IMG_1796

I was in Belgrade to give a keynote speech at the Belgrade Venture Forum on the 19th of November. My speech was on angel investment: The Rising Steps of an Angel Investor. The Ambassador of Turkey to Serbia honoured me by coming to listen to my speech.

According to the organizers, participants in the two-day event would be able to hear speeches by more than 50 speakers from 15 countries in a total of 12 keynote addresses and seven panels, and meet with representatives of successful European regions such as the Basque country, in Spain and Flanders, in Belgium.

The Belgrade Venture Forum is the largest venture capital and private equity investment forum in Serbia and is focused on improving access to finance, fostering entrepreneurship and facilitating networking among regional businesses. For this occasion, the Belgrade Venture Forum also organized a pitching competition for selected companies, with pitches from over 100 applicants. The Forum’s main organizer was the Serbian Venture Network (SeVeN), a body active in the fields of entrepreneurship and business development of companies from South-East Europe and a member of the Royal Council of Entrepreneurship.

www. belgradeventureforum.org

During my visit to Belgrade, l also met with the members of the Royal Family of Serbia, with whom we developed very good ideas to foster the entrepreneurship eco-system for Balkan countries.

www.royalfamily.org

Serbian Economy Minister Sasa Radulovic said at the beginning of the event that the government has allocated four billion RSD to attract venture capital and private equity investment in Serbia starting from January 2014.

Belgrade: A lovely city where one can be inspired to write sentimental poems while relaxing on a bench in one of the many beautiful parks.

There are 8,000 Turkish words in the Serbian language. Baklava is baklava, patlican is patlican 

Belgrade
355931-svetik

This was my first visit to Belgrade. When l received the invitation, l didn’t hesitate for even a second and immediately accepted. Belgrade was a city on my list of places to see before l die
Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. Its name translates into English as White City. The city has a population of 1.23 million, while 1.65 million people live in its metropolitan area. Belgrade was the capital of the former Yugoslavia (in various forms of governments) from its creation in 1918, to its final dissolution in 2006. The city has been awarded many titles, and was nominated as the European Capital of Culture in 2020.

Before coming to Belgrade, l was interviewed by Ekopija about my upcoming visit to the city.

www.ekapija.com/website/en/page/811832/Baybars-Altuntas-one-of-leading-businessmen-in-Turkey-I-am-interested-in-investing-in-mobile-technology-projects-in-Serbia

After this interview was published, l started receiving connection requests from Serbia via LinkedIn. I understood that there was an IT and mobile entrepreneurship eco-system in Belgrade.
I had arrived in Istanbul from Tirana late on the evening of 16th November and l arrived home in the middle of the night. I had to give a conference on entrepreneurship which had been scheduled months before at 10 a.m. in Istanbul the next morning, and then l had 7 one-on-one meetings with entrepreneurs until the evening. After l completed this busy schedule on Sunday in Istanbul, l took my flight early the next morning to Belgrade. Milos Dosen, the President of Managing Board of Serbian Venture Network, was waiting for me at the Nikola Tesla Airport of Belgrade.

Nobel Prize rumors of Tesla and Edison
Because the grandson of Tesla is my friend from Sweden, Dusan Stojanovic, l am really interested in the stories of Tesla. I think it will be a good idea to invite Dusan as the keynote speaker for the next Belgrade Venture Forum because he is also very well-known in the European entrepreneurship eco-system, as he was awarded the title of the best angel investor of Europe in 2013 by EBAN in Brussels.

www.eban.org/initiatives/european-business-angels-week/

On 6 November 1915, a Reuters news agency report from London had the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla; however, on 15 November, a Reuters story from Stockholm stated the prize that year was being awarded to Sir William Henry Bragg and William Lawrence Bragg “for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays.” There were unsubstantiated rumors at the time that Tesla and/or Edison had refused the prize. The Nobel Foundation declined to comment on the rumors except to say, “Any rumor that a person has not been given a Nobel Prize because he has made known his intention to refuse the reward is ridiculous,” a recipient could only decline a Nobel Prize after he was announced a winner.
There have been subsequent claims by Tesla biographers that Edison and Tesla were the original recipients and that neither was given the award because of their animosity toward each other; that each sought to minimize the other’s achievements and right to win the award; that both refused ever to accept the award if the other received it first; that both rejected any possibility of sharing it; and even that a wealthy Edison refused it to keep Tesla from getting the $20,000 prize money.
In the years after these rumors, neither Tesla nor Edison won the prize (although Edison did receive one of 38 possible bids in 1915 and Tesla did receive one bid out of 38 possible bids in 1937).


Visiting the Ambassador of Turkey to Serbia

Before coming to Belgrade, l sent an e-mail message to H. E. Mehmet Kemal Bozay, the Ambassador of Turkey to Serbia, stating that l would be in Belgrade to give a keynote speech at Belgrade Venture Forum. He was waiting for me in the afternoon at the Turkish embassy, an historic building in downtown Belgrade. I understood that he was not a classical diplomat but rather one who maintained a high energy level and is very sensitive to entrepreneurship issues. So l invited him to my speech the next afternoon at the Metropol Palace Hotel, which has hosted various famous people throughout its history. He kindly accepted the invitation and also let the Anatolian News Agency – the official news agency of Turkey – know about the event.

www.belgrad.be.mfa.gov.tr/AmbassadorsBio.aspx

Metropol Palace is a very-well known hotel which, at various times, has hosted Tito, Sophie Loren and many other figures throughout its history.

www.metropolpalace.com

Belgrade Venture Forum
Serbian Economy Minister Sasa Radulovic said at the beginning of the event that the government has allocated four billion RSD to attract venture capital and private equity investment in Serbia starting from January 2014.

“This will bring in private money, and the state will co-invest with 20 to 40 percent,” Radulovic said at the opening of the event in Belgrade’s Hotel Metropol. Radulovic said that Serbia needs innovations in the economic sphere and special investment funds to provide money for their implementation. He stressed that these funds would be there to finance various projects and invited all entrepreneurs and innovators in Serbia to come forward with their ideas. Investment in innovation in Serbia will gain a fresh momentum and open up a new chapter for the country’s future, Radulovic said. The problem is that investments in innovation generate losses in the first few years and it takes time for new enterprises to begin making profit, which is why banks cannot finance such projects, he added. Therefore, to be able to fund such projects, we need special investment funds called “venture capital funds,” the economy minister said. “This would also serve as a magnet to draw our people abroad back to Serbia,” said Radulovic. Israel’s experience is a good model to be applied in Serbia, given that the country has made a major shift in investment activities in the IT sector, Radulovic said. He expressed the expectation that these funds will be set up as early as in January of next year.
After his speech, there was a panel where vice-rector of Belgrade University responsible for innovation center of the university was one of the panelists. I was a little bit surprised that vice-rector said Belgrade University aims to encourage graduates to look for jobs rather than create jobs as entrepreneurs, which seemed to me to be out of line with current and future possible global economic developments.

My speech
However, I gave my speech in the afternoon, addressing a community of entrepreneurs, academics, and policy makers rather than an angel investor community. H. E. Mehmet Kemal Bozay honoured me by attending my session with his economic attaché. He enjoyed the speech so much that he invited me to breakfast at his residence the next morning to talk more about entrepreneurship.

Here you can find my presentation: Belgrade Rising Steps of Entrepreneur

Another interesting panel was one moderated by David Schoch, President of SPEA, in the afternoon of the second day. “Opportunities and challenges of cross-border investment’’ was the subject of the panel discussion and David Schoch made an excellent presentation on the topic. Here you can find an interview of Mr Schoch:

www.balkans.com/interview-view.php?id=177299

Many friends from the Balkans
So many friends from Balkan countries were at the event: Patricia Gannon, Robert Sheffrin, and Aleksandar Cabrilo from Brussels all participated.

Anatolian News Agency
IMG_1800

A journalist from the Anatolian News Agency interviewed me about the Turkish-Serbian entrepreneurship eco-system after my speech.

An interview of me on Turkish-Serbian Entrepreneurship Eco-system:

www.haberler.com/sirbistan-da-belgrad-girisim-forumu-5327906-haberi/

What l underlined in the interview was that the Serbian entrepreneurship eco-system has a great competitive advantage in the fields of IT & mobile technology start-ups due to highly qualified IT-based human resources.
Given the economic relations between Turkey and Serbia, it is very clear that Serbia is a gateway to Europe for Turkish exporters and this will lead to an organic growth of bilateral economic relations.

Croatia Business Angel Association
At lunchtime l met with the Mikhail Barancic, the President of the Croatian Business Angels Association and had a very beneficial discussion. Because l am going to give a keynote speech in an event in April 2014 in Croatia, we decided to develop an angel investment workshop for angel investors and entrepreneurs in Croatia; one day before the event l will be there for this, or else the day following the event.
Just a quick note: l think this workshop should be done in co-operation with the Croatian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association led by Ms Mirna Marovic. Unfortunately, l haven’t been able to meet with her in person, but we are friends on LinkedIn

Dragon of Dragons Den – Poland
I also met with Marek, a dragon of Dragons’ Den Poland and we made an important decision in Belgrade to set up a Dragons’ Den Club by inviting dragons from all over the world. The first thing l did on my return to Turkey was to invite my dragon friends from Finland, Ireland and Hungary to be part of the founding team of the club.
As you may know, I am a dragon of Dragons’ Den Turkey on Bloomberg HT in Turkey. Dragons’ Den is an entrepreneurship TV Show run by Sony Pictures Television in 22 countries. It is the most-watched programme on BBC2 in UK.

You can watch my life story filmed by Sony Pictures Television for Bloomberg HT at:

www.vimeo.com/47112339

Reception at the Royal Palace
IMG_1815

Tuesday evening the Crown Prince Alexander Foundation for Education and Culture hosted a reception at the Royal Palace for investors attending the Belgrade Venture Forum as the part of their programme supporting entrepreneurship in Serbia. We were welcomed by the daughter, Ms. Alison Andrews, of Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine.
After the first day of the Belgrade Venture Forum, all participants attended a reception at the Royal Palace, where we pursued interesting discussions with many local entrepreneurs and investors about the possibility for further development of technological entrepreneurship in Serbia.

The Crown Prince Alexander Foundation for Education and Culture believes that there is great potential in this region for private sector development through equity based financing. The number of excellent projects and investors’ interests in Serbia is increasing every day. This event was a good event for all those interested in finding investment opportunities and creating innovative partnerships and networks. On one hand, there were already well-established entrepreneurs to whom many could pitch their project ideas and experience first-hand how the business community works. On the other, there were investors who create a major flow in the South-East Europe and represent an access to partnership and potential co-investors.

At this reception I had the opportunity to talk about possible collaborations with the World Entrepreneurship Forum with The Crown Prince Alexander Foundation for Education and Culture.
Manos Ioannidis is a Greek businessman whose family is originally from Izmir, Turkey. He is a real friend of Turks and believes that Turkey and Greece are essentially one nation. I enjoyed his friendship very much and I believe we will accomplish many good things for a better entrepreneurship eco-system, not just in Serbia but throughout the Balkans.

At the end of the evening, l had two great friends who believe in the importance of entrepreneurship, creating social justice and creating new jobs for people: Alison & Manos.It was a great honour for me to meet with the members of the Royal Family.

www.royalfamily.org/?291,en_venture-capital-reception-at-the-royal-palace

Royal Family
Now, let’s come to understand who my dear friend’s grandfather was and what he did in history, according to the Royal Family’s official website:

The great-grand father of Alison was in 1804 a wealthy Serbian clan chief and leader George Petrovic – known to his followers as “Karadjordje” “Black George”, because of his dark complexion – led the Serbs in an uprising against the Ottoman Empire, who controlled the Balkans at that time. This first revolt against the Ottomans in the Balkans is known in Serbian history as “The First Serbian Uprising” (Prvt Srpski Ustanak).

To read the rest of the story, you can visit:

www.Royalfamily.org

As the Americans say: What happened in the past is not important, what is going to be in the future is important! I totally agree with this mentality and I firmly believe that historians should deal with history, scientists should deal with science, diplomats should deal with diplomacy and entrepreneurs should deal with entrepreneurship. Such job definitions will create better-organised societies.

Breakfast with H. E. Mehmet Kemal Bozay, the Ambassador of Turkey to Serbia at his residence
IMG_1819

The next morning l was collected from my hotel for breakfast at the residence of Ambassador Bozay. It was a great breakfast where we talked about entrepreneurship, innovation, franchising, and marketing. The vase presented by Sultan Abdulaziz in the entrance hall of the residence was marvelous. It is not a residence, but rather a mini Turkish palace in Belgrade.
It was a great honour for me to have breakfast with H. E. Mehmet Kemal Bozay in Belgrade.

Great Success!
The Belgrade Venture Forum was a great success thanks to the hard work and professionalism of these three heroes of Serbian entrepreneurship eco-system.
Congratulations!

IMG_1824