Goran: Hi Oguz! Can you introduce yourself? Tell us what makes you an entrepreneur, what do you love about developing?
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?
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.
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: 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.
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?
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?
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: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested 🙂