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What does Evernote and Sefamerve have in common?              

Evernote is a $1BN+ valuation note taking application.  Sefamerve is a conversative apparel private shopping site mainly for Muslim populations, recently chosen by Google as one of the Turkish startups with potential to reach $1bn valuation.  The CEOs of Evernote (Phil Libin) and Sefamerve (Mehmet Metin Okur) shared their experiences to a young crowd of 60 people in Istanbul at the Founder Institute Founder 101 Seminar.  The two companies and CEO’s could not be more differenct, but their messages were very similar:


Build a Brand

Phil talked about building a product and business that was loved and sold by the customers rather than the company actively outbound selling.  Metin said that his company is now a trusted brand for the conservative customer segment and this gives him the platform and opportunity to go into other products and services in the future.


Focus on Building the Business

Phil said this was his third startup and they were building a product for themselves and building a company tol ive 100 years.  Metin said that they get many investment offers; however, he thinks at earlier stages, those seeking funds outnumber the available sources.  However, as the company grows, the investors start to outnumber investment opportunities.  Metin’s philosophy is to keep growing organically as long as you can.


Do & Focus on What You Are Good At

When asked about sales, Phil admitted that their strength is product development and sales is often hard for product focused businesses.  When asked about marketing, he said they focus on creating a great product for a new platform and device and leverage the marketing budgets of the giant companies that release and promote those platforms and devices, again a product-focused-marketing effort.

Metin described how they use Facebook marketing as their marketing channel.  Metin built a payment solution for Facebook and also FAcebook games before and he really knows it well.  Despite the general wisdom that google marketing brings leads with intent, Metin has really made Facebook marketing work for him.  In fact, when the marketing agency of Etsy came and made a bet that they could halve Sefamerve’s Facebook CPC’s, Metin eagerly took on the bet.  When he disclosed his numbers, the agency was shocked, half of Sefamerve’s current CPC was not available at Facebook as a marketing budget.  Metin recommended all founders do start doing their own marketing, understand it really well and then outsource it if need be.  “If you do not understand and control your marketing, don’t fool yourself that you control your numbers”, he said.


Focus on Product / Solution, Find an Anchor, Then Market

Phil Libin described that they build the product for themselves.  This is very efficient since they know when it is good or not. 

Metin Okur started the business when his sister who dresses conversatively joined the business.  They don’t trade goods, they create new products such as under-head-veil-caps-with –different-stiches-that-don’t itch.  Both organizations spend most of their efforts on the product / marketing.

This was the most important point from the session.  Both companies really focus deep on the product and the value it creates and puts this on top of everything else.  Once a startup unlocks value here, all other aspects can be anchored on top of this foundation. 


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