Oguz Serdar, stubborn, laser focused and keen on solving one important thing

Oguz Serdar chilling in Chile (I just had to say that)





Goran: Hi Oguz! Can you introduce yourself? Tell us what makes you an entrepreneur, what do you love about developing?

 

Oguz Serdar

Oguz Serdar

Oguz: Sure! My name is Oguz Serdar (22), I grew up in Turkey, have been making money from web based projects for the last decade. I always believe that entrepreneurship is more an attitude and mindset than a skill or a profession. An entrepreneur loves what he does, does what he loves. The idea of fixing small problems that make other people suffer thrives off of me, especially when it’s possible to build a profitable business around it.

Goran: Like many successful startup co-founders you are a “hard working + never give up” material. Would you also say you are stubborn (which is a common disadvantage) or do you have a different Kryptonite? What separates you from where you want to be, and what was the advantage that gave you success over the years?

Oguz: Not only the startup founders like us, but also the most successful entrepreneurs (or athletes, politicians, artists… you name it) that we know happened to have a stubborn personality which was one of the main reasons of their extraordinary success. Never giving up, or taking “No” for an answer is actually a good thing, and I wouldn’t count it as a weakness. By applying this mantra to my life, I would say being a hustler was the biggest advantage that gave success over years.

When it comes to be a hustler,  there’s one important thing that you should be careful about it: Don’t be weird. I remember this deck from Paul Singh of 500 Startups that recommends not being weird as number #1 goal in life. As long as you’re able to stop before things getting weird, hustling and pushing the boundaries are good. Honestly, I feel like this might be my Kryptonite, as I tend to forget where to stop when insisting on something, and not noticing that it’s already getting weird. 🙂

Goran: I saw Nico Orellana wrote a comment on Limk’s AngelList profile, and we all know how important public commenting and referencing is. It’s always difficult to get someone talk about you or your startup, so when someone says you are perceived as “Startup Chile heroes” that’s really special. Can you write a little bit about that experience, how it changed you, what was the best thing you took home with you?

Oguz: Chile is a wonderful place with incredibly friendly people, and the program is good. You get to know a lot of cool people, learn a lot, experience other cultures and have the resources to make your startup better. If you have the right expectations you can make Start-Up Chile a fantastic experience, but people shouldn’t expect a program like YC, TechStars or 500 Startups accelerator. You don’t have people like PG, David Cohen, Dave McClure or Christine Tsai to run the program, lead the batch. You don’t have office hours, startup dinners, or incredible mentors stopping by. You don’t have the cash wired into your bank account as the batch starts, but you have to deal with lots of bureaucratic stuff and submit all your receipts, and expect to get them approved. Things like that…

No matter what I think more developing world countries like Turkey or Croatia should replicate the approach. My experience is overall positive, and I would recommend it to everyone else.

Goran: Oguz, you have over 2,800 subscribers and nearly 3500 friends on Facebook, almost 44,000 followers on Twitter, Limk has over 70,000 likers, give us your secret recipe! Or at least give us 1 best tip we can all use! Also be honest, how much time do you spend on social networks per day?

Oguz: Not that much, probably half an hour in a day. Thanks to tools like Hootsuite & Buffer (you can read my interview with Buffer’s co-founder Joel Gascoigne) that let me to schedule things ahead of time, I can pretty much set everything I want to share in that short time frame. Hootsuite is also great at monitoring stuff as it gives you more options comparing other solutions out there. I think the #1 tip we should all consider to use is avoiding the overdose of social media.

Use your time wisely, and be selective when it comes to sharing content. That’s the best & guaranteed way to build a follower base that gives a damn what you have to say. Follower counts are misleading indicators, and I believe they never represent overall influence. Limk is a different story as it has a strong history in Turkey.

Goran: Now that we have everyone attention, tell them why Limk.com is cool, awesome, life changing and why everyone should actually click on this link, and spend their time in order to sign up to yet another service. What is Limk? Can you compare it to http://www.thefancy.com or 9gag.com?

 

Limk - a world without noise, yet to explore!

Limk – a world without noise, yet to explore!

Oguz: I would compare 9gag to Cheezburger Network, and The Fancy to Fab. What we’re trying to accomplish with Limk has nothing to do with our alpha release (*), and is a struggling one. Although most of the services aiming to lower the web noise claimed the very opposite, I think the problem of bringing relevant content to you has always been simple. They simply never want it. Why? Because not only those services, but also the major social networks aggressively compete with one another to monopolize the time & attention of average users because their business models are built upon, and heavily rely upon, selling this attention.

Such companies like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter are the giant movers and shakers of the Internet, much like McDonald’s and Burger King are in their industry. What they don’t yet know, or are just ignoring in a wait-and-see holding pattern, is that they are the source of something akin to an epidemic of obesity on the worldwide web.

Ozer Dolekoglu, Product Guy (left) and Oguz Serdar, Chief Hustler (right)

Ozer Dolekoglu, Product Guy (left) and Oguz Serdar, Chief Hustler (right)

That’s where we will excel. Limk cuts through the web noise intelligently by offering a clean feed built around your interests that strips away the clutter, and incentivizes users by giving credits to their actions which they can redeem for related goodies, deals. The beta release is almost ready, and we look forward to release in a few weeks.

(*) During the current alpha release , we have been testing out a few channels which are known to attract massive attention, entertainment and inspiration, in order to make sure the dynamics of users’ attention is understood. We also got quite a feedback from the community that we wouldn’t otherwise have without shipping a product. We also learnt (the hard way) that there’s no such a thing as glamorous launch of startups. But of course you can always make it fun by having Dave McClure to push the launch button, as you did. Very classy move. 🙂  You should be shipping all the time, focus on your one important thing. For Limk, it’s cutting the web noise by offering a nice & clean feed, and everything else is secondary.

Goran: Thanks for the compliment on our launch. Let me return by saying Limk.com is a great domain name! I own a couple of 4 letter domain names, they are really hard to get, especially good .coms. Have you ever thought about building more websites on other great domains around your main one (like a franchise or a sister company)?

 

Oguz Serdar chilling in Chile (I just had to say that)

Oguz Serdar chilling in Chile (I just had to say that)

Oguz: At this point we’re laser focussed on achieving the one important thing of us, and not considering such things. But we might consider doing so in the future. Other than limk.com, we also hold .co, me, biz, tv, us extensions for safety, and li.mk also belongs to us. There’s one thing I believe about domains is that they matter a lot, but how you look (branding & PR) and what you do (product) matter more than anything else.

Goran: I think that reading books really transformed my life, and changed the way I think, do business, and many other things. What was it in your case that sparked that change to go from an ordinary job to a startup? And what is your favorite book if there is one?

Oguz: Ever since I was a little kid, I never thought of having an ordinary job and never had one thus far. I can’t say that books helped me to make a switch like that, but the situation itself mostly affected book choices of mine. By far, “Losing My Virginity” from Richard Branson has become my favorite book. It is just thrilling to read about what a dyslexic man with no college education could create for himself & the rest of the world.




Joel Gascoigne is focused on the lean startup approach and customer happiness.

Joel Gascoigne





Few months ago I stumbled on a great tweet from a great blog. Since it’t been a while, I can’t really remember what was it about. What matters is, since that moment I wanted to interview Joel. You can see from a persons tweets, Facebook statuses and their blog posts what they are made of. You can see what drives them, and how they inspire other people. You can use people like Joel to see if you are going in the right direction. What a funny coincidence that perhaps a week from now two of us could be sitting together in San Francisco, and when we met online I was in Rijeka, Croatia, him in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Goran: Joel, first of all I have to say we have a very similar taste in books! 🙂 The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, Tipping point by Malcolm Gladwell, and Richard Branson’s autobiography Loosing my Virginity. I also read all of them, and these are some amazing books. But apart from those, which is your favorite or perhaps top 3 if you can’t decide? And also, has any of them made a big impact on your life?

How to win friends and influence people: Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends & Influence People – By Dale Carnegie

Joel: By far my favorite book is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Published long ago in 1936, it is still one of the most important and relevant books I know. The book is all about human relations, all about simply doing the right thing and finding ways to make others happy. It just so happens that this is by far the best strategy to get what you want, too. It also is a much more satisfying approach than being a typical “hard-nosed” business person. The book changed the way I approach others and find people I can get advice from. It has also shaped how we handle customer support at Buffer.

Goran: Why do I get the feeling you traveled a lot? Birmingham, Silicon Valley, Hong Kong, Tel Aviv did I miss anything? You wouldn’t happened to hear about a book Four hour workweek by Timothy Ferriss? What Ferris did was he lived a 1-3 months in a lot of different cities. Places like Berlin, Buenos Aires, San Francisco, Thailand, so it seams to me you are a bit of Timothy Ferriss yourself?

Joel: You missed a quick trip to Japan that we fit in there too, and another brief one to Spain in the earlier days of Buffer 😉 It’s interesting you mention the Four Hour Workweek, since I actually read that book when starting Buffer, before all the travelling happened. I never thought it directly influenced my decisions to travel, but I think that it perhaps did subconsciously. I certainly enjoy spending 3-6 months in other places and truly experiencing new cultures. It’s very powerful and I think the travelling has helped me in many different ways.

Goran: Since you are an experienced startuper I would like to set an example with your answers on how to pitch to an investor. Can you describe your business model? What does your startup do? How do you differentiate yourself from your competition and what do you have that they don’t? Why should I use your service?

Buffer logo

Buffer logo

Joel: Sure thing! Buffer is your smarter way to share to Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. Whenever you come across an article you love, throw it in your Buffer and we’ll share it for you with your friends and followers. If you add 5 articles to Buffer, we’ll space them out through the day so you don’t flood people with 5 Tweets at once. We’ve been running for 2 years now, and we have 350,000 users of which 35% are active. We have a super simple business model: people pay for a $10/mo Awesome plan if they want to share more in advance (e.g. line up 4-5 days of sharing) or want to share to more accounts (up to 12 of any social network). We have 1.5-2% of users on the paid plan, so we’re currently on a $800,000 annual run rate. Our key differentiation is that we’re not a dashboard for people to stay inside all day long. Instead, we’re a thin layer spread wide across the web and mobile apps. We have great integrations, for example you can add to Buffer right from inside Pocket, Instapaper, Reeder and TweetCaster amongst others.

Goran: On your Twitter account it says “Focused on the lean startup approach and customer happiness. “. I personally think that’s a great line, and that was the reason why I really wanted to interview you! Can you share some of the strategies you are using for your startup in order to achieve this? How does that work on a day to day basis when you fall into a routine?

Joel: The key question we try to keep asking ourselves on a daily basis to stay lean is “What can we do right now?” This means – what can we do right at this moment to learn about whether what we’re planning to do, what we’re working on, will turn out as we expect and as we hope? It means doing things manually, like manually emailing 100 users a fake weekly report of analytics from their social sharing in order to validate right now whether we should continue spending resources on that feature. More often, you don’t need a product or a feature to be fully built in order to learn if assumptions are correct.

Goran: Hypothetically speaking, if you sold Bufferapp for $100 gazillionbazillion what would you then do?

My other passion is to help others with their startups. I already talk with 5-10 founders every single week over coffee or via Skype to help them with their current biggest challenge (people can get in touch here: http://joel.is/startup-help). We have a long vision with Buffer, but if I were to do something else I would want to help other founders full-time. It would perhaps come in the shape of a co-working space, coffee shop or incubator, but the focus would be on helping others. I’ve found when I do that, I’m happiest myself too.

Goran: What does your tipical day look like? Do you code late, or do you get up early?

Joel Gascoigne

Joel Gascoigne

Joel: I awake early, around 5:30 and try and work for a couple hours until 8am. I then grab some breakfast and have our daily team standup Skype call where we update each other on what we’ve been working on and any improvements we are trying to make with our schedule, sleep, exercise or anything else. I split my time 50/50 between maker tasks (currently building our Android app) and manager tasks. Every day in the afternoon I head to the gym at around 2:30pm to break up my afternoon’s work.

Goran: My startup WhoAPI deals with domains, so I need to ask you a couple of domaining questions 🙂 What was the first domain name you registered?

Joel: Haha, wow, that’s a difficult one. I think it would probably be one for a team I used to play online games with back when I was 12. It’s not live anymore 🙂

Goran: Does Bufferapp have any other cool domains like bufferapp.com? For example, would you be interested in registering buffer.app? Why yes, why not?

Joel: buffer.app would be cool, but I’m not sure the real use of it, so for now we’re avoiding picking up too many domains. I do like our short URL buff.ly though 🙂

Goran: You had a great post recently about naming startups, and the role domains have in that process. http://joel.is/post/29186927028/how-to-name-your-startup I do agree in large part, even my startup went through the same thing. We started as www.getwhoisxml.com, and by the time we were 100% sure, we switched to www.whoapi.com. But don’t you think that with proper strategy a domain name like www.twittlater.com or www.sharelater.com or one that’s still available for registration that I will mention privately. 🙂 After all you do own www.joel.is, if that’s not a cool domain I don’t know what is 😀

Joel: I think a good name is useful, especially if people will search Google using similar keywords to your domain. For us, that doesn’t happen, so the domain is less important. Rather than having an outstanding domain, I’d rather have an outstanding name and then get a domain that might not be the exact name. Yes, I’m very happy with joel.is though 😀

Goran: Would you like to ad something, perhaps if you are looking for new employees, or some special announcement, some news, or just say hi to mum and dad?

Joel: Absolutely! I’m back in San Francisco now and would love to meet any founders who want to ask advice. They can Tweet me at @joelgascoigne or book a slot from http://joel.is/startup-help. Also, we are of course hiring at Buffer. We’re looking for people who love our culture of improving ourselves and providing above and beyond experiences for our users. Right now we’re looking for front-end and back-end developers as well as devops, customer support and BD people too. Just email me directly at joel@bufferapp.com if you’re interested 🙂



Discover the “attached” man – Ben Coe

Ben Coe - co-founder of attachments.me





Let me welcome you to the new era. Everything is not working the way it’s supposed to, but there are some startups that are trying to fix that. I think that’s the best thing that can happen to us, and to our society. So don’t let anyone tell you changing the world isn’t possible, cause it is.

Cloud just got cloudier - save to drive option

Cloud just got cloudier – save to drive option

There are so many cloud services out there, and one wonderes, is it really cloud if at some point you have to use your hard drive? Attachments.me is like a bridge for a few clouds. One cloud being your email (Gmail) and the other being your online drive (Dropbox, Box, Google drive). At this point you probably guessed it right. When someone sends you an attachment, you can save it directly to one of the most popular online drives, or vice versa when you are sending an email, just access your account and attach it.

Epic? Hell yeah! You can even search all your attachments, but it works way better than looking up keywords in your gmail. Why? Because this is a specialised “attachments” search, and you lookup only attachments, they are highlighted, and you can see the preview. I gotta tell you, you have to see it for yourself. (Especially if you are already a Gmail/online drive user).

Correction, I managed to filter attachments

Correction, I managed to filter attachments

I wish I could give you a screenshot of that, but it’s way to personal. I’ve tried finding a spot where I don’t publish something that’s not supposed to go public, but no luck. So it is safe to say that attachments are reeeealy important to a business individual such as my self. And obviously I am not paying enough attention to them since so far I haven’t had any real help around with dealing with them.

You are just going to have to try it by yourself. Signing up is…well, you just login with your Google account, that’s how easy it is.

So, what they want to do is get you and your company’s files organized. They do this by making sure all the files you receive in email are easy to find and automatically put in their final destination. As I said before, they connect your email to cloud storage solutions like Dropbox  (Dropbox gives 500Mb for every user you send their way, so I would be thankful if you signed up with this URL) and Box. They follow you where ever you go, which means, when you are logged in to Gmail, or when you are browsing with your Chrome (Chrome Extension – Attachments.me for Gmail, Dropbox, …), or if you are on you iPhone! Attachments.me- Gmail inbox software to efficiently manage emails

Attachments.me was founded by Benjamin Coe and Jesse Miller. Originally they were located in Toronto, Canada. After taking funding from Foundry Group they relocated the business to San Francisco. Our office is in the sunny Mission district, in a shared space called Dolores Labs.

I’ve read Ben’s “confession” and instanlty I said to myself, I have to interview this guy, he is the real deal.

Goran: Ben, first of all thank you for a great blog “Confessions of a 20-Something Startup CTO” post with wich a lot of startupers can relate too. Do you blog a lot, and why do you do it? How do you manage to find time in your busy schedule? Why do you use Tumblr as a platform?
Ben: I’ve always loved writing as a hobby, and it’s a skill I’m constantly trying to hone. Most weekends I take a bit of time to write a blog post. Partly because I enjoy it, and partly because it helps me reflect on the week. I use Tumblr because it has an intuitive interface, and is easily customizable… in short, it doesn’t get in my way.

attachments.me - changing the way we attach

attachments.me – changing the way we attach

Goran: What about the beginnings of Attachments.me, were you excited about registering that domain name? How did you choose that name, and did you have any trouble with picking the right name for your startup? Did you feel from the start that something big was about to happen?
Ben: The domain name was actually registered by Joe Stump, who was one of the original founders of Attachments.me. This saved me some trouble, since I’m terrible at picking names (you can look at my Github page and confirm this). I definitely felt from the start that something big was going to happen with Attachments.me.

After university, I spent a year working at a startup called Freshbooks. This was an awesome experience: I got to work with a great team of people, building awesome features, and shipping them to millions of people. I learned a ton about the startup world, and about the software development process. I saw Attachments.me as an opportunity for me to take that next big step, building something I believed in from the ground up.

Goran: Can you tell my readers where did you learn to code so well? How would you compare yourself with some of the best coders in the world that work at Google, Facebook, Twitter? Would you say coding is your passion, and why did you choose this particular programming language?
Ben: I fell in love with coding when I was twelve. It matched my personality, a mix of creativity, science, and problem-solving. I didn’t have the Internet, so I’d buy programming textbooks from the bargain bins at RadioShack — In particular, I fondly remember Andre Lamothe’s, Tricks of the Windows Game Programming Gurus. I read this from front to back several times.

I didn’t start learning to become a good software developer until my stint at Freshbooks. I think this is an important distinction to make, there’s a big difference between a good coder and a good software developer. There’s a lot of process outside of coding that goes into building good software — It’s a lot like an apprenticeship, you learn it from your peers when you’re in the trenches.

I don’t have a clue how I compare to the best coders in the world. I have a friend I hack with occasionally who was a developer at Twitter, I’m pretty wowed by how good he is. I think there are experiences you get when you’re developing at Twitter’s scale that I haven’t had. It changes the way you think about approaching problems.

Currently, I spend most of my time writing Python and JavaScript: Python for building tons of random DevOps scripts for administrating our servers, something it’s well suited for; and JavaScript for Attachments.me’s Chrome Extension.

Ben Coe - co-founder of attachments.me

Ben Coe – co-founder of attachments.me

Goran: At what point and why, did you choose to go after the VC money? Was the process difficult, or should I ask, what was the most difficult part? How did you feel when Foundry group said they were interested in investing? How did they tell you the good news?
Ben: We were kicking Attachments.me along on evenings and weekends, and consulting during the day; we kept this up for a few months. venture capital was attractive, because it gave us the opportunity to make Attachments.me our full-time gig.

In hindsight, it feels like raising our initial 500k seed round happened really quickly. It was definitely stressful at the time, and made more difficult by the fact that Jesse (Jesse Miller – Co-founder of Attachments.me) and I were based in Canada (we’d have to deal with immigration issues when/if we closed funding).

Jesse spent several weeks on phone calls with VCs pitching the product. We managed to get to the next stage with several of them. Jesse and I then flew down to San Francisco for a whirlwind set of meetings. We hit it off best with Foundry Group, both on the phone and in person. Within a day of the final meeting, they had a term sheet for us, Jason Mendelson told Jesse on the phone I believe. It was exciting.

Goran: How are you coping with the company growth? Do you use any strategies, attend seminars, read any books, gut feeling? Werner Vogels for example likes to use small teames, and he calls it the 2 jumbo pizza rule. If you can’t feed your team with 2 jumbo pizzas, the team is too big. 🙂 Do you have any particular company culture, do you do something different?
Ben: There are only six of us, so we haven’t run into any huge growing pains yet.

We gun for constant communication: Jesse and I have a meeting at least twice a week where him and I catch up;
we have a weekly planning meetings, and daily stand-ups with the team. The planning meeting to make sure everyone is on board for the goals of the week, and the stand-ups to make sure that everything is going alright on a daily basis.

One thing we do that’s pretty neat, is a hacking day every two weeks. This is an entire day where developers can work on whatever they feel like, with an emphasis on getting a roughed out prototype of the idea done that day. This does an awesome job of encouraging creativity, and the features often make their way into production.

Goran: I see that your office is “in a shared space called Dolores Labs.”, can you share your thoughts on what it’s like to work in Dolores Labs? Does it have to do anything with CrowdFlower? Are there any other cool startups sharing space with you?


Ben: Dolores Labs was originally CrowdFlower‘s office, it was converted into a shared space by Trinity Ventures when CrowdFlower outgrew it. Working in shared spaces has been great for us. It gave us a good set of peers early on, when our company was small. We’ve shared offices with Card.io, Milk, Happiness Engine, and Tapviva, just to name a few. It’s been great to be able to bounce ideas off these fellow entrepreneurs, I highly recommend a shared space for early stage companies. (Goran: You can read more about Dolores Labs transformation to CrowdFlower in this great inc.com article)
We recently moved into our own offices, in the Hamm’s building in San Francisco. This is an old brewery that has been converted into a space for startups. Along with Attachments.me, Asana, Rdio, and Get Satisfaction are based out of here.

Goran: Hypothetically speaking, if you sold all your companies for $100 gazillionbazillion what would you than do?

Ben: I’d rock-climb for six-months, then build my next company. Afterall – Rock Climbing Saved My Life, and Made Me a Better Software Developer.

Goran: What does your typical day look now? Do you code late, or do you get up early? Do you worry about sitting wrong, or drinking too much coffee?

Ben: Hours are flexible, if there is a big feature we’re all working on, we’ll tend to put in longer hours. We encourage everyone to live a balanced life. For example, if you you want to leave early one night a week to go to Yoga, that’s awesome. I think we all do a pretty good job of staying healthy, because of this atmosphere.

Goran: My startup WhoAPI deals with domains, so I just have to ask you a couple of domaining questions 🙂 What was the first domain name you registered?

Ben: hackwars.net, a game I made in college.

Goran: Do you have any other cool domains except attachments.me? For example, would you be interested in buying attachments.com, or something like mail.attach? Why yes, why not?

Ben: We looked into getting Attachments.com, but it was a hassle as it was owned by a fairly large company. We own att.mn, which we plan on using for short-urls eventually.

There’s also this great review on domain.me about attachments.me, check it out. Attachments.Me Rethinks Email Attachments: How Dropbox, Box.net and Gmail Should Work Together