Financial technology to get $90 million in funding

Fintech startups have become an important element of startup growth across the globe, exceeding $53 billion in value last year, and the Turkish ecosystem provides a lucrative environment for their development given the country's huge financial technology market

One of the most important driving forces of the startup ecosystem, which grew 20-fold in the last decade and reached $205 million in 2018, is financial technology (fintech) startups. Fintech startups, which have gradually increased in number, also attract investors.

"We experienced rapid growth, but we are still at an early stage in terms of the ecosystem. Over the past decade, both entrepreneurs and investors gained considerable experience and knowledge. Opportunities to expand to the world will increase with more equipped entrepreneurs," Revo Capital Managing Partner Cenk Bayrakdar said. "As Revo Capital, we plan to launch a 90 million euro [$99.64 million] fund by the end of the year. Increasing competence, especially in the field of financial technologies, heralds even stronger growth in this area. One of our focus areas in the new fund will be fintechs."

Revo Capital, one of the biggest venture capital funds in Turkey, has invested in many new fintech startups since it was founded in 2013 with a focus on technology and the Internet. Fintech, the rising trend for investors in the global arena, reached a record $53.8 billion in 2018. The $20.9 billion achieved in the first half of 2019 raises expectations that a strong year-end figure will be attained.

Highly competitive

The managing partner of Revo Capital, which recently attracted attention with the successful exits of two important fintech companies, explained the strong potential offered by the startup ecosystem and fintechs in Turkey. "Rapidly adopting high technology in payment technologies, Turkey is one of the largest markets in this field with more than 170 million cards, 2.8 million POS terminals and more than 40 payment/electronic money suppliers," he said. "Turkey, which has been a leader in terms of adopting high technology with a competitive approach since the 1990s, ranks first in terms of credit cards printed and POS terminals in Europe. While compliance with the EU continues, e-money licenses have started to be issued with the law that regulates payment services and electronic money. The banking sector rapidly aligned with the updated European Union Payment Services Directive [PSD2] and open banking initiatives."

Regulatory decisions

Bayrakdar stressed that the Revenue Administration (GİB) has also expanded its e-document obligations, such as compulsory e-invoices and e-books, to more and more companies. "The new regulation that allows the e-invoice in the use of ECR-POS is a very positive development in this sense," Bayrakdar said. "In this area, while Turkey plays a leading role across Europe, there are opportunities for startups to expand to many countries and grow their business. The success of fintech in the Revo Capital portfolio shows this. The invoice amount, which passes over the supplier financing platform Figopara, has approached TL 400 million on an annual basis."

Noting that TransferGo, which provides free money transfers to 47 countries abroad, is also one of the fastest-growing markets in Turkey with a growth of 150 percent per month, while the world wide monthly volume exceeded $80 million, Bakyrakdar said since its establishment in 2001, PayCore offered innovative end-to-end payment technologies for companies such as banks, financial institutions, telecom operators, payment service providers in 35 countries. "It is a company that has undertaken more than 20 global firsts, such as the first contactless credit card, smartphone payment and contactless credit card application in transportation," he said. "Recently, it has attracted attention with its Soft POS solution that easily converts all smartphones and tablets into POS terminals. PayCore Soft POS offers an innovative, secure, fast, low-cost and profitable payment solution to businesses."

Successful examples are effective

Bayrakdar pointed out that the amount of investment in startups in Turkey was $10 million in 2009, and this figure increased to $205 million in 2018. "This 20-fold increase is one of the clearest indicators of growth. Meanwhile, the number of angel investors and venture capital in the local ecosystem could be counted on the fingers of one hand 10 years ago, and now this figure has reached 40," Bayrakdar stressed. "Other data supporting these promising figures are the recent successful exits. Since the beginning of 2018 alone, exits have amounted to more than $1.5 billion, which both demonstrates entrepreneurial quality and announces new exits in the coming years."

Recently, Revo Capital has made its exit with two leading fintech companies in its portfolio. The U.S.-based Sovos, a world leader in finance, tax software and reporting solutions, purchased Foriba, the local software company, while Paraşüt, an online pre-accounting startup, was acquired by local DST Technology, which also incorporates Mikro Yazılım and Zirve Yazılım.

Bayrakdar underlined the state support and increasing investor interest in the growth of the start-up ecosystem, adding the state's exemption of wealth tax in exits, angel investor licenses offering tax and other privileges and incentives for R&D spending are significant steps to support entrepreneurship. "We are in constant communication with the public side to increase these incentives," he said. "Besides, growth in the number of domestic angel investor networks, venture capital and corporate venture capital is very valuable. The creation of new funds and the greater interest of companies and large families in this area show that domestic funding will be an essential locomotive in the growth of the ecosystem in the coming years."

Application that removes obstacles

TahtApp software enables children with limited vision to follow lessons more comfortably and efficiently.

Thanks to an application that reflects information written by a teacher on the board to students' tablet screens instantly, students with limited vision can easily follow lessons with their peers.

Türk Telekom continues to develop Sunlight, a corporate social responsibility project that provides functional vision training to 900 children and their families from 62 cities and connects children with limited vision to life in collaboration with the Association for Living Without Obstacles.

By expanding the scope of the Sunlight Project, Türk Telekom launched the Sunlight in the My School Project, where training seminars on functional vision training were given to teachers of students with limited vision who succeeded in starting education with their peers in primary education schools. Thus, teachers in school were given training seminars on limited vision, while TahtApp software was introduced to enable children with limited vision to follow lessons more comfortably and efficiently. The TahtApp application will be launched in 25 elementary schools that will be included in the project starting from the next school year.

Thanks to software developed by the Türk Telekom R&D team, students can listen to a lesson and simultaneously follow the board from their tablets. In this way, students with limited vision can answer questions more easily, participate actively in classes and continue their education at the same pace as other students. TahtApp transfers the blackboard to the tablet regardless of the physical environment of the classroom and lighting so that children with limited vision can receive education together with their peers.

Increases reading speed of children

The TahtApp application provides standardization in the follow-up of children with limited vision and differences in reading and light perception. The "teacher removal" feature in the TahtApp application, which takes into account the difference in reading speeds of students with limited vision and the fact that the teacher is standing in front of the board hinders vision and facilitates the life of students. This feature automatically detects the image when the teacher stands in front of the board and removes the teacher image from the screen in front of the students and presents the content of the board to the students. In this way, the student can easily read the course content on the board. The application's automatic course recording feature also allows the course images to be saved to the device. In this way, the student has the opportunity to repeat the course subjects outside course hours.

TahtApp consists of a wireless network-enabled camera, a mobile router, a smart tablet, and TahtApp software running on that tablet. The camera is placed in full view of the board, and the image is transferred to the application on the tablet via the local wireless network. Enlarging and contrasting the image with various image processing and computer vision technologies on the application allows the student to easily see the contents on the tablet screen. Thus, the standardization needed in the classroom follow-up of children with limited vision and differences in reading and light perception is successfully achieved.

Robotics researchers come to Istanbul

The International Conference on Speech and Computers (SPECOM), which was held for the first time in St. Petersburg in 1996, and the International Conference on Interactive Collaborative Robotics (ICR), which was organized as part of this conference for four years, takes place in Istanbul Aug. 20-25 at Boğaziçi University.

SPECOM, attended by researchers working in the fields of speech texting, multimodal interaction, telecommunications and robotics and smart media applications, is organized in cooperation with the St. Petersburg Institute for Informatics and Automation of the Russian Academy of Science (SPIIRAS) and Moscow State Linguistic University (MSLU). The ICR, which will be attended by researchers working in the fields of human-robot interaction, home robots, social robotics and educational robots, is organized in partnership with St. Petersburg Institute for Informatics and Automation of the Russian Academy of Science (SPIIRAS) and the Munich University of Technology (TUM).

The conferences, which will welcome professor Hynek Hermansky of John Hopkins University in the U.S., one of the world's leading researchers in automatic speech recognition and production, Associate Professor Odette Scharenborg of Delft University of Technology, Netherlands, who applies cognitive models to speech recognition, and Associate Professor Erol Şahin, one of the leading robot researchers in Turkey, will be held in parallel sessions.

Among the organizers of the conferences were professor Albert Ali Salah, a faculty member at Boğaziçi University, Department of Computer Engineering, working on computer analysis of human behavior, pattern recognition and artificial learning, and Professor Murat Saraçlar of Boğaziçi University, Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, working in the field of speech and language recognition. Boğaziçi University students and faculty members can attend the conferences free of charge.

*Timur Sırt

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