20 Turkish startups — hot and heavy on e-commerce, but light on marketing

Here are the startups that presented at the big Turkey start-up-investor event 4ki Istanbul last week.

I saw some great technology, but one consistent weakness was on the marketing side. Many Turkish entrepreneurs are so focused on building their product (a good thing!) that they often give short shrift to how they present or market themselves. Many of them are still in incubation phase, so we got merely sneak peeks at what they’re doing.

One thing is for sure: It’s a great time to be launching an e-commerce startup in Turkey (see my accompanying piece).

I also met with at least ten other start-ups while I was in Istanbul, outside of the 4iX event. My hope is to invite at least three companies overall to launch their products at Demo, our big global launchpad event in April). Thanks to BootCamp Ventures, which helped organize the event, and paid my way to go there.

Following are the four most interesting companies I saw of the 20 that pitched officially at the event.

Emlakjet — A marketplace for real estate buying and selling. Remarkably, there is no dominant Turkish company doing this, in another sign of how nascent the Turkish market is. Founder Emrah Yuce comes across as savvy. The site is producing articles about real estate too, to help drive SEO.

Efiyat — This company provides sales leads for ecommerce sites and helps consumers shop by giving them better information. It offers price recommendations for consumers for just about any product they want. We’ve seen a lot of such companies in the U.S., and there are three players bigger than Efiyat in Turkey already doing this. But Efiyat’s focus on creating a massive database, comprehensive product reviews, videos, rating schemes, along with web spidering technology, seems convincing.

Istanbul R&D — This company has a pretty amazing claim to have devised a new kind of wind power technology.  The company has designed an early prototype that uses huge sails, instead of the massive propellers you find on conventional wind turbines. The entrepreneur, Fatih Yildiz, said it promised to be cheaper and more efficient, and could store more energy, than conventional turbines. The entrepreneur seemed vague under questioning about the technology, so while intriguing, investors will have to go a lot deeper before giving him the $100 million or so he says he needs to bring this to global scale. The company says it can generate power from wind speeds under 3 m/s, and can reserve energy in a way that offers uninterrupted power production for several days. (More here and here).

Hazelcast — This company presented convincing evidence that it has built some cool database memory technology that can serve gaming, finance and other large-data consuming companies. The companies need to perform superfast queries (often on terabytes of data), and Hazel cast makes it easier for them to do that. It offers a NoSql, clustered, distributed cache technology, and boasts several major customers after 18 months of development, including Mozilla. It competes against Oracle, IBM, Terracotta, Infinispan and Gigaspaces, among others. It’s pushing an open source model, and wants to sell security and elastic memory services to enterprise customers to make money.

Here are the rest of the companies that pitched. Many of them are also promising, but need more baking.

Armador has a cool app depicting the tourists sites of Turkey, including the country’s lovely mosques. The company says it is the only deal provider operating in the tourism vertical. Turkey is more significant as a tourist destination than I realized: 7th most popular in the world, and 9th in terms of revenue. The app, called “Mytourkey,” is for all local and international tourists of Turkey. It plans to have a field presence at all major tourist attractions, due to its partnership with city administrators. I really liked the rich visuals of the company’s applications (I saw the beta versions, it’s on the iPhone, but not yet released on Android) as I visited the Hagia Sofia mosque area in downtown Istabul.

Bilgi Kurdu has created a messaging platform, called “Informmatic” for large organizations such as banks, retailers, holdings, enterprises doing both B2B & B2C businesses. It allows sending instant information to employees & customers independent of email or instant messaging. Using Informmatic, companies save time by sending the right information to the right target audience at real or scheduled times. They also share, within the message, streaming videos, music, images, text files like word, excel or pdf, animations, as well as applications like e-surveys.

Ceviriofisi (means “Translation Office” in Turkish), and says it provides a high-quality, fast, 24/7 professional translation service using a powerful instant pricing engine along with the easiest checkout procedure within a competitive pricing scheme.

Gomob  says it is Turkey’s first mobile location based deals and advertisement platform. Gomob will reach SMEs via a partner distribution channel network.

Gruppal.com aims to become a leading daily deal site in Turkey. It publishes the best daily deals on different categories from various cities in Turkey. It focused on local business owners, to give them an easy and cost-effective marketing tool to attract new and loyal customers. More than 48,000 deals have been sold since Gruppal was founded, and the company says members have saved $4.5M. After just a few months, and no backing, the company said it is making $140,000 a month, with 20 percent margins. This is great, but the company wasn’t clear how it plans to offer long-term value, or how it is different from the other deal sites already larger than it is (see my note about how Turkey is very bubbly).

InfoDif — InfoDif aims to provide image processing services to companies who have expertise in their respective fields but require image processing/video analysis capabilities. The company develops software frameworks rather than end-products. InfoDif targets software development companies and system integrators who do not possess image processing capabilities.

Inomera offers a cloud based self-service platform for creating and deploying mobile and web 2.0 services. The PaaS platform provides services and tools for developing, deplyong, and monetizing content and social media.

Mappiness — Mappiness enables users to score their happiness on a 1 to 10 scale. Users relate their own happiness to fiends, places, products, services, events, etc. Data is analyzed to enable users to understand their own happiness trends and triggers. Moreover, users can track friends’ happiness and compare it with world trends. Mappiness aims to become the largest active-users community, measuring global happiness in real-time. Mappiness says it “will have the most reliable answer to a large number of profitable questions.”

Mobilhediyem — MobilHediyem is an instant gifting service for consumers and corporations that delivers physical gifts (such as pizza) in real time without needing a delivery address using text messages. provides a service to both senders and merchant. Sender pays a service fee and merchant pays a sales commission. Orders paid for and not delivered provide additional revenues. MobilHediyem handles payment processing for credit cards and mobile payments.

Montagraph is a free online platform created to allow users to share photographs, photo effects and montages. With the company’s proprietary image editing tools, users can create and share photo templates online. Special features include face recognition capabilities, drag and drop, animation, geolocation-aware technology to make photo effects easiers and user-friendly for the masses.

ThirdCultured is an online platform that aims to connect individuals who were raised with exposure to multiple cultures and therefore identify with more than one nationality. The company aims to become the leading social network aimed at a specific vertical market defined by multicultural customers.

Tish-o lets users put photos, symbols or text on products such as t-shirts, mug, hoodies, clocks and pillows. All products are produced in Istanbul. Tish-o’s services increase attractiveness of specific products by introducing customization, thereby enhancing the products’ value to customers and capitalizing on sentimental consumption. The company will seek to increase the breadth of products offered in the coming quarters.

Tum Firsatlar aggregates daily deals to display the best offers in one location. Tum Firsatlar aims to help users save money and time, and generates actionable leads to partnered companies at no direct cost. The focus is on user experience, rather than deal acquisition, enabling cash efficiency and allowing the company to provide a highly reviewed platform that will further our market advantage.

Wedecide helps organizations crowdsource ideas using a virtual idea stock market game. Employees, customers and other stakeholders contribute and collaborate to develop products, processes, strategy, improve customer service, and make decisions via a social online idea market game.

Wissdom — Wissdom is a social platform where people with the same or similar issues meet to communicate and share their experiences anonymously. Wissdom.com aims to become the first place you think to go when you face a personal issue.

Wudya produces high-quality, Turkish themed social games. Wudya aims to be one of top three social game developers in Europe by 2014 by understanding what excites game players and creating games that meet those needs.

[Photocredit: Flickr, Kivanc Nis]