Elmira Bayrasli is director of partnerships, policy and outreach at Endeavor Global, a nonprofit that identifies and supports high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets.
When I was at a high school in Daytona Beach, Florida, as an exchange student from Istanbul, I was filled with an entrepreneurial spirit and loaded with different tech ideas. The year was 1993, and the U.S.A. was experiencing a technology revolution. I felt that this change would eventually affect Turkey. A few years later, back in Turkey, with some classmates from Istanbul Technical University, I started a small business that focused on Web projects. It was a kind of techies’ playground from which I “graduated” to a more serious – but not less fun – business.
In 2000, I started Pozitron, an R&D-based firm that develops enterprise, networking and security software applications for other companies. It took me a while to bring together the executive team — experienced senior managers are in short supply in Turkey. Once I did have executives in place, I was able to focus on the mobile telecom industry and do what I do best, which is come up with innovative solutions. One of Pozitron’s first hits was a mobile-phone application for the country’s only official sports betting game – Iddaa. Since developing that, we’ve broken into international markets with mobile-phone banking applications developed for Turkey’s largest private bank – Türkiye İş Bankası. The applications allow users to transfer money, trade stocks, pay bills and check balances from anywhere in the world.
In 2007, I was selected a high-impact entrepreneur by Endeavor, a non-profit that identifies and supports influential entrepreneurs. A year later, Pozitron won the Global Business Plan Contest organized by the Harvard Business School for a plan that focused on an integrated, mobile-banking product. It was launching this application in the same month a large U.S.-based multi-national bank released its own version that gave me a huge satisfaction.
As more people are starting businesses or doing trade, mobile telephone communication has even a more significant role to play in helping them overcome obstacles and grow their enterprises. Brand new applications and services are emerging, including Pozitron’s mobile airline ticketing and check in. My ambition is to participate in shaping the future of this industry and, together with my Turkish friends and rivals, dispel the myth that the high-tech sector in Turkey doesn’t exist.Elmira Bayrasli:
As the daughter of Turkish immigrants, I spent much of my childhood visiting Turkey. It was a place I didn’t want to go. There were many reasons for that, including rolling blackouts and no television. The most important was no telephones.
The telephone was important to me. That’s how I kept in touch with my mother and my father, who wasn’t able to stay with me for the duration of our summer-long trips. “I’ve got to go back to work,” he’d tell my teary five-year old self. “But I’ll call you, okay?”
Except he couldn’t call us. My grandmother, like most Turks, didn’t have a phone – not because she couldn’t afford one, but because Turkey’s infrastructure didn’t allow for it. Phone calls could only be made at the post office. Even then there was no guarantee of securing a working line. Thankfully that is no longer Turkey’s situation.
Today, Turks are creating technologies that have attracted world attention. Pozitron is one of those companies. And Fatih Isbecer is one of those entrepreneurs helping redefine entrepreneurship in Turkey.
With a highly educated work force and globally oriented citizenship, Turkey is home to promising young talent, a strategic geography and tremendous resources. Fatih Isbecer recognized it and started his own high-tech company. It worked not only to create jobs, but to inspire other Turks to see themselves as innovators. Turkey used to turn to the West for the latest technologies. Today Turkey is at the cutting edge, pioneering new solutions not only for Turks, but for the world as well.