Acting on entrepreneur feedback

I recently asked our startups for feedback about how we’re performing as investors. The request was the final question as part of a larger study where we asked our most successful startups to share the reasons behind their success. Our goal is to couple the views of our entrepreneurs with our own in order to identify the common themes behind our successful startups. This will hopefully improve the quality of our decision making in the future.

I found the exercise particularly valuable because in the relationship between entrepreneurs and investors, feedback is often a one way street. As investors, we always provide input on a company’s strategy and what we believe an entrepreneur is doing well and not. Entrepreneurs rarely feel comfortable doing the same unless they’re asked to. It’s therefore useful to get this feedback through a formal request.

So what was the feedback we received from our entrepreneurs?

What we’re doing well fell into three buckets. The first was the support we provided our entrepreneurs on thinking through their company strategy without interfering in their day-to-day decision making. The second was the functional support which we provide our entrepreneurs, specifically in HR where Sevla helps us full time, but also in tech, marketing, and finance where we receive part-time support from Umut, Aslihan, and Dogan respectively. Finally, our entrepreneurs appreciated the efforts we made to help them connect with one another as well as with investors, strategic partners, and other members of our network.

What we weren’t doing well was spending enough time with our startups. Although I try to meet with each of our startups on a regular basis, with over 30 investments in Turkey where we’re active investors (not including our US investments where we take a passive approach), this is a big challenge.

I was already aware of how overstretched my schedule is but hearing this feedback directly from our entrepreneurs really helped drive the point home. In order to respond to this correct feedback, I’ve decided to refrain from pursuing any new investment opportunities that will require active investment leadership. This means that we will only evaluate passive investments in new companies where there is already an active lead investor from a previous round or in the current round. While this may change as we begin to achieve exits in the future, this will likely take at least 2-3 years to play out. In the meantime, I’ll be focusing on spending more time with our existing companies.