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Why This Turkish AI Startup Wanted in on Ann Arbor’s Tech Scene

Why This Turkish AI Startup Wanted in on Ann Arbor’s Tech Scene
Why This Turkish AI Startup Wanted in on Ann Arbor’s Tech Scene

Picking up your operations and leaving your home country for another city isn’t a move many make. But for brothers Aykan and Çağkan Ekici, the move made perfect sense. 

They co-founded Khenda in Turkey in 2021 to help manufacturing plants improve productivity, increase efficiency, and empower engineering teams.

“The core of our technology is AI-based. We automatically extract the cycle time data that engineers need. The platform visualizes it and highlights areas of improvement for engineers,” says Aykan. “That way, engineers can spend their time on valuable decision making instead of data collection and analysis.”

Aykan and Çağkan have a long history of building solutions for manufacturing. In 2011, Çağkan built his first company, which developed computer vision solutions for manufacturing processes. Aykan eventually joined the company, and they began doing research and development in the AI space. 

“We realized we could solve a huge problem, and Khenda was born,” says Aykan. 

The company raised a pre-seed investment round in Turkey and an additional round about a year ago. Earlier this spring, they moved their headquarters to Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

As Aykan and Çağkan continued to grow Khenda, they wanted to tap into a global market. They found that in Michigan.

live in michigan - ann arbor

“Michigan has a huge industrial background,” says Aykan. The two did some research about technology and industry development in Michigan, found accelerators and organizations related to Industry 4.0, and got connected with organizations that could make the move easier. 

“We knew we needed a network that would support us, and we’ve found that in Ann Arbor,” Aykan says. 

One of those instrumental organizations has been Ann Arbor SPARK. Khenda has set up a virtual desk at Ann Arbor SPARK, and the organization has played a crucial role in helping Aykan and Çağkan make strategic contacts to support their establishment and growth goals in the new location.

“SPARK is great about supporting you with all of your needs,” says Aykan. “We knew we had to be in Ann Arbor because it was the way to continue our road map to growth. The industry is here.”


khenda event

Southeast Michigan’s Global Tech Hub

Just as Aykan and Çağkan said, Michigan is known for its industry. It has a rich history of innovation, being the birthplace of the automotive industry and so much more. Recently, Michigan has exploded as a tech hub for mobility development — including EV, autonomy, and next-generation mobility — as well as semiconductor manufacturing, healthtech innovations, and environmental research. Many major tech companies come to Michigan to work with the leaders in these industries. 

“People are very well connected and it’s so easy to meet the people who are legends in our industry. We can really build a strong network here and have a chance to talk with leaders and share ideas,” Aykan says.

In addition, Michigan is home to some of the top engineering schools in the country. In Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan attracts and nurtures top talent with an engineering school ranked #7 in the nation. 

“The University of Michigan brings a lot of talent in the AI field,” says Çağkan. He also noted that there’s many resources and support to help startups get funding. 

More than that though, Çağkan and Aykan have found Ann Arbor to be an incredible place to live. 

“Ann Arbor is a very beautiful city and one of the core reasons why we’re here,” Çağkan adds. “It’s very easy to go anywhere in ten minutes, and there’s no parking or traffic issues.”

Ann Arbor consistently ranks as one of the best places to live not just in Michigan or the Midwest, but in the entire country. 

As Aykan and Çağkan continue to scale and grow Khenda’s footprint in North America, they plan to hire more and grow their team in Ann Arbor, look into another venture round, and build a strong community for continuous improvement engineers. They believe that continuous improvement is the most important culture in industrial manufacturing, and they want to support and develop a community of continuous improvement engineers through events and programming. 

Be on the lookout for events and opportunities with Khenda in Ann Arbor!


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