Respectful communication

This morning, I read the comments below my partner Hasan’s statement regarding the reasons for TazeDirekt’s closing. My goal in reading these comments is to, where they contain valuable insights, use them to improve my decisions in the future. When read this way rather than with the goal of seeking external approval, they can be a valuable source of learnings.

I was surprised to see many comments mention my name. The reason why this is surprising is because I was an advisor to TazeDirekt. I wasn’t running the business or any of its functional areas. My role is to look after our minority investments at Aslanoba Capital.

Setting this distinction aside, I still read the comments because the fact that they’re not relevant to the article’s topic doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t contain valuable information. Setting aside the positive and neutral comments, the content of the negative comments about me implies that they’re from entrepreneurs who I decided not to fund. I’m not going to translate each comment here, but share how I think about them.

There are two parts to saying no to an entrepreneur. The first is the actual act of saying no, and the second is how you say it. You need to not only say no, but also do so respectfully. And this is where the problem arises. Each person has a different definition of what constitutes respectful communication.

I believe that these are all examples of respectful communication:

  1. Over email, saying no without an explanation for why I’m saying no is respectful because I get tens of emails requesting funding each day. If I were to articulate my reasons for saying no to each one, I wouldn’t have any time to do my actual job of investing in and supporting the startups we say yes to. This includes saying no directly to an entrepreneur’s original introductory email as well as saying no to a subsequent email after they’ve shared their traction metrics.
  2. In person, saying no while outlining the reasons why I don’t believe that your startup will succeed is respectful because the fact that I’m giving you feedback is a sign that I want you to improve. You may agree or disagree with the specific feedback, but the fact that I’m giving it shows I care. This includes saying no because I don’t believe that the entrepreneur is cut out to succeed.
  3. Ending a meeting once I conclude that we won’t be investing in a startup is respectful. Just because a meeting is scheduled for 30 minutes doesn’t mean that we need to take all of the meeting time. If I already know by the 5th minute that we won’t be investing in your startup, I save both of us the next 25 minutes by saying so. Not communicating this and wasting the next 25 minutes of your time would be disrespectful. I would expect and appreciate the same behavior from an entrepreneur who decides that they don’t want to work with me 5 minutes into our meeting.

From the comments I read, I understand that many entrepreneurs don’t think that the behaviors I described above are respectful. Instead, these entrepreneurs want an investor who:

  1. Doesn’t respond to their emails
  2. Doesn’t give them feedback
  3. Wastes their time

I thank these entrepreneurs for their feedback which helped me achieve these learnings, and wish them all the best for their startups.

I believe in the values underpinning the examples of respectful communication I outlined above, and am fortunate to be able to work with entrepreneurs who share these values.