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Baybars Altuntas

The Startup Compass From The Global Guru

Baybars Altuntas is a global entrepreneur, best-selling author, angel investor, columnist, star of the Turkish version of the television show Dragons’ Den, Chair of the World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF), President of the Business Angels Association of Turkey (TBAA), President of Deulcom International, Vice President of the European Trade Association for Business Angels, Seed Funds, and Other Early Stage Market Players (EBAN), and the World Entrepreneurship Forum’s Ambassador to Turkey and South East Europe. He was recognised by the European Trade Association of Business Angels (EBAN) and received the Best Individual in Europe Globally Engaging with the World Entrepreneurial Ecosystem award in 2014, 2015 and 2016. He was the only entrepreneurship guru to be granted a special audience with US President Barack Obama at the White House at the first Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in 2010.

Baybars was a speaker at the Global Woman Entrepreneurship Forum on 1st November in London, UK. Ahead of this occasion, Baybars Altuntas has conveyed some very important messages for women entrepreneurs and proposed an interesting business model that will ease access to finance for entrepreneurs worldwide. Here in this exclusive interview for Global Woman magazine, you can learn more about the angel investment system and raising fund for your business.

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Baybars Altuntas with the Founder of Global Woman, Mirela Sula after his speech at the Global Woman Entrepreneurship Forum in London, November 2016

 

What is the biggest challenge of entrepreneurs today?

In the past, inventions were important for the economic development of societies. In the 21st century, however, it is not invention but innovation that counts. In those earlier times, entrepreneurial skills were not needed to get an invention to the market because it was a seller’s economy, where customers were ready to buy anything new. Times have changed, and the rules of the game have changed. Today’s inventors need more than just a clever idea. They need a complex set of skills to move their innovative idea into the market and to ensure it succeeds. Ours is the age of the entrepreneur (the buzz word of our century). The current, highly competitive economic environment means that scaling up businesses demands special skills of entrepreneurs, who are obliged to secure financing as quickly as possible. Yet finance alone is not sufficient to create global success stories. The entrepreneur needs not simply finance, but the best finance.

What is ‘the best finance’?

The best finance is a miracle that happens when one is able to combine money, know-how, mentorship and networking. This is perhaps better termed smart finance. Consider the various sources of finance available to entrepreneurs: Beyond basic bootstrapping, there are corporate ventures, angel investors, crowdfunding platforms, accelerators, VCs, banks, public grants, co-investment funds, business plan competitions, technology transfer offices, family offices, private equity investors and stock exchanges. With the notable exception of angel investors, all these sources provide only money, nothing more.

The only true sources of smart finance are angel investors, who are able to influence a country’s economic development by providing more than just money to entrepreneurs and SMEs. They contribute their own know-how, provide mentorship, and share their own networks in contributing to the businesses they invest in. They are thus the main drivers of innovation and the natural leaders of the world’s early-stage investment markets.

In 2015, more than 300,000 angel investors invested more than $25 billion in start-ups in the US, and more than 310,000 angel investors invested more than 6 billion Euros in Europe. The estimated total global market size of angel investment is over $50 billion every year. Angel investors support entrepreneurs in starting up, and they support SMEs as they scale up their businesses, creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs worldwide every year. The World Business Angels Investment Forum invites all governments and policymakers to take advantage of the know-how, mentorship, and networking of qualified angel investors and to convert public money to smart money by establishing close collaboration between public institutions and private resources such as business angel networks, corporate ventures and VCs. As a global organisation, the World Business Angels Investment Forum is bringing together key players of the equity markets to discuss the benefits and challenges of achieving successful growth for businesses and to explore additional possibilities for empowering the world economy.

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Why is it so difficult to raise funds for women entrepreneurs nowadays?

In the wake of the global economic crisis, it was far from easy to reach out for any kind of finance, smart or otherwise. The World Business Angels Investment Forum focuses on developing innovative financial instruments for entrepreneurs and SMEs as a part of its global agenda. To focus on the ‘smart’ factor in innovation in the context of entrepreneurial ecosystems, the World Business Angels Investment Forum directs its attention to developing smart investors, smart finance, smart exits, and smart entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs. By working together across borders, with a common vision, and with these smart dynamics in mind, we are well placed to bring about positive change in the global economy. As the Chair of the World Business Angels Investment Forum, I invite all delegates of the Global Woman Entrepreneurship Forum to join our global efforts to ease access to smart finance to create more jobs and more social justice worldwide. Your efforts to convert the world economy to a smart economy in cooperation with the World Business Angels Investment Forum will be highly valued.

Why is the work of WBAF so important for women entrepreneurs?

The 2008 global economic crisis produced an economic environment that resulted in unprecedented challenges for entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs seeking access to finance. It was clear that an entirely different way of working was required, a new approach to solving qualitatively different problems. The WBAF provides an international platform where all stakeholders can join forces to drive change, with a particular focus on linking the best entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs with smart finance opportunities afforded by qualified angel investors and institutions that work in cooperation with angel investors.

How do you differentiate yourselves?

As a global organisation, the WBAF is unique in its focus on a ‘smart’ approach to transforming the world’s economy to a smart economy — one that we believe will produce more jobs and more social justice. The Forum provides an open environment where key players from equity markets around the world can freely discuss the challenges businesses face in achieving growth and explore ways to empower the world economy. The Forum is also unique in its focus on five dynamics, all of which embed the ‘smart’ concept.

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Smart Finance

We help ensure that policymakers, entrepreneurs, startups and SMEs fully appreciate the importance of smart finance, which can be provided only by angel investors.

Smart Investors

Different countries may face different challenges, yet as the world’s economies are no longer isolated, their problems are not necessarily country-specific. Solutions therefore need to be sought in the wider, international ecosystem. Virtually all types of finance sources beyond simple bootstrapping — corporate ventures, angel investors, crowd-funding platforms, accelerators, VCs, banks, public grants, co-investment funds, business plan competitions, technology transfer offices, family offices, private equity investors and stock exchanges, can easily be tapped for smart investing if they are paired with the right qualified angel investors and if they look beyond local financial ecosystems.

Smart Exit

In a country’s economic development process, an increase in the number of new business ideas is closely related to exit opportunities. We therefore invite stock exchanges to pursue more practical ways to increase liquidity for early-stage investment markets and we encourage corporations to set up their own corporate ventures that will invest in smart entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs. We focus on the long term, not the emergencies of the day. We understand that real progress takes time and sustained commitment, and that real success is not measured in terms of immediate results.

Smart Entrepreneurs, Start-ups and SMEs

Identifying the right entrepreneur, start-up or SME is crucial for any investor. On the other side of the coin, it is also crucial for entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs to receive investment from the right team of investors. We encourage entrepreneurs to target funds from smart investors, such as angel investors, or from financial sources that cooperate with angel investors. The WBAF believes that investment readiness training programmes can turn entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs into smart sources of innovation.

Converting Public Money to Smart Money

The WBAF draws the attention of policymakers to the risks posed by financing entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs. If finance is not backed up by know-how, mentorship and good networking, an investment can easily lead to the border of the proverbial valley of death. The WBAF therefore invites governments and policymakers to develop strong angel investment schemes to be used alongside public support for entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs. Policymakers should also develop smart policies to convert public money to smart money in cooperation with qualified angel investors. By working together across borders, with a common vision, and with these smart dynamics in mind, we are well placed to bring about positive change in the global economy.

President Obama greets Baybar Altuntas of Turkey at the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship. President Obama announced in his speech that Prime Minister Erdogan and Turkey will host the next Entrepreneurship Summit in 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets Baybar Altuntas of Turkey at the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship. President Obama announced in his speech that Prime Minister Erdogan and Turkey will host the next Entrepreneurship Summit in 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

What does WBAF do to find a solution for the challenges of women entrepreneurs start-ups and SMEs?

In addition to conferences, talks, meetings, and debates, the WBAF gives importance to taking concrete steps that fuel the growth of the world entrepreneurial ecosystem. Examples of practical solutions include:

The World Business Angels Investment Fund

The WBAF is in the process of establishing this special investment fund with the participation of members and partners of the World Business Angels Investment Forum, with the aim of providing financing for high-growth companies, start-ups, scale ups, entrepreneurs, and SMEs. The fund will cooperate with corporate ventures, venture capitalists, public institutions and angel investor networks throughout the world to create co-investment funds that will leverage the investment market sizes, both locally and regionally.

Global CEO Alliance Club

The CEO Alliance brings together the best corporate CEOs to increase their awareness about angel investing and to give them an opportunity to invest jointly with qualified angel investors. CEO Alliance members can thus boost their investment skills in a short period of time. With this initiative, the WBAF wants to pave the way for CEOs to become qualified angel investors, which will lead to an overall increase in the number of angel investors worldwide.

Exclusive Investment Events

The Forum organises investment events where members, investors and executives of the World Business Angels Investment Fund meet with the best high-growth companies, start-ups, entrepreneurs and SMEs for investment purposes. These investment forums are organised either independently or in conjunction with the WBAF Annual Conference or the Global Collaborations Summit.

World Excellence Awards

With its Excellence Awards, the World Business Angels Investment Forum looks beyond borders. It seeks to promote and nurture start-ups, angels, and a dynamic business community throughout the world. From business angels to policymakers to academics, the Awards salute those who stand out in imagining, discussing, and shaping the future of an entrepreneurial World. Given the diverse challenges the world is facing in the twenty-first century, it is important to recognise that entrepreneurship can have a major impact on our future, offering new ways to increase economic opportunities and to foster social justice. The World Business Angels Investment Forum aims to contribute to that impact by driving positive changes that will facilitate entrepreneurship. Fostering entrepreneurship whose effects can be felt in both economic and social arenas is a hallmark of the World Business Angels Investment Forum.

WBAF International Investment Academy

It is the position of the WBAF Academy that when investors have had the advantage of training in the best practices of negotiating deals for early-stage investment, they are in a better position to ensure good returns on their investment. With this in mind, the WBAF offers a wide variety of training programmes using a range of input (case studies, panel discussions, and presentations, to name a few), all of which encourage active participation and interaction on the part of those attending. The WBAF Academy serves not just business angels; all types of stakeholders are welcomed, ranging from entrepreneurs and SMEs to banks and stock exchanges to incubation and acceleration centres. The ultimate goal is to contribute to the development of skills and expertise and to foster the kind of creative thinking that leads to innovation and eventual success in the ever-changing market environment of the 21st century.

SME Scoring

Another specific area of interest of the WBAF is SME scoring. The WBAF sees the benefit to the world economy of a well-developed SME scoring system. We believe that such a system will accelerate the investment process and that investors will facilitate finding suitable entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs to invest in. The WBAF is ready to cooperate on initiatives and action plans to develop a valid, objective and reliable SME scoring system that can be applied globally.

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What is the WBAF approach to key challenges?

We focus on key strategic challenges, including filling equity gaps, encouraging stock exchanges to create more liquidity, involving chambers of commerce to increase the number of angel investors, encouraging corporations to set up their own corporate ventures, fostering cross-border investments, and fostering entrepreneurial ecosystems by providing innovative and workable solutions. Entrepreneurs are expected to produce a demo in order to seek funds from angel investors and others, but they often lack the financial capacity to develop the demo. With this in mind, we need a solution to fill the equity gap at the seed level. We invite seed funders, crowdfunders and public support groups to cooperate to fill this gap. This equity gap is generally up to $50,000. Start-ups who receive angel investment face a finance challenge at scale up. If, for instance, they need to raise $1 million, the possibility of raising that amount from angel investors is slim because angel investors do not invest over $1 million. Yet VCs do not invest below $5 million. This is the second equity gap. We encourage the creation of co-investments between angel investors, VCs, corporate ventures and public funds to fill this gap.

Stock exchanges should open their doors to scale ups and develop innovative solutions for scale-ups and SMEs who seek funding. Chambers of commerce should be converted to sources of angel investment financing, given that angel investors are usually chamber of commerce members in their own country. But we believe that a campaign to develop awareness of angel investment systems should be created for chambers of commerce worldwide.

Corporations should be encouraged to set up their own corporate ventures, which will bring together open innovation, intrapreneurship and investment, all under the same umbrella. We believe that more corporate ventures in local economies will mean more innovation and more exits, which will in turn produce more entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs to create new jobs. The WBAF says ‘Hello’ to entrepreneurs and ‘Good-bye’ to borders. Globalisation of smart finance should be encouraged by fostering cross-border investments. We support the entrepreneurship ecosystems of local economies by providing innovative solutions that lead to an increased investment market size in a healthy way.

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What lessons from your own experience can you share with fervent but fledgling women entrepreneurs?

First of all, they should understand the difference between ‘wannapreneurship’ and entrepreneurship. They need to be aware that ‘wannapreneurship’ comes before entrepreneurship, but it means nothing without taking a step towards the entrepreneurship stage.

Secondly, they should also differentiate invention and innovation. With an invention that isn’t marketable or doesn’t sell, they will never have money to deposit into their bank account — they will have only patents to hang on the walls of their office to prove their intelligence. If, on the other hand, they can sell their invention, they have become not merely inventors but also innovators, and this can lead to the entrepreneurial stage and healthier bank accounts.

Thirdly, I would like to draw attention to the important difference between raising investors and raising investments. In many cases, entrepreneurs and start-ups try to raise investment funds when in fact what they really need to do is find an investor who will provide know-how, mentorship and networking.

Fourthly, fervent fledgling women entrepreneurs should pay attention to getting investments from the right teams, and by the same token, investors need to be sure they are making investments in the right teams. Securing money from an angel investor team can carry your project all the way to Silicon Valley, whereas getting money from an individual investor might carry you only as far as the next street.

Last but certainly not least is a specific skill that needs to be developed: how to convert idle capacity in the economy to cash to generate finance for their potential businesses.

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What are the essential skills that a successful woman entrepreneur must be armed with? 

Women Entrepreneurs must possess 3 important skills. They have to be:

  • Able to actually see opportunities, not just look at them. So smart eyes are very important for an entrepreneur.
  • Keen and discriminating listeners, to differentiate between legitimate and irrelevant criticism. Entrepreneurs will hear many comments, both positive and negative, as they start out in their businesses. Smart ears are therefore critical for the entrepreneur.
  • Able to sniff out money before setting up their business. In this respect, entrepreneurs need smart noses.

Can you explain in broad terms the essence of your unique system that you call ‘The map to success: Your rise to entrepreneurship’, and tell us the conditions for this system to work successfully?  

In this system, I lay out the key details of each step of the entrepreneurship journey. I have categorised all the steps that an entrepreneur will take, from beginning to end. I refer to those steps as ‘the rising map of successful entrepreneurship’, and I have given hundreds of speeches on this topic all over the world. This map, which I produced for world-class entrepreneurs, is also used in the workshops and training programmes of various universities. The essence of my system is a different way of doing business that is known as the Altuntas Applied Theory: CICIC© — Converting Idle Capacity Into Cash©, which has been examined by numerous academicians and featured in internationally refereed professional journals in management; academic researchers refer to it as the Altuntas Formula. I am delighted to be not just a role model for entrepreneurs but also a source of inspiration for academicians to study and discover unique and beneficial methods for entrepreneurs. I aim to show entrepreneurs and start-ups a different way of doing business in case their funds are insufficient to implement their business ideas. This different way of doing business is dependent on developing a mind-set which will allow entrepreneurs to perceive the idle capacity of their network. They (and you) will not need money to start a business in applying the CICIC techniques.

In my opinion, the journey to entrepreneurship resembles the four seasons of the year. The first season is the level of ‘wannapreneurship’. The second season is the stage of starting a business. This stage has three important sub-steps: innovation, entrepreneurship, and marketing and sales. The third season is the growth stage, which comprises branding, institutionalisation, and franchising. Lastly, the fourth season is the maturity stage: leadership and angel investment. In the absence of a business angel network, I encourage entrepreneurs to become, in effect, their own business angel by applying the CICIC technique. What they have to do is apply the CICIC technique to initiate the business and then follow the rising map of successful entrepreneurship. The combination of these unique systems is called the Altuntas Principle of Doing Business From Scratch.

 

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Why do people keep reading your bestseller Off the Bus, Into a Supercar?

As the son of a teacher and a retired army officer, I would never in my wildest dreams have thought that the company I started without a penny to my name would become a multi-mullion-dollar business. Or that the president of the United States of America — in the land of entrepreneurs, would invite me to the White House to talk about entrepreneurship, or that the Turkish prime minister, leader of the 16th largest economy in the world, would hand me a letter to deliver in person to President Obama.

I couldn’t have imagined that I would one day be on CNN International commenting on President Obama’s Washington summit or that I would be one of the 110 Dragons from 22 countries on the most important entrepreneurship TV show in the world, Dragons’ Den (Shark Tank in the US). I had no money, no one to help me or back me up in the beginning, but all those things really happened. I wholeheartedly believe that our beautiful world is one where dreams are capable of becoming reality so long as we work towards the realisation of those dreams. I wish for everyone to be able to look at the world in the same optimistic way as I do, to see the bigger picture in the same frame. If the son of a teacher and army officer can achieve huge success, then I am sure that you can too, but probably much more easily. In the final analysis, I am saying that if I did it my way, so can you! And the to-do list in my book is an excellent reason for people to keep reading my book.

What was your key message to the delegates of the Global Woman Entrepreneurship Forum on 1st November 2016?

While addressing thousands of university students all over the world for a number of years this is what I learned: almost all university students mistakenly believe that a person must have a family member, a friend in an influential position or a strong network, or that you must be rich in order to be successful as an entrepreneur. I had nobody who was in a position to exert influence on my behalf, nor did I have family fortune or a network. So my message is, do not think like university students.

Would you have believed these things possible if you saw them in your dreams?

I would say again that I had no friends or family backing me up, no money, and no network at the time. I could have easily just resigned myself to my situation with a “the heck with this world” attitude. But I did not. I believe wholeheartedly that our beautiful world was created to convert everyone’s dreams into reality. As long as you dream and continue dreaming.

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Can you tell us your steps in the entrepreneurship journey?

I am here to give you the key details of each step of the entrepreneurship journey. I have noted down what l did in each step by giving examples from my life story and l want you to write down what you have done in each step so that you can determine the level of your entrepreneurship. As a matter of fact, I want you to write your own entrepreneurship story. I did it! You can do it too! I have grouped all the steps from beginning to end that an entrepreneur will take during his or her entrepreneurship journey. l refer to those steps as the rising map of successful entrepreneurship and l have given hundreds of speeches all over the world on this topic. This map that l produced for world-class entrepreneurs is also used in workshops, and in training programmes of many universities.

My way of doing business can be summarised as Converting Idle Capacity Into Cash™, which has been examined by many academicians and featured in internationally refereed professional journals in management; it is referred to as the Altuntas Principle by academic researchers. I am very happy to be not just a real role model for entrepreneurs but also a source of inspiration for academicians to study and discover unique and beneficial methods for entrepreneurs. I am here for the readers and followers of the Global Woman Entrepreneurship Forum because I would like everyone from 7 to 77 to look at the world from my perspective, to see what I see in it. At the Forum on 1st November I will explain with all frankness how I did this. I hope that you realise that you are no different from me in many ways. If I was able to do it, so can you and probably a lot better and easier than I did!

I will tell you how I managed to accomplish so much in a short time. I will explain to you what you need to do to become a successful entrepreneur and build your own business. I hope my advice will shed a light on the subject that will help you find success in building your business. By the way, I would be pleased to hear from women entrepreneurs from all over the World. I’d like to answer their questions about making money, setting up new businesses, becoming their own bosses, creating new jobs, and even becoming millionaires. I’ll conclude my remarks with a favourite quote from Henry Ford that I believe captures the importance of mindset in becoming successful: ‘If you are saying that you can do it, I totally agree with you! If you are saying you can not do it, I totally agree with you.’

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You can send your questions to my e-mail, visit my blog at www.baybarsaltuntasnotes.com.

Follow me on Twitter and find me on Facebook. Get in touch with me to start creating new jobs as soon as possible.

About the World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF): The World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF) is an international organisation aiming to ease access to finance for businesses from start up to scale up, with the ultimate goal of generating more jobs and more social justice worldwide. It is committed to collaborating globally to empower world economic development by creating innovative financial instruments for innovators, start-ups, and SMEs. The Forum interacts with leaders in all areas of society, first and foremost in business and political spheres, to help assess needs and establish goals, bearing in mind that the public interest is of paramount importance. We engage a wide range of institutions, both public and private, local and international, commercial and academic to help shape the global agenda.

The WBAF holds that, with the participation of individuals and institutions from multiple sectors and from all parts of society, real progress can be achieved.

www.wbaforum.org/global

 

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