By Spyros Papavassiliou
Browsing through the website cyprusinno.com , it is hard to imagine that it is the work of just two people. Its design and breadth of ideas could easily have come from a team of 10. Yet the collaboration between Steven Stavrou and Burak Doluay has produced an elegantly-crafted website which, while only in its initial stages, has big aspirations.
CyprusInno is a bicommunal website in two ways: the first is that a Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot have collaborated to create it.
Born in the United States to a Greek Cypriot father, Stavrou is an MBA Fellow graduate of the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College. He is the founder of Idalion Ventures, a portfolio of websites related to sustainable tourism development, independent music, and global entrepreneurship that have totalled over 1,500,000+ unique visits.
He is also a digital health strategist who currently helps run a medical website training online cardiologists from all over the world as part of a research institution studying new devices and drugs to treat patients with heart disease. He has also consulted for the United Nations on healthcare innovation in Africa.
Doluay is in his final semester as an International Business Management student. He is the first Cypriot to attend the US Department of State Programme SUSI on Social Entrepreneurship for Student Leaders from Europe.
He created the Investinnation Cyprus group, which is the first startup community in the northern part of Cyprus to gather individuals interested in entrepreneurship and startups. He has been involved in volunteer work in various organisations, mainly in Rotaract/Rotary Clubs, and has led and participated in more than 15 international and local projects.
The second way in which the website is bicommunal is in how it seeks to map startups across the island, both north and south, and bring together entrepreneurs from both communities.
Entrepreneurs, employment seekers, advisors, investors, can all sign up, create a profile and connect with each other based on what they are looking for (co-founders, a company to invest in, a job, etc.).
The website also hosts the largest and most comprehensive map of startups in Cyprus, and is the first and only database to be inclusive of both north and south-based startups.
“Registration is not restricted to entrepreneurs and startups in Cyprus, but we also welcome investors who may be interested in seeing what type of innovation is happening in Cyprus, to hopefully encourage that dialogue and communication and, hopefully, encourage some foreign direct investment,” Stavrou says.
Among the website’s many features is a jobs board in which startups and companies can post job openings. In addition, there is an interesting feature titled “Challenges”. The idea behind this is that users can post problems needing a solution, and thereby give an opportunity for dialogue on the topic, in the hope of finding solutions.
But why did they choose entrepreneurship as the suitable avenue towards bicommunal cooperation and peace?
“We believe entrepreneurs are the ones who don’t follow the road. They always find their own way … It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, if you want to build peace you will use an entrepreneurial mindset to do so,” says Doluay.
“Political agreements are mostly based on economics. If we create these economic bonds between each other personally, we’re going to make it easier for leaders to prepare these kinds of relations in the future as well,” he adds.
As for what’s next, Stavrou says: “We want to keep growing, we want to keep adding startups as they pop up. We want to grow the jobs board, because we think that’s an important avenue, and keep developing the challenges board.”
In addition, Stavrou explains that the team want to keep growing their member base. “It’s bigger than we thought, but we think we can keep going and add investors to our member base. Because bringing foreign direct investment to Cyprus to fund these startups is one of the most important resources that we can give.”
Finally, the duo is considering the possibility of offering online training through the website. The plan is to have business leaders from abroad provide mentorship to startups in Cyprus and help them grow.
It certainly sounds idealistic- the idea that you can strive for peace through entrepreneurship, yet Stavrou and Doluay have turned the idea into practice. How far this committed pair can go, remains to be seen.
“The premise of entrepreneurial capital and economic opportunity as peace building mechanisms is something we want to build this platform on. Business brings people together; economic opportunity brings people together; job creation brings people together,” Stavrou says.