Dilek Dayinlarli, VC. Series of interviews with investors in Turkiye. N°2
It’s a man’s world. We all know that song. You can find that in practice in many industries. IT is one of them. I started a few companies in IT and never was able to find a female developer. Good thing is that I see this is changing. At CoderDojo we see a growing number of girls interested in learning to develop software programs. There is hope and luckily we already have some strong woman in VC world as of today in Turkiye. Not the majority yet, but not absent either.
When I started Stage-Co with my wife/partner 3 years ago I was introduced to 212Ltd through a common friend and met Ali Karabey at the seaside. At these times I was very impressed to sit in places next to the Bosphorus. All new and amazing, in no way comparable with even the “grachten” in Gent, Belgium. What I remember was a nice conversation, with me asking a lot of questions trying to understand the scene. I understood there were 2 other partners at 212Ltd, Dilek Dayinlarli was one of them. In the years to follow I got to know her better and was more then happy she is 2nd in the row of this series. We met at the Startup Carnival event in Bogazici University. Again Bosphorus environment.
A quick look at what she did before 212Ltd is quite impressive: MBA in the States, own startup in US, Koç.net, Accenture, Groupon Turkiye. Impressive list for a 34 year young mother. Yes, also mother. She returned from the States for emotional reasons, missing her sister was one them. Something that I hear regularly from Turkish people. The homeland, the family and the friends have an enormous importance in the choices of Turkish people. Today she is not active anymore at 212Ltd and she chose to follow her own road as a Venture Capitalist. Next to mentoring a bunch of startups she takes companies out of Turkiye, being highly involved. Turkiye doesn’t have the same investment capital as for example the States, nor an international impact. Still she believes Turkiye has a good talent pool but you need to get OUT of Turkiye. We suffer from a mid market syndrome and a big obstacle for her is the lack of mixed teams. You cannot scale outside Turkiye if you have no foreigners in your team. The lack of early adaptors prevents startups to grow fast in our local market, so you really need to get out fast. Her advise is: be a global citizen before you go global. Dilek has been traveling a lot. This changes your outlook and it might seem natural but speaking fluent English definitely increases your success rate, no problem for Dilek having spend quite some years in the States.
Asking her why the scene here is not getting forward like Berlin or London, she sees a lack of knowhow and good role models. We have very limited success stories so the knowledge cannot go back into the startup scene. Good example is Stockholm where you even have a street of unicorns who made the city the runner up after Berlin and London. We had some big adventures here in Turkiye which are not here anymore but they created a talent pool that created other success stories. With 212Ltd, one of the very first VCs with a 30 million dollar to invest, she saw a lot of startups and being a VC of course you are wanted. The ticket size was 1 million but what she missed was mainly the absence of startups able to bring the story right. What is the business case? Target market? The basics are often not clear. While attaching a lot of importance to the team, she prefers teams with experience. Discussing the lack of management skills always comes on the table, that is why Dilek is working on a new project in order to tackle this critical issue.
As a Kaufman fellow and talking at Stanford she learned to present on stage, be confident and bring your story. Today she mentors startup all over the world from South Africa to Singapore. Interesting enough as a woman she feels better and more unique in Turkiye than in the States. In the States she feels more intimidated. When I ask about the difference of man and woman when it comes to working with startups she did not have the feeling that in Turkiye men were too testosterone driven. She does see a difference in the approach as woman rather want to nurture and have a less critical attitude than men. I could only agree to that but personally I see still too much emotion from men’s side when it comes to discussions on board meetings and work meetings.
With Stage-Co we love organizing and it must be said, when we called Dilek as a speaker or jury she was always prepared to help us out. That is also why we know by experience that this woman stands her man. She gives honest and clear information on how the VCs work and what is the process, next to giving great advice.
It is no secret that we lack VCs in Turkiye. We only have a handful with limited resources when compared with the big players. What we do have today is a vast growing number of Angel Investor Networks. Last time I heard around 20 of them with each maybe 40 members (trying to be positive). Last time I attended BIC Angels 2nd Round. Joachim was saying they receive at average of 20 demands per month (after holiday and coup it was 12). Berlin is a city, and has over 500 startups active today, so that puts it a bit in perspective. I asked this question to Dilek. What is your view on all this Angel Force? In all her honestly she shares with me she didn’t really see a lot of good deals coming from these networks. In her opinion the Angels are also in a learning process, with progress. But still. A good “leader” Angel investor is what we miss very much. Somebody who acts as well as investor as taking on the startup from inside. The name of Ömer Erkmen comes up, and she is not the only one mentioning Ömer as an example. Two other people she really appreciates are Melih Odemis and Simla Ozbay. Angels are present in an early stage and they should be more involved in getting the business case right, and put focus on customer acquisition. Call it Invest&Involve. This brings us also to the lack of knowledge. Most Angels made their money with e-commerce. So e-commerce is what they want to invest in. Too many times I saw people invest by emotion and not by knowledge, let alone investors did their homework. Dilek only nodded. Angels could help a lot in creating a bigger and better deal flow, but it would be good that they created professional teams inside to support them, like we see in the States. Angels should also go more global, learn from outside Turkiye, broaden their expertise and professionalize. Dilek calls the customers from the startup to understand. Not too many Angels do that today.
To wrap it up, I asked her what she experiences as success for herself. Her answer was clear as Erikli water: create a big international success story as an investor. Although a very clear and confident message she always emphasizes on the learning part and be surrounded by the best people. Over 2000 startups passed her, so that gives you a good finger on the pulse. The result is that she recognizes patterns today helping her to analyze fast and act accurate. For her the learning stays important. I guess it also illustrates her attitude. She likes to talk but she can also listen. An important quality.