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What’s Shakin’ in Istanbul?

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Turkish pearls

If you have ever travelled to Istanbul, you must have been in a Turkish fast food restaurant, simply because there is one on every corner. Sometimes you turn around the corner only to discover that this one little restaurant is the first in an endless street of bars and cafes tucked in, one next to the other like colourful Turkish beads.

You continue your way determined to go to the next sightseeing destination on your list, but it’s very difficult to pass by and stay indifferent. The enthralling aromas come up your nostrils straight to your brain and mesmerize you. Your only chance is to forget about your diet and surrender. And then it starts- şiş, köfte, dolma, Döner kebab, Adana kebab and all sorts of other kebabs and tasty stuff look at you from the colourful menus, which- just like the restaurants- are never-ending. The variety is overwhelming, but after a few times you just know that you can’t really make a mistake- it’s all super-delicious.

It is this overwhelming variety, this absolute richness, that strikes you everywhere in Istanbul-  whether you go to a cafe for a cup of Turkish coffee and they offer you an extensive list of sweets with it, or you ask for a cup of tea and a nargileh (water pipe) and they have 20 different flavours to choose from. Not to mention the stands on Grand Bazar where you can literally get lost with assortment. In Istanbul, it’s all in abundance, and the startup scene makes no difference at all. The analogy might not be obvious, but it’s strikingly true. The city is rich with events, hard-working startup teams and investors. There is something going on literally every day.

As we are talking now there is a new opening- the Ari Seed Project. Ari Seed is a startup centre created by Istanbul Technical University and ARI TEKNOKENT. It is a big and modern workspace that offers free pre-incubation facility for unincorporated entrepreneurs, mentorship programs and a Seed Contest. The Seed Contest is annual and only the Elginkan Foundation offers three prizes (40.000€, 20.000€ and 10.000€) and free office facilities in the centre for one year. The organizers claim that there are many more surprises that await successful entrepreneurs, and I tend to believe them, knowing that in Turkey everything is in abundance.

For this reason, I had difficulties to pick which startups to feature in this post. Even though I have clear criteria- a local team with a global idea that is all social media- there are many that drew my attention. Like mappiness.com, which is a web-based application tracking peoples’ happiness and displaying it nicely in a world map of happiness. Or like Magnet20, which is a very creative social media agency that makes virals. I finally settled my eyes on ThirdCultured. I thought to myself, you can’t really make a bad choice- it’s all good, it’s Turkey after all.

ThirdCultured is a niche social networking platform aimed at a specific vertical market defined by multicultural consumers. Simply put, it connects individuals who were raised with exposure to multiple cultures and therefore identify with more than one nationality. These individuals are part of an anthropological group known as Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCKs) with a common denominator: high mobility and the challenge of meeting individuals that have similar cultural characteristics.

While not groundbreakingly innovative, ThirdCultured has a clear vision how to customize the platform to the needs of their target group, differentiating itself for a very specific vertical, and monetizing that vertical with various demographically tailored products. “We are not a relationship manager like Facebook. We are the first exclusive hub to connect the most international, yet scattered cultural group that inhabit this world” said the co-founder Can John Koseoglu.

ThirdCultured is now mainly a meeting place, offering the possibility to share travel plans and to book a couch in a peer-to-peer mode. It is all about connecting the global people on this planet and it might come out naturally that ThirdCultured extends into a dating site in the near future. Why not, says John: “Celebrities date celebrities; Third Culture Kids want to date Third Culture Kids”. I wish them luck and look forward to the grand opening!

Elina Zheleva is working for the European Aviation Safety Agency in Cologne, Germany. Currently she lives in Paris, where she is doing an EMBA and specialising in Marketing and Communications. She is a traveller, an art lover and a blogger.




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