Young wannabe entrepreneurs gathered in Adana Friday to kickstart their 54-hour crash course on how to build their own start-ups from scratch, learning from entrepreneurs, investors, co-founders and potential sponsors who were once in their place.
“Startup weekend for all” is an event put on in line with the “job creation” component of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)’s Turkey Resilience Project (TRP). The event aims to respond to the Syrian Crisis by creating new jobs and realize prospective business ideas through collaboration and entrepreneurship.
Through the initiative, the UNDP also aims to bring together Syrians under Temporary Protection (SuTPs) in Turkey with host community members to help foster social cohesion and harmony.
The event has been launched under the slogan “Leave No One Behind,” and hopes to create an atmosphere of "supporting one another and creating together" as a community.
The first night of the sessions kicked off Friday at Çukurova Teknokent, where all participants got together to pitch ideas, brainstorm on projects and draw up business models. After choosing the best projects to work on, participants were divided into 20 teams. Each team will now work non-stop over the weekend to develop their own business plans. At the end of this marathon, each team will present their business models before the jury, and a winner will be chosen.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the event, Adana Entrepreneurship Center Coordinator Selçuk Çolak said he hoped the weekend would see great ideas turn into reality, but most important of all, that no one would forget to enjoy themselves in the process.
Taking the stage after Çolak, UNDP Turkey Project Manager Ezgi Arslan said that although the cultures of the participants and the experiences they had had were very different, all share one goal: to succeed.
“With this event, on top of our other projects for Syrians, we are trying to support local administrations, governmental entities and public institutions, and create a sustainable economy and development process,” she said.
Arslan also stated that the UNDP would be opening up a new innovation center in Adana in the coming future.
Stage-Co co-founder and fellow startup facilitator, Patrick Bosteels, is set to provide mentoring sessions as part of the event and welcomed all with great enthusiasm, saying he was happy to see so many new faces in the crowd. Touching on the unifying aspects of the event, Bosteels said: “When we said 'let’s hold a startup weekend for all,' it meant all of us together, without distinctions of language, culture or country.” At the end of the day, he added, “we are all human beings."
The Belgian startup guru explained that startup weekends had been held across the globe for the past 14 years, forming a sustainable entrepreneurial movement that provides experiential education to up-and-coming entrepreneurs, and that this concept was first introduced in Turkey seven years ago. He said they had previously held many startup weekends in provinces such as Malatya, Çanakkale, Gaziantep, Izmir and Mersin, and that this year’s event marked the 4th occasion in Adana.
Throughout the event, representatives of the Entrepreneurship Foundation, Turkcell’s Beehive (Arı Kovanı) initiative, high-level executives from the IBM and angel investors from the business world will inspire participants with their personal anecdotes about the growth and failures of their own projects, as well as providing one-on-one advice on how to expand on their creative ideas and research the viability of their entrepreneurial projects. By working with experts in the field, participants will learn about market access and seek out financing or sponsorship opportunities.
Investors have promised to provide technical and financial support to realize some of the business ideas produced from the event. Beehive has already stated that it will fund the top three projects selected by the jury. The event will culminate with a dinner and awards ceremony Sunday evening.