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Top-10 Artificial Intelligence Startups in Turkey

What’s now called Turkey was once the center of the Ottoman Empire, a global hub of culture and science during its heyday, which lasted over 600 years. It was the birthplace of the first surgical atlas and the first watch that measured time in minutes, and it’s where astronomers first calculated the eccentricity of the Sun’s orbit. Today, Turkey is better known for its rich cultural heritage, with large numbers of Russian and German tourists haggling over evil eyes, sipping Turkish tea in bazaars, and enjoying the hot water baths of Istanbul. With a population nearing 79 million people, Turkey also has high-quality and relatively cheap resources for developed markets to exploit capitalize on, along with a budding startup ecosystem.

Deal sizes might be on the low side, but Turkish tech startups have stepped up to participate in the global AI race. The country is in the process of formulating an AI strategy that will become a bridge between private stakeholders and public policies, boosting research in the field. We scoured Crunchbase to find the ten Turkish AI startups that have received the most funding to date.

Name Application City Funding
(USD millions)
FalconAI Technologies Fashion, Gaming Istanbul           3.0
Vispera FMCG Retail Audits Istanbul           1.9
Tazi.ai Insurance, Banking, Retail Istanbul           1.2
Tarentum AI Generic Machine Learning Istanbul           0.7
Reengen IoT for Energy Istanbul           0.5
Virasoft Healthcare Istanbul           0.4
Quant Co. Home Energy Management Maslak           0.3
Bufalo Teknoloji FinTech Gebze           0.1
Ottoo Automotive Istanbul           0.1
Bilims Industrial IoT Izmir           0.1

Click for company websiteOriginally established in Istanbul in 2017, FalconAI Technologies has now been transplanted to Bawstuhn Massachusetts where their $3 million in funding is being used to develop machine learning, computer vision, and generic AI algorithms for various applications. The startup currently offers two products. The first is an app called FashionI that learns users’ personal style through analyzing shopping behavior, and offers outfit recommendations, complimentary products, and personalized offers to the lemmings who think fashion is something worth spending meaningful amounts of money on.

FalconAI’s second offering, the SenpAI platform, uses AI algorithms to help video game players by monitoring and analyzing their performance and then recommending areas of improvement. SenpAI is currently available for Defense Of The Ancients 2 (DOTA2), and the response has been so positive that they have now released support for League Of Legends (LOL) which leads e-sports revenues generating an estimated $1.4 billion per year. (DOTA2 is responsible for the largest competition prizes.) With top e-sports players treated like rock stars (and paid accordingly), SenpAI offers tangible value to the many aspiring gamers out there.

Click for company websiteFounded in 2014, Istanbul startup Vispera has raised $1.9 million to develop computer vision solutions for the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector. The startup’s algorithms analyze smartphone photos of shelves, coolers, and cabinets to determine how products are placed, if their branding and price tags are visible, and which products are missing. These retail audits benefit retailers as they help manage stock and suppliers by ensuring they receive the allotted shelf space and necessary promotional materials.

Vispera supports performance measurement of almost any merchandizing task in the store

Credit: Vispera

A manual audit can take up to 3.5 hours, half of which is used for back-office analytics and administration. Vispera’s algorithms automatically recognize discrepancies, measure KPIs, and manage reporting more precisely than humans. With reference clients that include Coca Cola, Unilever, and Henkel, it seems that “store auditor” is another position that’s becoming redundant thanks to AI.

Click for company websiteFounded in 2015, Istanbul startup Tazi.ai has raised $1.2 million to develop machine learning tools for the insurance, banking, and retail sectors. Banks use the startup’s predictive algorithms to accurately forecast credit risk, non-performing loans, customer churn, and credit card fraud. Insurance companies typically estimate claim volumes and life insurance churn. Restaurants and apparel retailers use Tazi’s algorithms to predict demand. The algorithms also allow users to create micro-segments among their clients, pinpoint client groups that have the most negative impact, then take corrective action.

For example, Tazi’s auto insurance reference client used this capability to find small customer groups with high claim rates that were driving major payouts. They then created specific pricing and marketing policies for these groups in order to minimize risk. The startup has offices in Istanbul, San Francisco, and Amsterdam and was recently recognized by Gartner as a “Cool Vendor in AI Core Technologies” for their work in democratizing AI.

Click for company websiteFounded in 2017, Istanbul startup Tarentum AI has raised $700,000 to establish a generalist AI developer boutique that takes a client’s big data and uses machine learning algorithms to optimize industry-specific problems in banking, energy, gaming, and commerce. Banks use Tarentum algorithms to optimize cash allocation for branches and can decrease dormant cash volumes by 30%. A Turkish wind farm operator uses the startup’s forecasting algorithms to determine forward-looking electricity production and trade on the electricity market accordingly. An e-commerce client implemented Tarentum algorithms to improve its search and autocorrect algorithms for customers and reduce the percentage of abandoned carts. The startup’s international reference clients include ING Bank and Intel.

Founded in 2013, Istanbul startup Reengen has raised $500,000 to develop an Internet of Things (IoT) platform for energy. The startup combines sensors with big data analytics to measure and optimize energy consumption at different facilities, allow predictive maintenance of industrial machines, and monitor solar plant and power grid performance. Banks use the service to manage uninterrupted power supply during outages, shopping malls use it to bill subtenants accurately, and utility companies gain a better understanding of their customers through monitoring their consumption patterns. A reference client of Reengen that sells maternity products on the web reported an 8% decrease in energy consumption after the first year of implementing the service. Global brands using the platform include IKEA, Sheraton, and food company Frito Lay.

Click for company websiteFounded in 2015, Istanbul startup Virasoft has raised $415,000 to develop computer vision technology for cancer diagnostics. Algorithms look at digital tissue slides and provide a preliminary diagnosis and analysis that is much quicker than manual work by human doctors while minimizing subjective errors. On average, it takes about 30 hours to establish a diagnosis the traditional way. Virasoft provides many analytical modules that can detect tumor areas, cell break apart and fusion signals, and look at cell nuclei and membranes of specific tissues.

Virasoft highlights and detects tumoral cell regions automatically

Tumoral cell detection with and without Virasoft – Credit: Virasoft

The startup’s flagship analytical software is complemented by a remote consultation application for doctors and hospitals, and a mobile imaging app that allows doctors to take digital pictures of analogue slides under a microscope. Virasoft’s partners include the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT and the Istanbul Technical University. We saw similar technology at Stanford’s medical imaging conference this past spring where they demonstrated augmented reality microscopes that can help identify cancer in real-time.

Click for company websiteFounded in 2017, Maslak startup Quant Co. has raised $285,000 to develop AI algorithms for home energy management systems. These smart systems use IoT sensors to measure the energy consumed or generated by homes with software that allows homeowners to adjust their consumption patterns by manually defining rules for the home. Using a single interface, homeowners can monitor their solar battery systems, smart meters, electric vehicles, and home energy usage. Quant Co. adds an AI layer to these energy management systems that autonomously learns consumers’ habits and adjusts energy consumption patterns for optimal performance taking into account energy prices, consumer preferences, and appliance needs.

The startup’s algorithms work with any home energy management system and can be deployed in minutes through an Application Programming Interface (API). Quant Co. has partnered with E.ON, one of the world’s largest electric utility service providers, to offer its services to E.ON’s global customer base. Headquartered in Boston, Quant Co. has offices in Berlin, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Zurich.

Founded in 2018, Gebze startup Bufalo Teknoloji has raised $125,000 to develop AI and signal processing algorithms for the technical analysis of currency pair trading. Technical analysis is a short-term investment approach that tries to predict future prices using past prices and volumes and chart patterns. Here’s an excellent example of a chart pattern from the lads over at Long or Short Capital:

The Bacterian Double Hump & Pump Formation

The Bacterian Double Hump & Pump Formation – Credit: Long or Short Capital

Bufalo offers investment opportunities in the form of five funds that trade EUR/USD, EUR/CHF, and EUR/GBP currency pairs. The company still operates under the radar with a handful of technical signals and a single contact email address displayed on their website. According to Crunchbase, the team’s ambition is to “grow into a large investment bank” which is a challenge considering that alpha-generation strategies tend to behave differently as they scale.

Click for company websiteOriginally founded in Istanbul in 2016, and more recently relocated to San Francisco, Ottoo has raised $120,000 to develop connected car solutions for the automotive and broader mobility industries. The company created algorithms that process behavioral, diagnostic, and contextual signals from cars in real-time, turning the output into value-added information for various stakeholders. Ottoo’s main product offerings include a personal car assistant for drivers and a fleet management product for logistic and rental companies. The company says, “Published metrics show 65% greater uptime versus unconnected fleet and 40% lower average repair time as well as 10% operating cost reduction and 10% lower service cost for connected fleets.” Ottoo also offers various software components “white-labeled” to automakers and parts manufacturers.

Click for company websiteFounded in 2013, Izmir startup Bilims has raised $100,000 to establish an industrial IoT R&D boutique. The company has five finished projects under their belt, and handles hardware and software design and cybersecurity development upon request.

Bilims offers hardware design, software design, and cybersecurity services to develop turkey industrial IoT solutions

Bilims offers clients all the necessary components of a turnkey industrial IoT solution – Credit: Bilims

Bilims has a handful of references in multiple industries: it helped develop self-driving logistics robots with level 4 autonomy, created a pedestrian tracking safety device for warehouses, and developed a traffic monitoring and auditing platform using machine vision. The team of 16 has their work cut out for them – according to their website, 20 more projects are in their pipeline at the moment.

All you MBAs reading this are probably chomping at the bit to point out the problem with this business model. It’s linear growth – double the team to double output. What we’ve noticed in this region of the world is that boutique consulting companies like this one often hustle to pay the bills and build experience while doing a variety of disparate consulting projects. When the time comes, they then “pivot” into something that more resembles a startup – a business model that shows the potential for exponential growth. Let’s see if Bilims follows suit.

Conclusion

In this article, we looked at startups that share many of the same characteristics seen in other startups in this region – small, nimble, with limited access to funding that are competing against well-funded startups in the developed markets by executing quickly and flawlessly. Turkish startups in this list have acquired big-name reference clients like E.ON, IKEA, Intel, and Coca Cola which are helping pay their bills as opposed to Softbank coming along and dropping a $100 million round on them – what CB Insights refers to as the Foie Gras’ing of startups.

To produce this list of the top 10 AI startups in Turkey objectively, we simply searched Crunchbase. As we’ve discovered many times in the past, Crunchbase oftentimes doesn’t get the job done because not all startups out there keep it updated. If you’re a founder who was too busy executing to properly list your Turkish AI startup in Crunchbase, don’t panic. Check out our article on Basic Public Relations for Startup Companies and drop us an email. The next time we’re in Istanbul, let’s grab a raki and have a chat.

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