To Invest Time or to Invest Money?
You are an engineer, entrepreneur, and investor that has come back from the U.S.A to Turkey. By taking into these three titles consideration, what are the components that form Silicon Valley according to your opinion?
It is so hard to do the same as there. It is not just about there are Stanford or Berkeley Universities or the story of Venture Capital. There are many experienced people. However, I’ve never seen this anywhere in the world. There is a flexible culture in Silicon Valley. I mean, no matter where you come from. Nobody cares about if you are Chinese, Indian, religious, or nonbeliever. Be whatever you want to be. The only thing they care about is whether you succeed in your business. And people can go there easily and live their lives.
Palo Alto, like a Utopic Island
I consider it like this; there is a society created there in which different cultures and different communities exist together on a democratic basis. Like Utopia. You have a playground there that you can build and behave as you wish.
Absolutely. That’s why the most successful Indian, Chinese, or Turkish person wants to go there. And they become really successful when they go there. Then the most successful and the smartest people gather there. I mean, both San Francisco and Palo Alto are really utopic islands. All kinds of people have fun, do their business, and live there.
What are the things that excite you the most in terms of the innovations happening in both Turkey and the world recently?
It’s impossible not to realize the innovations that make everything upside down. These derive from the combination of different technologies. I mean, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Big Data, IoT, and so on! The dynamics that these create by getting together excite me and make me wonder, at the same time. For example, self-driving cars. The definition of a car is changing, and it brings new questions together with itself. Is there a need for buying a driverless car? Or should there be a parking space in a house? If it comes in 2 or 5 minutes and takes you after you call the car, why would we need a parking space? There is also the thing about energy. We won’t need fuel as we do now, everything will be done with electricity. For example, install a solar panel on your roof to charge your car. When a car is made in an electrical version, 75% of its pieces are removed. It will be much simpler in 10 years. When there are not these many mechanical pieces, there will be no need for car care services. Gas stations and car care services will no longer exist. Think about how the life of people will change. For example, it is thought that the first self-driving cars will be trucks in the U.S.A. The reason for it is this; these trucks already take highways and exits rarely. They go straight forward to a very long distance. If this is the simplest one and the first thing to change, there are 3 million people who are truck drivers in just the U.S.A, all of them will become unemployed.
Let’s talk about your title of angel investor. This is a very risky area. Its profit might be relatively lower. What is your motivation for this investment model?
At the very beginning, I consider whether I can invest time in the firm that I plan to make an investment in. As I told you before, entrepreneurs don’t know much about the development processes of a start-up. If there is something that I can help the entrepreneur and the entrepreneur accepts it, then I spend time and energy. Because it is not a thing that I can make the entrepreneur do by force. It’s a mutual thing. Give money, watch it remotely but do not communicate at all. It doesn’t work.
For angel investment and Venture Capital, they say the magical number is 18. That means you make 18 different investments, then a few of them become so successful. But the rest of them diminish. That does not satisfy me. I don’t like playing it statistically.
So, when you compare with the U.S.A, at which points does this investment model resemble the one in Turkey?
Angel investment is mostly seen in the seed stage. At the stage of Serie A, people usually do not do it, or only the really professional investors do. Most of the investors there are billionaires. They just say, “I will give 5 million for this.” They don’t need to hesitate taking risks, in fact. It is not like that here.
The angel investors in Turkey usually do not concern with the ones at the seed stage.
My experience in GBA lasted for only a year. What I saw is that we don’t invest at the seed stage. We generally invest when a start-up gains a certain amount of traction.
So, is this how it should be? What do you think about it?
I think we should look at the level of the seed to some extent because you contribute the most in that period.
Is there anything in this ecosystem that the majority think it’s true, but unlike the majority, you think the opposite?
I can say that entrepreneurship has been in fashion a little in Turkey. Sometimes, people can miss why and for what they are doing it or what their motivation is while doing it. I feel like now everyone wants to come to some meeting, do something about entrepreneurship. The number of people who can really help them is very low. The people guiding them are the minority.
Let’s talk about angel investment again. What do angel investors expect from the entrepreneur in your opinion?
I think everyone has different motivations and expectations regarding this. I’ve told you about my personal way of working. I pay attention to “Can I invest time?” more than to “Can I invest money?”. It’s easy to find the money. If you figure other issues out, finding money becomes much easier.
So, what do you think about the vision of Galata Business Angels regarding this? Let’s talk about it a little.
We are trying to ground the concept of “Smart Money”, but we are not smart money for now. But we may be in the future. I appreciate GBA in many aspects because it doesn’t have a mindset that progresses with pure money. In fact, an angel investor network shouldn’t be “pure money”. There is no other thing that is more wrong than asking for a financial statement from a new start-up. They can’t talk about certain numbers, because they can’t have them. Nobody knows about it. Okay, they can make suggestions, but they can’t fulfill them with numbers. And this is the risky part. We can’t certainly know what will happen, nobody knows. It’s not certain whether it will happen or not. I think it’s not right to have expectations like these at the very beginning. You can look at general things. How many people are there in Turkey regarding your target group? You can look at this. But you can’t know how many people there will be in which month while endorsing it. 50 things may go wrong. For example, you may fall behind for 3 months when there appears a problem with the product, there may be any problems in any stages of the process. I appreciate the vision of GBA regarding this.
Is there something that is not yet in the entrepreneurship ecosystem of Turkey, but you think it should be because if it is, its benefit for the ecosystem will be huge?
There are two things that I consider missing. The first one is that the number of experienced people here is very low. You can name just 6 or 7 people in the whole country. Or else, we will bring them back from the U.S.A, because there are many successful Turkish people. I don’t know how we will increase that number. Maybe, it is necessary to put some successful start-ups into play even if they haven’t exited yet. The second one is this; the number of Venture Capitals in Turkey is really limited. Not just about the funding, there are also problems with the vision. If there are this many investments, they need to quickly improve this concept of “Product/Market Fit” with the firms. Then when some of them are defined as “Product/Market Fit”, they need to get it scaled.