Interview with Burak Berk Doluay, the co-founder of CyprusInno who is participating in Cyprus Forum
What does young entrepreneurship look like in Cyprus today? What needs to change?
Entrepreneurship in Cyprus is growing at a slow but steady pace. More young people are choosing entrepreneurship as a career opportunity either due to a regular career options looking too old fashioned or simply out of necessity. In the last three years, there has been a huge increase in social entrepreneurship activities.
Youth are becoming more socially conscious and most of them are starting their own social enterprises to tackle these issues.
To identify challenges, it is necessary to differentiate each type of entrepreneurial activity. I often divide them into three: traditional entrepreneurship, high tech entrepreneurship (start-ups) and social entrepreneurship.
Each of these will also have different challenges based on which area they provide product/services in. But one common challenge applicable to all types of entrepreneurial activity is lack of strategic planning, critical thinking, and project management skills amongst most of the young entrepreneurs.
Lack of these makes it extremely difficult for them to grow and sustain their businesses. We need more training in these fields, starting at a very early age.
What led to the creation of CyprusInno? What is its mission?
CyprusInno is an award-winning social venture working towards building an island-wide entrepreneurial ecosystem in Cyprus via a hybrid platform of digital tools and live events. CyprusInno also operates The Base by CyprusInno, the world’s first Social Impact Generator™.
This is a unique physical space combining the elements of a coworking space, accelerator/incubator, innovation centre, and multimedia studio – all located in the Nicosia buffer zone.
Our mission is to provide tools and resources for Cypriot entrepreneurs (and other Cyprus-based innovators) to help them collaborate, grow, network and share knowledge without borders to lead the social and economic development of the island.
What led to creation of CyprusInno was the belief that business collaborations need trust and continuous dialogue with your partners. Using entrepreneurship to create joint businesses or partnerships lead to creating more trust and dialogue and as a result, help build sustainable peace.
This was the exact idea both Steven Stavrou and I were working on in 2016 simultaneously. Steven found me through an article while he was searching about entrepreneurial activities in the Turkish Cypriot community. He emailed me and we started building CyprusInno remotely because Steven was based in New York and I was based in Kyrenia.
We tested the idea of bringing people together through entrepreneurship at our first physical event back in December 2016 and since then we are continuously providing different physical and digital tools to help people connect, create businesses and create partnerships.
On the title of your panel, ‘Peacekeeping through entrepreneurship’, can inter-communal cooperation in entrepreneurship have a knock-on effect on other aspects of how the Greek -and-Turkish Cypriot communities interact?
Absolutely! Again it’s the same idea that business partnerships will create continuous dialogue and trust in general, which are essential for building sustainable peace. Economic integration or at least increased economic collaboration at all levels prior to a solution will not only help pave the way for a faster adaptation to a solution but it will continuously help the communities have better communication, understand each other more, build trust and prevent any future conflict because of economic dependencies on each other.
How important is it for the two communities to come together?
It is extremely important for the two communities to learn about the similarities that each community has and of equal importance to learn about the differences in order to understand and tolerate. Unfortunately we repeat the same mistake by forgetting that we are living in global societies and we need to find ways to bring all communities in Cyprus together rather than focusing on the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities only.
What will the discussion cover?
The discussion will be about the “Economics of Cyprus’ Peacebuilding” from the perspectives and experiences of entrepreneurs, policy makers, researchers and creatives.
How can entrepreneurial practices fit into the forum’s long-term vision of promoting and improving sustainable and socially responsible policies in Cyprus and the wider Eastern Mediterranean region?
Looking at entrepreneurial practices to use in policymaking would be to think of the policy as the product and the society as the user. A realistic vision needs to understand the societies, their needs and of course their ability to use/apply these policies. Cyprus being a small Island has a great potential to serve as a testing ground to test these policies and share them later with the wider Eastern Mediterranean region.
The Cyprus Forum panel will be moderated by Argyro Nicolaou, writer, filmmaker, lecturer, Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies, Princeton University. Speakers will be Elizabeth Spehar – Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Cyprus and head of Unficyp; Deputy Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus; Natasha Rovo, economist, World Bank; Burak Berk Doluay, co-founder, CyprusInno; Hasan Siber, founder and CEO, Colive (TBC); Sholeh Zahraei, artist, Lupa Pictures, and Charis Psaltis, associate professor of Social and Developmental Psychology, University of Cyprus
For more information, contact Cyprus Forum: