The MIT Global Startup Workshop goes to Turkey. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has long been known for entrepreneurship. This expertise collected over decades is shared in a different place every year. The MIT Global Startup Workshop (GSW) is a student-led initiative that promotes entrepreneurship and fosters the conditions that make it prosper. This year it is themed “Directions for Innovation” and will be held on March 28-30 in Istanbul, Turkey. Over 300 successful professors, next generation entrepreneurs, government officials and supporters of the scene are expected from nearly 30 different countries. Roughly half of the registrations are international and half are local. The GSW is a multicultural event and encourages collaborations between people of different cultures and backgrounds.
During the three days of the workshop there will be keynote speakers, panel discussions, networking sessions, case studies and opportunities to pitch ideas. Topics to be discussed include: greentech, cleantech, bootstrapping, how to get funding and how to manage the transition from founder to CEO. The MIT GSW started out in 1998 as a spin-off of the MIT 100K business plan contest. It has gained international prestige for itself and each year, countries now compete against each other to host the GSW. The country that shows active mindset and the most commitment and passion and for entrepreneurship wins the race. The Turkish government is at the bottom of the list when it comes to how much they invest in their startup ecosystem. But the country’sstartup scene is promising and the economy is on the rise. It has potential to be the bridge connecting East and West, thereby bringing different cultures with different skills together, and shedding new light on ideas. MIT is bringing its expertise to Turkey this year to further innovation in the startup scene and promote collaboration. Even in the US, getting funding as a startup involves much blood, sweat and tears, but in many countries Business Angels and Venture Capitalists are less accessible and no one really knows about the options. The workshop brings private investors and people with bright ideas together to build awareness of the fact that this is a beneficial business model. And startups are taught how to pitch their ideas and reach out to financiers. This year’s workshop discusses fundamental questions about entrepreneurship in Turkey. About whether the government should get more involved or stay out, about the shift of resources away from the few aristocratic families and whether they might want to join forces with the new educated youth. The GSW cannot answer these questions or repair the entrepreneurial infrastructure, but it can get the players together on one field and start the ball rolling. Putting this kind of focus on the local startup scene is something that sets the GSW apart from other startup workshops. Connecting cultures, regions and backgrounds is what makes it so different. Almost as much time is planned for networking as is planned for the keynote speeches. The networking sessions are held in unusual and stimulating locations, like in a floating restaurant on a Korean river or at a power plant in Iceland. These settings are meant to further collaboration by inspiring the participants, and enabling them to open up and engage. The 15th annual workshop is a significant marker and it will be interesting to see how Turkey’s startup scene will evolve in the coming years.
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