Held every three months and bringing together the startup ecosystem, the startups.watch 2020 first-quarter event was organized online through a live broadcast due to the coronavirus outbreak.
According to data from startups.watch, which specializes in monitoring statistics and developments in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the amount of investment startups received in the first quarter of 2020 reached $19.8 million (TL 132 million) in 27 rounds.
Since investment decisions in the first quarter were made earlier, they had not been adversely affected yet. The fact that giant technology companies like Amazon acquired Turkish data processing firm Datarow proved to be important for the morale of the ecosystem.
In addition, Industry and Technology Ministry projects came to the fore at Coronathon Turkey, an online event to harness ideas to counter the adverse effects of the coronavirus pandemic, where development agencies and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) announced it would provide TL 600,000 ($89,800) in support of 30 projects. Applications for this will proceed through Boğaziçi, Middle East Technical University (METU) and Istanbul Technical University (İTÜ), the stakeholders of Coronathon Turkey and also the implementing agency of the TÜBİTAK BİGG program. Within the scope of the support, a maximum of TL 20,000 per project will be given to Coronathon participants who are deemed appropriate by the three universities.
Funding support on its way
Attending the startups.watch event, Industry and Technology Deputy Minister Mehmet Fatih Kacır stressed that the startup ecosystem is a part of the solution by providing significant support to the Health Ministry in this difficult process, adding that development agencies created funds to support startups based on direction from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“With the decision that we have made within the ministry, TÜBİTAK is implementing a special fund for a few days. We also support these steps. We are also not collecting rent for two months from the startups involved in incubators in technoparks,” he said.
Kacır also spoke about the funds that were created not only via TÜBİTAK, but also through development agencies. He invited everyone building solutions for fighting the COVID-19 outbreak to apply for these funds, saying that there is support available ranging from TL 200,000 to TL 2 million.
Projects are collected
Also attending the event, TÜBİTAK President Hasan Mandal stated that around 444 projects applied to the fund created for the outbreak.
“TÜBİTAK will quickly complete the evaluation process for this rapidly created fund. After all, the decision's timely implementation is very important due to the emergency we are experiencing,” he said. “We will support the startups selected as a result of the event organized by Coronathon Turkey through the implementing institutions, even if they do not incorporate. We will support the initiative of İTÜ, METU and Boğaziçi University's startup centers. We will also support other implementing institutions that make up a similar initiative.”
Noting that Coronathon Turkey made quick choices about selections and evaluations by filtering of hundreds of ideas through its stakeholders and mentors, he said: “Difficult times require fast and different decisions. We want to show that the bureaucracy can also be agile for the benefit of society and we will continue to support innovative ideas in this sense.”
Invitation to be part of the solution
Speaking at the event, Boğaziçi University Entrepreneurship Center Director Oğuzhan Aygören, İTÜ Entrepreneurship Center Director Zeynep Erden Bayazıt and METU Entrepreneurship Center Director Adil Oran stressed cooperation in the Coronathon process, saying they would produce solutions to the problems while maintaining the continuity of the momentum and solution-oriented structure in a multi-stakeholder way.
The faculty members, who stated the values of Coronathon Turkey as a common purpose, goodwill, transparency and fast action, said it was natural to have many mistakes and shortcomings while working quickly, but because of this, learning also developed rapidly.
“Coronathon Turkey was a good case study in which we experienced the entrepreneurship concepts we explained in the course,” the academics said, once again inviting everyone to be part of the solution. They also stated that it was exciting for TÜBİTAK, development agencies, ministries, private institutions and civil society to embrace this issue, and that the cooperation continues to produce new outputs.
10 deals constitute 91% of all investment
Having drawn attention in the first quarter – 10 investment deals, including Aption, Thundra, App Samurai, Vispera, Biolive, PriSync, Mutlubiev, Temizlikyolda, Jib Games and Otsimo – constituted 91% of the 27 investment rounds.
Although the investment agreements need to continue without pause, it is thought that the figures may be adversely affected in April. Revo Capital and ScaleX Ventures investors, who participated in the online event organized by startups.watch, emphasized the importance of the survival of the startups in such periods. Revo Capital co-founder Cenk Bayrakdar stated that they made some payments for this purpose, saying the startups they invested in, like Turkish fast-delivery startup Getir, have taken on important responsibilities.
Türk Telekom invests in cancer-fighting startup
After investing in Doctor Turkey, a platform offering remote health care solutions, Turkey's leading information and communication technologies company, Türk Telekom, has now also staked Virasoft, which has been developing a digital pathology solution in the fight against cancer, through its venture capital firm TT Ventures.
Speaking at the startups.watch event, strategy planning and digital assistant general manager Barış Karakullukçu stressed that they invest in startups that add value to humanity and Turkey through the venture acceleration program PİLOT and venture capital company TT Ventures. “Doctor Turkey, which Türk Telekom previously invested in, offers an important solution for remote health care. We are currently negotiating with the Health Ministry for this service to take important responsibility,” he said.
Founded in 2015 with the support of TÜBİTAK, Virasoft is a domestic software company operating at İTÜ ARI Teknokent. The entire team consists of Turkish scientists. After its establishment, the startup also received Small and Medium Industry Development Organization (KOSGEB) support and then succeeded in the finals of the İTÜ Seed's entrepreneurship competition called Big Bang, beating out thousands of startups. With ViraPath, a digital pathology product that can accurately diagnose cancer, and TelePath, a telepathology product that offers physicians a second opinion on cancer diagnosis through the internet, it is now possible to diagnose many pathological diseases faster and more precisely. Thanks to the infrastructure of Virasoft, the data transmitted to the digital space can be shared on the internet and can be viewed simultaneously by expert pathologists in any health care institution in the world through its imaging system, which enables an instant and accurate diagnosis of the disease.
Pathological diagnosis accelerates
Digitized and objective criteria are needed to diagnose cancer. Virasoft's software objectifies diagnostic criteria and puts out reports based on numerical analysis, helping to improve the neutrality of pathology conclusions and speed up diagnostic processes. It provides services throughout Turkey and its neighboring countries through mobile and web-based applications.
One of the important goals of Virasoft is to use digitally archived materials in the field of education and turn it into a reference source. It will act as a database that students, assistant doctors and educators can reach in a virtual environment. Thus, the company offers scientific contributions to the pathology culture of Turkey and the world.
Investment deals go online
Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, not only meetings but also investment deals have been moved to online platforms.
Pepapp, which keeps track of exclusive calendars for women, has had over 2.1 million mobile downloads of its app and has more than 750,000 active users. They signed a $225,000 investment agreement online. The documents were sent to the relevant institutions by mail, while the investment agreement was held by video call.
The startup, which also has 6,000 active paid users every month, aims to use the investment in global markets. Women use Pepapp to follow their ovulation, fertility and menstruation periods. The application provides confidential information to its users with personalized recommendations and warnings. It also helps them feel at ease during difficult times.
Pepapp also introduced a premium version called PepLand 18 months ago to increase its revenues. Within the Pepapp Premium application, it offers personal advice and affordable shopping, identifiable through seven penguin icons, each with its own characteristics and missions. These penguins, named AstroPep, PepArt, PepClub, PepTalk, PepYogi, FitPep and PepDoc, provide personalized and advanced advice every day. For example, Pepbox is a personally selected box of colorful and surprising gifts that changes every month. This box contains everything from sanitary pads to personal care products, from chocolate to brand discounts.