A couple of months ago I was privileged to meet Nihal (Nicky) Muradoglu, who is a native of Turkey, but spends part of her time in the United States, as well as maintaining an office in Istanbul. During her career so far, she has lived in five countries, and is an expert on cross cultural coaching, business, and training. At her behest, I am now in Istanbul for two weeks, learning from her staff, and updating them with my own experience with startups.
Marty: Welcome to Startup Professionals interviews. What do you do?
Nicky: I do many things, ranging from establishing a startup incubator and innovation center (mikro sosyo teknopark) called BTYM, running the Society for Intercultural Education, Training, and Research in Turkey (Sietar Turk), to providing seed funding for several new startups in Istanbul. I am also finalizing plans for an A. K. Rice Institute group dynamics behavioral science center here as well.
Marty: Why are you so passionate about entrepreneurship in Turkey?
Nicky: I am passionate about it for the world. It is important that people be interdependent but not co-dependant. It is the basic remedy of our times for all aspects of our lives from every corner of the world. I have ways and means in Turkey which came from a good heritage, and that has to affect Turkey first and then be shared with the world.
Why Turkey, why now? I have the time and energy now. It was first my own education, then to help my husband, then our children, and now the countries to be helped where we lived. I have contributed to France and USA a lot, and now its time to focus on Turkey.
Turkey is very important. Its youth are very precious, and just like other nations, there are many goods that come from Turkey for their neighbors, this region, and the world. I invest in people. Turkish young can be the part of the solution of helping to achieve sustainable economic development, sustainable social development, and sustainable educational development.
That’s why - why not Turkey?
Marty: From your perspective what are the key elements of a business incubator?
Nicky: Overall, our emphasis is on teamwork and building a cohesive team. Without the right team, there will be no business running.
Of course, we provide the basic business facilities – centrally located, close to public transportation and parking. The staff is warm and experienced, there is ample equipment, structure, and we teach leadership, strong ethics, and nurture creativity. We also provide free seminars on self-development, team development, and sustainable knowledge development.
On the business side, we provide assistance on business plan writing, evaluation, and funding sources. Most importantly, young entrepreneurs can find mentors and role models, and network with people who are committed to sustainable economic development.
Marty: What unique challenges do you see in an intercultural environment?
Nicky: I see many challenges. Intercultural communication is not yet much in the social consciousness level in Turkey, but it is critical to other parts of the system, which makes all communication more confusing.
For example, European Union (EU) project partners often come together, twelve countries in a room at the table, to decide on task and budget sharing. When the roles and operations implementation model is discussed for win-wins and percentages, you can imagine the division between the ones who have had the training before sitting at the table, and the ones who have not. This is before you get into leveraging cultural differences to communicate, then comes the collaboration, then comes when to use “dispute.” Dispute for the project sake is to be permitted, but it is not fun and not appropriate for ego sake, or power and control sake.
When there are too many grays, it is hard to build a trust without clear rights and wrongs. If we can give training to all, and bring a common vocabulary and its accepted meaning, that would be a start. After that, the different parts can be brought to an interdisciplinary view, work in cohesion, and be complementary. Without this process, all parties will expect everything to work top-down from the leader. The EU does not want this, and the USA is not even aware of, or talking about it. They think they have bottom-up teamwork, but they don’t.
This needs to be taken from a religious dialog to a science, and be used for Turks to go into world markets as others used it for to penetrate into their markets. This will help them to contribute to others and make a right globalization model.
Marty: What are the most positive attributes you see in this new generation of entrepreneurs?
Nicky: They are aware of a global society because of the Internet. They are interacting with others from many parts of the world. They speak at least some English because of computer training. They are IT web literate, and they have the courage to go to another country and travel. They are careful, but not fearful. Some are spoiled and some are not, but they want to make it. They are creative, willing, inquiring, and open minded, if they trust their source and mentor.
Marty: Any general advice you would like to give to someone contemplating a startup today?
Nicky: If Turks really want to make a difference, they need to learn how to live and work well together in a live organism “order in chaos” model, per Margaret J. Wheatley. All differences can fit into this, but a rigid orderly environment would work only as a control and create insecurity. They also need to learn the business basics, and spread the word in Turkey. I am here to help.
Marty: Nicky, thank you very much for your insights and your role-model leadership in Turkey, and the rest of the world. You can find out more about Nicky’s activities by visiting the BTYM website and contacting her directly through email (firstname.lastname@example.org).