It has been 2 years since you went into the entrepreneurship ecosystem from corporate. First of all, as someone who entered into entrepreneurship from corporate life, could you tell what this business model contributes to the person?
I think there is something in corporate that every entrepreneur should experience. That is; every start-up becomes an institution after a while anyway. To get that institution culture beforehand is a big plus. At least, they know the system of “How can I do this?”. This can be an internship or working for one or years to learn well. What I see in the new generation is that the story of laddering with patience is changing a little bit. They don’t want this. And the institutions will make radical changes, indeed, they are making now. We saw its first example in Microsoft. Suddenly, many departments in Microsoft were closed or changed. New people came to new departments. So, there is a structure that will satisfy the new generation. As I said, a big institution has great contributions in terms of its working in the short-term. It is a professional attitude and contributes to culture. Someone who starts to work in corporate first can maintain this culture in other corporate companies or when they found their own business, they can apply the culture they got in corporate to it.
We see that this “Generation Y” does not prefer this working model and rules and the corporate business models are experiences some halts. What might be the reason in your opinion?
I think the reasons for this are these; there is an “entrepreneurship dream” created by the media. It is not like that only in Turkey, it is like this in the whole world as well. There have been sayings for a long time such as “be free”, “be yourself”, “discover yourself” etc. I think it all started with “Carpe Diem”. It came to the point that “Everyone can succeed but you have to find the right method.”. It has become that who will be the workers if everyone succeeds if everyone is free if everyone becomes the manager of their own lives. While one of the pioneers of personal development, Dale Carnegie, was saying “no matter what your job is, be the best in your own business”, there have been attitudes such as “Everyone succeeded, you can too.” We are facing the sayings attracting everyone to the same place. But there is such a situation. Thanks to this area, everyone in the world got closer to each other, resembled each other and things got easier. I think if this success culture hadn’t been there, companies such as Uber or Airbnb would not exist now.
On the other hand, the needs of institutions for workers aren’t met in this kind of idea. It is necessary for the system to work, of course. They have difficulties in finding them, and they will.
“Popular Entrepreneurs are the Rock Stars of This Period”
Besides, we see so many people who want to found their own business by deciding to quit corporate life. We see these profiles in GBA, as well. What kind of a period will there be as a consequence of this change in Turkey?
Entrepreneurship is marketed well. With the exits such as Yemek Sepeti, Gittigidiyor, the investments appealing to us, it has become a sector we are chasing and excites us. As I said, the general trend in the world is like this and had a role in this. I graduated in 2015. There wasn’t a course for entrepreneurship back then. We had a course about leadership, but it was already part of the company culture. Now, very basic features such as entrepreneurship, creative thinking, team building are taught under the title of entrepreneurship culture. The system already trains people before graduating. This culture affected the curricula in universities, and these curricula shape the students. Also, there is a parallel thing going on called “the marketing of entrepreneurship”. We’ve all watched a movie about Facebook. We’ve watched the documents about Steve Jobs. How English Rock Music had an impact on the whole world in the 60s and 70s, today’s entrepreneurs are the rock stars of this era, or how Kurt Cobain and Freddie Mercury glowed up in that period, the entrepreneurs are doing so today. I think it is how it works in Turkish society; we are already a society full of people who want to found their own business. This has been like this for a long time. Not technological start-ups, but it has been going on saying “Let me open a new café”, now it is at the level of technological start-ups. Cafés became applications, in a sense.
“What Do I Want to Do”
Some of the people in generation X are afraid of taking risks and they can’t take actions somehow even if they think of something. In what stages or circumstances does someone take risks or in what situation, you say, “you’d better not to attempt to do this”? How should people decide before taking action?
This the most important question to ask and the most difficult one to answer! Not only for me, actually, but it is also like this for everyone. If you ask me why the generation X is afraid of taking risks, I think the reason for this is about the traditional concepts like dependence on family. This generation has attitudes such as “Let me do the best that I can so that my family proud of me in a sense”. And this generation was progressing thinking about how they can progress better in the scale of these clichés instead of removing them. The chance of generation X was this: there were many companies at the level of funding, and this little boy was promoted so easily in these new companies. I think they got satisfied at that period. An economical environment that we couldn’t imagine was created with “the Ozal Economy”. There were sales booms, these paved the way for the new start-ups, someone starting to work as a salesman could be the general manager assistant for sales in one or two years. The organization was small, and things grew so fast at the same time, so especially generation X were satisfied by this model, however, it is not the case for generation Y today.
Generation Y is more enterprising, braver but most of the time, they are “too brave”. And if you ask me when they should attempt to do this: my personal opinion is this; it is necessary to know yourself. You need to start with “What do you want to do?”. What I want to do, what I can do, and what I need first for the things I want to do. It is necessary to write the answers to these questions one by one. “Is this job suitable for me, or not?”, “Will I be happy if I do this?”. When I ask the question that “Why do you want to do this?” to many entrepreneurs, I get the answer that is “money” from some of them. If money is your answer, entrepreneurship is not what you actually want.
How can people that got used to a certain regularity adapt to multitasking thinking, working, or thinking fast or the uncertainty most of the time that is in the nature of entrepreneurship?
You need a steppingstone to switch into this structure from that one. Let’s say the first rule of this for the ones coming from corporate life is to try the “intrapreneurship”. This might be anything. A project, a club. The important thing here is to challenge the system. To challenge the bureaucratic system working slowly by jumping the steps there and make quick decisions with the head. Let’s see whether it is suitable for you or not and how much you will believe this system. You can get to the stage of a start-up when you say “Yes, this system is smart.” at the time when you take the road, but the rules you learn in corporate life teach you to set up control mechanisms for the start-up. So, it is a total hybrid model, the ideal entrepreneurship mindset.
How do people with corporate backgrounds contribute to or affect the entrepreneurship ecosystem in your opinion?
Start-ups, based on growing so fast and dominating the sector, are very risky but have high potential, are the institutions that are very risky but have high potential. What differentiates them from SMEs is that when you found SME, it can grow slowly. It is off its own bat, as they say. In order for the start-up to grow so fast, the entrepreneur should have some characteristics; being visionary, building a good team, being curious, and so on, but after a while, they need order. The ones who have worked in corporate companies should get into the start-ups at the stage of growing if they get bored of their own companies, if they want to have an important role in the growth of a company and if they come with an attitude with which they can apply the behaviors they gained in corporate to the start-ups at its maximum level. I think this is the biggest impact they can do. They can do this as a founder too. We see the successful entrepreneurs who worked in corporate but if we talk about in general, they can get more unworldly satisfaction by getting themselves integrated into these small structures after leaving those big companies. And they make their own ways of career by becoming a part of a growing thing. In the U.S.A, institutions such as Facebook or Twitter take the senior managers from the big companies and enable the scale-up.
The generation Y and especially the generation Z are more eager regarding this. What are their advantages and disadvantages in these areas?
The population you mentioned graduated from the university or is about to graduate. So, the biggest advantage of an entrepreneur with a degree is to run a business without earning money for a long time. Let’s look at Turkish society especially. The people in this profile don’t need much, they don’t have a house or a car, they live with their families, so it is a perfect time to try something. When I look at my own past, the time when I didn’t have any courage to do this is the time when I was studying in the university or the two years after I graduated. Because it is easier even if the entrepreneur can’t succeed, they are not married, they don’t have the bills to pay, etc. The disadvantage of generation Z is that they may get tired of making it institutional while it is growing because they don’t know how to. But it’s not the end of the world, they can figure it out easily.
A New Generation After Generation Y: “Gen Z”
This question is related to the previous one, most of the time, we try to attempt to do something quickly instead of gaining experience. How much is it true in this economical and competitive environment?
We’ve seen important start-ups from both sides. There are successful profiles among the ones that graduated from university and started a business, and also the successful ones after gaining experience in corporate life. In my opinion, the ones, which gained experience in corporate and founded a start-up and brought it down or sold it, are more successful than the entrepreneurs that founded their first start-ups. I mean the ones starting with experience are more advantageous than the ones coming from nothing. At the least, the possibility for them to succeed is higher. I suggest them to gain experience in the works that they can like the entrepreneurship. What I observe in the world is that everyone tries to work in a technological company first, as far as I know. They can start their own business after this culture there.
How do you define and understand an entrepreneur or a prospective entrepreneur? There have been so many profiles that you have seen so far. What can you say by taking these profiles and your observations into consideration?
Technically speaking, the best thing an entrepreneur should do is to be a good leader and build a good team. It is teamwork, after all. The second thing is to know themselves. To be able to answer the questions that “What can I do and what can’t I do?”
“And other essential things”
Entrepreneurship is not a place where arrogance and narcissism exist and are accepted. The thing most of the people that went to the U.S.A realizes is the humbleness of the successful entrepreneurs there. You can talk with them easily; they are interested in talking with you.
The essence of creating a new idea comes from being curious. Curiosity did not kill the cat, indeed, it makes it generate new ideas. I can’t say that we are a curious society. And we don’t know how to wonder, even if we do, we don’t know what to do. I know that most of the entrepreneurs don’t read the books I recommended. I remember well that one of them said “Let me not read it, I don’t have that much time, tell me what it is about.”. By taking this example and the ones like these into consideration, we don’t improve ourselves culturally. Curiosity is a must for this. Because we are living in an environment that constantly develops and changes.
You need to know well your customer, investor, teammate, and the people around you. And your chance to be successful increases so much if you put yourself in their shoes by going further. Maybe, the most challenging thing to apply among all the things I’ve mentioned.
Being a person focusing on winning
You need to improve it instead of saying “I won, it’s done!”. We can simply call it “the hunger for success”. An entrepreneur or a prospective one has to be able to preserve that hunger for a long time. You will get what I wanted to say if you think of Elon Musk.
Can someone get the characteristics of an entrepreneur afterward?
Let’s talk about it on the basis of Europe since you know they’re better. When you compare these places to the entrepreneurship society in Turkey, what kinds of differences and similarities have you observed in terms of profiles? What might be the reasons?
Let me give an example from Italy that I’ve seen recently. Turkish start-ups are way better than Italian ones. In my opinion, Italian people are very successful in mechanics and concrete works, but they will never progress like Turkish start-ups do because they don’t understand abstract things like service. So, the Turkish marketplace and Turkish B2B SAS platforms will always be better than the Italian companies. And there is such thing, good start-ups attract money, of course. In countries such as England, France, and Spain, the sources are a lot, so the number of start-ups is higher.
Since the start-ups in the countries that I mentioned are more in number so there are more qualified entrepreneurs among them.
Do you have any observations regarding the profiles of the entrepreneurs?
I think the characteristic of an entrepreneur is the same everywhere. I mean, we say “wow” for every entrepreneur’s story. There is a profile who does something different, but of course, some of the societies help the entrepreneur more. So, instead of the profile of the entrepreneur, let’s talk about society’s point of view. One of the things that impressed me is this; There are a lot of boutiques in Barcelona. These small boutiques are still there although there are big companies such as Zara, Mango, Massimo Dutti based on Barcelona. The reason for this is this, the society supports these small boutiques. They shop from them instead of the great brands. Because they know the owners directly and can empathize with them.
This mentality supports those start-ups. Think about an institution that does everything new it wants to do or the project it wants to improve with the start-ups under the age of 3-year-old. Do we have such a culture? We don’t, now. I have seen this in Spain and in Europe. They support entrepreneurs more in this sense. And a friend of mine who studied there said this; if you try something there, the first thing they will say to you is “Well done.” even if you succeed or fail. They start talking in this way before criticizing. It is also a very courageous situation. Unfortunately, we don’t have this either. When we look at the other side, we are so lucky when compared to most of the countries, especially the ones in Eastern Europe, because we have a large marketplace. Our marketplace is enough to test the product. We are lucky in this sense.
We can say that entrepreneurship has been democratized with the new investment models and opportunities. It is a very important development, especially for Turkey. People from various ranks, ages, and statuses can be entrepreneurs, the number of opportunities, help, and supports has increased. Are there any advantages and disadvantages of being more accessible to this area? What might be these?
In my opinion, the advantage is this; a crawling start-up can find an investment more quickly. Let’s look at this from the other side, there are lots of sources online. There are lots of events happening. You can learn what you wonder from the events that the questions ranging from “What is a start-up?” to “How should a start-up be?” are answered. The one who seeks this environment finds it. People see that you can make money off being an investor, there are founding lots of funds. The number of entrepreneurs who have seen this is increasing and will do so. Maybe the current funds will earn more when the number of entrepreneurs increases. So, there will be new funds. After all, this ecosystem will grow by supporting each other.
What are the mission and attitude of GBA regarding this? What do you think about the future of GBA?
GBA is a network with a determined mission. If we can get the successful start-ups and the professional managers with distinctive skills in their sectors together and make them come out of Turkey, we are dreaming of making one of them a unicorn. Of course, it’s a symbolic goal. Maybe unicorns won’t be talked about in 3 years, but what we want to say is to both establish the angel investor culture in Turkey and train the start-ups that we will meet as much as possible. This is our vision. While becoming one of the first stakeholders of this ecosystem in 2011, we started this journey with the idea that “This ecosystem must develop, why wouldn’t it become so, we did it, why wouldn’t others do?”. The flag we are carrying is so meaningful, in my opinion. When one of the entrepreneurs will talk about GBA in their story of success, its satisfaction will be invaluable for all of us.
You’ve mentioned the mentorship and training that GBA provides, what are those?
I am saying this in two meanings. One of them is the mentorship that includes suggestions like “Look, you have to do these in order to get investment in the next round.” For the people that get investment from us. The other one is what we call “Mentor Clinic”. We bring pioneer investors together in a hall and prospective entrepreneurs can tell their ideas all day and receive feedback from the mentors. Apart from that, we provide free lessons to people to extend their visions called “GBA Ready Set Start-up”.
How do angel investors impact the Turkish entrepreneurship ecosystem? Do people know about this term? Should everyone know about it?
In a sense, I think everyone should know about it. Because the world is going this way. The state mechanism is gradually weakening all around the world. The companies that will create employment will be among the start-ups. Big companies are living their efficiency periods. They are trying to decrease the number of their current employees. On the other hand, there is a need for start-ups that will emerge and employ more people. Someone should support these start-ups. They should succeed somehow. The angel investors are proud of doing so. Apart from this, we will need crowdfunding. Everyone will want to invest a small part of their money in the small companies thinking what if it succeeds. So, after a point, we will be saying “There is a new company, I wonder how it will go on.” as the society.
So, what does the media need to do in order to achieve this? Should the media take more responsibilities? What do you think about this term to get more accessible?
We come across time to time that there are TV programs regarding this. There are full pages of investment news in the newspapers. The media is trying to keep people up to date about these issues. Maybe, they must be in every newspaper to reach a larger crowd but there is such a thing which is a trend. I believe that this should grow organically instead of making people force. I feel like we don’t have many places in the media since we progress slowly as the ecosystem. For example, if 4 start-ups were sold like Yemek Sepeti was, this would attract the media’s attention. It is not true to blame only the media at this stage.