkey can be found on the website, which will soon have an application page. The applications period will continue until Feb. 28.

Monitoring the effects of drugs

In the first year of the Grants4Apps Turkey program, six projects, among some 122 startups, were chosen and awarded. Besides funding, the winning startups had an opportunity to work with more than 25 mentors and more than 100 Bayer workers.

One of the winners, TION startup developed a wearable that can remotely monitor the effects of drugs. It developed sticker-like wearable sensors for diagnosis, treatment and management. TION aims to create an internet of things (IoT) platform that can track the effects of medicine as well as improve and optimize the treatment process by focusing on neurological illnesses, especially atrial fibrillation, the most common type of irregular heartbeat disease.

Another startup, Vivooo, founded by Gözde Büyükacaroğlu and Miray Tayfun, received funding for a service that makes health suggestions via urine analysis and brings the personalized service to the user's doorstep. It has developed a personalized wellness assistant that provides custom dietary suggestions for its users based on the results of the urine tests conducted at home.


Turkey's entertainment preferences and habits can be found by following the streaming data of music and TV on digital platforms. The most watched movie on Tivibu, Türk Telekom's digital TV platform, last year was the local comedy "Bizim Köyün Şarkısı," while other leading local movies were "Deliha," "Görümce," "Deliha 2," "Enes Batur Hayal mi Gerçek mi?," "Yol Arkadaşım," "Aile Arasında," "Kral Şakir Oyun Zamanı," "Kolonya Cumhuriyeti" and "Ayla."

For foreign movies, Tivibu users preferred: "Frozen," "Suicide Squad," "The Foreigner," "The Smurfs," "Deadpool," "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water," "Bolt," "Colossal," "The BFG" and "Real Steel."

"Ayla" is one of the most watched films of 2018.

Looking at different genres, Tivibu users watched comedies the most in 2018, followed by action-adventure and children's movies.

On Muud, the digital music platform of Türk Telekom, the song most listened to in 2018 was "Yalnız Çiçek" by Aleyna Tilki and Emrah Karaduman followed by "Öyle Kolaysa" by Mabel Matiz and "Vuracak" by Merve Özbey. The songs that stayed number one for the longest time were "Beni Vur" by Deniz Tekin, "Sen Olsan Bari" by Aleyna Tilki and "Gömün Beni Çukura" by Eypio.


You might be thinking that venture capital funds, mentors and angel investors are saying the same things they repeat every year this year too. But this year, we are entering a period where investors will be more careful and follow their investments more closely. This is why it might be helpful to prepare questions to ask yourself while preparing your agenda for the year.

Support your co-workers

Investors are not only investing in your startup, but also in your team. Strengthen your connections with your co-workers in a period where tech startups are finding global business opportunities.

Focus on solving problems

Whatever you might say or think about customers and users, your absolute focus should be solving their problems. The user is the ultimate authority on how your end product should be. But in this matter, if you lose your original focus and try to produce tailor-made solutions for your users, you might lose in cost and scale.

Follow what's happening

Even if you do everything right, economic conditions may prevent you from successfully launching your startup. That is why determining your priorities is important. Focus on creating things that increase your network and produce things of value to share with others.

Share your knowledge

Support other startups operating in various fields by contributing to startup acceleration programs. The support you give to each other will sometimes teach you more than what a mentor will.

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