Monthly Archives: April 2017

Tapu’s new round

Tapu, an online real estate auction marketplace where we’re investors, announced its new $1.2M funding round earlier this week.

The funding round which was led by existing investor Earlybird also included participation from existing investors Can Yucaoglu and Banu Kucukel.

Tapu has grown the number of online property sales that are completed on its marketplace to over 50 per month. Given the high price and lack of commoditization of these properties, that’s an impressive number.

Together with the new round, Tapu is well positioned to further grow this number by selling a greater number of properties on behalf of its existing partner banks while also attracting the properties of new business partners to its marketplace.

We value the continued support which our co-investors are showing the company and congratulate the Tapu team for their crisp execution and steady growth.

When no reply means no

I was recently speaking with an entrepreneur who shared that he hasn’t received a reply from an investor to whom he reached out for funding. The entrepreneur had sent the investor a reminder email about a week after the initial contact, over a week had passed since the second email, and since he had yet to receive a reply he wanted to know whether he should try a third time.

I’ve faced similar situations when fundraisi g from limited partners. Around 90% of investors who eventually end up investing reply to your first email. Every once in a while, let’s say 10% of the time, there are valid reasons (personal or a very busy time period professionally) why an eventual investor doesn’t respond to your first outreach but does respond to your second. I haven’t come across an investor who didn’t respond to my first two outreaches respond to the third and end up investing.

So here’s my recommendation:

Try once. If you don’t get a reply, try again a week or two later. If you still don’t get a reply, understand that no reply means no.

The nuance of reality

If you believe that something is good, it’s easy to find evidence to support your view.

Similarly, if you believe that something is bad, it’s to easy to find evidence to support that view.

In other words, our tendency is to draw conclusions and then look for evidence to support those conclusions.

Reality, however, is much more nuanced. Most good things have bad characteristics and most bad things have good characteristics.

So seeing reality calls for the reverse approach. We first need to look for evidence along different dimensions and then draw dimension-specific conclusions based on this evidence.

Almost inevitably, some evidence will support a good view along certain dimensions and other evidence will support a bad view along other dimensions. That’s the nuance of reality.

C-level team members presenting to the board

I was recently speaking with an entrepreneur about his C-level team. He was trying to evaluate whether they were performing well enough or whether he should look for fresh blood for some of the roles.

Not knowing the team, I couldn’t provide specific comments on any individual. Instead, I offered this.

I told the entrepreneur that he should feel confident having each of his C-level team members present the function that they’re responsible for to the company’s board. For example, the CMO would present the company’s marketing activities and the CFO would present the company’s financial activities.

This approach requires that each team member know their function very well while also possessing the confidence and communication skills necessary for them to successfully lead the function. In fact, many companies with strong C-level teams use exactly this approach.

If you wouldn’t feel comfortable having a C-level team member present their function to your board, you likely don’t think that they’re performing sufficiently well in their role.

Personal branding

I recently listened to an Andreessen Horowitz podcast on personal branding.

Another way to say personal branding is self-marketing. And since self-marketing sounds selfish, many people have a negative initial reaction to it. They don’t want to do it.

The problem is that if you don’t do it yourself, other people do it for you.

The podcast explains how this comes to be and why, as a result, personal branding is important.

Hasan on TechInside

My partner Hasan recently gave an interview to TechInside.

In the interview, Hasan shares his thoughts on the current state of the Turkish startup ecosystem as well as predictions for its future, his recommendations for entrepreneurs, and the business models which he finds attractive.

You can watch the 4 minute piece in Turkish below.

Crossing the chasm

I recently read the book Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore. Although I was familiar with the book’s core concepts, it was useful to read them as expressed directly by the author, together with the multiple examples presented of companies that successfully and unsuccessfully attempted to cross the chasm.

There are two key ideas in the book.

The first is that it’s very challenging to attack an entire market at once. A better approach is to segment your target market’s customers into innovators, early adopters, the early majority, the late majority, and laggards, and successively tailor your product features, messaging, and distribution strategies to acquire each of these customer segments in turn.

The second key idea is that the most challenging transition between customer segments is that between early adopters and the early majority. This is what’s known as the chasm and the book presents several questions to ask and strategies to implement in order to successfully cross it.

I strongly recommend the book to tech entrepreneurs and investors.

Age, productivity, entrepreneurship, and life expectancy

This post was inspired by Marc Andreessen‘s post on Age and the Entrepreneur. In the post, Marc shares his views of what ages are best to be an entrepreneur. Although Marc doesn’t give a definitive answer to the question, he proposes a framework to think about the problem.

The gist of the post is that there’s a tradeoff between enthusiasm and experience. Enthusiasm is usually higher at a young age and experience is greater at an old age. Your view on the best time to be an entrepreneur depends on whether you believe that enthusiasm or experience is a bigger determinant of an entrepreneur’s success.

My view is that enthusiasm is the first step to motivation, and that motivation with a baseline level of intelligence is what produces success. I therefore think that enthusiasm is more important than experience and this favors a younger age for entrepreneurship.

While this is my theoretical view, in practice I’ve seen successful entrepreneurs in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. So clearly this theoretical view oversimplifies the practical reality. The reality is that great entrepreneurship happens when you become obsessed about something and it’s difficult to predict the set of circumstances which will come together to make this happen.

In the post, Marc draws from the research of Dean Simonton, a professor of psychology at the University of California Davis. Here are the interesting parts.

“One empirical generalization appears to be fairly secure: If one plots creative output as a function of age, productivity tends to rise fairly rapidly to a definite peak and thereafter decline gradually until output is about half the rate at the peak.

The location of the peak, as well as the magnitude of the postpeak decline, tends to vary depending on the domain of creative achievement.

At one extreme, some fields are characterized by relatively early peaks, usually around the early 30s or even late 20s in chronological units, with somewhat steep descents thereafter, so that the output rate becomes less than one-quarter the maximum. This age-wise pattern apparently holds for such endeavors as lyric poetry, pure mathematics, and theoretical physics…

The typical trends in other endeavors may display a leisurely rise to a comparatively late peak, in the late 40s or even 50s chronologically, with a minimal if not largely absent drop-off afterward. This more elongated curve holds for such domains as novel writing, history, philosophy, medicine, and general scholarship.

Indeed, because an earlier productive optimum means that a writer can die younger without loss to his or her ultimate reputation, poets exhibit a life expectancy, across the globe and through history, about a half dozen years less than prose writers do.”

There may be other reasons why poets live shorter lives than prose writers. However, if we assume that the difference in life expectancy is entirely the result of poets believing they’ve reached the top of their craft earlier than prose writers, avoiding this belief will help us live longer.

We need to get better at what we do each and every day no matter what we’ve accomplished in the past. The moment we stop doing this is the moment we begin dying.

What’s your objective?

Whenever I feel confused about which among a set of actions to take, I try to remember to define my objective.

Confusion regarding which action to take is often the result of trying to juggle multiple objectives with inherent tradeoffs which call for different actions.

Once you isolate the objective that you want to prioritize, the confusion goes away and the action that will get you to your objective becomes clear.

Solving new problems

One of the types of content that I share on this blog is learnings from personal experiences. These include learnings relevant to startups as well as learnings about life in general.

However, you don’t always have the benefit of applying an existing learning from a past experience directly to a problem. Sometimes a new problem emerges for which you don’t have directly relevant previous experience. You don’t know exactly what the expected outcome maximizing approach is to the new problem.

In these cases, rather than walk without a compass, it’s useful to try to think of analogous problems you faced in the past and your learnings from these analogous problems. A problem is simply a set of weights assigned to different dimensions. Although the new problem may be uniquely different than anything you’ve seen before, several of its weights on specific dimensions are likely similar to other problems you’ve seen in the past.

Thinking about the attributes which the new problem shares with other problems you’ve seen in the past, reflecting on your learnings regarding the approaches that work if a problem has a specific attribute, and bringing together these learnings from different problems which together have all the attributes of the new problem takes you a long way towards getting to the right solution.