Google is getting caught in the antitrust net

Google is getting caught in the antitrust net

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto | Getty)

Being a global company has its perks. There’s a lot of money to be made overseas. But the biggest US tech companies are finding out that there’s also a downside: Every country where you make money is a country that could try to regulate you.

It’s hard to keep track of all the tech-related antitrust action happening around the world, in part because it doesn’t always seem to be worth paying close attention to. In Europe, which has long been home to the world’s most aggressive regulators, Google alone was hit with a $2.7 billion fine in 2017, a $5 billion fine in 2018, and a $1.7 billion fine in 2019. These sums would be devastating for most companies, but they are little more than rounding errors for a corporation that reported $61.9 billion in revenue last quarter.

Increasingly, however, foreign countries are going beyond slap-on-the-wrist fines. Instead, they’re forcing tech companies to change how they do business. In February, Australia passed a law giving news publishers the right to negotiate payments from dominant internet platforms—effectively, Facebook and Google. In August, South Korea became the first country to pass a law forcing Apple and Google to open their mobile app stores to alternate payment systems, threatening their grip on the 30 percent commission they charge developers. And in a case with potentially huge ramifications, Google will soon have to respond to the Turkish competition authority’s demand to stop favoring its own properties in local search results.

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#antitrust, #apple, #eu, #google, #policy, #regulation, #tech, #turkey

Twitter users in Turkey can now emoji-react to tweets

Starting today, Twitter is testing Tweet Reactions in Turkey for a limited time. Users in the region will be able to react to tweets using 😂 , 🤔 , 👏 , 😢, in addition to ❤. But if you can’t remember the chaos that ensued when the heart react replaced the favorite star in 2015… brace yourself.

Last year, Twitter added emoji reactions to DMs, but this isn’t the same set of emojis. This announcement comes after Twitter surveyed users in March about how they’d react (ha) if the platform were to adopt a Facebook-like way to engage with tweets, and what emojis they’d want to communicate with. In the survey, some of the proposed emoji sets included “agree” or “disagree” buttons, a dislike button, or Reddit-like upvotes and downvotes. But Twitter found from its survey that users were concerned about getting negative emoji feedback.

“Although ‘frustration’ and ‘anger’ are also common emotions people feel while reading Tweets, and some people want to express disagreement with Tweets, we’re not incorporating these as emoji reactions right now,” Twitter said in a press release. “Our goal is always to support healthy public conversation and we want to see how our current set of emoji will impact conversations.”

Unlike Facebook, which added reactions in 2015, Twitter isn’t testing an “angry” reaction, which was proposed in its survey. This is likely due to users’ hesitancy around negative responses, but still — if you’ve never been on the receiving end of an ill-intended “ha ha” react… Good for you! And it’s not as though arguments don’t happen on Twitter without emoji reactions.

Image Credits: Twitter

Twitter says that it wants emoji reactions to give people an easier way to show how they feel, which would — in a perfect world — lead to improved expression and participation in public conversation.

This test is only the latest feature that Twitter has tinkered with in the last week. You may also notice interest-based communities, full-width photos and videos, and new safety features cropping up on your feed. With this particular experiment, Twitter said that it will continue to consider community feedback as it tests additional emoji reactions. Based on user responses, it may expand the test’s availability to other regions.

Users in Turkey can experiment with this feature on iOS, Android, and web, which will roll out across the country in the coming days.

#apps, #emoji, #reaction, #turkey, #twitter

In Turkey, a Watery Grave Becomes a Park

Off the Gallipoli Peninsula, the remains of some two dozen British, French and Australian ships — World War I relics — are memorialized in an undersea park formed during the pandemic.

#canakkale-turkey, #gallipoli-turkey, #shipwrecks-historic, #travel-and-vacations, #turkey, #world-war-i-1914-18

Giant Puppet of Syrian Refugee Angers Some on Walk Through Greece

“Little Amal” is on a 5,000-mile journey from Turkey to Britain to highlight the plight of Syrian refugees. But in Greece, some have objected to her presence, saying it could encourage more migrants.

#greece, #middle-east-and-africa-migrant-crisis, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #syria, #turkey, #war-and-armed-conflicts

The Fires in Greece Are a Terrifying Warning

Faced with devastation, Greeks have been largely left to fend for themselves.

#athens-greece, #european-union, #fires-and-firefighters, #greece, #mitsotakis-kyriakos, #turkey

Afghan Refugees Find a Firm and Unfriendly Border in Turkey

Even before the last week’s harrowing scenes at the Kabul airport, thousands of Afghans were fleeing over land through Iran to Turkey. But they are being pushed back.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #asylum-right-of, #deportation, #erdogan-recep-tayyip, #europe, #european-union, #illegal-immigration, #immigration-and-emigration, #immigration-detention, #iran, #merkel-angela, #middle-east-and-africa-migrant-crisis, #politics-and-government, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #taliban, #turkey

Don’t give your weed dealer all your data

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

Our beloved Danny was back, joining Natasha and Alex and Grace and Chris to chat through yet another incredibly busy week. As a window into our process, every week we tell one another that the next week we’ll cut the show down to size. Then the week is so interesting that we end up cutting a lot of news, but also keeping a lot of news. The chaotic process is a work in progress, but it means that the end result is always what we decided we can’t not talk about.

Here’s what we got into:

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PDT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#climate-change, #cloud-100, #data, #disaster-tech, #dreamforce, #edtech, #equity, #equity-podcast, #felt, #figma, #fundings-exits, #gusto, #india, #ipcc-report, #mailchimp, #pave, #ransomware, #rapidsos, #salesforce, #startups, #surfside, #trendyol, #turkey, #upgrad

Turkey’s first decacorn: Trendyol raises $1.5B at a $16.5B valuation

Trendyol, an e-commerce platform based in Turkey, has raised $1.5 billion in a massive funding round that values the company at $16.5 billion. General Atlantic, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Princeville Capital and sovereign wealth funds, ADQ (UAE) and Qatar Investment Authority co-led the round. 

The deal marks SoftBank’s first in the country.

The new financing also makes Trendyol Turkey’s first decacorn, and among the highest-valued private tech companies in Europe. It comes just months after strategic — and majority — backer Alibaba invested $350 million in the company at a $9.4 billion valuation.

Founded in 2010, Trendyol ranks as Turkey’s largest e-commerce company, serving more than 30 million shoppers and delivering more than 1 million packages per day. It claims to have evolved from marketplace to “superapp” by combining its marketplace platform (which is powered by Trendyol Express, its own last-mile delivery solution) with instant grocery and food delivery through its own courier network (Trendyol Go), its digital wallet (Trendyol Pay), consumer-to-consumer channel (Dolap) and other services.

Trendyol founder Demet Suzan Mutlu said the new capital will go toward expansion within Turkey and globally. Specifically, the company plans to continue investing in nationwide infrastructure, technology and logistics and toward accelerating digitalization of Turkish SMEs. She said the company was founded to create positive impact and that it intends to continue on that mission.

Evren Ucok, Trendyol’s chairman,  added that part of the company’s goal is to create new export channels for Turkish merchants and manufacturers.

Melis Kahya Akar, managing director and head of consumer for EMEA at General Atlantic, said that Trendyol’s marketplace model — ranging from grocery delivery to mobile wallets — “brings convenience and ease to consumers” in Turkey and internationally.

“Turkey is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and benefits from attractive demographics, with a young population that is very active online,” wrote General Atlantic’s Kahya Akar via e-mail. “We expect its already sizable e-commerce market –$17 billion in 2020 – to continue to grow meaningfully on the back of growing online penetration. We think Trendyol is ideally positioned to meet the needs of consumers in Turkey and around the world as the company expands.”

A 2020 report by JPMorgan found that e-commerce represented only 5.3% of the overall Turkish retail market at the time but that Turkish e-commerce had notched impressive leaps in revenues in recent years: 2018 alone saw the market jump by 42%, followed by 31% in 2019. As of 2020, 67% of the Turkish population were making purchases online.

#alibaba, #apps, #demet-suzan-mutlu, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #europe, #food-delivery, #funding, #fundings-exits, #general-atlantic, #qatar-investment-authority, #recent-funding, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund, #startups, #trendyol, #turkey, #venture-capital

3 invaluable founder lessons I learned on my immigration journey

I was four years old when my dad first showed me a computer. I immediately asked him if we could take it apart to see how it worked. I was hooked.

When I learned that Windows and Mac were based in the United States, I was 10. Since then, I’ve wanted to come here to launch my own tech business.

What I didn’t realize back then was that the first half of that dream — coming to the U.S. — would provide me with essential training for realizing the second half — launching a business.

As it turns out, the behaviors, attitude and mindset required to traverse the U.S. immigration system are many of the same ones required to navigate the uncertain waters of entrepreneurship.

The behaviors, attitude and mindset required to traverse the U.S. immigration system are many of the same ones required to navigate the uncertain waters of entrepreneurship.

In 2019, I launched Preflight, which makes smart and fast no-code test automation software for web applications. One big reason the business currently exists is that, in my journey to getting asylee status in the United States, I became really good at three things: accepting uncertainty, building resilience and maintaining a positive mental attitude.

I needed them all to get Preflight off the ground.

The many paths to the U.S. (and launching a startup)

I had my first shot at making my longtime dream a reality when I was applying to college as an undergraduate. I figured if I could go to school in the United States, I could find a way to stay and start a business.

After doing some research, though, I realized that U.S. colleges were too expensive.

But I figured getting out of Turkey, my home country, would be a start. I looked around for affordable schools and saw that France had good options. So I went to France.

Unfortunately, even after three attempts, I wasn’t able to get a student visa. So I headed back to Turkey and went to college there. After graduation, I knew I had a second shot at the U.S.: a master’s degree. I applied to computer science programs and got accepted — a huge win!

I first arrived in Georgia, where I got my TOEFL certification, then enrolled at Tennessee State University, where I got a teaching assistantship.

Keep in mind, to do all this, I had to have the right visas. I needed a student visa for my master’s degree, but if I wanted to work after graduation, I’d need a work visa.

The thing is, though, I didn’t want to work at a “job.” I wanted to start my own business, which requires a different type of visa altogether.

Oh, and there was another factor at play: I was enrolled at Tennessee State from 2014 to 2016, during the lead-up to the election of Donald Trump. So in addition to trying to figure out which visa I could reasonably get, I had to deal with the fact that the rules for visas could all change in the coming months.

These experiences are similar to what many founders deal with every day in the process of launching and running a business.

We don’t know if our products will work or if they’ll find a market. We don’t know how changing regulations might affect what we’re doing. We have no idea when something like a pandemic will pull the rug out from everything we’ve built.

But we keep going anyway. In my experience, the most successful founders are the ones who don’t wait for all the pieces to fall into place — they know that will never happen. They’re the ones who do the best they can with what they have. They trust that they’ll be able to adapt and adjust when things inevitably change.

Which brings me to my next lesson.

Resilience: Hearing “no” as “not yet”

Hearing “no” isn’t fun, especially when that “no” is about something you’ve wanted for more than a decade.

I experienced a lot of “no”s in my immigration journey, as one visa attempt after another failed. If I’d let any one of those failures stop me, I wouldn’t be where I am today — working at my own startup in the U.S.

The lesson I learned was to hear “no” as “not yet.” It’s been invaluable to me in my journey to becoming a founder.

For example: In 2014, while I was in graduate school, I learned about Y Combinator and decided that I wanted to be a part of it. Throughout grad school, I applied and got rejected three times.

The clock was ticking on my student visa, so I decided to shift my tactics. I applied to jobs at companies that were Y Combinator graduates to see what I could learn.

In 2016, I got hired at ShipBob, a Chicago-based company that was in Y Combinator’s Summer 2014 batch. I joined the team as its first full-time developer and the first one based in the States. From there, things changed dramatically.

For starters, I learned a lot. In my time with ShipBob — just two and a half years — we grew from 10 people to more than 400. I built two apps and applied to Y Combinator twice more and got rejected both times.

But in my work growing and leading a team of developers, I saw a need for a product that didn’t yet exist: a smart, fast, no-code test automation tool.

My team was spending way too much time building tests for ShipBob’s latest updates to make sure existing functionalities worked when we deployed. But when the code changed too quickly, our tests were outdated. It was incredibly frustrating.

Then we hired two quality assurance engineers and it took them four months to get 10% automated test coverage.

These problems led me to an aha moment: I could build a company to address this. A tool that is fast in test creation and can adapt to the UI changes.

That company is Preflight, and it’s the one that finally got me admitted to Y Combinator in the Winter 2019 batch. I was ecstatic when I heard that we’d been accepted. But then I realized that I couldn’t actually work on Preflight full time with my current visa status — at least, if I wanted to one day make a salary, I couldn’t.

And that brings me to my next point.

Maintaining a positive mental attitude as you face (many) challenges

My professional life wasn’t the only thing that changed dramatically while I was at ShipBob. My immigration status also evolved.

ShipBob applied for and got me an H-1B visa, which made me eligible to work in the U.S.

But when I got accepted to Y Combinator on my sixth application, I knew I needed an alternative: If I left ShipBob to run Preflight, I would lose my H-1B and my ability to work in the U.S.

This kind of conundrum is all too familiar to most startup founders: There’s no new opportunity without a new challenge to accompany it.

So I did what any founder would do: I focused on the positive (I’d gotten into YC!) and dedicated myself to figuring out a different way to stay in the country.

First, I tried to apply for the EB-1 visa, but the required documentation was too burdensome. I don’t think any founder could prepare for that application without several months of preparation.

Then I tried the O-1. No luck.

So I asked ShipBob if I could take an unpaid sabbatical, which would let me keep my H-1B status while I attended Y Combinator and worked on Preflight. They agreed. My brothers, who had both moved to Chicago and started working at ShipBob (you’re welcome, guys!) agreed to support me (thanks, guys!).

Finally, I had a solution that worked — but only for the time being. If Preflight was successful, I’d have to find a different way to stay in the country.

Transferring my H-1B to Preflight wouldn’t work, in part because it would require me to yield 70% to 80% ownership to my co-founder and agree that he could fire me at any time.

But there was another option I’d been reluctant to lean on: asylee status. In 2016, there was an attempted coup in Turkey (that’s the official story, anyway). I won’t get into the political details, but my family and I were supporters of the movement blamed for the attempt. As a result, we were at risk of imprisonment if we stayed in Turkey — and eligible for asylum status in the U.S.

I applied, but hoped that I’d land a work visa in the meantime, partly because asylum status can take years to get approved and partly because there was no telling whether the current administration would change the rules to make me ineligible before my status came through.

When I got accepted to Y Combinator, my asylum status was pending. When my initial sabbatical from ShipBob ran out, it was still pending. I asked for an extension and got it (thanks, ShipBob!). A few months later, I figured I could not get the visa sorted. I wanted to focus on my business and use asylum-pending status, which would give me work authorization for two years. I was therefore able to work on and take a salary from Preflight.

Putting it all together

My asylum was granted early this year, four years after applying. Getting asylee status was a big win because it meant I could realize my dream of running a business in the U.S. So I was, in some ways, at the resolution of my immigration journey — but I was just at the beginning of my journey as a founder.

Right away, I had my first experience applying all the lessons I’d learned in the last six years: We wanted to raise our first funding round. That funding would let me start taking a salary.

All told, we approached more than 100 VCs before we got a yes. But we did get that yes, and we raised a seed round of $1.2 million in September 2019.

It was a big win for Preflight, but it didn’t have the transformational power for the company I’d hoped for. That’s because, after closing our round, we didn’t focus on sales and marketing to the extent that we should have.

After several months of frustrating results, I consulted with my advisers about how to proceed. They offered me insight that seemed obvious once I had it — but that I may not have gotten on my own — which was discussing everything that’s happening internally with the investors. And the outcome was me being the CEO.

In the month and a half after I adjusted course based on my vision, I grew Preflight’s revenue 600% in just about two months.

The only constant is change

The whole startup ethos of disrupting what’s not working to improve people’s lives is based on the premise that the world is constantly changing. The global disruption caused by COVID-19 underscored that in a major way.

Founders who accept that change is inevitable and who embrace uncertainty, develop resilience for when things go wrong, and maintain a positive mental attitude about the ups and (especially) the downs of running a startup will be the ones who succeed for the long haul.

I’ve known since I was 10 that I wanted to run a company in the United States. Given the choice, I would have opted for a much smoother road to entrepreneurship. But what I’ve discovered is that the difficult immigration path I had to follow provided exactly the training I needed to succeed in the challenging role of a founder.

#column, #diversity, #entrepreneurship, #h-1b-visa, #immigration, #shipbob, #startups, #tc, #turkey, #y-combinator

Heat Emergency Brings Record Temperature and Fires to Southern Europe

Greece experienced its hottest day on record this week, and wildfires raged across the region, leaving much of Southern Europe struggling to cope.

#evacuations-and-evacuees, #fires-and-firefighters, #greece, #heat-and-heat-waves, #turkey, #weather, #wildfires

Colombia’s Merqueo bags $50M to expand its online grocery delivery service across Latin America

Merqueo, which operates a full-stack, on-demand delivery service in Latin America, has landed $50 million in a Series C round of funding.

IDC Ventures, Digital Bridge and IDB Invest co-led the round, which also included participation from MGM Innova Group, Celtic House Venture Partners, Palm Drive Capital and previous shareholders. The financing brings the Bogota, Colombia-based startup’s total raised to $85 million since its 2017 inception.

Merqueo CEO and co-founder Miguel McAllister knows a thing or two about the delivery space in Latin America, having also co-founded, a Latin American food delivery company that was bought by Berlin-based Delivery Hero and later merged with Brazil’s iFood.

McAllister describes Merqueo as a “pure-play online supermarket with a fully integrated grocery delivery service” that sources directly from large brands and local suppliers, bypassing intermediaries and “delivering directly from its dark store network.” (Dark stores are traditional retail stores that have been converted to local fulfillment centers.”

Merqueo offers more than 8,000 products, including fresh foods, packaged goods, home essentials, beverages and frozen products. It currently operates in more than 25 cities in Colombia, Mexico and Brazil and has over 600,000 users.

Image Credits: Merqueo

It must be doing something right. The startup is close to $100 million in “run-rate revenue,” according to McAllister, having grown more than 2.5x in 2020. Merqueo also reached positive cash flow in Colombia, its most mature market. Over the last year, large Latin American retail chains and retailers have approached the company about potentially acquiring it, McAllister said.

Part of the company’s success might be attributed to the speed and flexibility it offers. Users can choose how and when to receive their groceries according to their needs, with the startup offering delivery in as little as 10 minutes or three to four hours. Users can also schedule delivery of their groceries in two-hour intervals for the same day or the next day.

Also, owning and controlling the “entire” vertical supply chain gives it the ability to obtain better margins, offer competitive pricing and achieve healthy unit economics, according to McAllister.

Merqueo plans to use its new capital in part to expand geographically. The company is currently in phase one of its expansion to Brazil, entering initially in Sao Paulo later this month. Next year, it expects to launch in other Brazilian cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Fortaleza and Salvador de Bahia.

The market opportunity in Latin America is massive considering that online grocery sales only represent just 1% of the market –– far lower than in the U.S., EU or China, for example. Other players in the increasingly crowded space include GoPuff in the U.S., Getir out of Turkey and Mexico-based Jüsto, which raised $65 million in a Series A led by General Atlantic earlier this year.

“The pandemic accelerated the adoption of online grocery shopping in LatAm,” McAllister told TechCrunch. “The region went from 0.3% share of online groceries to 1%. And after the pandemic, we are seeing a 50% increase in the pace of user adoption.” Overall, the $85 billion e-commerce market in Latin America is growing rapidly, with projections of it reaching $116.2 billion in 2023.

Currently, Merqueo has over 1,300 employees in LatAm, up 60% from last year. It plans to continue hiring with the proceeds from the Series C round as well work “to become the largest and most ambitious dark stores network of Latin America.”

Alejandro Rodríguez, managing partner at IDC Ventures, is naturally bullish on Merqueo’s potential.

“From all the opportunities we looked into, Merqueo is undoubtedly the most advanced in the region. … The Merqueo team has proved they know how to scale the business and how to get to profitability,” Rodríguez told TechCrunch.

Online grocery delivery is a business with many technical and operational complexities, he said. In his view, Merqueo’s technology and operational expertise allow it to tackle those issues in a way that has led to “the best customer experience that we have seen in a scalable way.”

“They have the best combination of both great service metrics and healthy unit economics,” Rodríguez added.

#apps, #berlin, #brazil, #celtic-house-venture-partners, #china, #colombia, #companies, #delivery-hero, #domicilios-com, #ecommerce, #european-union, #food-delivery, #funding, #fundings-exits, #grocery-store, #idc-ventures, #latin-america, #mexico, #online-food-ordering, #online-groceries, #palm-drive-capital, #recent-funding, #sao-paulo, #startups, #tc, #turkey, #united-states, #venture-capital

Firat Ileri becomes Hummingbird VC’s new Managing Partner, as the firm looks to expand

Seed investment firm Hummingbird VC, which previously invested in Deliveroo, Peak Games, MarkaVIP, and Kraken has a new Managing Partner. Firat Ileri, previously a Partner – who at 28 became one of Europe’s youngest VCs when he joined in 2012 – takes over from Founding Partner Barend Van den Brande, who will now take on a more strategic role at the firm.

Ileri grew up in Cyprus and went on to study electrical engineering, computer science, and operations research at MIT. At Hummingbird he has lead the firm’s first investments in Latin America and in South East Asia.

Ileri initially introduced the cofounders of Gram Games, led their first investment, and helped exit the company to Zynga for half a billion. He also led the sale process of Peak Games in 2020, which exited at $1.8Bn, making history as Turkey’s largest tech exit to date.

Founded in 2010, Hummingbird is currently on its fourth fund of $200M, raised in Q4 2020, and says it invests from Europe to India, SEA, LATAM, Turkey and more recently in the US.
Firat most recently led Hummingbird’s first investments in engineering biology, investing in Billiontoone, the SF-based precision diagnostics company in the prenatal and liquid biopsy space, which has raised a $55M Series B round. It’s also invested in Kernal Biologics, an mRNA 2.0 therapeutics company focused on oncology.

Van den Brande said: “From the moment Firat joined us in the very early days of Hummingbird, he hit the ground running. His eye for unique and ambitious founding teams, and unparalleled expertise in Seed investing, persistence and really understanding what Early Stage companies need has made him an invaluable asset to Hummingbird and all of the founders we work with. I’m only pleased to have Firat take on the role and lead the Hummingbird family and portfolio for years to come.”

Ileri said the firm’s thesis was to invest in stand-out founders: “We’re spending much more time trying to understand who these people are and what makes them special. In a way, we’re looking for anomalies in people, and we believe that the best companies are created with nonlinear backgrounds. So, this is the thesis.”

He said the team has expanded to drive this vision: “We used to be a boutique fund, but we have the ambition to be more and especially to look for founders who have an independent mind and huge ambitions. To be able to find more companies we’ve gone more global, in order to have a better chance of finding these special stories.”

#corporate-finance, #cyprus, #deliveroo, #europe, #finance, #hummingbird, #india, #investment, #latin-america, #managing-partner, #mit, #money, #online-food-ordering, #seed-money, #south-east-asia, #tc, #turkey, #united-states, #van, #venture-capital, #zynga

Exclusive: Hepsiburada CEO sets out her vision, as it becomes first ever Turkish Nasdaq IPO

Hepsiburada — Turkey’s giant online shopping platform considered the Amazon of its country — floats on the Nasdaq today, for a valuation likely to exceed $3.9 billion on current projections, especially with shares being marked up to $14 apiece (up from the previously predicted $12 pricing). Bu this isn’t the end of the journey for this break-out Turkish tech and e-commerce company, for long-time founder and chairwoman Hanzade Doğan Boyner – who started the business in 1998 no less, and still has overall control of the company – considers this closer to a growth round of funding, enabling her ambitious plans to mine Turkey’s fast-developing market even further, as well as expand into Central and Eastern Europe. Doğan Boyner, a scion of the powerful Doğan family in Turkey, continues to hold three-quarters of the voting power in the company, according to the prospectus filed to the SEC.

Hepsiburada’s IPO comes after it more than doubled its revenue during the pandemic, as Turkey’s largely offline population was forced to switch to online shopping in what might well be characterized as a sort of enforced ‘Great Leap Forward’ for the country. 

Hepsiburada (which translates as “everything is here”) is also making history as the first-ever Turkish, NASDAQ IPO.

With a massive logistics platform spread across Turkey, the company now offers 2hr deliveries, with around 43 million products available on the platform, available from a more Chinese-like ‘super-app’ which can offer everything from groceries to flights, to payment services, via is ‘Alipay-like’ service called Hepsipay. And in Turkey, many people prefer to buy things on installments, a service Hepsiburada has pre-built into its platform.

Turkish people have also enjoyed its frictionless returns, where goods can be returned for free, involving a super-efficient logistics network.

After growing at about 50% year on year for the last five years, the company says it doubled in size last year, taking advantage of the exponential growth in Turkey’s e-commerce penetration into its 82 million-strong population.

The IPO comes after a mere $100m was invested in the platform over the last 20 years, and a profit-making period until 2018 when Doğan Boyner started investing more in the platform, prior to this moment.

TC: What brought you to this moment in time in terms of the IPO?

Doğan Boyner: “Almost 20 years ago I started with e-commerce and from day one we built it with new features, new services, and today we manage a fully integrated ecosystem, from last-mile delivery to payment to groceries. Hepsiburada is the super app that makes our customer’s lives easier. They can get their groceries or their toys for next-day delivery or flight tickets. Why are we listing now? Because the Turkish e-commerce market is at 10% penetration, and we believe that its penetration will double by 2025. It’s an inflection point. It’s a large market, and as Hepsiburada we are a pioneering platform reaching maturity towards becoming a public company. With the funds raised through the IPO, we will accelerate our growth and continue to execute our vision.”

TC: “Are you satisfied with the $3.9 billion valuation?”

Doğan Boyner: “Today’s valuation is not very important for me. It’s not where you start, it’s where you go. I’m not selling any shares, and this is primarily for growth funding. This is just the beginning. You know, the market is still low penetration, and we have an exciting journey ahead of us. I want the stock to perform well for my investors, but what the value today is irrelevant for me.”

TC: “You’re going to use some of this funding to add on new products onto the platform like booking flights or money transfers and other kinds of new products, what are some of the other kinds of expansion plans you have?”

Doğan Boyner: “One is to continue building our infrastructure, such as frictionless returns, which gives such peace of mind to our consumers. The second is Hepsi Express. It’s still only at 4% penetration. This will change the consumer’s grocery shopping habit because we have such a strong model where we partner with a lot of national chains, regional chains, Mom-and-Pop shops, so we turn those stores into our ‘dark stores’. Plus we sometimes do our own picking from the stores or sometimes the retailer does the picking. So the customer offering is very strong. You can get something in half an hour, or you can schedule it for next day, whenever you want. You can do the weekly shopping, or just get something for that night. Express is an area that we will scale. Payment is another focus. We are the only platform with a payments license. Soon it will be an open wallet and our Fintech capabilities will increase post IPO.”

TC: Are you following a sort of Alibaba / Alipay strategy?

Doğan Boyner: “We will leverage our current customers and marketplace, and we will turn them into our wallet customers. Super apps don’t really exist in Europe or the US. So it’s our vision to digitalize commerce. We are in our customer’s pocket. We want to make life easier for them.”

TC: “How did you shift operations during the pandemic?”

Doğan Boyner: “We almost became a lifeline, not just for consumers but for our merchants as well. So we rose to the occasion to not only scale operationally. We had to onboard 1000s of drivers and employees, very, very fast, but we also had to secure the well-being of our employees. While all of us were isolating we had to ask our employees to work, which, which I think we’ve done a very, very good job of, in terms of providing PPE, and providing health coverage. It was a chance to live up to our values. Our consumers experimented with us as new consumers, and they’re happy with the service so they will stay with us and our merchants appreciated us as well, because in a time when their shops were closed, they could generate revenues through us.”

TC: You’ve been a big advocate of women in your company and also in your country, you’ve created many programs for women and girls and engaged in a great deal of advocacy. Where do you feel you are on that journey?

Doğan Boyner: “Half far our workforce is female, 33% of our management is female – which should be 50%! Our woman entrepreneur program has been very impactful. We tell women entrepreneurs to come, we will teach you ecommerce, we will onboard your products, we will give you free shipping, we will prioritize your products or listing pages, we will give you real estate on our home page. Some 19,000 women have benefitted from this. Women have sent me their inspiring stories. They start small and hire two people, and then they create their own brands. Having said that, when I look at where we are in terms of gender equality globally, the needle doesn’t move much. You look at the number of CEOs in the FTSE 500, the number doesn’t change. So, I will keep doing whatever I can, because every ‘small drop’ counts. And hopefully, it will. I also think there should be a new conversation, a global conversation about gender equality in general. The 19,000 women who benefited from our program became economically more empowered. They gained skills and tools and confidence to trade on a platform like Hepsiburada, which is very meaningful.”

TC: Are you concerned that perhaps your success may attract the attention of government regulation in Turkey, in the future?

Doğan Boyner: “We are considered a national champion. Turkey has different dynamics. I think it’s an inspiration that national champions can come out and be successful.”

TC: You’ve been very hugely successful, you’re a big advocate for women in your country, do you have any political aspirations?

Doğan Boyner: “No.”

#alibaba, #alibaba-group, #alipay, #amazon, #brookings-institution, #business, #central-europe, #e-commerce, #eastern-europe, #entrepreneur, #europe, #jack-ma, #online-shopping, #real-estate, #tc, #turkey, #u-s-securities-and-exchange-commission, #united-states

Dream Games raises $155M at a $1B valuation as its Royal Match puzzle game hits a royal flush

Istanbul in Turkey continues to prove itself as very fertile ground for casual gaming startups, which appear to be growing from small seedlings into sizable trees. In the latest development, Dream Games — a developer of mobile puzzle games — has raised $155 million in funding, a Series B that values the startup at $1 billion.

This is a massive leap for the company, which raised $50 million (the largest Series A in Turkey’s startup history) only 3.5 months ago. This latest round is being co-led by Index Ventures and Makers Fund, with Balderton Capital, IVP and Kora also participating. It also comes in the wake of a bigger set of deals in the world of gaming and developers in Turkey, the most prominent of which saw Zynga acquire Peak Games for $1.8 billion, amid other acquisitions. Dream is one of several startups in the region founded by alums from Peak.

The focus of the funding, and currently of Dream Games itself, is Royal Match, a puzzle game (iOS, Android) that launched globally in March.

The game has been a huge hit for Dream, with 6 million monthly active users and $20 million/month in revenues from in-game purchases (not ads), according to figures from AppAnnie. (A source close to the company confirmed the figures are accurate, but Dream did not disclose its revenue numbers or revenues directly.) This has catapulted it into the top-20 grossing games categories in the U.S., U.K., and Germany, the same echelon as much older and bigger titles like Candy Crush and Homescapes.

“The funding will be used for heavy user acquisition in every channel and every geography,” Soner Aydemir, co-founder and CEO, Dream Games, told me in an interview. He said Asia would be a focus in that, specifically Japan, South Korea and China. “Our main target is to scale the game so that it becomes one of the biggest games in the global market.”

The world of mobile gaming has in many respects been a very cyclical and fickle one: today’s hot title becomes tomorrow’s has-been, while for developers, they can go through dozens of development processes and launches (and related costs) before they find a hit, if they find a hit. The role of app-install ads and other marketing tools to juice numbers has also been a problematic lever for growth: take away the costs of running those and often the house of cards falls apart.

Aydemir agrees, and while the company will be investing in those aforementioned in-game ads to encourage more downloads of Royal Flush, he also said that this strategy can work, but only if the fundamentals of the game are solid, as is the case here.

“If you don’t have good enough metrics, even with all the money in the world it’s impossible to scale,” he said. “But our LTV [lifetime value] is high, and so we think it can be scaled in a sustainable way because of the quality of the game. It always depends on the product.”

In addition to its huge growth, Dream has taken a very focused approach with Royal Flush, working on it for years before finally releasing it.

“We spent so much time on tiny details, so many tests over several years to create the dynamics of the game,” he said. “But we also have a feel for it,” he added, referring to the team’s previous lives at Peak Games. “Our users really appreciate this approach.”

For now, too, the focus will just one the one game, he said. Why not two, I asked?

“We believe in Pixar’s approach,” Aydemir said. “When Pixar started, it was very low frequency, a movie every 2-3 years but eventually the rate increased. And it will be similar for us. This year we need to focus on Royal Match but if we can find a way to create other games, we will.”

He added that the challenge — one that many startups know all too well — is that building a new product, in this case a new game, can take the focus away when you are a small team and also working on sustaining and maintaining a current game. “That is the most difficult and challenging part. If we can manage it we will be successful; otherwise we will fail because our business model is basically creating new IP.” He added that it’s likely that another game will be released out into the world at the beginning of next year.

The focus, in any case, was one of the selling points for its investors. “The Dream Games team’s deep genre insight, laser-focus on detail and team chemistry has helped create the early success of Royal Match,” said Michael Cheung, General Partner at Makers Fund, in a statement. “We’re excited to be on the journey with them as they grow Royal Match globally.”

In terms of monetization, Dream Games is pretty firmly in the camp of “no ads, just in-app purchases,” he said. “It’s really bad for user experience and we only care about user experience, so if you put ads in, it conflicts with that.”

Some of the struggles of building new while improving old product will of course get solved with this cash, and the subsequent hiring that Dream Games can do (and it’s doing a lot of that, judging by the careers section of its website). As more startups emerge out of the country — not just in gaming but also areas like e-commerce, where startups like Getir are for example making big waves in instant grocery delivery — it will be interesting to see how that bigger talent pool evolves.

“Since its launch in early March, Royal Match has become one of the top casual puzzle titles globally, driven by once in a decade retention metrics. It speaks to the sheer quality of the title that the Dream Games team has built and the flawless polish and execution across the board,” commented Stephane Kurgan, venture partner at Index Ventures and former COO of King. Index is also the backer of Roblox, Discord, King and Supercell, in a statement.

#asia, #dream-games, #europe, #funding, #gaming, #istanbul, #puzzle-games, #turkey

As the U.S. Pulls Out of Afghanistan, Kabul’s Airport Is a Final Stand

With the main allied military air base about to close, negotiations are underway with Turkey about continuing to secure the civilian airport as the Taliban advance across the country.

#afghanistan-war-2001, #bagram-air-base-afghanistan, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #defense-department, #diplomatic-service-embassies-and-consulates, #erdogan-recep-tayyip, #kabul-afghanistan, #north-atlantic-treaty-organization, #taliban, #turkey, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

He Saved 31 People at Sea. Then Got a 142-Year Prison Sentence in Greece.

Greece is prosecuting migrants on charges of people smuggling, and imposing heavy jail terms. Rights groups say many migrants are being unfairly accused and sentenced.

#chios-greece, #european-union, #greece, #illegal-immigration, #lesbos-greece, #middle-east-and-africa-migrant-crisis, #smuggling, #turkey

Android announces six new features, emphasizing safety and accessibility

Android shared information today about six features that will roll out this summer. Some of these are just quality of life upgrades, like starring text messages to easily find them later, or getting contextual Emoji Kitchen suggestions depending on what you’re typing. But other aspects of this update emphasize security, safety, and accessibility.

Last summer, Google added a feature on Android that basically uses your phone as a seismometer to create “the world’s largest earthquake detection network.” The system is free, and since testing in California, it’s also launched in New Zealand and Greece. Now, Google will introduce this feature in Turkey, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The company says that they’ll continue expanding the feature this year, prioritizing countries with the highest earthquake risk.

Image Credits: Google

Google is also expanding on another feature released last year, which made Google Assistant compatible with Android apps. In the initial update, apps were supported like Spotify, Snapchat, Twitter, Walmart, Discord, Etsy, MyFitnessPal, Mint, Nike Adapt, Nike Run Club, eBay, Kroger, Postmates, and Wayfair. Today’s update mentioned apps like eBay, Yahoo! Finance, Strava, and Capital One. These features are comparable to Apple’s support of Siri with iOS apps, which includes the ability to open apps, perform tasks, and record a custom command.

When it comes to accessibility, Google is ramping up its gaze detection feature, which is now in beta. Gaze detection allows people to ask Voice Access to only respond when they’re looking at their screen, allowing people to naturally move between talking with friends and using their phone. Now, Voice Access will also have enhanced password input — when it detects a password field, it will allow you to input letters, numbers, and symbols by saying “capital P” or “dollar sign,” for example, making it easier for users to more quickly enter this sensitive information. In October, Google Assistant became available on gaze-powered accessible devices, and in the same month, Google researchers debuted a demo that made it so people using sign language could be identified as the “active speaker” in video calls. Apple doesn’t have a comparable gaze detection feature yet that’s widely available, though they acquired SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI), an eye-tracking firm, in 2017. So, hopefully similar accessibility features will be in the works at Apple, especially as Google continues to build out theirs.

Today’s Android update also lets Android Auto users customize more of their experience. Now, you can set your launcher screen from your phone, set dark mode manually, and more easily browse content on media apps with an A-Z scroll bar and “back to top” button. Messaging apps like WhatsApp and Messages will now be compatible on the launch screen – proceed with caution and don’t drive distracted – and EV charging, parking, and navigation apps will now be available for use.

#android, #apps, #assistant, #california, #computing, #ebay, #etsy, #google, #google-assistant, #google-now, #google-play, #greece, #kazakhstan, #kroger, #mobile-linux, #myfitnesspal, #new-zealand, #nike, #operating-systems, #philippines, #postmates, #siri, #smartphones, #snapchat, #software, #spotify, #turkey, #walmart, #wayfair, #whatsapp, #yahoo

Mobile game spending hits record $1.7B per week in Q1 2021, up 40% from pre-pandemic levels

The Covid-19 pandemic drove increased demand for mobile gaming, as consumers under lockdowns looked to online sources of entertainment, including games. But even as Covid-19 restrictions are easing up, the demand for mobile gaming isn’t slowing. According to a new report from mobile data and analytics provider App Annie in collaboration with IDC, users worldwide downloaded 30% more games in the first quarter of 2021 than in the fourth quarter of 2019, and spent a record-breaking $1.7 billion per week in mobile games in Q1 2021.

That figure is up 40% from pre-pandemic levels, the report noted.

Image Credits: App Annie

The U.S. and Germany led other markets in terms of growth in mobile game spending year-over-year as of Q1 2021 in the North American and Western European markets, respectively. Saudi Arabia and Turkey led the growth in the rest of the world, outside the Asia-Pacific region. The latter made up around half of the mobile game spend in the quarter, App Annie said.


The growth in mobile gaming, in part accelerated by the pandemic, also sees mobile further outpacing other forms of digital games consumption. This year, mobile gaming will increased its global lead over PC and Mac gaming to 2.9x and will extend its lead over home games consoles to 3.1x.

Image Credits: App Annie

However, this change comes at a time when the mobile and console market is continuing to merge, App Annie notes, as more mobile devices are capable of offering console-like graphics and gameplay experiences, including those with cross-platform capabilities and social gaming features.

Games with real-time online features tend to dominate the Top Grossing charts on the app stores, including things like player-vs-player and cross-play features. For example, the top grossing mobile game worldwide on iOS and Google Play in Q1 2021 was Roblox. This was followed by Genshin Impact, which just won an Apple Design Award during the Worldwide Developer Conference for its visual experience.

Image Credits: App Annie

The report also analyzed the ad market around gaming and the growth of mobile companion apps for game consoles, including My Nintendo, Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation App, Steam, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox apps. Downloads for these apps peaked under lockdowns in April 2020 in the U.S., but continue to see stronger downloads than pre-pandemic.

Image Credits: App Annie

On the advertising front, App Annie says user sentiment towards in-game mobile ads improved in Q3 2020 compared with Q3 2019, but rewarded video ads and playable ads were preferred in the U.S.

#app-store, #apps, #asia-pacific, #gaming, #germany, #google-play, #mobile-devices, #mobile-game, #nintendo, #nintendo-switch, #roblox, #saudi-arabia, #super-mario-run, #tc, #turkey, #united-states, #xbox

Australian ID verification startup OCR Labs raises $15M Series A to expand into UK/Turkey/Europe

With the gig economy came the need for ID verification, thus startups like OnFido (raised $188.8 million) appeared, alongside several others. But this sector is by no means ‘done’ yet.

Now, OCR Labs, which emerged from Australia, has announced a €12.5M / $15 million Series A funding round led by Turkish investors Oyak Group, to expand its services and team to the UK, Turkey and Europe. Halkin Ventures invested in its seed round. The startup specializes in digital ID verification, customer onboarding, identity fraud, and regulatory compliance.

OCR Labs, founded in 2018 by Daniel Aiello and Matthew Adams, says its technology uses “five proprietary technologies in one solution, including identity document optical character recognition (OCR), document fraud assessment, liveness detection, video fraud assessment, and face matching”. This supports AML and KYC regulations.

Daniel Aiello, Co-Founder, and CPO of OCR Labs, commented, “The need for digital verification is growing exponentially. This past year we’ve seen more demand from new sectors as they try to navigate the pandemic and an inability to operate in person…No one wants to spend hours trying to prove who they are, whether it’s for a job or for a bank account, and we also want to know we’re protected against identity theft and fraud. Digital ID verification has a key role to play, but this year we’ve also seen the limitations if hybrid models are used. People are a barrier and a risk, but fully automated technology can have a huge impact on many industries and privacy. OCR Labs is built to be secure, frictionless and fast, and capable of recognizing ID documents the world over.”

OCR Labs is used by recruitment business REED in the UK. Russ Cohn, an early member of the Google UK leadership team, has been appointed OCR’s General Manager of International Operations, based out of London.

Cohn commented: “The technology that Matt and Dan have created is completely automated, so it doesn’t rely on any humans behind the scenes. That’s very key at the moment. We’ve seen how COVID has impacted having that hybrid solution, so automation increases the speed and delivery of the technology to our users… A lot of competitors outsource and use different vendors to put together a solution.”

#artificial-intelligence, #australia, #co-founder, #computing, #europe, #london, #matt, #onfido, #optical-character-recognition, #tc, #turkey, #united-kingdom, #verification

As Biden Meeting Nears, Erdogan Softens His Stance

With Trump gone and Turkey’s economy in crisis, the country’s strongman president is now trying to placate Western leaders rather than antagonize them. But how far can he be pushed?

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #erdogan-recep-tayyip, #north-atlantic-treaty-organization, #turkey, #united-states-international-relations

Libyan Fighters Attacked by a Potentially Unaided Drone, U.N. Says

A United Nations report suggested that a drone, used against militia fighters in Libya’s civil war, may have selected a target autonomously.

#artificial-intelligence, #bulletin-of-atomic-scientists, #defense-and-military-forces, #drones-pilotless-planes, #hifter-khalifa, #libya, #turkey

Libyan Fighters Attacked by a Potentially Unaided Drone, UN Says

A United Nations report suggested that a drone, used against militia fighters in Libya’s civil war, may have selected a target autonomously.

#artificial-intelligence, #bulletin-of-atomic-scientists, #defense-and-military-forces, #drones-pilotless-planes, #hifter-khalifa, #libya, #turkey

Breaking Out of Prison With a Ouija Board and Some Clever Tricks

“The Confidence Men,” by Margalit Fox, recounts the elaborate true-life saga of two British officers who escaped from an Ottoman prison camp during World War I by brainwashing and manipulating their captors.

#anatolia, #books-and-literature, #c-w-hill, #e-h-jones, #fox-margalit, #great-britain, #ottoman-empire, #prison-escapes, #prisoners-of-war, #the-confidence-men-how-two-prisoners-of-war-engineered-the-most-remarkable-escape-in-history-book, #turkey, #world-war-i-1914-18

After Erdogan Angers a Loyal Province, His Opponents See an Opportunity

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey set off protests in his home province, the heart of his political base, with plans to build a quarry that would destroy a pristine woodland.

#demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #erdogan-recep-tayyip, #justice-and-development-party-turkey, #land-use-policies, #politics-and-government, #quarries, #rize-province-turkey, #turkey, #wilderness-areas

Turkey Claims to Have ‘Captured’ Cleric’s Relative in Kenya

The removal of a Turkish citizen from his home in Kenya is part of the crackdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on those he sees as connected to a failed 2016 coup.

#coups-detat-and-attempted-coups-detat, #erdogan-recep-tayyip, #gulen-fethullah, #istanbul-turkey, #kenya, #national-intelligence-organization-turkey, #politics-and-government, #turkey

Traveling to Europe? A Country-by-Country Reopening Guide

Members of the European Union are welcoming vaccinated travelers, including Americans. But there are still rules and restrictions to abide by. Here’s how to navigate them and what to expect.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #croatia, #european-union, #france, #great-britain, #greece, #italy, #travel-and-vacations, #turkey

Claims From an Organized Crime Boss Rock Turkey’s Government

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, already hampered by an economic crisis and a surge in coronavirus cases, is now battling allegations of corruption in his ranks.

#corruption-institutional, #erdogan-recep-tayyip, #justice-and-development-party-turkey, #organized-crime, #peker-sedat, #turkey

Turkey’s Ace Games raises $7M to develop casual and ‘hyper casual’ games

Ace Games, a Turkish mobile gaming company founded by a former Peak Games co-founder, has raised a $7 million Seed funding round led by Actera Group. Co-investment has come from San Francisco’s NFX. Former gaming entrepreneurs Kristian Segerstrale, Alexis Bonte, and Kaan Gunay also participated. Firat Ileri is previous investors from the pre-seed round.

The company runs two studios, one focused on casual and one on ‘hyper-casual’ games.

Co-founded by CEO Hakan Bas, the former Co-Founder, and COO at Peak Games, Ace Games has had some success on the US iOS Store with its hyper-casual title, ‘Mix and Drink.’

In a statement, Bas said: “Ace’s main focus is actually the casual ‘hybrid puzzle’ game that we have been working on for a while now. However, our hyper-casual studio assists the main studio in many aspects like training talent, coming up with creative game mechanics and marketing ideas, generating cash, and creating user base.” Ace’s casual title is to be released late-summer this year and the global launch is expected in early 2022.

Peak Games, Gram Games and Rollic Games were all acquired by Zynga, showing that Turkey is capable of producing decent exits for gaming startups.

VCs such as Index, Balderton, Makers and Griffin have all made M&A deals with Dream Games, Bigger Games and Spyke Games.

#ceo, #co-founder, #electronic-arts, #griffin, #hyper, #mobile, #peak-games, #san-francisco, #tc, #turkey, #video-gaming, #zynga

Afghans Fleeing Home Are Filling the Lowliest Jobs in Istanbul

After years working on American bases in Afghanistan and fearful of the Taliban, Afghans are heading to Turkey and Europe.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #immigration-and-emigration, #istanbul-turkey, #taliban, #turkey

What the Armenian Genocide Means Today

After years of avoiding the topic, the U.S. government now officially views the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire a century ago as genocide. Here’s how it came about.

#armenia, #armenians, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #lemkin-raphael-1900-59, #ottoman-empire, #turkey, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations, #war-and-armed-conflicts, #war-crimes-genocide-and-crimes-against-humanity

Biden to Declare Atrocities Against Armenia Were Genocide

The designation for the World War I-era killings would further fray U.S. relations with Turkey, but it is a risk the president appears willing to take to further human rights, officials said.

#armenia, #armenians, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #erdogan-recep-tayyip, #north-atlantic-treaty-organization, #ottoman-empire, #trump-donald-j, #turkey, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government, #war-crimes-genocide-and-crimes-against-humanity

Sliding in the Polls, Erdogan Kicks Up a New Storm Over the Bosporus

As part of a push to carve a canal alongside the waterway, Turkey’s president signaled that he could scrap a treaty that has kept peace in the region for decades.

#black-sea, #bosporus-turkey, #canals, #erdogan-recep-tayyip, #montreux-convention, #politics-and-government, #sea-of-marmara, #ships-and-shipping, #treaties, #turkey

Turkey Fights for Return of a Work It Says Was Looted

A bench trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan concerns an ancient idol held by Christie’s.

#arts-and-antiquities-looting, #auctions, #christies, #collectors-and-collections, #manhattan-nyc, #politics-and-government, #suits-and-litigation-civil, #turkey

In Turkey’s Failed Coup, Trainees Face the Same Stiff Punishments as Generals

The families of trainee pilots sentenced to life in prison broke their silence to protest the men’s innocence. The pilots are among more than 600 trainees and conscripts swept up in prosecutions.

#akinci-air-base, #coups-detat-and-attempted-coups-detat, #defense-and-military-forces, #erdogan-recep-tayyip, #military-bases-and-installations, #political-prisoners, #politics-and-government, #turkey

An Alliance of Autocracies? China Wants to Lead a New World Order.

As President Biden predicts a struggle between democracies and their opponents, Beijing is eager to champion the other side.

#china, #cold-war-era, #communist-party-of-china, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #european-parliament, #european-union, #international-relations, #iran, #middle-east, #saudi-arabia, #turkey, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations, #xinjiang-china

Erdogan Pulls Turkey From European Treaty on Domestic Violence

The move is likely to please President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s conservative followers. He also removed the head of the central bank.

#domestic-violence, #erdogan-recep-tayyip, #international-relations, #politics-and-government, #turkey, #women-and-girls

George Bass, Archaeologist of the Ocean Floor, Dies at 88

He was called the father of underwater archaeology, finding treasures in shipwrecks around the world that illuminated ancient history.

#archaeology-and-anthropology, #bass-george-f-1932-2021, #deaths-obituaries, #diving-and-divers, #oceans-and-seas, #shipwrecks-historic, #turkey, #university-of-pennsylvania

Endangered Gazelles Make a Comeback on the Edge of a War Zone

Hunted nearly to extinction worldwide, a wild mountain gazelle finds a helping hand on the Turkish-Syrian border.

#antelopes, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #hunting-and-trapping, #international-union-for-conservation-of-nature, #syria, #turkey, #war-and-armed-conflicts, #wildlife-trade-and-poaching

Trial of Woman Who Killed Her Husband Highlights Domestic Abuse in Turkey

The case against Melek Ipek, who is being supported by women’s rights groups, has become a touchstone issue in Turkish politics.

#domestic-violence, #erdogan-recep-tayyip, #turkey, #women-and-girls, #womens-rights

Fenerbahce vs. beIN Is Turkey’s High-Stakes Rivalry

A feud between a top Turkish soccer team and the league’s broadcaster is rooted in taped chants, time stamps and club rivalry. But the fight’s cost could be enormous.

#bein-sports-llc, #fenerbahce-soccer-team, #galatasaray-soccer-team, #koc-ali, #soccer, #television, #turkey

One of Turkey’s Hottest Rock Bands Has an Unlikely Source

Altin Gun’s fans say the band does more for Turkey’s image than the government. No one seems to mind that it’s actually Dutch.

#altin-gun-music-group, #amsterdam-netherlands, #content-type-personal-profile, #folk-music, #pop-and-rock-music, #turkey, #verhulst-jasper

Emerging as an Eastern powerhouse, Earlybird Digital East Fund launches new $242M fund

Earlybird Digital East Fund — a fund associated with Germany’s Earlybird VC, but operating separately — has launched a €200m ($242m) successor fund. The fund’s focus will remain the same as before: a Seed and Series-A fund focusing on what’s known as ‘Emerging Europe’, in other words, countries stretching from the Baltics to Central and Eastern Europe, and Turkey. The firm has also promoted Mehmet Atici, who’s been with the firm for eight years, to Partner. The new fund has made four investments so far: FintechOS, Payhawk, Picus, and Binalyze.

The back-story to DEF is a fascinating tale of what happened to Europe in the last 15 years, as tech took off and Europeans returned from Silicon Valley.

Following his exit from SelectMinds (where he was the Founder & CEO) in 2005, Cem Sertoglu moved back to Turkey. Although he says he “accidentally became the first angel investor” there, he was clearly the right man, in the right place, at the right time. He told me: “I was very lucky and ended up writing the first checks in some of the first large outcomes in Turkey.”

In 2013, Sertoglu partnered with Evren Ucok (the first angel in Peak Games and Trendyol), and Roland Manger (Earlybird). Dan Lupu, a Romanian investor who had covered the region for Intel Capital, joined them, and together they raised the ‘Earlybird Digital East Fund I’ set at $150m fund in 2014, focusing on CEE and Turkey. This was and is an area where there can be high-quality ventures to be found, but very little in the way of VC. 

Thereafter, between 2014 and 2019, the fund invested in UiPath, Hazelcast, and Obilet. UiPath has become a global leader in the area known as ‘Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Hazelcast is a low latency data processing platform startup with Turkish roots. Obilet is a marketplace focused for the massive Turkish intercity bus travel market. DEF has also exited Vivense, Dolap, and EMbonds and in more recent times the fund has exited Vivense, the “Wayfair of Turkey” to Actera, the top local PE fund.

The team had spectacular early success. Peak Games, Trendyol, YemekSepeti and GittiGidiyor are the four largest Turkish tech exits to date. Digital East Fund was an investor in all of them. Peak games exited for $1.8 billion in cash to Zynga only last year.

As of Q4 2020, the fund’s metrics are:
Investment Multiple: 24.9x
Gross IRR: 104.4%
Net IRR: 84.1%

So in VC terms, they have done pretty well.

I interviewed Sertoglu to unpack the story of Earlybird Digital East Fund.

He told me DEF has achieved a 17 times investment multiple on a $150 million fund. He thinks “this might be the biggest European VC fund performance in history, and it’s not coming from Berlin, it’s not coming from London, but it’s coming from Eastern Europe. We have been told by some of our LPs that they think we’re the top 2014 vintage VC fund in the world, nobody’s seen stronger numbers than this.”

“Peak Games turned out to be a phenomenal story. When you look at how tough it’s been for Turkey, macroeconomically. The fact that a single company with 100 people essentially sold for $1.8 billion in cash, was just… it was staggering for the local market here.”

DEF’s emergence from Turkey, together with its relationship with a fund in Berlin, was not the most obvious path for the VC fund.

“One thing we realized early one was that we could invest with our own capital and syndicating to our friends, but for follow-on funding, we’d always have to go global. And that made us feel vulnerable. It made us feel we were always dependent on others’ comprehension of the opportunity that we were facing. So that’s when the first fund idea came out this was,” said Sertoglu.

“We felt that there was this unusual dislocation between opportunity and capital in Eastern Europe. Our first fund was $150 million funds – I mean, a very quaint size compared to Western markets. But we became the largest fund in the region, and decided to focus on this series A gap where we felt that there was this big opportunity, because of the way we think series A is still very much a local play.”

“Being a local player that understands the region would be an advantage, so this was proven to be true. We could essentially see pretty much everything in Eastern Europe for the last eight years. And we caught the biggest one, fortunately, which was UiPath. I think very few funds around the world can say that they see the majority if not all of the opportunities that fall into their mandate,” he said.

“We have this dual strategy of backing local champions as well as contenders for global markets as well. 20 years ago you had to be in Silicon Valley. Now, Transferwise comes out of Estonia, UiPath comes out of Romania. And that was even before the pandemic.”

Sertoglu concluded: “So we now have fresh capital, coming on the heels of a very successful first fund, which we’re keen to deploy. We’re calling all the opportunities, seeing very ambitious, strong teams coming out of the region. And we have 200 million euros to focus on these types of opportunities in the region.”

#artificial-intelligence, #berlin, #central-europe, #ceo, #computing, #eastern-europe, #estonia, #europe, #germany, #intel-capital, #london, #romania, #selectminds, #software, #tc, #transferwise, #turkey, #uipath, #wayfair, #yemeksepeti, #zynga

After a Decade of Chaos, Can a Splintered Libya Be Made Whole?

An interim government promises peace, unity and democratic elections. Skeptical Libyans say they’ve heard this promise before.

#central-bank-of-libya, #libya, #russia, #tripoli-libya, #turkey, #united-arab-emirates, #united-nations

Turkish Forces in Syria Protect 5 Million People

Three years ago, Turkey’s intervention in Syria was widely criticized. But today Turkish forces are all that protect five million vulnerable people.

#afrin-syria, #akar-hulusi, #assad-bashar-al, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #civilian-casualties, #defense-and-military-forces, #erdogan-recep-tayyip, #free-syrian-army, #humanitarian-aid, #idlib-syria, #islamic-state-in-iraq-and-syria-isis, #kurds, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #turkey, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #war-and-armed-conflicts

Deaths of Soldiers and Policemen Held by Kurdish Guerrillas Roils Turkish Politics

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the United States and opposition Kurdish politicians in an effort to deflect responsibility for a failed rescue operation.

#deaths-fatalities, #defense-and-military-forces, #erdogan-recep-tayyip, #kidnapping-and-hostages, #kurdistan-workersparty, #nationalist-movement-party-turkey, #turkey

A Decade After the Arab Spring, Autocrats Still Rule the Mideast

The popular uprisings of 2011 mostly failed, but they gave the region a taste for democracy that continues to whet an appetite for change.

#assad-bashar-al, #bahrain, #ben-ali-zine-el-abidine, #cairo-egypt, #iran, #iraq, #jordan, #lebanon, #middle-east, #middle-east-and-north-africa-unrest-2010, #mubarak-hosni, #muslim-brotherhood-egypt, #muslims-and-islam, #nahyan-mohamed-bin-zayed-al-1961, #obama-barack, #politics-and-government, #qaddafi-muammar-el, #russia, #saudi-arabia, #sudan, #syria, #tahrir-square-cairo, #trump-donald-j, #tunisia, #turkey, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations, #war-and-armed-conflicts, #yemen

Monolith in Turkey Is Revealed to Be Government Stunt

The inscription on the monolith read “Look at the sky, see the moon.” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the same slogan in announcing Turkey’s new space program this week.

#erdogan-recep-tayyip, #space-and-astronomy, #turkey

A Monolith Appears in Turkey

The latest unexplained metal slab was found in Turkey. It was surrounded by armed guards until it disappeared.

#sculpture, #turkey

Turkey Offers Uncertain Refuge for Iranians Fleeing Persecution

An abduction and a murder have scared dissidents seeking shelter in Turkey into looking further afield for safety.

#asylum-right-of, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #iran, #kidnapping-and-hostages, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #turkey

US says India, Italy, and Turkey digital taxes are discriminatory, but won’t take any actions for now

Digital services taxes adopted by India, Italy, and Turkey in the past years discriminate against U.S. companies, the U.S. Trade Representative said on Wednesday.

USTR, which began investigations into the three nation’s digital services taxes in June last year, said it found them to be inconsistent with international tax principles, unreasonable, and burdening or restricting U.S. commerce.

In its detailed reports, which the office has made public, USTR studied how these digital taxes affected companies including Amazon, Google, Facebook, Airbnb, and Twitter. USTR said it conducted these investigations on the ground of Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974.

India, which has become the largest market for Silicon Valley giants Google and Facebook, introduced digital taxes in 2016 to target foreign firms. Last year, the world’s second largest internet market expanded the scope of its levy to cover a range of additional categories.

USTR investigation found (PDF) that New Delhi was taxing “numerous categories of digital services that are not leviable under other digital services taxes adopted around the world” and that the aggregate tax bill for U.S. companies could exceed $30 million per year.  It also took issue with India not levying similar taxes on local companies.

Despite the strong findings on three nations’ digital services taxes, USTR said it is not taking any specific actions “at this time” but will “continue to evaluate all available options.”

U.S. tech companies have in the past supported terms brokered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. But OECD, which is currently in the middle of working out technical details for agreements for over a 100 nations, doesn’t expect to finish the work until mid-2021. In the absence of OECD agreements, various countries are moving forward with their own versions of the taxes.

Since June last year, USTR has initiated investigations into digital services tax instituted — or proposed to be put in place – by a number of countries including Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, the European Union, Indonesia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and France, which resumed collecting digital services tax from US companies late last year.

In retaliation, USTR had set a January 6 deadline for levying a 25% tariff on a range of French imported goods including cosmetics and handbags.

USTR did not say whether the tariff had been enforced, but in a statement said it expects to announce the progress or completion of additional investigations in the near future.

#airbnb, #amazon, #facebook, #google, #government, #india, #italy, #turkey, #ustr