European Union Initiative
Istanbul: “ICT industries in Turkey and Armenia: Cooperation Opportunities” panel discussion
Turkey | Public Journalism Club, The Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey

A Round Table Discussion entitled  “ICT Industries in Turkey and Armenia – Opportunities for Cooperation’’ was held at Cezayir Meeting Hall (Hayriye Caddesi, No 16, Beyoğlu, İstanbu) at 13:30 on February 25th, 2015. The round table was part of the second phase of the Exchange of Entrepreneurs project jointly implemented by The Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) and Public Journalism Club (PJC) within the framework of the ‘‘Support to the Armenia-Turkey Normalisation Process’’ programme funded by the European Union.


Seda Muradyan, president of the Public Journalism Club (Armenia) and Ussal Şahbaz, representative of the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) opened the event on behalf of the implementing organisations.


In her opening speech Seda Muradyan said: “At beginning of the programme we thought of this exchange as a pilot project, but it turned out to be a very successful and long term initiative and hence we are continuing our cooperation despite difficult political times”.


Ussal Şahbaz elaborated on how the project evolved: “While working on the project we came up with the idea of bringing together young entrepreneurs who had similar interests and thought in similar ways. This was an experiment, but it turned out that there was huge interest toward the project in Turkey. In November we had a great visit to Armenia with even bigger delegation than was planned first and now we are hosting the Armenian delegation”.


The Round Table Discussion hosted speakers from both Armenia and Turkey, and the audience included leading and renowned representatives from Turkey’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.


The round table featured 3 panels covering the following themes:

  • General overview of Armenian IT industry
  • Investments, Startups, investment environment in Armenia and Turkey
  • Internet freedom and Government-Internet relationship, Cyber wars 

The panel speakers included members of Armenian delegation Hayk Chobanyan, Deputy CEO of Union of Information Technology Enterprises (UITE), Ashot Arzumanyan Associate of Granatus Ventures, Samvel Martirosyan, Internet security and social media expert, blogger and   Doğan Taşkent, Finance Partner of Arkan & Ergin Corporate, Bora Yılmaz, Managing Partner of REVO, Fırat İşbecer, COO of Monitise MEA, Rina Onur, representative of Peak Games from Turkey.


Speakers presented the achievements and gaps of the ICT field of both countries, emphasizing the significance of the sector at the state level.


Dogan Tashkent gave a general overview of the evolution of the Turkish IT industry.” It started in 70s and the banks were the pioneers followed by some universities. In 80s software development started which mostly served banks. In mid 90s software developers entered the market with IBM being the monopolist. Later Microsoft and others entered Turkey market but it was internet development that democratized the software sector”.


While presenting Armenia’s ICT industry Hayk Chobanyan emphasized that the Armenian Diaspora is an advantage for developing the sector. Among Armenia’s challenges he pointed out to the workforce limitation and stressed that Armenia cannot rely on traditional education any more, which is why alternative ways to prepare engineers are being explored. 


Ashot Arzumanyan presented Granatus Venture, which is the only venture fund in Armenia providing milestone based financing, up to one million dollars, aiming to prepare the startups for the global market.


Firat İşbecer noted that the Venture Capital environment is becoming better established in Turkey, but ten years ago it was only two investors with two million, while now there are many investment funds with millions of dollars. However, the resources are still limited and it is important to plan their use wisely.


Bora Yilmaz said that there would be no discrimination against investing in Armenian IT industry if its products also serve the Turkish market.


Rina Onur shared her experiences about investment preferences emphasizing that when people invest in young companies, they invest in people. VCs often do not understand the IT products, but they do understand entrepreneurial passion.


Samvel Martirosyan from the Armenian delegation concluded the discussion focusing his presentation on internet security issues, more specifically government control of internet and interstate cyber wars.


The round table was moderated by Emin Okutan.

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