Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. Joining me is an entrepreneur from Turkey, raised money in Turkey, but his investor said, “You know, this idea that you’ve got, you’re going after consumers. Yeah, you’re addressing a problem that some guy that you met somewhere had, but there’s more money in B2B. You’ve got to just go business-to-business.” And so he shifted his business and went business-to-business. And it didn’t work. And the reason he says it didn’t work is because he just failed to deal with a problem, to address a customer problem. Instead, what he was doing was listening to his investors.
And since then, he’s looked around . . . Well, first of all, let’s admit, he suffered a little bit. It wasn’t easy. It’s painful, and I want you to be open about the pain in this interview. He did suffer a little bit. He did, like, say, “What was I doing? What happened?” And he analyzed it, and he said, “I need to find a problem.” And as he looked around, he saw that people who were selling online, and e-commerce has gotten really big. If you’ve been listening to my interviews, you’re noticing that there are more and more people who are doing Shopify stores and other e-commerce businesses. And he noticed something, a lot of them were constantly checking other sites to see, are their prices competitive? Are their prices where they need to be? And he said, “You know, that’s a big pain in the butt. I think I could solve that.” And he created a company that does solve that. The company name is called Prisync.
I imagine people who are listening to me right now who are into e-commerce are going to go over and check his website, prisync.com, sign up for his free trial. I’m not looking to get more customers for him. I’m looking to understand how he got to the place where he has all these customers right now. And so I invited Burc. How did I do with your pronunciation of your . . . ?
Andrew: . . . of your first name?
Andrew: You say it. I love the way you said it.
Burc: We’re saying the same, Andrew.
Andrew: Tanir. Yeah. All right. The only thing I know how to say in Turkish is Tasbih. I freaking love those Tasbihs that you guys have there.
Burc: Yeah. It’s acquired a niche, I would say. I mean, mostly people know, you know, the common stuff but Tasbih has acquired a niche. And I don’t really know that in English, to be honest. Probably it’s Tasbih in italics, you know, if you would write this in English.
Andrew: Tasbih, those are the beads that they use, right, to . . . ?
Burc: Yeah, beads. Yeah. Yeah. Beads, but, you know, beads that you kind of play with your hand when you’re stressful, and you’re angry and stuff. While you’re driving the taxi in an Istanbul traffic, yeah, you mostly have a Tasbih in your hand.
Andrew: It’s amazing for somebody like me who just can’t sit still. It’s like a . . . it’s the original fidget tool.
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.
Burc: When that product popped up, I mean, everybody in Turkey said, “Okay, guys, we already had that, so why didn’t you sell this to the world?” But, you know, but someone, you know . . . Yeah. I mean, it was a missed opportunity, I guess, for the whole country.
Andrew: I saw this one guy on a train when I was in Turkey, he looked like he was a muscle man. He couldn’t contain himself. He would just look like he wanted to punch a hole through the train, but he was using the Tasbih, and I watched him just, like, use it and chill himself out a little bit. And, at the same time, I saw these older people, who couldn’t lift a piece of paper, it felt like, move the beads on the Tasbih, and I said, “I got to get some.” And I started walking around, and I got them, and I started using them. And it really is a good focus tool. Anyway, that’s not what we’re here to talk about.
Burc: Yeah. Sure.
Andrew: We’re here to talk to Burc Tanir about how he created this company, and we’re here to do it thanks to two phenomenal sponsors, who I’ll tell you about later. The first, if you’re hosting a website, you know this. You’ve got to go check out HostGator. And the second, if you’re hiring developers or designers, go check out Toptal. And Burc’s friends have worked for them, so I’ll ask him a little bit about the experience that the developers who’ve worked for Toptal that he knows have had. But first, Burc, revenue, how much are you guys doing?
Burc: I mean, we don’t really tend to disclose that. But, I mean, I would say we currently serve, you know, more than 500 customers from more than 50 countries so, I mean, we’re doing so far so good.
Andrew: And you do have a 14-day free trial. I got kind of deep into your site, right?
Burc: Yeah. Correct. Yeah. Yeah. It’s actually . . .
Andrew: And then after that . . .
Burc: . . . originally, 14 days but, you know, some companies want to spend more time with the products, so they ask for, for example, a week or two weeks of extension, so we’re quite generous in that respect so . . .
Andrew: You are.
Burc: Yeah. Yeah, we totally share that.
Andrew: So you said how many, 500 customers?
Burc: Yeah. More than 500 customers.
Andrew: More than 500. So, at the lowest level, 500 times $60 a month, it’s $30 a month recurring. But that’s your lowest level.
Burc: Yeah. And we never sell the lowest.
Andrew: You don’t sell the lowest, so $60 minimum?
Burc: We sell, but, I mean, that’s not the average at all. That’s what I mean.
Andrew: The most popular is the $129?
Burc: Yeah. And actually, we also have a few other undisclosed pricing plans, actually. So if you would require, you know, additional features that are not disclosed in our standard plans, it’s, you know, it’s . . . We have quite a few customers who are paying in the range of more than $500 per month, so that actually brings the average, you know, even further.
Andrew: So what I’m getting at is, clearly, over a $1 million a year . . .
Burc: Yeah, that’s a . . .
Andrew: . . . in recurring revenue.
Burc: . . . that’s a good guess.
Andrew: But you told our producer, “I’m not going to give the exact number.”
Andrew: And I could understand why companies would want the more expensive package because the more products you have, the higher the package you need, and people who have a lot of products are the ones who really want software to help them figure out . . .
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. That’s true.
Andrew: . . . to help them figure out what their competition is charging for the software. Hey, were you a backpacker in Australia when you came up with that first idea?
Burc: Not really. Actually, I was a backpacker in Thailand but [inaudible 00:05:28] Australia and France, so maybe the story got kind of mixed up somewhere. So I had a really nice, you know, backpacker friend from Australia. We were, actually, we were three guys. Like, one French, one Turkish, and one Australian, and we were . . .
Andrew: And you were just backpacking through Thailand . . . ? Let me ask you this because this is where the first idea came from, everything that I read about your background, doesn’t lead me to believe that you are a guy who would spend time backpacking. You’re like an academic. You’re somebody who wanted to learn everything, right?.
Burc: Not at all, actually. I mean, I think, even backpacking is a way to learn, I would say. So, you know, after graduation, I actually had a bit of cash, like, from some inter, you know, internships and some freelance work, so I just decided to go to South East Asia. So I initially started from Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. And in Thailand, I met those two guys. One from, again, Australia and one from France. And this initial idea that you presented in the very first introduction was actually just originally, I would say his idea, but he didn’t even know that he had an idea. So he said, “Okay, guys, we are, like, three lonely guys in an island in Thailand, so we need to find some, you know, people to hang out with and seeing people.” So he . . .
Andrew: And by people . . .
Burc: . . . kind of . . .
Andrew: . . . you mean girls to date?
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, in a way.
Andrew: They wanted . . .
Burc: But . . .
Andrew: They were young guys. They wanted to find women, right?
Andrew: And this was 2011, so we’re talking about before Tinder took off. Okay.
Burc: I don’t exactly know whether it’s before Tinder or not, but absolutely before it took off. I don’t know whether it was already launched or so. But, you know, I said, “Okay, man, that sounds like a good idea.” So, you know, imagine that you could have actually met people depending on your location. You could have exchanged messages depending on their taste and stuff. So I literally, you know, there was a single computer in this little Thai island, which could have been used like for 30 minutes or so per week, per tourist or whatever you call. So I used to actually get Skype calls with my family once in every week during that time frame. And I used about 15 minutes of that 30 minutes bracket to send an email to a friend of mine based in Istanbul to share this idea. I said that, “Okay, man, I just came up with this brilliant idea in the island. Maybe we could build this network and stuff.” But, obviously, after that week, I didn’t really check back my inbox, and he didn’t ever, like, reply to me at all.
But when I got back from that Thai trip, let’s say, and I just bumped into him on the street on a, I think party or something, he said, “Nana, you know, you just sent me this email in Thailand, and I just built this prototype, would you like to, you know, pursue this and stuff?” I said, “Okay. Let’s check that out.” But I was already in another domain by then. Just as you said, I was mainly interested in neuroscience. I was planning to become an academic, but he just promised me to spend a day with him around this idea.
And in one night, I completely switched from becoming an academic to an entrepreneur. It was literally a huge stereotype, I would say. We had all these, you know, whiteboards, post-its, you know, user scenarios and stuff. And I got amazed by all these, you know, let’s say, creativity or whatever you would call. But it was really a huge cliché of entrepreneurship. Like, all these colorful . . . I remember them a lot, the colorful, like, post-its and stuff. And we decided to pursue that idea, to build that. But, you know, the rest is basically not a great story, but it was a story.
Andrew: What, yeah, a painful story but a great story, actually, for me. Just watch the mic on your headphones because as it hits your . . . Yeah, there you go. As you hit your shirt, it’s becoming a distraction. He built this thing. What was it about it that made you love it so much that you switched your whole life around? What did you see that excited you?
Burc: I think it was like . . . How to say it? Deciding on what to do the other day or maybe in the coming years or so. I think having this autonomy of maybe like, I don’t know, business or, I don’t know, autonomy of your lifestyle was what really drove me, like, maybe freedom, just as you introduced in the very beginning. So I . . .
Andrew: As the creative process, it wasn’t that he built something so amazing that you had to give up your past to shift on to entrepreneurship, it’s that you could put my ideas, excuse me, you could put some ideas on a whiteboard, you could put some post-it notes up on a wall and turn that into a business, and that creative experience is what changed you.
Burc: Yeah. Absolutely.
Andrew: Okay. All right. Then you built out the first version back when? So, by the way, Tinder was launched 2012. You had this idea 2011, so I could understand how there wasn’t a solution that fit your needs.
Burc: Yeah. Yeah, because that guy was . . .
Andrew: Did you . . . ?
Burc: . . . basically checking out Facebook. I mean, if he already knew of the Tinder, I think he would just check Tinder. But he was checking on Facebook. So I think Tinder didn’t . . .
Andrew: Facebook to see, “Is there someone I can meet in this new city?” Okay. And so you had this idea, “I’m going to solve issues for travelers who want to meet locals or maybe other travelers and so that they’re not lonely.” You then started to build it. How far did you get before you started talking to investors?
Burc: Maybe just weeks or so. So we didn’t even have a prototype even, but we started to appear on some like pitch events in Istanbul, Turkey. So the idea was called, basically, Popcorner, which lived for about few weeks, I guess. So this Tinder-ish product was called Popcorner. So when we initially presented this idea to a few, you know, Turkish angels and VCs and stuff, you know, there was this common thought in the local markets saying that, I mean, “No Facebook can ever exist or can be built up from Turkey to the world. So instead of focusing on, instead of tracing a pattern, we need to see . . . You know, any company that wants to go global, any company that wants to create an impact, should focus on B2B.” So we heard this B2B thing, you know, too many times. Maybe, like . . . everybody was saying, “Okay, whatever idea you had was, like, if it’s B2C, it’s not going to succeed. Just turn this into B2B.”
So when you obviously hear something like 100 times or maybe 1,000 times, that obviously hits you. So, for some reason, I still really, cannot really understand the logic behind that, but we said, “Okay, instead of pursuing this idea in B2C, let’s offer a similar service to companies,” which was location-based, I don’t know, networking and messaging for companies instead of, like, for tourists or consumers. So then, we changed the name of the product to BizCorner from Popcorner. It was a huge pilot. And then we started to actually build something that was that so, so similar to Slack of today, by the way. And that’s how it’s all switched.
Andrew: The thing that’s interesting is, I do think it makes sense for them, for the mentors, for investors, to tell you, “It’s harder to create a consumer-based product in Turkey that would then go out to the world. It’s easier to create something that’s B2B, where you wouldn’t charge customers. We understand it better. We could support you more.” The thing I think that you recognized later on was, you were now not addressing a need. You didn’t see business people who said, “Damn it, I need an easier way to talk to other business people. I need an easier way to chat.” It was just, “We have this product, they’re saying sell don’t sell it to consumers. We’ll start selling it to businesses, and we don’t necessarily know what these businesses need, but let’s create it,” right? That was the problem.
Burc: Yeah. That’s true. I mean, it was simply, like, literally, an idea that came to my mind in an island, so it doesn’t really sound like a business idea. I mean, it’s like a movie, to be frank. So I, instead of, you know, to rely on such a fantasy and stuff, I noticed that I really, you know, need a concrete problem addressed and felt by, I don’t know, hundreds or thousands of, like, maybe consumers or companies. But regardless of consumer or business type of demand, the missing link was basically this burning need, burning problem. So that’s what made us probably not to pursue that idea further because of the sheer product-market fit and so on.
Andrew: Before we get to what didn’t work, what was BizCorner? What did it do? Was it just a chat that anyone could jump in to?
Burc: No. No. It was actually initially, like, not initially, but it was fully addressing companies. So it initially aimed at companies with physical sales force, literally on the field, to exchange messages, documents with their headquarters. So imagine that you are a traveling salesperson on the field, on the, I don’t know, in U.S. or either in Europe, you needed to exchange some documents, I don’t know, text and stuff . . . And back then, by the way, Slack also didn’t exist, so all the business communication of such was also conducted on WhatsApp. So our really proposition was saying that, “Okay, WhatsApp is a big distraction because, at the same time, you know, while you are exchanging messages with your, I don’t know, colleagues, your girlfriend or your boyfriend is also texting to you with emojis and stuff, so you kind of get distracted.” So we wanted to, you know, distinguish these two different type of, you know, communications. But, yeah.
Andrew: You know, it makes a lot of sense.
Burc: I think so. Yeah.
Andrew: It didn’t work. How did you know it didn’t work?
Burc: I didn’t . . . We, obviously, you know, when I say Slack, I believe we didn’t have that type of vision, and we didn’t really have that go-to-market strategies and stuff. For example, I think one of the reasons why it didn’t work out was that we heavily relied on one of the telcos in Turkey. I don’t really want to disclose the name now, but one of the telcos in Turkish market really liked the idea, and they said, “Okay, instead of you guys going global with this idea, let us welcome you into our platform. So you build on behalf of us, so we will be distributing the product on behalf of you.”
So there was this, like, champion of our project in that company. So she was always inviting us to the meetings. We were presenting the idea to the board, to the SMB directors and stuff. And we were really, by the way, hype, so we were kind of switching the product development really fully into that direction. But in few months’ time, in I think seven or eight months’ time, she just quit that job. She changed the company, and nobody really took the responsibility of embedding our program into the same, like, platform they proposed. So the company simply died there.
And after that time, we noticed that we kind of used all our ballots and stuff on that, let’s say land, so we really didn’t have a standalone product. We couldn’t really, you know, do the marketing of this standalone product. It was that product in a desert or something. So we also, you know, didn’t have any cash, any resources, and stuff, so we couldn’t really pursue that idea further, so we accepted that. We had a kind of mini MBA for free.
Andrew: You felt really bad about it. I don’t want to go to this story of, “Here’s an entrepreneur, came up with an idea. Everything worked out great.” Let’s get to the heart of this story. When you saw that it didn’t work, what did that bad feeling look like for you? How did you experience it? What were you thinking? What did you feel at the time?
Burc: Well, actually, it obviously contains a few years, not just necessarily that moment of feeling bad, feeling failed or something, because if you date things back to the decision point when I switched from becoming a, I don’t know, academician and stuff, I mean, when I decided to become an entrepreneur, obviously, you fail in multiple domains. So when I failed as an entrepreneur at that time, I also directly or indirectly failed as an academician because I also couldn’t become that. So I couldn’t become this. So I was nothing, basically.
So that feeling kind of resonates in you because you start thinking about all the different things that you could have achieved in those few years, I mean, that massive opportunity cost of, like, two years off your ages of 20s. So that really accumulates in you. But, obviously, after a few months or a few weeks’ time, you also notice that you learned a lot. I mean, the reason why I said mini MBA was simply that I learned a lot about, for example, cloud computing, B2B, and all this stuff, which I am, by the way, using on a daily basis now in our, you know, recent project. So, yeah, I mean, after a few weeks or months’ time . . .
Andrew: That’s a further recovery mentally. But when you say, “I was nothing,” you genuinely felt that way?
Burc: No. No.
Andrew: “I’m not an . . . ”
Burc: I mean, that’s an exaggeration, I guess. But, you know, really, really, when you observe your state, you literally see that you didn’t achieve anything. But, obviously, I didn’t conclude that I was nothing. I said, “Okay, I couldn’t . . . ”
Andrew: I felt that way. I felt that way. I go all-in on something, this becomes a definition of myself to myself, and if it doesn’t work out, I do feel I am a nothing. But you didn’t feel that way?
Burc: I think I was still early. I mean, I was something like 20, 22 or so, so, I mean, it was too early to completely be embarrassed.
Andrew: You weren’t embarrassed with your friends?
Andrew: By the way, I’m prodding here because I know in your conversation with our producer, it felt like it was a much more significant setback for you than just a learning experience as you’ve described here.
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. Obviously, it’s . . .
Andrew: But it was painful.
Burc: Yeah, it was obviously painful because, you know, I honestly graduated from the top universities in Istanbul, Turkey, so, you know, many of my, like, friends in the university already had top jobs in top consultancy companies, either on top of FMCG companies, and their careers were mostly linear. I mean, they didn’t have those, I don’t know, zigzags and stuff but mine was absolutely a zigzag to the bottom. So when you really, you know, voluntarily or involuntarily when you start comparing yourself in those two years’ time, I was basically at the bottom level.
But, yeah, I mean, such comparisons come to your mind and then go depending on where you stand, you know, which people you hang out with. And, fortunately, you know, one of the ways to get through it was that, you know, I had also a few entrepreneur friends who were going through the same, let’s say path. So not necessarily I was always hanging out with corporate friends having those top jobs. So I think those friendships also helped me to embrace that failure and then maybe attempt once again. But I don’t know, you know, whether, you know, what it would feel like if I had just failed just once again in just few years’ time. Hopefully, now I’m doing fine.
Andrew: So I want to get in a moment to the analysis that you made. So I’ve noticed it was . . . Drew Houston from Dropbox had a company that didn’t work out, spent time, I think, on his own, quietly learning, figuring out the world as he saw it, and then he came out with Dropbox. I want to ask you what you did or what you learned as you sat back and analyzed the failure of BizCorner? But first, let me talk about my first sponsor. It’s a company called Toptal. I asked you before we got started, any conflicts with me talking about Toptal, and you said, “No. I actually have had friends who worked at Toptal.” The people who you know who worked at Toptal, what do you know about them?
Burc: I mean, I, maybe this a coincidence or not, but I know that those guys really didn’t want to work elsewhere but instead picked Toptal to work for. So they kind of found those projects like more challenging and stuff. So, by the way, I only had two friends that I really know in person preferred to work for Toptal. And I know that in the first month of their career up to the graduation, they didn’t really pick those regular jobs, regular IT jobs in the local market, but, instead, they really wanted to take some global challenges and stuff. And I think Toptal gave them this nice opportunity to tackle those global challenges like remotely or maybe, like, with physical relocations and stuff. So that’s what I know about that.
Andrew: You know what? I think that sums up perfectly the developers that Toptal is looking for. Number one, you wouldn’t know a lot of Toptal developers because Toptal is incredibly . . . What’s the word? They are . . . They’re looking for a small group of people who love, as you say, challenges. Most people say, “I don’t want the challenge of this. I just want an easy job here to coast for a little bit while I figure out what I want to do or have the work part of my life just taken care of so I can spend more . . . ” No, they’re certain developers who just freaking love challenges. And Toptal wants those people, the people who enjoy it so much that if someone hires them and puts a challenge in front on them, they say, “Yummy, bring it on. This is what I’m here for.”
And second is, they want, people with this global aspiration who don’t necessarily want to move here to San Francisco. And I could tell you tons of reasons why you don’t want to move to San Francisco. Number one is poop on the sidewalk, right? They don’t want to do it. They want to live in Turkey, if that’s where they’re from. They want to live in Western Europe, if that’s where they’re from. They don’t want to move out. That’s the whole idea behind Toptal. They put these challenges in front of developers. Developers who pass all these challenges and tests, all these interview processes, make it into the Toptal developer platform.
When I or you or anyone else out there listening to us wants to hire a developer, all we have to do is go to toptal.com/mixergy, we hit a button, we talk to a matcher, the matcher, one-on-one conversation privately, understands what we’re looking and then sets us up with, often two, maybe three conversations with developers that we can hire. We can do it full time, part-time, a whole team of people just for a project. Whatever you need, they’ve got you covered. And if you don’t like it, after they’ll call you, you don’t have to hire. If you do, they’re going to give you 80 hours or Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours in addition to a no-risk trial period. So, basically, rigor involved in being part of the Toptal network. And, for you, they give you the confidence to know that if you’re not happy, you can back out. You don’t have to pay, but the developers will still be paid.
So here’s the URL, it’s top as in top of your head, tal as in talent, T-O-P-T-A-L.com/mixergy. And a good question to ask your developer is, how did it feel? Do you remember the day when you got into the Toptal network? It’s a huge day for them because it’s challenging, and most of their friends, most of the developers they know have not made it into Toptal. toptal.com/mixergy.
So you were starting to say you analyzed the failure, and you learned from it. What’s one or two things that you took away from it, and you said, “I’m not going to make that mistake next time”?
Burc: Well, that was the basically the problem aspect of things. I mean, I noticed that, you know, many . . . By the way, I was also reading a lot of, like, technology blogs and stuff like TechCrunch. And so I noticed that all those, mostly B2B companies that took off had really, you know, solid problems to be addressed and, I mean, and those problems were really real. I mean, they were not really increasing the efficiencies of the company and not such, you know, like, the lightweight problems, let’s say. So those problems were also faced by, not necessarily 10, 100 companies or so, but we were talking about thousands of businesses of all sizes having those problems.
So I, literally, you know, try to draw a landscape of maybe markets, initially. So I initially wanted to drill things down to the market level in B2B. So I really wanted to find a market where thousands, millions of companies are active in. So, obviously, SMBs are such markets, and SMBs in e-commerce was the best market to tackle around the time of like 2013, 2014, or so because in the local market, e-commerce was booming. So I picked e-commerce as the right market to tackle.
So then I started to drill e-commerce market down to find out such problems, which is felt by almost everybody in a harsh way and, fortunately, I had many friends, you know, working in e-commerce either as entrepreneurs or, you know, employees, so I was hanging out with such guys, like, on a daily basis for a beer, pizza, or whatever. So they were always complaining about one single problem, which has been the problem that I loved in the last few years stats.
Andrew: SMB, small, medium-sized businesses.
Andrew: And e-commerce. Small, medium-sized businesses why?
Burc: Because there are a lot and their needs are quite common so that you can tackle that with, let’s say, standard product instead of offering, you know, customization, integrations, implementations on every single customer that you on-board. You can, instead . . . like, Shopify, for example, you can build for a single product which caters to the needs of, you know, one-size-fits-all approach, basically.
Andrew: Got it. Versus, if you go for a bigger enterprise, General Motors and, I don’t know what’s another enterprise company, and Apple wouldn’t have the same problem, obviously. So you said, they’re a lot of them, and they have similar problems. You noticed that e-commerce was on the rise. How did you notice that e-commerce was on the rise?
Burc: Because everybody was working for e-commerce, as I said, either employees or, you know, many of my, you know, friends started to launch different e-commerce stores in different verticals. And, like, some of them picked, I don’t know, luxury items, some of them picked designer items, some of them brought, you know, consumer electronic stuff from China, so they launched their consumer electronics website. So it was a simple observation of friends that were involved in certain markets. And, obviously, the numbers were showing such things, so we got a lot of, you know . . .
For example, we had few unicorn-ish e-commerce startups back in like 2013, and this was actually not necessarily a Turkish thing what we used to do. Amazon was almost growing faster and faster. It was becoming more and more global instead of just becoming a U.S. company. So, in Europe, we also had a lot of, you know, e-commerce successes, you know, companies crossing the billion-dollar revenue mark and stuff. So I felt that it was already the time to tackle a problem and instead of just launching another e-commerce company and getting lost in that crowd, I, instead, you know, instead, I took the, you know, chance to tackle the problems of those thousands upon millions of companies.
Andrew: You know what? I noticed it, too, that e-commerce is growing, and I think there are a few reasons for it. Tell me what you think. Number one, people are getting more and more comfortable shopping online. Number two, online shopping is more accessible as mobile phones are becoming a bigger and bigger part of our lives. Shopify is creating a platform to enable more kinds of e-commerce. And then I even think that Instagram, to some degree, is empowering, Instagram, and Facebook ads are empowering more e-commerce sites. Like, in your day-to-day without them, you wouldn’t come across some small e-commerce operation that was maybe even drop shipping from somewhere else because where would you? But Instagram, Facebook have gotten really good at targeting you with exactly the product that you need to see and getting you to buy it.
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. True.
Andrew: What do you think?
Burc: Yeah. I think I [inaudible 00:26:39] . . .
Andrew: But I’m also . . .
Burc: Mm-hmm? Yeah. Go ahead, please.
Andrew: So I’m also going to add one other thing. I also noticed that to some degree, YouTube is big that way, too, where there are small stores that will give away products to YouTubers, who will then have something to create a video about and then YouTube’s algorithm will be good about showing the GoPro equipment, in my case, to somebody who is obsessive about GoPros and you say, “Wow, all right, it’s 20 bucks from some store I’ve never heard of, but it’s exactly what I need, and it addresses my need.” So I feel like all this stuff is coming together and growing e-commerce. What were you going to say? What did you notice?
Burc: Yeah. I absolutely agree that all things are getting together. But I see things more about, like, demand and supply fulfilling each other in a way. So I really see Shopify’s and similar companies position really crucial in that level because, you know, when you combine a few technologies together, you can somewhat launch a retail operation like Amazon. Obviously, I’m exaggerating to a certain level, but you can literally launch your website, you know, with Shopify, you can them embed personalization tools, I don’t know, pricing optimization tools like us, you know, product recommendation tools, again, available on Shopify’s ecosystem and you can suddenly start running an e-commerce operation almost as sophisticated as Amazon.
So this capability of launching such sophisticated stores, obviously, you know, drove such people, ambitious people to launch companies, instead of . . . Because why not? I mean, they said, “Okay, this is quite easy. I wouldn’t lose that much of money because that’s . . . ” There is not such many, I don’t know, CapEx, if that’s the right way, I mean. Instead of having a lot of capital, the expenses of launching a shop, you know, buying a lot of assortments, you can instead just push things into the operational expense side or tech side. You can pay Shopify like $29 per month. You can just do drop shipping. You don’t keep that much.
So this capability, this flexibility of really launching something, I think really, I agree with the supply side of things. And, obviously, with all these marketing channels, all these visibility of supply, demand also started to, you know, gain momentum. And I think the fact that in an e-commerce store, you can literally list . . . I don’t know. Obviously, you need to build the right information architecture, but you can list thousands or millions of SKUs that you cannot really list or actually store in a physical store. So it also gives a lot of convenience to shoppers that they can find everything in stock instead of going to a shop and noticing that that product is not on the shelf and stuff. So I . . .
Andrew: Yeah. So . . .
Burc: . . . I believe that.
Andrew: The thing that I’m taking away from you is, you said, “This time, yes, I’m going to accept that I need a big market and I understand the analysis of a big market.” The next thing that I noticed as I wrote down what you were saying was, friends. You had access to people who needed this versus your previous company, with BizCorner, you didn’t know a lot of people who were running companies . . .
Andrew: Right? Maybe not even one. Here . . . No. And here you had a lot of friends who were doing e-commerce, so you had more access to the market. And, finally, you said, “I need to have a problem,” and you noticed that they were complaining a lot. I want to hear a little bit more about the complaints as they said it back then. Obviously, you have more understanding and nuance and the scope of it, but back then, what did you pick up from your friends who were complaining about the problem with e-commerce?
Burc: So the center of all those complains was simply competition, first of all. I mean, they were saying that, okay, that, you know, let’s say they’re working at company A, you know, suddenly on the second day of their operation, company B launches and starts selling the exact same product assortment. Let’s say it’s consumer electronics because it’s not really a hidden, let’s say, business secret to, you know, launch a drop shipping business bringing, you know, consumer electronics products from China. I mean, none of those supply channels are actually, like, I don’t know, exclusive or something so you can start selling the exact same product assortment in a few days.
So they were complaining about all these, you know, direct assortment clash, new domains popping up every day, and their inability to really trace all those new shops manually because they were . . . literally, like, about 50% of their day time was spent on browsing through all their competitor website, checking out what they have in their store on the homepage only, like, on the homepage, they visit like 10 to 15 products. So they can only browse through the top 10 to 15 product prices, you know, names, brands.
Andrew: But you know what? I’m wondering how much of a problem this was because I think about my shopping habits, and I have a hard time going beyond it. For me, if I’m not buying on Amazon, it’s usually a specialty issue. Like I told you, I love my action camera. My action camera needs a thing that would hold on to a microphone for when I want to record my voice as I’m running, go to Amazon, they were late to sell those things, but there would be some random Shopify store that would advertise to me on Instagram or I would see on YouTube somebody do a video of it, and I’d go, and I’d buy that.
But would I even know how to go and do a search for a competing website for it? I don’t know how because they give it their own name even though it’s made in the same factory as a competitor. They . . . I can’t figure out . . . Like, what am I looking for? Am I looking for a microphone shock mount, something, or . . . ? It’s too cumbersome. I don’t do it. But I know I’m not typical. What were you finding? How were your friends expressing this problem? What were their customers doing?
Burc: They were actually Googling, first of all. I mean, by the way, I’m talking about global markets. So, obviously, Amazon is a fact in the U.S., so most of the search even start not from Google but from Amazon search bar. But if you take Google as an example, when you search for, let’s say a commodity product, I don’t know, a really popular product, let’s say Nintendo or whatever, a PlayStation and whatsoever, when you search for that product with its name, it pops up with, I don’t know, tens or maybe like hundreds of different results, product results depending on their SEO rankings. And when you, for example, as a consumer, click on all those results to see which is the best-priced item. You know, if you put yourself into the shoes of every single e-commerce store owner of those tabs that you opened on Google Chrome, they are actually, you know, own spot competing on price. So we were actually tapping into the needs of those companies because their consumers were simply benchmarking the prices of those companies live. So they were literally in a live price competition.
So, if at that moment, obviously, I’m assuming that they have a trustable, you know, band, they ship their products on time, so all the other aspects are kind of, like, equal. They have all user-friendly dashboards, you know, websites and stuff. So, instead of losing a sale just because of that expansive price point, we were helping those companies to be the most affordable or, I don’t know, most profitable or maybe in some cases, cheapest in such comparisons.
Andrew: So they were noticing that their customers were Googling for their product, opening a bunch of tabs looking for the cheapest. I just have such a hard time believing that that’s the way people operate . . .
Burc: I mean, it’s . . .
Andrew: . . . because I imagine what most people care about is where is it coming from? And I’d be willing to pay an extra $5, $10 for a product if I knew it was coming from a good source. But I understand. I’m not the typical customer. That’s what you were starting to see from them. And you said, “I can solve this problem,” and the first customer you got was where and who?
Burc: It was actually, like, we had a few customers almost in the same week. So we had a Turkish customer. Like, I think he saw our, like, post, or something like online, and he was doing all these stuff manually himself, and he was actually the founder of this e-commerce company, e-commerce operation. So he just jumped on the idea, saying that, “Okay, instead of just manually checking all these prices . . . ” It was like a sales pitch in itself, so his buying pitch was actually a sales pitch itself. So he said, “Okay, instead of spending tons of time on manually checking all those competitors, I can save this time for my business operations, for my growth.” So he just signed up for our software, subscribed to it, and started to automate all these competitor price tracking. And, also, on top of that, he started to integrate with our API, which enabled him even to automatically change his price on the website. And, voila, he automatically, you know, started to do all these pricing decision-making process.
Andrew: You posted on a message board? Which message board was it, and what did you post?
Burc: Not message board. I think it was a Turkish blog of startups, not even an e-commerce one, but I think that . . .
Andrew: Saying, “We launched it. Here’s a thing that we created.”
Burc: Yeah. Absolutely.
Andrew: Got it. And you know what? That’s the thing that I noticed about your launch. It was very Turkish. The homepage was in Turkish, right?
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. Totally.
Andrew: People who you were launch . . . It was. It was . . . That was intentional, right?
Burc: Not necessarily. I mean, I think it was not intentional, but we noticed that, you know, on the very first, like, in months, maybe in the first years, we didn’t really have a finished product in hand, so it was not really fully automated. So it was doing the majority of the stuff manual, sorry, automatically. But that needed some manual validation, manual verification, so we always needed this human touch during the sales process. So as we couldn’t really do, you know, sales meetings and, I don’t know, all these conversations outside Turkey, we kind of saw the Turkish market as a test ground. So we eventually had all those direct meetings with our, you know, potential customers, you know, exchanging these ideas of being not fully automated, fulfilling their needs with some manual services that’s not . . .
Andrew: But did they know that? In fact, from what I understand, the very first version was completely manual. You got him as a customer, and you figured out, “We’ll have somebody sit back there and put together a spreadsheet for this customer.” Am I right?
Burc: Yeah. Not somebody, me, actually. Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew: It was you?
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. Me and my co-founders and maybe a small team.
Andrew: The two of you were sitting down, spending hours doing research?
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew: Why? Why did you do it? Why didn’t find somebody on Upwork?
Burc: Because we didn’t have even money for that, to be honest. I mean, because we just, you know, we . . .
Andrew: Because you went completely broke from the previous company?
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. That’s true. So we . . .
Andrew: Were you living with your parents?
Burc: No. I was actually living with my friends, but I was actually, like, kind of couch surfing through a few friends, so I was not really paying for the rent in the first few months of the company.
Andrew: And, to be honest, also, to be complete, you also took on a job for a bit, am I right? In between the two businesses [inaudible 00:36:48].
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. That’s true. We kind of skipped that, but I also worked as a kind of account manager for a mobile marketing agency for a few months for a major telco.
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. That’s true. It was a really nice opportunity, but anyways, then it didn’t stick. But, yeah, I . . .
Andrew: So it was you saying, “We launched this new thing, a software that will give you all the information you need about your customers, sign up.” He signs up, you say, “All right, and our software is going to be our fingers and some spreadsheet software.” You do the work for him. You do the work for other customers. You continue to do it that way. We’re going to get back in a moment and talk about what you did after. But I got to ask you, one of the first things I noticed as I was looking at your previous versions of your website was, there was a London address, like, months after you launched. What’s the London address about on your . . . ?
Burc: Actually, we . . .
Andrew: . . . homepage? Everything is in Turkish . . .
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. We actually . . .
Andrew: . . . a little bit of English, I should say, if you want translation. But a London office sticks out. What is that?
Burc: We had a few friends, actually, literally. Like, in the very first stage of a startup, you know, you sometimes feel that you can maybe be a five to six co-founding members instead of just two main co-founders. So I thought that maybe if we could have been a bigger team of co-founders, we didn’t really need an early employee so everybody would just be really motivated to work for the company without a salary and stuff. So, fortunately, I had really bright friends also based in, like, London, and, obviously, the UK market is one of the, you know, hottest e-commerce markets for us now. For example, we . . .
Andrew: So there was a friend who was there?
Burc: Friends, actually, two friends.
Andrew: And it’s . . . Friends. And this was their house or something or . . . ?
Burc: Yeah, home office, basically. So he was . . .
Andrew: Okay. Got it.
Burc: The two guys were already doing some other stuff, so one of the houses was actually our London office. But it was literally an office.
Andrew: And it’s also like a prestige thing. You got London . . .
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. Obviously.
Andrew: . . . space. Got it. All right. Let me take a moment and talk about my first sponsor, my second sponsor, excuse me. One of the things that I noticed about what you described is when people shop, they do this whole Google hunting thing. It’s tough to compete on price. It’s tough to compete in a world where people can open up five different tabs and find $5 lower. The thing that helps us stand out is brand, and I think the best way to do that is to have your own name on the internet. Go get your domain, put your photo up there, put a little bit of text. You don’t have to go much more than that, but it gives people a sense of who you are. I think then if you build on that a little more, blog a little bit, put links to different things that you’re doing online, create a reputation for yourself and people will be willing to pay for your stuff more than they are willing to pay for a competitor even if they’re charging a little bit less. And it makes sense because they could trust you more. Am I right?
Burc: Yeah. That’s true.
Andrew: And the best way to do that is to go to hostgator.com/mixergy. And the reason I like that is, Burc, let me be honest with you, I noticed a lot of other podcasters are talking about different platforms for creating websites, and they do not use them. They’re all on WordPress hosted by somebody. And the reason that they’re all on WordPress hosted by someone is so that they could take their platform, take their website and move it to a competitor if they want to. So they have flexibility to do whatever they want on their site.
Which is why I’m saying to anyone who is listening to me, if you’re building a website, go build it on WordPress. And if you’re using WordPress, I think the best place to get started is go to HostGator. With HostGator, they give you super low prices, dependable service, and room to grow, even more options than you see on their website. So as you need more, they will grow with you. If you go to hostgator.com/mixergy, you’re going to get the lowest price . . . And actually, the reason that you see me a little distracted is I’m doing a search on your site. I want to know what did you built that first version of your site. Now, let me see. Do you remember what . . . ? It was WordPress, wasn’t it?
Andrew: The markup. Was it WordPre . . . ? Oh, I’m hitting markup. Delete. View source. Let me confirm. From what I could see . . .
Burc: I think we . . .
Andrew: . . . it wasn’t. Was it WordPress?
Burc: We, I think, used a . . . What was it called? Like, there a framework . . .
Burc: But that website didn’t live for so long, actually. But I don’t really remember. We were using this more like a . . .
Andrew: Yeah. I got to be honest, the first version was not. The first version was built . . . It looks like it was almost hand-made, that first version of your site. But I don’t want to give people the wrong impression. No, you guys did not use WordPress. A lot of people who I have interviewed have used WordPress to get started, and often it’s on HostGator. If you want to get started or you hate your hosting company, and you want to try somebody new, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. They will even migrate you. And if you thought their prices were already low, you’re going to be shocked by how low they are when you go to hostgator.com/mixergy.
You know, the one place where I don’t fact check is in conversations. But I hate it when I’m having a conversation with someone, and I get a little bit off, and my wife will correct me and go, “No, actually, it is . . . ” I mean, can you just let that go? Does it have to be actually, exactly perfect? Are you married?
Andrew: You are?
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew: Does your wife do that?
Burc: No. Not that much, actually. I mean, she’s mostly supportive.
Andrew: I mean, I don’t mean to, like, act like she has to correct me all the time, but it does almost hurt your ears when you hear somebody say something that’s inaccurate and you want to make sure that you get it right and represent everything honestly. But in a marriage, in a friendship, just sometimes, let it go. You don’t need the absolute, perfect answer all the time.
Burc: I agree. Yeah.
Andrew: Thank you. All right. So, at some point, you had to start to automate. What’s the first automation that you did?
Burc: I think the major bottleneck that we had against us while we were attempting to scale this offering, I mean, the difficult thing about price tracking is, you know, actually competitive pricing tracking is that, to identify, really, the competitive products, for example, you’re, let’s take a website A, and you’re selling these 10 products, in order to scrape prices from the competitor B for those products, you initially need to match those products versus each other. So you need to say, “This product listed on company A is the exact, same product price benchmark-able product on company B.” And this is not a straightforward task because, you know, there are not named by the exact same person in those two companies. I mean, maybe they list those products under different categories. Their pictures are the different pictures and stuff. So we really had a hard time to automatically match all those products one by one. So the main automation requirement for us to scale was at that layer because we obviously really quickly managed to, you know, automate price scraping parts, so that manual operation didn’t last for long. I mean, only for a few weeks’ time. We populated prices manually, but after that, this price population thing went fully automated.
But let’s say when you automatically track, you know, 100 prices from company A and 100 prices from company B, then these needed to be matched. So these took about like one or two years of time for us to build some type of product recommendation. But now, for example, we have a fully automated solution for a certain bar codes, product codes and stuff, which helps us to, you know, get through all these manual effort of matching products one by one. So companies simply provide us their own products and then with all their, like, unique product identifiers, maybe like GTIN numbers, UPCs, EANs depending in which market you are, we can automatically find those matched versions. So I can guarantee you now that everything is fully automated as of today.
Andrew: Once you got the 35 customers, you started automating it. I’m I right about that? Because . . .
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. Actually. Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew: And doing it manually was a pain?
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. True.
Andrew: What did you learn by personally doing it to manually that you wouldn’t have known if you would have hired somebody else to do it?
Burc: I think I learned that automating that would even be really hard because, you know, if you cannot, you know, artificial intelligence is . . . I think that it tries to mimic your, you know, human capacity. So even in human capacity, some products were really hard to match against each other. So because their namings were really, like, creative in some cases and in some e-commerce managements were naming products with amazing typos, so you cannot really, I mean, you can’t think that this product might be a different product, not that product. So in such tricky cases, I was feeling really hard, and my teammates were also having those same problems. And, in some cases, we were obviously making mistakes, and in some cases, we were making the correct match, but the customers were saying that, “Okay, these products are wrongly matched so you should correct them up.” But actually, those were not right. So I noticed that this will be even a difficult task when done automatically. This was the key thing that I learned.
Andrew: Yeah. It does seem like it’s hard because don’t people just make up their own names? Or maybe I’m misunderstanding who your ideal customer is. But when it comes to stuff that’s being sold on Shopify stores, I find that a whole lot of it is the exact same thing that people are buying from Alibaba Express and reselling. It just has their own name on it.
Burc: Actually not . . .
Andrew: Their own twist.
Burc: . . . not necessarily. I mean, the retail type that I’m talking about is actually mostly branded retail. So, for example, Sony cameras, Apple iPhones, so these are really branded products with well-known names. I mean, so people cannot really make, I mean, mistakes that easily. But even in such cases, they were naming those mostly toys, mama and baby products in a weird way, so we were sometimes making some mistakes. So that was quite a difficult task.
And also, one of the other tricky parts was that, you know, some product pages were really unstructured. For example, if you go to a website A and if you check out their five different product pages, in all those product pages, they were listing products in a different manner with different type of price points. You know, some of them had variants of product so you could have selected from certain drop-downs to find which product price to be scraped from. So such cases were also quite tricky even if you were doing this manually. So making them automated was a hard challenge, I would say.
Andrew: What’s the difference between price and price point?
Burc: Actually, price point is something that you really set on the spot, but price is actually what, you know, price is might be more generic. So price is what you can change, but price point is always set for products. So it’s kind of like a snapshot, I would say.
Andrew: Wait. So if I buy my phone for $1000, isn’t that the price and the price point? What’s the difference between the two of them?
Burc: I think price point is a price of a product given on a particular date.
Andrew: And the price then?
Burc: Price can change. But price point is the price of a product on a certain date, so it’s like a stamp.
Andrew: Okay. I’m looking up a dictionary definition of price point “on a scale of possible prices of which something might be marketed.” So there’s a price point is a little more variable, and the price that I pay or the price that it sells for is at a moment in time. Am I right about that?
Burc: Well, I think it’s the opposite, but if you’re checking . . .
Andrew: The opposite?
Burc: . . . from a . . . Yeah.
Andrew: Okay. Hopeful to have [inaudible 00:47:47]. The reason that I ask that is I looked at Ahrefs, and that was the top page on your site. The most valuable page on your site is, “What is a price point, and what’s the difference between a price point and a price?”
Burc: Yeah, we receive a lot of backlinks for that post, actually. I mean, our content team generates a lot . . . You know, they became pricing geeks, and they know much more than me about pricing, I must admit. So they even wrote a huge glossary of terms about pricing, so, you know, if you check that out . . . I think it also has a nice Ahrefs ranking.
Andrew: Yeah. I see that. Do you guys use Ahrefs a lot to . . . ?
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. A lot. Yeah.
Andrew: How do you use it?
Burc: For, basically, content marketing. I mean, we check out which type of content site are doing fine in certain verticals, so we try to mimic them. We try to, like, write similar stuff in our own industry. So we try to get, you know, generalistic best practices in different . . .
Andrew: Because you’re seeing . . .
Burc: . . . let’s say, Ahrefs.
Andrew: How do you use it? When you go into it, what are you looking for? Because it looks like SEO is a big component for you now.
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. True. We don’t really . . . How to say? We check out . . . we kind of have about 20, 25 companies that are doing great in inbound marketing so we kind of analyze their backlinking profile, how they generate, you know, backlinks from different blogs and stuff. For example, if we see a common blog that’s, you know, providing backlinks to them, we try outreach to those guys to say, “Okay, we want to guest blog on your site, so can we do that?” If it’s obviously in the realm of, in the domain of e-commerce, so we outreach those guys, try to write guest blogs on their channels. And, obviously, we search for, like, topics. So if we find any major blog covering any issues, any stuff about pricing, pricing strategies, we also try to guest blog on their sites or maybe, like, just share our newly, you know, posted blog post and ask them to backlink that if they like. So that’s how it works.
Andrew: I see. So if I would do this, I might go to Ahrefs, put in your domain, and see that you got a backlinks from GrooveHQ, which is a really good blog, they are . . .
Burc: Yeah, that’s organic. By the way, we never outreach to that so that they . . .
Andrew: Right. But then I might notice that you got organic traffic from them and it’s meaningful, and I might reach out to the founder and say, “Hey, there’s an article that I have written, and it’s kind of helpful to something that you’ve written.” And that’s the way that you would do it?
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. True.
Andrew: So the first batch of customers came because they read the blog post announcing that you launched, you sold that way. You then, from what I understand, before you got into search engine optimization, you started, actually, is it going to local Turkish e-commerce businesses and talking to them at their office, or were you calling them?
Burc: Yeah. Correct.
Andrew: Or what? What . . . ?
Burc: Yeah, that was a direct sales. They would be . . .
Andrew: You would call, you picked up the phone and call them?
Burc: No, we just actually sent them emails, and we asked for meetings because that’s how you sell in Turkey in most cases.
Andrew: And then go into their WeWork or their home or whatever and talk to them about that.
Burc: Yeah. Not WeWorks, but, like, really proper office spaces, where they just invite you into their meetings room and you just, you know, plug your computer to their, like, presentations and stuff, then you just open your computer, share them the data that you provide. And then they just, you know, sit around the table, and they say, “Okay, we already doing this manually. So, okay, we are ready to pay for you if you would just take that hassle away from us.” And that’s how it worked, i.e., in the first, you know, I would say 10 to 15 customers in Turkey.
Andrew: And what did you learn from that?
Burc: So it was really direct, face-to-face.
Andrew: What did you learn from . . . ? And watch the mic again. It’s just going against your shirt.
Andrew: What did you learn from going one-on-one with them?
Burc: I think I learned that, you know, if we would . . . You know, it brings me to this enterprise that’s a dilemma. So if we would actually follow all their custom requirements, you know, custom needs and stuff, I think we would still get lost because, you know, even if we were fulfilling their existing needs, as soon as we, you know, provide them that solution, they would be asking for more. So, for example, I was just showing them that, okay, you know, I was basically asking them the questions that would direct us to our solution. So they were saying, “Okay, we are doing this manually. We want this to be changed and stuff.”
And then I was directly telling them that, “Okay, we have a solution for all.” But as soon as I provide a solution, they were saying, “Okay, but can you also provide us this type of report, that type of reports and stuff?” So it was going through a customization in an endless way. So, fortunately, we managed to get, you know, as, you know, not that distracted, so we stick to a core product vision. So we launched this product, you know, in a really self-service, scalable way so that we didn’t need those direct meetings as we scaled the product to 500 plus customers.
Andrew: How do you know what to say yes to and what to say no to?
Burc: I mean . . .
Andrew: I mean, how . . . ? It’s hard when you’re talking to somebody. I emphasize with the customers. They ask for something, it’s hard to say, “I can’t do that.”
Burc: I think it’s . . . I’m not saying, no, first of all, like, directly. I’m saying, “Okay, we will take this as a note, and we will check this with . . . ” By the way, this is exactly what we do. I’m not just lying to them. I say, “Okay, we will take this down as a note, and we will check whether this resonates in our, you know, customer base in a few other accounts.”
Andrew: But, still, you are in their office, even if you know you can’t do everything, it’s hard not to empathize and say, “You know what? This person really needs it. I feel they’re in pain and we should create it.”
Burc: But the thing is that . . . I mean, they are not always really needing that, that’s the problem because they already have nothing in hand and then you provide something to them. But they, you know, hypothetically, suddenly, want to have something even more than that. So they suddenly forget that they have nothing in hand, and they start doing hypothetical requirements on top of what already exists. So that’s what I mean. I mean, they’re not asking something on top of an existing product they have so that you [inaudible 00:53:33] . . .
Andrew: So it’s a realization, they don’t have this, anyway, what we’re going to do is replace the thing that they’re doing and make that more efficient for them. That already is a win. Anything on top of it can wait . . .
Burc: Yeah. That’s exactly what I mean.
Andrew: . . . until we nail this.
Burc: And that mostly waited in the accounts that we closed, by the way. I mean, some of them, you know, some of the first sales also wanted something extra, but they said, “Okay, instead of, you know, just waiting for you to launch that on that version, we are still okay to go with your existing version.” They started paying. And, obviously, down the way, we managed to add a few extra features that were commonly asked by those early customers. So that helped us also to continue serving them for years.
Andrew: You got some of the investors from BizCorner to come back and invest in Prisync. How hard was that, and why would they say yes to you? You lost their money at BizCorner?
Burc: Yeah. Actually, it was not a big investment. It was kind of like a startup event competition kind of thing, which also, you know, had just a bit of angel investment as a prize. So we were actually five startups in a batch, selected, so BizCorner was born of the five startups selected as part of this competition. So that competition helped us to actually meet a lot of angel investments that were in the Turkish community. So we had direct mentorship sessions with them, and some of them were actually, not necessarily interested in the business that we were pursuing, I guess, but interested in us as entrepreneurs of that idea, so they liked us as, I don’t know, maybe even friends, maybe as business people and stuff. And after that, I think I and my co-founders used that personal communication, personal connection with those, like, angel investors so that when I just asked for an interview, asked for a meeting from them, they said, “Okay, I know you,” so we can meet again. And then most of them . . .
Andrew: I see.
Burc: . . . actually said, “Okay, it would be nice to meet again with you, and this time I think you are in a better idea because you now are talking about a problem. The previous one was not even a . . . ” They really validated what I talked about this much, and that’s really encouraged me, I guess.
Andrew: And was it anyone who invested in the previous company ended up investing in this one or no?
Burc: Yeah. One of the angel investors that actually invested as the prize money of this initial competition has been our . . .
Andrew: Got it.
Burc: . . . lead angel investor.
Andrew: Wow. All right. And then at some point, you realized, “We spend 60%, maybe 70% of the money that we raised on a different direction.” What’s the different direction that you went down that you shouldn’t have?
Burc: Yeah. When we started automating this price scraping thing, but we were still manually matching those products one by one. So we kind of automated the 60%, 70% of the product. But in order to sell the service that we packaged as itself, we needed to also have this manual product matching again, so we rushed into selling this manual plus automated version in the regional market. So we came to a point where we were actually not able to make even unit profitability on an account-base because we were selling, for example, for $150, $200 per month, but we were also allocating a lot of, like, human resources on account management. So we acquired customers with this unit, like, unit economics of loss.
So in the midway, actually, after passing a bit the midway, and we noticed that, I mean, if we project things further, we will just lose all this angel investment that we had. So instead of doing that, let’s cut all this manual stuff, so that will help us to actually, like, in economics term, increase our gross profit. So for every single account that we on-board, we will spend next to nothing because everything will be automated.
So that was a big risk because we really didn’t know whether our fully automated version without this product matching service would even sell because, you know, companies were also really, like, by nature, lazy to dedicate some resource, some time on to our platform. So they needed to do this matching themselves, by the way. So they needed to spend maybe first few hours or minutes while they’re getting on-boarded. So we tested that out. We didn’t do any matching on behalf of customers. We just put the product in front of them. And, fortunately, around March 2015, there was a Spanish guy signing up for our free trial, just playing around with the product, getting the first product and emailing those links. And then, since then, we have been growing in the same fashion.
Andrew: Finally, one of the things that I asked you before we got started is, you’re growing, you’re hiring. I kept assuming that you were hiring people outside of Turkey. You’re hiring within Turkey. I feel like it’s . . . you’re . . . there’s a challenge that you’re picking up on that and part of the challenge is that developers and products people in Turkey want to seem to work for companies outside of Turkey. Am I right? In my . . .
Burc: Yeah. That’s true.
Andrew: . . . understanding of the issue?
Burc: Yeah. That’s true.
Andrew: They are. And so what . . . ? Then the reason that they do that is because, I imagine, a little more prestige getting to work for a Silicon Valley company and a little bit more money. What are you seeing there? What’s the challenges, and how do you deal with that?
Burc: I mean, we are kind of tapping into the same source of, I think, global challenge. I mean, we don’t care whether we are based in Istanbul, Turkey, or Silicon Valley. We are still doing something global. I think that’s the main motivation that drives our current teammates and the newcomers. So they understand that instead of just going to Silicon Valley, they can still take a similar dose of challenges because they’re knocking the same heart like Glassdoors, so they are actually building the same sophisticated version of this B2B product. So instead of just trying to find this dream job elsewhere, they can maybe find this dream job, maybe, next door. So that’s what we are trying to actually articulate in such . . . maybe, like, even in this interview, that’s what I’m trying to do, or maybe in the, I don’t know, meetups and stuff. I’m just . . . me, and my co-founders are trying to do the same thing.
And this is not necessarily only for, by the way, the developers. So in sales and marketing roles, for example, the main thing that drives many people in the local market is that they really want to sell into global accounts. So instead of just taking those direct face-to-face meetings in Turkish ecosystem, for example, they really want to do inside sales. They really want to be on the phone. They really want to polish up their English speaking skills. So that’s what we are really providing to those, you know, people. They just will be on the phone all day into global accounts. They will never speak . . . I mean, obviously, they like to speak Turkish but, I mean, for business aspects, I mean, they want really to speak and do Turkish-speaking meetings. So this is, again, quite a similar business context as if they were actually based in Silicon Valley. That’s what we offer.
Andrew: What time is it where you are right now?
Burc: 10:10 p.m.
Andrew: Is it hard to have conversations this late at night?
Burc: I mean, it’s hard . . .
Andrew: And for me, it’s 11 in the morning, and I’m here in San Francisco.
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. It’s hard if you have been doing this for hours throughout the day. I mean, because this is probably, like, maybe 10th or 9th call that I’m having and on average, they lasted about like 20, 30 minutes and this one I think lasted for about 70 minutes or so. But as long as the topic is actually, you know, close to these realms, I think I’m mostly enjoyed that. And by the way, this is last.
Andrew: What are you going to do next?
Burc: This the last.
Andrew: Last of the day. What are you doing after this now that work is done?
Burc: I mean, my wife is actually waiting for me by the house here, so I will probably hang out with her just a bit, and then we will probably crash.
Andrew: When you say hang out, what do you guys do? Do you watch TV at night?
Burc: Yeah. Yeah. Probably.
Andrew: And then end that way?
Burc: We just try to read some stuff. I mean . . . Yeah. That’s what we do.
Andrew: All right. Thank you so much for . . .
Burc: You’re welcome.
Andrew: . . . for doing this interview. I really appreciate it. I think for anyone who wants to go check your site, they should prisync.com. That’s P-R-I-S-Y-N-C.com. Like the word price and sync . . .
Andrew: . . . are merged into one. prisync.com. And I didn’t say it earlier but, Ahrefs, I’ve got an account for them. They’re a partner of ours. That’s why I was able to look you up there and I want to thank them, and I also want to thank HostGator for hosting websites. Check them out at hostgator.com/mixergy, and if you’re hiring developers, go check out toptal.com/mixergy. Burc, thank you so much.
Burc: You’re welcome, Andrew. Take care.
Andrew: Bye. Goodnight.