GEC Turkey: How to Build Global Relationships Anywhere

GEC Turkey

For the past few years I have attended the GEC, otherwise known as the Global Entrepreneurial Congress. This yearly event involves over 160 countries and visits a new location each year. In 2018, the location was Istanbul, Turkey. GEC Turkey, here I come!

Turkey is not exactly close to Canada.  It is a 10+ hour plane trip each way. When you are traveling that far to a place you have never been before you want to make sure you have time to experience life outside the conference itself.

Tip 1:

Always book an extra few days (where possible) surrounding a multi-day event in a new location.

For this particular trip I scheduled my arrival several days earlier so that I could also attend Startup Turkey – an event highly recommended by our Director of Marketing, Cagdas, (formerly of Istanbul) and Lana, a previous connection from Global Entrepreneurship Congress.

Tip 2:

Build relationships at conferences that continue throughout the year. More on this later…

And so, within hours of landing in Istanbul, I was already on the go visiting several parts of Istanbul and expanding my network.

GEC Turkey Networking

Saturday morning dawned bright and beautiful – the perfect day for the Startup Turkey Speed Networking Cruise along the Bosphorus, the strait that divides Istanbul into two continents – Europe and Asia. Startup Turkey gathers startups from around the world with finalists attending Demo Day in Istanbul in front of an invite only crowd. It was great to meet some of the finalists and hear about their amazing startups!

GEC Turkey Networking
Rebecca Palmer and Bill Kenney overlooking the Startup Turkey networking below.

The networking did not stop after the cruise returned to dock. It was time to explore Istanbul and get to know new friends. This is where the real connections happen.

Tip 3

It’s the conversations that take place OUTSIDE the main events that help build the strongest relationships and offer the most value.

Sunday was a somewhat free day for many of us who had arrived early. With no firm commitments to any event, several of us chose to take the day to explore spending the day visiting Topkapi, Aya Sofya and so much more only returning to our hotels well after dark. This day of bonding has already led to additional business opportunities and a chance to really get to know each other.

Tip 4:

Be a tourist without being a tourist. Find things that interest you, explore new areas, try unique things to the area. Avoid tour groups where possible but finding a local guide or someone who can recommend activities is invaluable! (In our case, we had several contacts who live or had lived in Turkey and could recommend things to do and places to go)

And then the main event started. Global Entrepreneurial Congress hosts thousands of people from over 160 countries. Entrepreneurs, incubators, ministers, politicians, investors are all part of the attendee list. GEC becomes somewhat of a reunion for many of us who get to reconnect with attendees from other countries and catch up on what is happening in each person’s ecosystem. Our needs are each unique but also very much the same. Youth entrepreneurship and a lack of quality entrepreneurial education are big issues.  Access to funding and transparency in government policies plague us all. The rise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is top of mind for first world countries and will also see changes take place in the developing nations. There are numerous sessions to attend during GEC talking about these issues and more. Some sess

GEC Turkey Networking
Catching up with Patrik Kovacs (Hungary) and Michael Lee (from the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance)

ions also look at what is happening in a particular country such as a look at Startup Visa programs.

It was also time to meet new representatives from Canada and help connect them to the many amazing people at the event. And, have them join in some of the extra-curricular activities to really get to know other attendees.

Tip 5:

Welcome and embrace newcomers.

My experience at GEC was amazing as always. During the event I connected with many new people and also had the opportunity to discuss entrepreneurship with Andy Skoll of Kaufmann Foundation.

GEC Turkey - Rebecca Palmer being interviewed by Andy Skoll of Kauffman Foundation. Photo courtesy of Cecilia Wessinger
Rebecca Palmer being interviewed by Andy Skoll of Kauffman Foundation. Photo courtesy of Cecilia Wessinger

GEC Turkey and What I Learned #GEC18IST 

There is always so much to learn when attending events be it in the actual sessions and workshops or during the hallway (or citywide) conversations.

About Turkey

Turkey has an amazing startup scene and is home to the international Startup Turkey demo day. The city is steeped in history and has a population including many people from different countries.  Things move different here than in Canada. Food is more affordable (though lower wages may be the cause). The open markets and street carts allow additional opportunities. But, there are also issues. Pollution, waste and high population of smokers are issues. Security threats. Uncertainty where Syria is concerned. It was a bit disconcerting until one realizes how rapidly your own country can change. Overall, I loved visiting Turkey and meeting the people who live there. The food was also excellent!

About the Global Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Though each country is unique, we all share many of the same challenges. By sharing our stories, we can help each other find solutions to boost our entrepreneurial ecosystems and create stable economies.  Many countries are still developing and are now entering uncharted territories. By helping each other, we can share experience. Initiatives trialed in other countries may also be found to be useful in our own. We can also learn from these countries who have often needed to be resourceful in ways that first world countries may not even think about. In Canada we often take for granted what many countries are still struggling to achieve: internet, clean water, access to education, garbage management, elimination of corruption and so much more. It is vital that we learn about other communities and their struggles as it changes our perspectives.

About Relationships

It’s not always about the event but rather the people it brings together.  Think of the last event you attended. Did you talk to anyone? Did you listen to speakers? What do you remember most?

There are always bits of information I remember well and use as I build programs, train entrepreneurs and work in our ecosystem. But, what I remember most are the in-depth conversations that occur in the halls of the event or, in many of the international events I attend, in the outside excursions we arrange. It is through these relationship building opportunities that I get to know people and build relationships of trust and respect. These relationships lead to potential partnerships, opportunities and so much more. These relationships are the reason I had the opportunity to train entrepreneurs in Moldova. More opportunities are in the cards and it is all because of building strong relationships.

If you ever have the chance to visit Istanbul for an event, please take a few extra days, grab a few new connections and explore the city.