Bora Yilmaz, VC at Revo Capital. Series of interviews with investors in Turkiye n°3.
I can imagine people wondering how I decide on who to interview. Be assured, there is neither algorithm nor a smart way of choosing. I started with Enis Hulli as he is a very good friend and after that I let my emotions chose over ratio. I live in Turkiye, so that is pretty in line with the culture. That said I wanted to talk to someone from Revo Capital but I never really had the chance to meet them. So I simply went to their website and I saw the picture of Bora Yilmaz and I thought, lets talk. He answered immediately positive so there we were in Eataly around the table. Some will wonder why not Cenk Bayrakdar? I am sure it would also be an insightful talk but somehow Bora looked nicer. Nothing bad intended Cenk.
Bora has a great track record. He is the kind of guy who wants to get things done. Talk is good, execution so much more satisfying. Turkcell has been very important for him after Arcelik. He studied mechanical engineering thanks to the points he got in Turkish school system but he wanted to be dentist. As a result he was not pulling any teeth but managing production plant stuff instead. The interesting part is that he left for Ukraine for Turkcell and left Turkcell to start his own business but after some years had to stop. A failure but in his opinion a gift as it is a great experience and I can only agree. Luckily he was picked up by Turkcell again and he could continue doing great work. Cenk, as mentioned before, is important in the story as they worked together in many occasions so when Cenk started Revo Capital Bora followed him. Smart move in my opinion as Bora has what it takes, success and failure and that is the real experience. I was happy Bora spoke about it as it is very uncool in Turkiye. Today this makes him a professional with 2 feet on the ground, exactly what you need in the startup scene where dream and realty are often mistakenly switched.
Revo Capital was founded in 2013 and as of today has an investment fund of 66 million dollar with most of it by Turkish investors. Revo Capital positions itself as an early stage tech fund and was one of the first VC’s in Turkiye next to 212Ltd, Earlybird and Hummingbird with a ticket size from 250.000 dollar to 9 million dollar. The result in 3 years is 12 investments with a couple more in the pipeline. In 2 years they count on having 23 to 24 investments in total before going to a next fund. The focus is on B2B Cloud (IaaS/SaaS), IoT and Commerce Enabler startups as the team sees huge possibilities in this domain although Turkiye is lagging behind. The infrastructure is there but we are missing the application layer. Bora is very keen on startups expanding global as well as building their home market. I was happy to hear Revo Capital is not interested in e-commerce but they do are looking for startups that provide solutions that can add value to e-commerce like recommendation engines, marketing automation, retail tech or Fintech. Key for Bora and for Revo Capital is traction, is seeing sales. He goes actively searching for opportunities and of course startups also apply themselves. As Bora is a doer going for measurable results he wants to see more than product development, what is still too much the case. Going out and sell the service or product is key to get his attention.
Comes the question of the deal flow. How does he see the funnel today? You can guess the answer. Very weak. He pointed out rightly that there is R&D going on in universities and he saw already some amazing stuff. What is missing is the go to market. Spin it off with a team and make it happen in the real world. So I wanted to know he is opinion on Angel Networks in Turkiye as I assumed they would be his biggest deal referral. Room for improvement was his first reaction but digging more into it he was clearly disappointed in how the Angel Networks are operating now. He is honest enough to also point at their own organization, also learning on the way. Still he expressed 3 issues. As a first, and not new, is that that funnel is pretty empty . Investors in the Angel Networks are pretty conservative and risk averse and interestingly he also pointed out that we miss the wealthy investors who still didn’t come to the startup scene, busy with real estate and manufacturing investments. Secondly there is definitely a process problem according to Bora. It takes 6 months before investments are decided. Too long and putting a lot of stress on startups. And seen the height of investment, especially compared with other countries, hard to understand. Risk is the game and you need to invest in more than one startup seen the fall out percentage. The 3rd issue is one of communication and attitude. Bora sees a lack of exchanging information between Angel Networks and VCs. Only a few are actively sharing info on potential startups. I liked his remark when he said that Angels stay in the game too long acting like VCs. Interesting as I see Angels in Turkiye more like Seeders acting like Angel Investors. It is all about perception but probably most of all a problem of being very immature as a business. Turkiye only started a couple of years ago so give it some time and we get there.
Bora would also like to see more professionalism at the startup side. Too many wanabees with whom you lose just time, too focused on the product. Opportunists who are more interested in defending their valorization then selling the service or product. He is clear, I don’t want to lose time. Bora is in for results and get the job done, like get customers An approach I gladly share with him.
Bora is a very straightforward guy, and although it was the first time we saw each other it was a very open discussion. His track record shows that experience is key in this scene and going from high to low helps you a lot in assessing new projects and most of all, helping them. Good mentorship comes with a price and experience is more than 20 years in big corporation. Making your hands dirty is still the best way to get there.
No wonder that he sees success for Revo Capital as building a great and successful fund returning value to the investors in order to go for the next round. He clearly enjoys what he is doing. On a personal level he sees every day as a gift and one of his big drivers is to create impact. He is a very open man and he loves sharing his knowledge or ideas. He even took it on to create a blog but admits time is against him creating more content. What hit me most on Bora is the very feet on the ground approach in what he is doing. He has been there, where the going is tough, and learned from it. Didn’t get him down but made him who he is now. Great person to meet and discuss with. The kind we need in the startup world in Turkiye.
Patrick Bosteels, Stage-Co Co-Founder
check out the other interviews https://medium.com/@patrickbosteels