Hande Enes, Engin Group Consortium Board Member, Angel Investor. Series of interviews with investors in Turkiye n°17.

I had no idea who Hande Enes was while full-time active in the startup scene since 2013 in Türkiye. A bit surprising, although I heard of a mysterious lady active in Istanbul Business Angels. IBA I know and they have been active in last years in pre-seed and seed investments. While doing research I found out Hande is a man and a woman. There are 2 profiles on Crunchbase with slightly different information, especially where you see the photo and the wrong sex. Who did this anyway? I also realised before and after the interview that Hande is only using Linkedin and no activity on other social media platforms. Might be an idea to Google “Hande Enes” herself and see what comes up, so some corrections can be made to have a better idea of this professional Angel Investor and board member of Engin Group. It is very rare that a person reacts immediately on a message through Linkedin and absolutely wants to be on time for the meeting. Which she did. No better place than Joint Idea to meet and talk, thank you Marcus and Eda.

Together with her brother and sister, Hande is the 2nd generation in the family business that started in Türkmenistan with a cotton manufacturing company, today a Conglomerate focused on Textile, Energy and Real Estate under the name Engin Group. Hande, her sister and brother describe themselves as captains, acting as optimisation coaches for the several companies. When I looked at the map that you can find on the Engin Group website you will understand what an amazing job this family did. Hande has as a mission to scale up parts of the company by disrupting processes and the way she is doing this, is by being active in the startup scene and invest in tech-based projects in an early stage. The fact that a family business decides this, is already disruptive and they didn’t start yet in the CVC direction. Hande prefers to keep a very holistic view on what is going on in the industry. Her role is to find and invest in tech startups at an early stage. The aimed result is to differentiate in products, increase efficiency and optimize processes. No doubt that there is also the financial side where a good exit multiple is just as important. This strategy is part of the digital transformation that the group is undergoing. The family itself is Istanbul-based and the Textile business mainly in Türkmenistan.

Hande finished the full Koç catalogue in terms of schooling, Koç School (Lisesi) and University, Business Administration. Apart from being one of the best schools in Türkiye, fluent English is an important side result. This period was combined with a continues link, and being present, in the business of her father. As she stated, there was a chair in the meeting room waiting for her from early on and she was aware of it. In this sense, she was coached with that mentality since childhood, entrepreneurship and business sense were her natural habitat. University was followed by working for 2 years in the US. Yes. Work. Once back in Türkiye and after the board decided to follow the road of investing in startups, Hande entered first as an LP in European funds. Great way to learn, create the network and become experienced. Slowly she started to create her own portfolio in Turkiye by investing with other Angel Investors. The result today is that she combines lead investments and co-investments, but totally independent. Hande’s criteria to invest are quite straightforward. A manageable team, tech-based and KPI based. It can be an investment as a bridge to a bigger deal, a co-investor or a lead and taking all the risk. The interesting point is that she is very keen on a manageable or rather a coachable team. All other criteria we can assume. Combined with the KPIs, it is clear that Hande is an engaged investor with a close follow up. This means also that she needs to like them because I do not believe it would work otherwise. She co-invests with any Angel Investors, we have 16 Angel Networks in Türkiye, while Hande also became an LP in the second 500Startups Istanbul fund. The ticket size varies from 100.000 to 500.000 USD in seed and pre A round.

When I point to her that despite 16 networks the numbers of investments and the height of investments are rather low compared to Europe and the US she states that in Türkiye we are still on a learning path. Coming back to the how and why to invest, Hande points again out on her view towards the rational through math. KPIs are written in numbers so she is very keen on this. Hence her decision to write her own software to follow up on the startups. No Gust or F6S or Capshare. She likes to understand the dream of the startup, what I would refer to as the emphatic view and how it translates into numbers, the rational view. Here again, I hear coachable as a criteria to invest, combined with honesty. Hande does not believe in the perfect team. Turkish startups are in majority young, in age and/or experience. There is no specific domain targeted. She likes startups that explore the, what she calls, idle capacity in the market referring to AirBnB and Uber. Change the existing business model with the use of tech. Going from offline to online is not a tech company, adding tech as an extra topping. Before she decides to invest there is an intensive dig deep period so she fully understands the potential. The result is 24 investments in 6 years and 5 highly rated in the pipeline. Busy lady when you understand that she spends 1.5 hour week per startup. That is already a quasi fulltime and on top the face-to-face meetings and presence on meetups, where I see her more and more on stage.

Already from the beginning, I sensed that Hande is very diplomatic and prefers the work of the director and not from the lead actor in a movie. This is great of course, I think, but being rather outspoken myself I was from time to time hungry for a statement. That didn’t come. As such, no issue but I did see that the pragmatic approach was also carried in parallel with an emphatic one, so that made me more at ease. In that sense, it was hard to understand who she likes or not likes as investors or startups but we did come to a mutual understanding that Hasan Aslanoba was a blessing for the ecosystem. When he opened his briefcase a couple of years ago he showed how to invest fast and a lot, for Türkish standards. This way he learned a lot too, but most of all it changed the dynamics. A great example was Insider, where Sequoia India invested for 11 million dollars in 2018 after Hasan.

Hande considers herself as part of the second generation investors in Türkiye after a wave of investors that got exits from the early days’ startups like Gittigediyor, Trendyol, Markafoni, Ciceksepeti and Peak Games to name a few. Thanks to her free role in the company she can work fulltime on the company’s’ quest and she gets assistance and insides from the right person for the right topic and pays per hour for this consultancy. No free mentoring here, as I stated already, Hande prefers a professional environment. In the meantime, she has built up a reputation so she is in a situation of pull as well from startups as from colleagues investors. This means every day Hande gets emails leaving her to the task if there is a product/market fit and follow up where she sees potential. The exit strategy is not like precisely defined but Hande takes 8 years as a benchmark without being written in stone. The proof is in the pudding. She already has one exit, FriendlyData. As it was hard to break through the diplomatic shield, she appreciates everything and anything in the startup ecosystem as being young and learning but still operating in a very independent way. I described her as the “Smart Anarchist”. She smiled and didn’t deny. Definitely as important is that Hande at no point raised her finger towards too many men, or men’s world, “hard for a woman” statements. And this is outside the shield, it was just obvious. On the other hand, we agreed that Türkiye has a huge potential, as a country and as a centre of the region.
Webrazzi was shortly mentioned as I was questioning the tech-based startups’ investments focus missing here. Hande invested 250.000 USD for 1.66% of shares so that makes a nice validation for a news website and event organiser. In her view this makes part of her 360 approach, helping to add extra info on startups for her pipeline and understanding new business models that are out of the normal industrial scope. Challenging in my opinion but definitely great to extend the network and a peep behind the curtains. Or is she thinking in the direction of the FT buying TNW?

We also discussed the lack of funds as most investments in Türkiye are still personal with the lack of a professional team for assessment and management. Hande can see this as a potential next step in what she is doing now, definitely not excluding it. She referred to 500Istanbul where she pitched in as an LP. We both like this amazing team, but that on a side note.

Touching the private life was pretty predictable. No comment. Be aware, Hande is a very nice person but it is clear that this family and the business are based on modesty and professionalism. When I looked at the website, dug Linkedin, Facebook and any search result, you could not find names nor pictures. You can call it old style, today there is way more personal exposure (including myself), but apparently it works. Too.
Happiness levels are the final subject but as you can imagine, a blurred line between private and business. The seat was ready when she was very young and she took that seat, occupies it with heart and soul. That needs no explanation. I am sure her parents were very clear about the values of life. Hande wants to make others happy as that reflects her own happiness. There is this eagerness of change that has sent her on this road where she challenges what is, and looks forward what can be improved by change. I can imagine in the family business the status quo is rather embraced when successful at a certain moment in time. Hande, and I guess her sister, brother and father too, are not afraid to challenge themselves and search for the next. Hande projects herself as a Global Person who likes the learning and at the same time somehow keeps the overview and control. Bring hope is an important drive for her with a strong belief in the human power. Hande predicts a global crisis. This might sound frightening, personally, I have already seen a few combined with opportunity, technology might create a way out. We discussed briefly Blockchain and cryptocurrencies. As you might notice, even the happiness talk brought us back to the business world. There is no escape, and I recognise this. I once had the remark I was boring because I could only talk about business or philosophy, some drinks here could help.

Hande Enes and the Engin Group are definitely an outsider, learning fast, acting fast. A story to be followed as it is only the beginning. Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.

List of startups invested she wanted to share: Sinemia, Wordego, Veloxity, Friendlydata (exit), Webrazzi, Sports and Merits, Stockmount, Lisapp, Recontact, 11Sight.

Patrick Bosteels, Stage-Co and Stagecoworking Co-Founder


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Stage-Co, Urla Coworking, Now Sprint! Accelerator and Creative Academie co-founder, Facilitator, Accelerator Program Manager and Mentor