Founded in 2017 by Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder of Chobani, one of America’s fastest-growing companies, the Hamdi Ulukaya Initiative brought together the entrepreneurship ecosystem to develop innovative and sustainable solutions that would facilitate people’s lives in the aftermath of earthquakes and contribute to disaster management.
During March 18th and 19th, the Hamdi Ulukaya Initiative organized two different programs to bring together the entrepreneurship ecosystem. On the first day of the program, Hamdi Ulukaya addressed the participants via live video connection while meeting with the startups they have been collaborating with since 2017.
During his speech, Hamdi Ulukaya acknowledged the shared grief that followed the major earthquake disaster Turkey faced. He extended his condolences to all participants who have relatives, family, or acquaintances in the earthquake-affected areas and expressed his wishes for patience to those who suffered losses.Emphasizing his belief in the transformative power of the private sector, Hamdi Ulukaya stated that he initiated the Hamdi Ulukaya Initiative in 2017 with the vision that businesses have the power to make society better. He emphasized that the most fundamental duty of the business world during such periods is to contribute to long-lasting solutions.
Highlighting that he does not only talk about providing financial assistance to those affected by disasters, but also about how the entrepreneurial world can rapidly generate solutions to new problems, Hamdi Ulukaya stated that entrepreneurship is an essential field for developing a sustainable development plan in disaster areas. He said, “The responsibility of a company or the business world is not just about making money by selling products and services. If you continue to create social benefits in times of difficulty, not only when the economy or your own performance is good, it means that it is ingrained in the DNA of your company. I believe that one of the most important features that distinguishes us from other programs is our giving back and anti-CEO culture. Therefore, together, we will add significant value to the definition of entrepreneurship in Turkey, and we will work together to provide the most sustainable solutions to this land and its people.”
Entrepreneurs Gathered for Disaster Management Projects
On the first day of the program, discussions were held on Future Innovation Trends, Public Support Mechanisms, Disaster Technologies, and Managing Startups in Post-Pandemic Ecosystems. These discussions involved the startups that the Hamdi Ulukaya Initiative has been collaborating with since 2017.
On the second day, a Disaster Workshop was conducted, moderated by Prof. Dr. Erhan Erkut, who is actively working on entrepreneurship and competency development in Turkey. Prof. Dr. Erkut shared what can be done with a focus on entrepreneurship for disaster management, drawing lessons from the earthquake centered in Kahramanmaraş and discussing what can be done in all stages of a disaster based on these lessons. In this gathering of startup founders and managers from all over Turkey, participants who are actively working in the earthquake-affected region shared the problems they encountered in the disaster area and presented project proposals for solutions.
During the Disaster Workshop, project proposals were not limited to the affected region only but included solutions that could be implemented in disasters worldwide. Participants voted on the project proposals and worked in teams to develop these projects.
Known for his healthy and accessible food brand Chobani in the United States, Hamdi Ulukaya also stands out for his social responsibility. After the earthquake centered in Kahramanmaraş, he took action in the business world by organizing donation campaigns for those affected by the earthquake. With the Hamdi Ulukaya Initiative, he aims to open doors to the world for young people and develop concepts such as social impact and anti-CEO culture in the entrepreneurship world. The Hamdi Ulukaya Initiative, which aims to elevate Turkish startups to a higher level, has shaped itself based on Hamdi Ulukaya’s mission to create global brands from every corner of Anatolia.
To date, the Hamdi Ulukaya Initiative has received a total of 99,692 applications, and a total of 282 entrepreneurs have received entrepreneurship support in Turkey and the United States, with 70% of them expanding globally. The supported startups have grown an average of 400%, with 70% of the participating companies starting to export and 26% establishing companies in the United States. The Hamdi Ulukaya Initiative grants everyone an equal right to dream, regardless of criteria such as foreign language skills or educational level, and places importance on having at least half of the participants being women. Hamdi Ulukaya aims to spread entrepreneurship to all of Anatolia through this project and foster entrepreneur leaders who are sensitive to social problems.