A natural, informative and an excellent interview of Çağdaş Önen with the leading investor of Turkish startup system, Dilek Dayınlarlı on startup ecosystem.
Çağdaş: Welcome Dilek,
We are already mid-way in the year of 2016. How do you evaluate 2016, how did the year start and what should we expect in the second half?
If you stand in my shoes and look where I look, I can say that I have seen thousands of startups. Especially, I see that the quality is improving. Since 2012, every year we observe that
the quality of personal startups and companies are both improving drastically. But, in 2016 we see a certain case; the glut that started with the e-trade began to change. We see an increase in the number of technology companies trading with corporates by B2B facilities. I foresee that this trend will continue in the second half of 2016 as well. Meanwhile, we also can see some small innovative investments in the market. Some new companies are attempting to work in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR). These are rather R&D intensive companies. Thus, we can say that the trend is towards technology.
My question is; we hear comments that there are no real technology companies in Turkey. Such a trend has started globally as well; engineers wear the caps of the co-founded and gather marketing colleagues around themselves. What are the barriers in Turkey? Why do our engineers dislike tending to invest?
The biggest problem in this matter is the grants offered by the state, which dilutes the minds of our engineers. States should provide grants but our engineers think as ‘I take these grants, do the project, and if I fail, I finish the project and then apply for a new one.’ Now, this is the actual and popular trend. In fact, along with his project, he has to recognize the customer, grow within the market and has to realize sales. If an engineer does not achieve any of these, it does not become a company.
That is one of the major problems.
Engineers must co-operate with businesspeople and have to improve.
One of the lacks of the ecosystem in Turkey is the rarity of success stories. The increase in the number of these stories will attract individuals to new stories, and everything will be much better.
I would like to ask you something from the state side. The grants offered by the state, are they sufficient for the improvement of our startup ecosystem?
For me, the method by which these grants are offered is more important than their amounts. I think that it will be much better if they give this money directly to those who can manage these funds. I mean, you give a certain amount of money to a company but, they do not know how to use it.
What are the targets of these companies? To achieve a real business or leave the project on the table?
There are splendid examples in Israel. They build up systems, which they call “the fund of funds”, and give the money to fund managers and these managers direct these funds. Our target should be; find the company, invest and help them to grow.
One of my friends has a beautiful saying: “We make the passengers of our boat travel fast”. So, if you give the money to fund managers, they will carry the companies to their real targets.
Startup Visa or similar programs have started to pop-up in many countries. Lately, South Korea has introduced a new project, Ministry of Science, Technology, and Future Planning is organizing a speed-up program for startups, and they have invited 40 new projects to their country. Would such models make countries like Turkey and Israel a center of attraction in our region?
Whenever I travel East, I come home triumphal. I wish I could feel the same when I go West.
There are things where we are powerful. Why don’t we gather our strength in these countries and start from there?
For example, can we be a center for the Middle-East Countries or the Turkic Republics?
Can we gather all the best talents in these regions in our country? Yes, we certainly can.
There is another similar example. Something the Chilean government has achieved. They invite the Startups in the Silicon Valley in the USA to Chile and encourage and invest in them to expand their business.
What is their gain? They closely watch how these Startups work and learn from each other.
As I mentioned previously, for me the most important issue is the need for success stories. Why? Because, if he sees a success and how it is achieved then he will have an appetite also. He will start a new business and be successful too.
We ask the expectations of investors from the startups. I would like to ask just the opposite. What makes you sad in a startup and what you dislike seeing?
That is a tough question. Let me try to answer.
First of all, let me express what I expect from a startup. I just look at the team.
If you are establishing a good company or a productive investment, then you must be capable of building up a good team. If you cannot employ a good man, there you have a problem. The main difficulty in investment is the working group. If you cannot find the permanent workers, then you are lost.
There must be a good technician, the man who will produce the product and a person who will be able to sell it. These are my essentials.
Furthermore, the quality of the product is crucial. That is another important and detailed issue but the product must have a potential to grow and must have a particular market. These are my viewpoints.
What do I expect from a startup?
He must be charismatic and should be decisive. Do not interpret this as a natural charisma; he must have the energy to excite you and he must have a vision.
Think it this way; you do not give your worker any money, but he must be working all the time.
To achieve this, you must have an incredible power to drag people behind you. That is critical.
Thank you very much for this amusing conversation.
I thank you too.
Please feel free to watch the interview of Dilek Dayınlarlı and Çağdaş Önen in the following video in Turkish.