Monthly Archives: August 2017

Amazon entering Turkey

There have been rumors that Amazon will enter Turkey for quite some time. Although Amazon currently delivers to Turkey from abroad, it doesn’t have a local operation.

Based on the rumors, Amazon’s planned entry date into Turkey ranged from late 2017 to mid 2018. And the closer you asked to the source, the earlier the planned entry date became.

Now that Amazon has established a company in Turkey, which is owned by Amazon Europe, it’s likely that the late 2017 entry date communicated by sources close to the company will turn out to be correct.

Given the proximity of the date, it seems likely that the entrance will be done organically rather than through acquisition. However, given the large value at stake, the strength of local competitors, and the tendency of important negotiations to be settled at the last minute, there could be a surprise.

Amazon’s know-how in 3 areas, including how to ensure the quality of the supply side of a marketplace, IT, and logistics, will be important contributors to improving the e-commerce customer experience and growing e-commerce penetration in Turkey.

Welcome to Turkey Amazon.

Victory Day

Today is the 30th of August, which is Victory Day in Turkey.

The day commemorates Turkey’s victory in the Battle of Dumlupinar in 1922, which paved the way for Turkey’s independence in 1923.

The sacrifices made not only on Victory Day but also throughout Turkey’s War of Independence from 1919 to 1923 are the reason why Turkey exists today.

Thank you to all those who sacrificed and continue to sacrifice themselves to make Turkey possible.

Atlas Shrugged

I recently read the novel “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. Although I had always wanted to read it, it’s over 1000 pages long. As a result, it was daunting to start.

However, now that I’ve read it, I’m very glad I did.

The key theme of the novel is summed by the following two quotes, the first which is repeated at multiple points in the book, and the second which is the concluding sentence of the book:

“I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” 

“He raised his hand and over the desolate earth he traced in space the sign of the dollar.”

Taken together, these two quotes show Ayn Rand’s advocacy for each individual’s pursuit of self-interest in a capitalistic society as the philosophy which produces the best outcome for society.

I too believe in the pursuit of self-interest and capitalism as two core drivers of human progress. However, they alone aren’t enough. There are two reasons for this.

The first is that one way to pursue your self-interest is by directly harming others, as shown by numerous examples in the novel. What I’m referring to here is actions which cause direct harm to another human, like physical harm and stealing, rather than those which present a lost opportunity for another human, like winning a game structured to have a single winner. The former actions need to be regulated and penalized.

The second reason is that the pursuit of self-interest in the real world isn’t sufficient to produce the direct causal relationship between actions and outcomes which is what’s theoretically depicted in the novel. In the real world, starting conditions and luck are important determinants of outcomes, and these are both outside of our control. As a result, the outcomes of a purely self-interested world need to be complemented by efficient methods of redistribution (at both a societal level, and the level of individual responsibility) in order for those that would otherwise be left behind due to reasons outside of their control to also be able to survive and lead good lives.

Uber’s first pitch deck

Uber is currently the highest valued private tech company in the world. So when one of its co-founders shares the company’s first pitch deck, people take notice. Here’s the post, which includes the deck, that Uber co-founder Garrett Camp shared last week.

Over the last week, I had several conversations with entrepreneurs and investors about takeaways from the deck. Most of these conversations focused on how the Uber founders’ forecasted best case outcome was for a business with $1B+ in annual revenue. The company had $6.5B in net revenue in 2016, so even the founders underestimated the scale of the business that they were about to build.

My key takeaways from the deck are the following:

  1. It’s tempting to state that the success of a category defining company was always a foregone conclusion. Uber’s presentation shows that even its founders didn’t foresee the scale of the company’s success. They just had a vision and put their heads down to work hard towards it.
  2. While the founders of great companies don’t know the exact steps that they will take to succeed, they have a very deep understanding of their initial differentiation points, the possibilities that are likely to emerge down the road, and the actions that they are likely to take when faced with these possibilities. This deep understanding which results from having thought at length about what is often a personal problem is referred to as the idea maze. Uber’s presentation has a lot of substance, and this reflects the founders’ immersion in the idea maze.
  3. While Uber’s presentation has a lot of substance, it isn’t well designed. This reinforces my belief that better Powerpoint presentations are correlated with better companies and products only up to a certain point. If a Powerpoint looks too good, that’s a signal that the company isn’t spending its time on what matters.

Diamonds on Uranus and Neptune

Apparently it rains solid diamonds on Uranus and Neptune. Here’s the article which provides an overview of how scientists proved that this is the case.

The key takeaway of the article’s author from the finding is “that the solar system is even more awesomely bonkers than [we] realized”. This is indeed the case.

In addition to this takeaway, the finding reminded me of one specific and one general truth about humanity.

The specific one is the arbitrariness of the value which we assign to material possessions.

The general one is our underestimation of the extent of our irrationalities in general.

Work meetings overlooking the Bosphorus

One benefit of working in Istanbul is that the city offers many great views of the Bosphorus. The view is appreciated by guests at work meetings, especially when the guests come from abroad and are therefore not accustomed to the view. It helps set a positive tone for the rest of the meeting.

Although I feel like I know many of the places which offer a great view of the Bosphorus, there’s always more to discover. It’s a special treat when that happens, and that’s what happened yesterday.

Here’s a shot of the view from our meeting at the Dilruba restaurant in Uskudar.

Regular physical exercise

During a recent conversation with a 40-year old friend, the topic of our conversation turned to physical health. He had just injured his foot during a soccer game and, independent of the injury, he shared how his body was slower to react and slower to recover than it had been in his 20’s. I asked him when he first started feeling the cracks and he shared that it began around the age of 35.

I imagine that there’s a genetic component to when our bodies start showing signs of slowing down. That’s beyond our control.

What is within our control to delay the onset of a slowing body is physical exercise.

I’m 31 so I have yet to hit the age when my friend’s body started slowing down. But I hope that I’ll be able to delay the time when this happens. To achieve this, I exercise regularly, using a combination of cardio for a healthy heart and effective blood circulation and weights for strength training.

With the current technology available to us, we only have one body in life. It’s up to us to treat it well. Regular physical exercise is essential to doing so.

The user/customer journey

When you hear a new startup pitch for the first time, it’s often hard to wrap your head around how the startup works. As you’re trying to do so, in a good willed attempt to help you understand, many founders begin to talk about different parts of what the startup does, with no unifying thread of how these parts relate to one another. This makes matters worse.

A much better approach to understanding what the startup does is to ask the founder what the step by step user or customer journey of someone using the startup looks like.

For example, in the case of an e-commerce startup selling physical goods, what sequence of events takes place after a customer places an order? How and at what time is the payment taken? Is the order routed to a specific supplier, or to the company’s warehouse, or does it depend on the specific product that is ordered? How and in how much time is the order prepared? How and in how much time is the order delivered to the customer? How does the customer track and ask questions about their order during this process? After receiving the order, can the customer choose whether to return the order or not? If so, how does the return take place? If not, how does the company measure the customer’s satisfaction? When and how does the company pay the supplier?

Similarly to the post-order customer journey outlined above, it’s possible to outline other user or customer journeys. Once again, in the context of an e-commerce startup selling physical goods, this would include a user’s pre-order website navigation journey and the separate pre and post-order customer service journeys.

The benefit of this approach is two-fold.

First, it helps the investor better understand what the startup does.

Second, the founder’s ability to clearly communicate the step by step user or customer journey reflects the extent to which they have thought about and understand what their startup does. This is an indicator of the startup’s eventual probability of success.

Great teams make their founders look good

From the outside, it looks like great companies are great because of their founders. Since we don’t see the work of the company’s team, we assign credit to the externally visible founder.

From the inside, we know that great companies are great because of their teams. The founder is great only in so far as they are able to attract and motivate great people to work with them towards a common vision.

In other words, as Simon Sinek points out in the tweet below, great teams make their founders look good, not the other way around.

Rinse in Chicago

Rinse, a tech-enabled laundry and dry cleaning managed marketplace where we’re investors, announced its Series B funding round in June of this year. At the time of the announcement, Rinse shared that most of the round would go towards expanding into new cities.

The first of these post-round new city expansions is now taking place with Rinse beginning to serve customers in Chicago. This is the fourth city that Rinse is operational in, following San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington DC.

If you live in Chicago and want to check out Rinse, you can do so here.