Magdalena Yeşil is a name who went to United States for university at the end of the 1970s when the digital age started to sprout and develop. She is known in Turkey as a “person who refuses the job offer from Apple because the name of the company is set as a fruit.” We asked Yeşil for her career breaks and her advice on entrepreneurial spirit.
For many years now you have a great experience. So what do you suggest for young people to choose between getting a job or setting up their own company?
The most important factor in choosing your first job will be your boss. Having a boss who has the time and interest to teach you, to guide you and ultimately to sponsor you in the organization. For me, your boss is more important than the choice of company. I also think that starting a company when you have no work experience is not a good idea.
We are witnessing that you have always pay attention to the advices given to you through your career. But now young people are much more independent and prefer to pursue self-discovery instead of listening to advices. Do you think if the conditions of the world changed? Or did the perceptions and reactions between generations change? How do you evaluate it?
I took advice from others because I was very aware that I knew very little. I was an immigrant, who had come to America with very little and wanted all the help I could get. Young people have the Internet as an information source and feel they can find all the answers to their questions. That did not exist when I first started my career.
I see that you have a chance to gain expert identity at the beginning of the 90s by creating a report named as “User Study of the Internet”. This is exactly a “Customer Development” methodology, which Steve Blank underlined as one of the most important entrepreneurship processes, in the book “The Startup Owner’s Manual”. Was this approach a result of education or was it a discovery you did by yourself? I guess you have never given up on the ability to think “customer focused” afterwards.
My idea to do a “User study for the Internet” was a completely random idea, not based on any reading or education. I knew it did not exist, I knew it would be useful, plus I could quote the study to move my own initiatives forward. And it made me an expert overnight.
With CyberCash we can say that you set up one of the first FinTech initiatives on the internet. At that time, how did you describe this initiative to people and the media?
For CyberCash, I was constantly on TV and newspapers. E-commerce was a brand new concept, Amazon was a tiny bookseller, and people were hungry for more information. So I was a source to the news media, would get called in for interviews from the Wall Street Journal to Business Week to all the local papers and radio stations.
We see that you have always made rapid decisions in your life with new companies and initiatives. Are there any challenges you have encountered that have left a mark on your life? How would you complete a sentence starting with “The greatest lesson I have ever had …” as a recommendation to new entrepreneurs?
The biggest lesson I have to share is that it is always very very hard to start a company and win in the marketplace. You have to be ready to be told your idea is stupid and does not have a chance. Being ready for a lot of rejection is good training. With my first startup, I spent 2.5 years being told no by all my friends who were investors. We could not raise a penny. But that did not discourage me.
Is it inevitable to gain investor identity at the end of being a serial entrepreneur? What identity did you feel happier with yourself?
Being an investor is an easy, lifestyle job. You take the meetings you want, go to the beach when you care to. Being an entrepreneur is being the lowest in the power chain. Investors, customers, and even your employees dictate what you do, where you go. You tell me which is easier. But I am a curious person and want to see how far I can push new ideas, so I keep coming back to being an entrepreneur
How do you assess the current situation in the field of entrepreneurship and investment in the world today? What are your expectations in the world of technology?
We have been in a growth cycle in Technology for 9 years and if you look at the industry over a 50 year period, our cycles are about 8 years apart. So one would think we would have a downturn, and investors are being cautious compared to three years ago. But there is still a lot of foreign and domestic capital pouring into the tech sector, and the financial results are still very positive. Technology is dominating in the top 5 largest companies of the US economy from a valuation point-of-view.
You have been living in the USA for many years. Would you like to make an assessment for Turkey?
Turkey has an amazing population demographic and growth in economy. When I lived in Turkey it was a third world country. Today, it is a first world economy, already dominating in many sectors. Its population is young, well educated and because they tend to live with their parents, has a large amount of disposable income. Local jobs will be a challenge for this youth, but as a consumer economy, Turkey is a very attractive country. Private equity discovered Turkey a while back, next it will be venture capital
Finally, how do you evaluate FinTech? Is it a temporary concept or an approach and an understanding that will really change the deeply rooted financial and economic ecosystems?
The Finance sector has always been a large consumer of technology. Most of the programmers in the 50s and 60s worked for banks. So FinTech is not a new concept, it has been around a long time. Ask anyone who worked at IBM, they will tell you. I do not think banks will be killed by FinTech. Banks will have to partner and use the new technologies being created by these innovative companies.
Would you like to add anything else?
I thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts.