Monthly Archives: July 2013

Localized clones

A common concern that I’ve faced from Turkish entrepreneurs since joining Aslanoba Capital pertains to our funding of startups which imitate ideas and business models shown to be successful in the US. For example, we’ve invested in HemenKiralik, Boni, and Ehil. Respectively, these are the Airbnb, Shopkick, and HomeAdvisor of Turkey. When looked at from the outside, these startups do indeed appear to imitate their counterparts in the US. However, taking a deeper look shows that their execution requires a highly localized approach which is often very different from that pursued by their US counterparts.

Like Airbnb, HemenKiralik connects users looking for a short-term rental with hosts who have space available at their homes. However, while hosts on Airbnb update their availability on a regular basis, this is rarely the case for hosts on HemenKiralik. Remi, the founder of HemenKiralik, overcomes this obstacle through a dedicated call center whose staff determine the availability of different hosts and communicate this to users who express interest in a specific home.

Like Shopkick, Boni rewards the physical shopping experience of its users at different retailers with points which can be redeemed for gifts. However, while Shopkick grew by establishing partnerships with individual retail chains, Soner and Sarper, the founders of Boni, are taking advantage of the very high fraction of consumer traffic which flows through Istanbul’s shopping malls. Boni is pursuing a top-down strategy by partnering with malls before entering individual retailers.

Like HomeAdvisor, Ehil connects consumers with screened and approved local service professionals, with an initial focus on home services. However, the lower levels of internet usage among service professionals in Turkey relative to the US requires that Cenk and Burak, the founders of Ehil, spend significantly more time training local service professionals on their usage of the platform. They also relay service requests to professionals through communication mediums beyond the internet.

Each of these examples shows that while it may initially appear easy to clone an idea and business model, the reality is very different. Execution is far more important than an idea. In a different geographic market, the execution needs to be localized to fit the specific realities of that market. This is exactly what HemenKiralik, Boni, and Ehil are doing. They are not simply clones, but localized clones, and this holds the key to their success.