Voice of the Island 2019
“Stop waiting, start now” was one of the key advises given by American entreprenuer and growth strategist, Daniel Applewhite during his week long visit he held to Cyprus as part of his mentorship towards young Turkish Cypriot entrepreneur Burak Berk Doluay.
Since October, last year, the duo have been working together on how to strengthen businesses after Mr Doluay had become a Young Translantic Innovation Leaders Initiative (YTILI) Fellow which is a program of the US Department of State implemented by the German Marshall Fund of the US and the US Embassy of Cyprus. The program allows entrepreneurs chosen from 45 countries and between the ages 24 and 35 who are seeking to scale in their home countries, take part in a series of activities to strenghten and develop their skills through guidance and consultation given by professionals, mentors and resources.
Under the year-long fellowship, Mr Doluay, who was also named one of the 17 UN Young Leaders for Sustainable Development Goals out of 8.046 applicants from 184 countries, met Mr Applewhite who was among the mentors in the YTILI fellowship exchange programme to New Orleans.
Mr Doluay, 25, who is the Co-Founder of the first and largest bicommunal online innovation platform, CyprusInno, set up in 2016 with his Greek Cypriot business partner Steven Stavrou, to connect Cypriot entrepreneurs and innovators which now has a digital community of 2.400 people, is currently looking towards setting up an “accelerator program” which will give entrepreneurs access to mentorship, investors and support to developing businesses to become sustainable.
Throughout the period of working with Mr Applewhite – who has worked with social leaders around the world to grow their businesses- Mr Doluay has gained insight into what could be done to “bridge the gaps” to set up the CyprusInno accelerator programme.
Talking about the challenges they faced while setting up CyprusInno he said: “One of the biggest challenges we have faced is not having enough people who want to become an entrepreneur or alot of people are afraid to share their ideas. Funding was an issue in the beginning however as long as we proved ourselves more and delivered what we said we would do and show results, funding started to come in and I don’t see it as a challenge anymore.”
As a past founder and social advocate, Mr Applewhite, 29, who has for the first time collaborated with a Cypriot and had never before visited Cyprus describing it as “unlike any other place I have ever visited”, made a call to action for the Cypriot youth by saying: “Being divided is not unique to Cyprus, it is an issue common in ecosystems across the world, however Cyprus has a unique opportunity to work in the buffer zone with groups like CyprusInno, to prove a model of community building and entrepreneurship that can be scaled to other post conflict areas.
“Cyprus needs to be marketed and advertised, and one call to action is to share your idea, embrace failure, seek commonalities over differences, and understand that solidarity on a local level provides incredible benefits on a global level. The reality is that when you work together to create more economic value, the “tide rises for all boats”, and more opportunity is created for both sides. Here you have Northern Cyprus, which has direct access to 80 million people in the Turkish market, and through Southern Cyprus, you have access to the entire European Union. As an island, Cyprus is uniquely geographically positioned to tap into those markets along with the Middle East and North Africa.
“If you don’t understand anything else to start up a business, understand that you as an individual benefit by working together in collaboration. Alot of people are afraid to collaborate and see it as a risk of individual loss, however in reality it’s the opposite. There is more to gain by telling an idea to get different perspectives, to create possisble allies, find stakeholders to open doors. So share your idea and be open, and start now, stop waiting to fail, fail quickly and learn quickly to get back on your feet and reinvest. Too many people wait, here in Cyprus, and also elsewhere in the world. Waiting is the death of momentum and success; and momentum is what is required to scale our ideas into businesses that can change
Voice of the Island 2019