The Hamdi Ulukaya Initiative is an entrepreneur support program launched in 2017 by Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder and CEO of Chobani, one of the fastest-growing food companies of the last decade. The Initiative offers two programs for anyone who believes in their dreams:

The Startup Program helps startups founded in Turkey access global markets, and the Fellowship Program discovers young leaders from Turkey and encourages them to start their own businesses. As part of the yearlong program, participants attend trainings in Turkey and New York City at Chobani’s in-house Incubator and at New York University.

The Hamdi Ulukaya Initiative is founded on Hamdi Ulukaya’s vision that businesses have the power to transform societies in a positive way. The Initiative supports entrepreneurs who are interested not just in financial success, but also in improving social welfare as a whole.

Fellowship Program

The Fellowship Program invites young, prospective entrepreneurs from all over Turkey who want to become startup leaders.


48 fellows are invited to participate in the Goal-Setting Meeting, a 2-day long entrepreneurship boot camp in Istanbul.

After the conclusion of the Goal-Setting Meeting, 24 fellows out of 48 participants are selected to attend the New York Program.

Before traveling to New York, participants attend an Orientation session and are paired with a mentor who has experience with successful business initiatives in the United States. Participants and mentors work together for one year.

During the NY Program, participants attend applied workshops at Chobani, seminars at New York University and visit with successful companies across the city for two weeks.

At the Wrap-Up Meeting held in Turkey, fellows share their entrepreneurship journey and assess the extent to which they have met their initial goals.


Anyone who is a Turkish citizen and 18 years old or older can participate in the Hamdi Ulukaya Initiative programs.


Applicants go through a 4-stage evaluation process:

    All applications are evaluated with a unique algorithm designed to achieve an equal geographic representation from cities all over Turkey and create a gender balance.

    Next, the application is evaluated independently by two jury members based on the entrepreneurship and leadership attributes of the applicants and the uniqueness of the idea presented.

    After the jury evaluation, the highest-scoring applicants are invited to online interviews with the committee.

    In the last stage, HUG finalists meet in Istanbul for the Goal-Setting Meeting, a three-day boot camp program during which 24 participants of the New York program are selected.

  • Monthly scholarship for one year
  • All educational programming and visits
  • Incubator and company visits in NYC
  • Museum entries and cultural activities
  • Group meals
  • Accommodation and travel expenses
  • Passport and visa fees
  • Daily stipend during the New York program
  • Company founding support up to $1,000

Mentorship Support

  • Leaders from diverse fields provide mentorship to participants through small group discussions and Q&A sessions
  • Each participant is paired with a mentor who has experience with successful business initiatives in the United States

Goal-Setting Meeting

  • 48 finalists participate in a 3-day educational program in Istanbul, Turkey led by Dr. Erhan Erkut, Vice President of MEF University.
  • At the end of the Summit program, the HUG jury selects 24 fellows to attend the New York program.


  • Prior to the New York program, participants attend a 1-day orientation program in Istanbul and create their individual business canvasses and road maps.

New York University Seminars

  • Professional development seminars led by Dr. Selcuk Sirin are held at New York University
  • Company visits and cultural activities are organized throughout New York City

Chobani Company and Plant Visits

  • Participants meet with leaders at Chobani to learn about corporate affairs, sales, marketing, HR, and finance departments’ processes
  • Participants visit Chobani production facilities located in upstate New York to get a first-hand look at the growth and innovation that the company has gone through since its first day.

Wrap-Up Meeting

  • Six months after the New York program, participants meet for a final meeting in Turkey to assess their achievements and the goals they set at the beginning of the program
  • 5 October - 10 December 2018: Application Period for Fellowship and Startup Programs
  • 15 - 17 March 2019: Goal-Setting Meeting
  • 3 June 2019: Orientation
  • 3 - 16 June 2019: New York Program
  • 4 - 6 January 2020: Wrap-Up Meeting

Startup Program

Startup Program invites early-stage startup companies founded in Turkey that are interested in expanding to global markets.


Dedicated office space for startup team members at the Chobani Incubator located in New York City.

Opportunities for startup members to meet with top executives both at Chobani and other companies working specifically in their fields.

Participants pitch their companies to mentors and investors at the Demo Day held at Chobani.

Six months after the conclusion of the New York program, startups meet for a final boot camp in Turkey to assess their achievements and the goals they set at the beginning of the Program.


Founders and senior executives of startup companies can participate in the program. The company must be established in Turkey and have a product or service in the market.


Applicants go through a 4-stage evaluation process:

  • All applications are reviewed based on the selection criteria included above.
  • Next, applications are evaluated independently by two jury members based on the companies’ social impact and growth potential beyond Turkey.
  • After the jury evaluations, applicants obtaining the highest scores are invited to join online interviews with the committee.
  • In the last stage, finalists meet in Istanbul for a three-day long boot camp program during which 6 startups are selected to attend the New York Program.

Applicants go through a 4-stage evaluation process:

  • The accelerator program in Turkey and the U.S.
  • Incubator and company visits in NYC
  • Cultural activities
  • Accommodation and travel expenses
  • Group meals
  • Passport and visa fees
  • Daily stipend during the New York program
  • Company founding fees in the United States
  • 5 October - 10 December 2018: Fellow and Startup Programs Application Period
  • 15 - 17 March 2019: Goal-Setting Meeting
  • 3 June 2019: Orientation
  • 3 - 16 June 2019: New York Program
  • 4 - 6 January 2020: Wrap-Up Meeting

Startup in 2018

3D3 Technology

3D3 Technology is a technology company producing technological solutions for the future of education. 3D3 Technology aims to establish the necessary infrastructure services for STEM education in Turkey and surrounding countries.

Berk Giray, Founder

Tolga Giray, Founder

Website: 3d3teknoloji.com

Social Media Handles:






Biolive produces bioplastic granules from olive seeds that can be used in automotive, medical materials, kitchen appliances, and baby products. The bioplastic is recyclable, anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-carcinogenic.

Duygu Yılmaz, Founder

Website: biolivearge.com

Social Media Handles:




Çiftçiden Eve

Çiftçiden Eve is a marketplace platform bringing farmers and consumers together, providing consumers with natural and fresh products at reasonable prices and offering economic opportunities to farmers by shortening the journey of products from farms to table.

Uğur Mursaloğlu, Founder

Seçkin Arıkan,

Website: ciftcideneve.com

Social Media Handles:





Lazika is a startup producing high-quality Turkish tea and tea-based products. The founders aim to promote the world's top-quality Turkish tea while contributing to the region's tea economy.

Emre Erçin, Founder

Ayla Tutan, Director

Website: lazika.com.tr/

Social Media Handles:





MIPS Medical

MIPS Medical is a healthcare initiative that produces software-based medical devices. With the Home Sperm Tester, MIPS aims to make the sperm quality test easier and reduce fertility-related costs.

Şule Başarslan, Founder

Website: mipsmedical.com

Social Media Handles:




Solar Curtain

Solar Curtain produces photovoltaic curtains for houses, businesses and public buildings. These curtains help reduce carbon emissions by reducing electricity consumption. Solar Curtain aims to combine good design and clean technology.

Ahmet Fuat Yalçın, Founder

Website: yalcinenerji.com/

Social Media Handles:





Startup in 2017

Agrikey Biotechnology

Agrikey Biotechnology produces special plant nutrients and plant protection products to increase productivity using a specifically developed formula. The company exports the product to many countries including Vietnam, Romania and Morocco.

Atakan Atalay, Founder

Website: agrikey.com.tr/en

Social Media Handles:





E-Bursum is an online platform that connects individuals seeking scholarships with institutions that offer scholarships. E-Bursum, which has established official partnerships in France and in the United States, also developed a new scholarship system called Microfon by means of crowd funding.

Mesut Keskin, Founder

Ceyda Demirkurt, General Coordinator

Website: e-bursum.com

Social Media Handles:





Mediterien Deep

Mediterien Deep is an online retail brand of home textiles. Mediterien Deep produces high quality peshtemal and blankets in Turkey and sells home and hotel textile products in the United States and Canada.

Ece Demirpençe, Founder

Deniz Sezen Akgüngör, Founder

Website: mediteriendeep.com

Social Media Handles:






Otsimo is a mobile platform offering behavioral analysis games in order to provide free education to children with autism. With a total of 70,000 users, 30% of Otsimo’s users are from the United States and Canada. Otsimo aims to democratize education for children with autism all over the world through online education.

Hasan Zafer Elcik, Founder


Social Media Handles:






reflect is a sustainable textile brand that encourages meaningful consumption through fashion. reflect transforms the stories of people in need into sustainable clothing products. reflect created its sub-brand ‘reflect business’ in 2017 and implemented collaborations with eleven different organizations including the Tent Foundation, a partnership founded by Hamdi Ulukaya to mobilize the private sector to address the refugee crisis. Reflect launched its second collection in February 2018.

Ece Altunmaral, Founder

Edipcan Yıldız, Founder

Website: reflectstudio.co

Social Media Handles:





Unibble is a food-technology initiative that delivers natural, delicious and innovative snacks to consumers through an online subscription system. Unibble increased its sales by 5x in the last year, expanding sales channels by working with corporate companies.

Didem Bakır, Founder

Website: unibble.com






2017 Fellow Sevil Ike @ United Nations

2017 Fellow Sevil Ike attended the panel ‘Entrepreneur’s Journey to Advancing Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment’, on March 20, 2018 at the United Nations Women's Rights Commission. Sevil spoke about her entrepreneurship story and described her textile atelier where she supports women in Eastern Turkey. Through the atelier, Sevil offers local clothing products produced by women in Eastern Turkey to the world. Sevil dreams of contributing to a future where girls have the same educational rights as boys, where women can decide for themselves, where gender equality really exists. She plans to start many establishments in order to increase women’s role in the economic field, particularly in Eastern Turkey.


2018 startups pitched their companies to a group of 400 guests including investors, business professionals, and mentors at New York University on June 22, 2018.

Presenting companies: 3D3 Technology, Biolive, Ciftciden Eve, Lazika, MIPS, Solar Curtain

Launch Event

On November 15, 2017, the Hamdi Ulukaya Initiative hosted 500 guests consisting of leading entrepreneurs and academics at a launch event at New York University. The event included a panel titled ‘Sparking the Entrepreneurship Potential in Turkey’, followed by a fireside chat between Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani and New York University Professor Dr. Selcuk Sirin. “Entrepreneurs are always bothered by something. In the end, you have to listen and give credit to your own voice… then act,” Ulukaya said, encouraging young entrepreneurs to make an active beginning.

Tülin Erdem, New York University
Can Erbil, Boston College
Murat Emirdağ, M-Factory Ventures
Gül Bahtiyar, New York University
Cüneyt Özdemir, DIPNOT TV

Founder of Agrikey on FORBES

Atakan Atalay, the founder of Agrikey, was interviewed by Forbes in July 2017 about his startup and his experiences in the Hamdi Ulukaya Initiative. According to Atalay, the initiative not only reinforced his dream of turning his family firm into a global company, but also taught him a lesson beyond the development of his business skills. “We shouldn't only think about making profit, we should think about how to give back to society,” he told FORBES.

To read the story, please click on this link.

Hamdi Ulukaya

Hamdi Ulukaya is founder, Chairman and CEO of Chobani, LLC, one of the fastest growing food companies in the last decade and a pioneer for the natural food movement.

Raised in a dairy-farming family in a small village in eastern Turkey, Ulukaya launched Chobani in 2007 with the mission and vision of making better food more accessible. In less than five years, Chobani became the No. 1–selling Greek Yogurt brand in the U.S. with more than a billion dollars in annual sales. Earlier this year, Chobani was named by Fast Company as one of the 10 most innovative companies in the world, and number one in its Food and Social Good categories.

Ulukaya has always made helping people and having a positive impact on communities a priority for Chobani. From the beginning, the company has donated a portion of its profits to charitable causes, many of them in Idaho and New York where its products are made. A champion of reducing income and wealth inequality nationwide, Ulukaya advocated in support of a proposal to increase the minimum wage in New York that ultimately became law. In addition, last year Ulukaya announced a groundbreaking profit-sharing program for company’s 2,000 employees. He also took the rare step in manufacturing of instituting a six week, fully paid parental leave program for all of the company’s mothers and fathers.

In order to further expand on this mission, Ulukaya launched the Chobani Food Incubator in 2016 to mentor and support socially responsible food entrepreneurs and further deliver on the company’s mission to provide better food for more people. In 2017, he launched the Hamdi Ulukaya Initiative to train and support prospective entrepreneurs and startups coming out of Turkey.

Ulukaya founded the Tent Foundation to bring entrepreneurial approaches and creative solutions to help end the global refugee crisis. He also signed the Giving Pledge and committed the majority of his personal wealth to the cause. For these efforts, he was named an Eminent Advocate by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and received the United Nations Foundation Global Leadership Award, among other recognitions. In 2017, Ulukaya was named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World for his work around the refugee crisis and his innovative approach to business. That same year, he was named one of Forbes’ 100 Greatest Living Business Minds.


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