Startups is about people, not money

This cliché is higher than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates with almost 830 meters. At the same time all you hear about is money. I was quite surprised this week that Robin Wouters celebrated the takeover of 6Wunderkinder but at the same time focusing on who got the money and who didn’t. The first investors could party, the later stage investors not that much. I started quite some businesses myself and every story is each time much more complicated than what shines on the outside.

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It was great to meet Alfonso again after 1 year. We started to work together at Startupbootcamp in the summer of 2014. It made me remember again the Zeplin startup venture. Pelin and Berk, founders of Zeplin, are the most modest and hardworking founders I ever saw and worked with. In my humble opinion they were the only startup that had the potential of a real startup although they came in with just an idea. Thanks to people like Burak Yaman and the Go Project, especially Matt, they pivoted till what it is today. The money they got and even the so-called acceleration program didn’t matter that much in their case. Mentorship they never got, as nobody understood what they were doing. Focus was on the product, the product and the product. They have a good team around them and a good, modest vibe. We would have loved to have Pelin as a “Lady Entrepreneur” for our next Stage-Co Platform Meetup, Monday the 8th of June, see info here, but the team is not available. Be assured we have other great ladies lined up though! Zeplin proved that the focus on people and not money was one of the success factors in their amazing journey.

We are working hard to get a pre-seed and seed fund ready combined with a training program. After some acceleration programs, I lost my faith in it for the MENA region as we lack a certain basic ground for entrepreneurs acting like startups. Today I see startups, mostly 1 or 2 founders getting easily some government money but totally no professional surrounding to help them use the money smart, focus on important, work in a disciplined way. The good thing is that investors start to understand this more and more. Money is more a poison than a gift nowadays. The right people in the team and the right people around them are more important.

There is also another nice side effect of focusing on people and grow successful startups. In Turkey we have the ambitious 2023 goal of 2 trillion dollars GDP and reduce unemployment to 5%. Ambitious as I said but at the same time we see the last years that it will not come from the big companies who are focusing on higher profitability, automate, and everything that gets the bottom line in a better shape. SME’s are the growth engine and that is where we lack, like in most emerging markets. I found this post claiming an interesting point:” It is repeatedly argued that the current low level of innovation in Turkish SMEs is concomitant with the low level of technological development. According to the Global Innovation Index 2014, Turkey was ranked 54th in the world for innovation, just below Panama and South Africa and just ahead of Romania and Mongolia. Of the world’s 20 largest economies in 2014, only Brazil, Mexico, India and Indonesia are less innovative than Turkey.” More to read here.

This is not bad news, this means there is a huge opportunity. Focus on people and focus on getting these people better and smarter. And that is what we want with Stage-Co and all other initiatives in Turkiye like Etohum, Innocampus, Angel Networks, and many more I even don’t know (yet). Education is an important corner stone but later more about that as we are involved in some nice projects :-).

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

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