Dear start-up, there is no cool way to say this, but you need to learn some stuff.
4 years of art school in Gent, Belgium, didn’t make me a photographer nor a filmmaker. To make it even worse, I was far from ready to be an entrepreneur. In my family, there was only a catering company where I served after hours and on the weekends. Funny thing is that I served at many wedding parties, where I loved to be assigned at the bar after the food was served. As a-16-year old you could nip secretly from the wine and see how that same wine transformed a very decent and formal wedding into a nightclub area where you lost all connection to a wedding. Top act was a bar dance in front of my innocent eyes. Fun but far from a good understanding of the entrepreneurial spirit. All I learned is that it was hard work to get some money in the pocket. The last years of art school I also helped at the farm of my ex-father and mother in law. Again hard work for a modest income. I even played with the idea of becoming a farmer but luckily I didn’t at that time. My basic knowledge was not enough.
So after 4 years, you have that diploma in your hands and unfortunately, you don’t have many options. Whatever you choose, it means starting your own business. Or as a freelancer or as a business. I was totally not ready for this but there were not too many other options, so as a result, the first 10 years were a hard school with a high price. It took another 10 years to pay back and the in meantime start new businesses. When I look back I really can not understand where I got the drive to continue this rat race. At 40 plus I started to understand how to do things and most of all understood what were my strengths and weaknesses. My story is nothing exceptional. I saw many like-minded people go through the same sh*t. One thing is for sure, bootstrapping sounds maybe very cool, but I can not say I preferred it looking back.
This all brings me back to the environment I am active in today. 4,5 years ago we started Stage-Co as a startup community and being unfamiliar with the actual status in Türkiye, no knowledge of the language and starting with my wife and 16 of here friends who were just interested in understanding who the hell I was, I had no idea what to offer. Of course I have my 30 years of experience but that was in Europe and in the languages I understood. No surprise, the needs here are the same as everywhere else where you have a starting ecosystem with nothing but kids from universities and some exceptional 30+ startups. It is called experience and most of all management skills. That might sound boring but nothing I invented. Doing business is simple, you have, or create something that people need/want and they give you money for it. Forget the freedom and other clichés, they come after the success and that might take a while. Or not.
The cry in the startup world has always been the same. Investors are reluctant to invest and if they do, they bring peanuts to the table. The startups are dreamers and put valuations on the table that are as far from reality as no air pollution in 5 years in the world. As I am on neither sides I just watch and see 1 constant issue coming back, lack of knowledge how the start/run a company. In Türkiye most investors are businessmen so they project themselves on the startups and are always unhappy with the amateurism, as that is the label to stick on. The startups are mostly kids with a brilliant idea, at least that is what they assume, but can not even put a ppt together, nor built the basic prototype with incomplete teams. Still, my sympathy goes to startups, as the investors have too high expectations. Next to that you have the mentors. Another joke, as mentors are supposed to give feedback and offer their network, but feedback to an empty basked leaves it an empty basket with the result that they become kind of the replacement boss. Way overestimated today and too much ego-tripping from mentors. Just help those kids, you don’t need to put that on your Linkedin as previous experience. I made the same mistake in the beginning.
Startup Weekends, Hackathons and Idea Marathons later, 14 in 2 years, learned me 1 thing. Working with young teams is great and when you find the right approach you can make a difference. However simple Business Canvas and Lean Startup can be, and they are, they are a great start to get the young teams thinking about what they do. You built-in a self-criticism and the validation process becomes a natural behaviour. As soon as you hand them tools they better understand if the idea makes sense, if the team is complete, if they should even continue. What we do is showing a mirror with some very specific questions. The result is amazing. They have skills and if that is combined with a good drive and eagerness you get very far.
Startup Akademi through Stage-Co Masters, came from this understanding. Hands-on workshops for those who want to be a startup, an entrepreneur or understand intrapreneurship for the existing companies. We have done now more than 10 of them and the results are already amazing. The basis is Lean Startup and Business Canvas, Pitching, Marketing and soon all the 9 topics on Business Canvas will be covered, so valuation will be more clear in execution. All workshops are paid as we offer value for value and we want motivated participants. We also welcome any suggestions. Most Workshops are in English, some in Turkish. For the Business Canvas and Lean Startup I do them myself and of course in English (Flemish and French on special request :-)).
After I finished art school, I also was eager to follow a course to better understand how to start a business. All I could find was “how to do accounting”, which I followed twice but in my case useless as figures are my absolute weakness, and “ from idea to market” at the Vlerick School. That was interesting but totally not what I needed and at that time crazy expensive. Almost 2000 euro for after hours for 3 months and most of the lingo was completely unknown to me with colleagues coming from universities and active in large corporations. I was clueless and hopeless.
With Startup Akademi Stage-Co Masters I am sure we can help the startup ecosystem to become more professional. Better and more startups in the funnel so the investors are more eager to invest the right amount of money is our goal. Turkish investors, as for the moment we are ignored by the foreign investors. It is really that simple. And soon we hope to announce even longer programs to achieve these goals. Keep posted.