Investing To Change How People Work
Editor’s note: Yigit Ihlamur, a tech investor and Xoogler with a passion for changing the world of work for the better, shares his story and insights into trends to watch in 2018.
Tell me about your background. How did you get involved in the tech industry? I started off focusing on engineering at Koç University Turkey, then moved into Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for a Masters at Oxford University, England.
How did you become an investor? I used to work in Google’s Enterprise division from Mountain View, California. Before that I was based in the office in Dublin, Ireland, focusing on business products for Google EMEA.
A few years ago I got involved with a group of talented individuals who wanted to share their knowledge, expertise, and network with other entrepreneurs. Over time, we realized we enjoyed doing that more than our day jobs!
At that point, the group decided to formalize our team and found Vela partners. Now we’re a boutique tech investment firm than spans Turkey to Silicon Valley.
I’m still based close to Google in San Francisco but get to focus on my investment business at the same time.
Why did you become an investor? I invest in startups because I thrive on the pace of change in the tech industry today. The nimble teams win.
We’re moving faster than ever before. In the US, companies tracked by S&P used to have a lifespan of 67 years in the 1920s. That lifespan is only 15 years now. You have to act fast or miss out.
What skills did you learn at Google that transfer across as an investor? I learned the value of being people-centric and the importance of building 10x better customer experiences.
Those skills help me take an ethical approach to investing now, which centers around finding fantastic and interesting founders, and sensing the opportunity of 10x improvement in a market.
What attracts you to the Xoogler community as an investment opportunity? Xooglers are well-developed leaders passionate about solving important problems. They can build A-player teams and have a good sense of how to innovate in a market.
We actively explore investment in tools that support the upcoming workforce and existing freelancers, designers, developers, sales and HR teams.
What typical mistakes do Xooglers make with investors that you’d recommend against? A typical mistake is to assume that the outside world is like Google. Xoogler founders have a head start but those types of assumption can be dangerous.
If you live in a protected environment for a long time, you lose your sense of how the real world operates.
You start assuming that everyone is going to knock on your door and ask to partner or use your product. I’d caution Xoogler founders against this kind of thinking from the outset.
What’s the best way to pitch to an investor like you?
Build a relationship with investors early in the lifecycle of your startup.
I love getting involved early on with startups because I can provide more than just capital. My main goal is to find a good startup fit — somewhere I can provide value and learn from the startup team too.
A good investor relationship should be treated like a dialogue. You’re building a relationship with your investors that will hopefully see you through your business’ full lifecycle.
What makes your investment firm different from the rest? We’re a boutique VC firm with outposts in San Francisco, London and Istanbul that invests in just a handful of companies.
That means we can dedicate more time to each company and only in markets where we can actually add value based on the firm’s combined expertise, international network and knowledge.
Think of it as a bi-directional “hiring process.” We should be an extension of your team helping you on strategic projects. Likewise we want to invest in our “team” and help nurture growth within it. It’s about a lot more than just money at the end of the day.
What are your predictions for the investment market in 2018? Both ends of the startup spectrum will heat up.
I predict startups making remote work easy or low-value, repetitive work obsolete will win in 2018.
Why is that? The way we work has changed. The future means fewer hierarchies, offices, geographical or time constraints. The clear division of colleagues and friends will disappear. Our social and work worlds are becoming increasingly interconnected. 2018 will mark a clear shift towards capitalizing on the business opportunity of that evolution.
It’s a no-brainer that this trend will start to play itself out in the startup space too. I predict the change will occur in how startups address business models themselves as a product or business opportunity, not just how their own company operates or is structured.
How do you think this trend will impact people, not just business? I also think we’ll see an increase in the percentage of freelancers to startups. These people, Generation-Z as doers, Millennials and X as managers, will need new tools to run their businesses.
They’ll hire differently, partner differently, do their day to day jobs differently and engage differently.