Fortune Favors the Bold
Life is all about taking risks. When you take risks, you create opportunities for yourself. As they say, fortune favors the bold.
For years, the Turkish eCommerce industry has had a gap. Demet Mutlu noticed this when she was vacationing there one summer. That one fateful summer sparked Demet Mutlu to drop everything: her career and studies to start Trendyol. But who is Demet Mutlu?
Meet Demet Mutlu: a huge risk taker, a passionate leader, and the queen of Turkish eCommerce.
Early Beginning and Education of Demet Mutlu
Like Demet Mutlu was born on the 22nd of August, 1981, in New York, the United States. Even though Demet was born on American soil, she is of Turkish ancestry.
Turkey is a natural land bridge connecting the old world continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe. The Anatolian peninsula is Asia's westernmost point, separated from Europe by the straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles. Thrace is the European continent's westernmost region of Turkey.
Because of its large landmass and unique geography, the Land of the Crescent Moon is filled with fascinating details you won't find anywhere else.
From traditional Turkish tea to the majestic Hagia Sophia, Turkey is known for its unique blend of oriental and European elements. Aside from its carpets, hammams, and bazaars, the country is also known for destinations such as Istanbul and Cappadocia, as well as sweets such as Turkish delights and baklava.
Ever since Demet Mutlu was a child, she has had a deep passion for entrepreneurship–learning and absorbing what she can, even in school.
Demet Mutlu studied and graduated in Economics at New York University. She had the highest GPA among her peers–graduating with Magna Cum Laude honors. It seems fair that New York University produces and employs the brightest students where Nobel Prize laureate Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier did her early work.
Demet Mutlu’s Early Career
After graduating, she worked for companies in Switzerland, Japan, the United States, and Turkey doing marketing and business development.
While Demet Mutlu's career is going great, she decided to pause her career to pursue her MBA at Harvard Business School in 2009. The same school where Zynga CEO Mark Pincus also pursued his MBA.
Creation of an eCommerce Giant
Before founding Trendyol, Mutlu worked in finance, marketing, and business development in different countries, including Turkey. A new era had begun, and with the MBA, new windows of opportunity would open in Demet’s professional career.
While working at P&G, Demet made a critical decision to start her eCommerce empire.
During a summer visit to Turkey after her first year at Harvard Business School, Demet Mutlu saw a gap in the field of eCommerce, particularly in fashion. She subsequently left Harvard Business School to start Trendyol.
In 2010, Demet Mutlu launched Trendyol, which she founded in the living room of his house with a capital of 300 thousand dollars. This is how the story of Demet Mutlu, the founder of Trendyol, Turkey's largest eCommerce company in 10 years, began in 2009. She describes that period as follows:
Trendyol has taken an enormous leap in reaching out to European consumers by establishing the Trendyol website, which is accessible in 27 countries.
Trendyol provides entrepreneurs and local merchants with an online platform to advertise and sell their products. With this model, Trendyol can easily promote to Turkish manufacturers as well as brands all across the globe.
Trendyol is a leading eCommerce platform, but it has also launched new businesses to meet the needs of consumers, such as:
- Trendyol Express for logistics
- Trendyol Go & Food for instant grocery and meal delivery
- Trendyol Wallet for e-wallet
- Dolap for second-hand fashion marketplace
In a sector dominated by men, such as technology, women entrepreneurs also make a name for themselves. Many women entrepreneurs are successful in startups and other areas of the industry. One notable example is Amy Jadesimi, who defied stereotypes and made her mark in Nigeria to climb the corporate ladder, parallel to Demet Mutlu, a tech powerhouse in Turkey.
In 2018, Demet Mutlu sold it to Alibaba for $728 million but remained the CEO. Trendyol has more than 25 million members and a team of 2,000 people. One of the biggest and fastest growing eCommerce platforms in Turkey and the MENA region.
Mutlu reached its previously announced goal of becoming a unicorn in 2018 with the investment of world giant Alibaba in Trendyol and pioneered one of the recent most successful strategic partnerships.
Now its goal is to be the company that creates the most significant positive impact in Turkey. In 2021, Trendyol will be Turkey’s first decacorn company.
But this milestone did not come overnight. Turkey’s Fast Company asked interesting questions on Trendyol’s way to success.
Trendyol's Initial Phase
You set up the business, and the site is opened. Did you put in the products and wait for people to come and buy them? Can you tell us a little bit about the initial phase?
Turkey can produce ready-made clothing. So Demet Mutlu only established an infrastructure to make it more accessible for people and businesses.
The demand was so high that upon the launching of Trendyol, there were hundreds of customers in a single day. Even logistics can’t keep up with so many orders–company staff had to deliver some of the packages themselves.
The company grew exponentially due to how well it handled the business and word of mouth. Trendyol had more than a million customers in its first year.
What was the initial reaction of your friends and family to the initiative when you founded Trendyol? Did anyone say, "what are you doing"?
My family and close friends were all out in supporting my endeavors. However, others disagreed with me, saying I already had a solid career.
Though listening to other people’s opinion are necessary for entrepreneurship, in the end, it all comes down to listening to your inner voice. I listened to my inner voice and founded Trendyol. Good thing I did.
We learned everything by trial and error on this path we entered when we were young. I was spending more time on decisions I could make in one minute now.
The experience the company and I gained along the way is invaluable. We have left ten years behind, but we continue to learn something new every day and work for the better.
Being good and making the right decisions are essential. So was luck with you in this process?
I spent more time back then on decisions I could make in one minute. The experience I gained along the way is invaluable. We have left ten years behind, but we continue to learn something new every day and work for the better.
Luck certainly played a role in our success, but we also accredit our success to our willingness to try and fail. We’ve learned so much from our trial and error.
Behind being permanent, we can say, “‘Working with passion, doing the best, and some chance.’ There is a promise that I love very much, ‘Employee gets the chance’”.
When did you say, “Demet, we have succeeded in this. I think we are growing”
I never thought of it like that. I was never satisfied. My thoughts were always, “How can we do better.”
This is how we think as a team and succeed as a company. When we’ve completed a goal and garnered multiple achievements, our thoughts are always, “How can we do it better.”
We, as a company, continuously strive to achieve our highest potential–to be better.
When we moved to a bigger office. Perhaps one of the best office spaces in Europe, where we had amenities such as a gym, yoga room, sleeping areas, and different cafes.
Even with that kind of achievement, we first said, “We should not be complacent about where we are right now. We must continue to strive to move forward.”
What was your fastest growth in the past ten years?
Our company multiplied over the past ten years. We achieved a growth rate of 500% in the first few years upon starting Trendyol, and that’s how much we impacted the eCommerce market.
You went into a strategic partnership with Alibaba. Were there other offers before this partnership, and was the decision to sell difficult? What do you expect from Alibaba?
Numerous companies had approached us for a partnership–one of which was with Alibaba. Out of the many companies that came to us, we felt that Alibaba was the right fit for us, and Trendyol and Alibaba’s investment turned out to be an excellent decision.
We also had a partnership with EVS. EVS allowed us to snowball and contribute more to our country. EVS is a good fit for us because their culture is very similar to ours. They continuously strive to impact people's lives positively. They maintain their start-up spirit, are open to change and innovations, can make quick decisions, and highly value their teams.
With AGH, the sky’s the limit. AGH is very rich in experience regarding eCommerce, so we tried our best to absorb everything we could. They taught and shared their knowledge with us when it comes to mobile payments, logistics, as well as exporting. They care about bringing SMEs together with the opportunities offered by the platform economy and satisfying their customers.
By partnering with a global company like EVS, we preserve Trendyol's domestic and national character. An essential factor that makes us unique is that we are purely from this land. We run the company, and our team is our country's citizens.
Where has Trendyol come from in the last five years? We request answers to this with figures such as turnover, market share, growth, and the number of members.
With our culture paired with our passion, we have become Turkey's largest internet company and one of the world's leading eCommerce platforms in the last ten years.
Our clients and business partners have given us so much of their trust that it enabled us to give back to the economy. Trendyol catapulted the growth of eCommerce in Turkey.
With Trendyol, we can boost productivity and contribute to our business partners' development. Most of our partners credit us for their success as our platform has enabled them to reach new customers, increasing their efficiency and productivity.
At the same time, we need to support domestic production. 98% of Trendyol's business partners are domestic companies, and 72% of the products sold by Trendyol are domestic.
Inclusiveness is critical to us as a platform company because we believe that digitization should be inclusive. The share of our business partners, excluding the three big cities in the total, is more than 40 percent, and 93 percent of these businesses state that they have reached new customer groups thanks to Trendyol.
Where are you headed as you look to the future? What do you foresee as a vision for the next five years?
We want to be the company that creates the most positive impact on Turkey and our industry. Trendyol aims to be the trademark company of Turkey, just as Samsung is to Korea and Alibaba to China; we strive to make a substantial positive impact on Turkey’s economy overall.
As we walk towards this goal, we will bring together all segments of our country with the opportunities offered by digitalization. While growing SMEs, we will create new employment opportunities, support regional development and increase consumer welfare.
Are there new ventures in your focus?
As Trendyol, our priority is the needs of our customers and our country. We listen to them and evaluate their demands. In this context, we make projects that will make our customers' lives easier; Trendyol Express, Trendyol Fast Market and Food, Trendyol Wallet, and Cabinet.
We established Trendyol Express in 2018 so that our customers' orders can be delivered much faster and our business partners can do eCommerce more quickly and efficiently.
We launched two new initiatives this year that we are very excited about; Fast Market and Food. With these initiatives, we bring local shopkeepers together with Trendyol customers and deliver their orders to our customers in 30 minutes with our couriers.
Financial technologies are vital in eCommerce, and we are also investing in this area. With the wallet solution we have implemented, our customers can complete their shopping at Trendyol quickly and easily, earn Trendyol Money with every purchase and spend them on their next shopping. In case of cancellation and refund, the amounts can be instantly transferred to the wallet account and used.
In addition, we contribute to sustainability by applying our second-hand good, Dolap. The closet has been overgrown and continues to grow. Today, more than 1.1 million people are selling here, and we saw that Turkey needs it.
We closely follow our customers' feedback and our country's needs. We will continue to evaluate new initiatives in areas where we observe a lack.
Trendyol's Strategic Partnership with Alibaba
Before Trendyol was even founded, Alibaba had a tight hold on China's eCommerce market. With the necessary experience, knowledge, and technology, Alibaba, currently valued at $243 Billion, was the right company to partner up with.
On top of being one of the best eCommerce platforms, Alibaba and Trendyol have identical work cultures, making partnership very easy. Both companies have grand ambitions when it comes to the field of the digital economy.
This partnership goes both ways. Alibaba will provide Trendyol with its expertise, experience, knowledge, and technology, while Trendyol will provide Alibaba access to a relatively young Turkish market.
Factors That Make a Difference in Trendyol
The Right Vision
We want to be the company that creates the most positive impact on Turkey and our industry. In this context, we support our business partners to grow their businesses with future technologies and work with Turkish brands to give them a global presence.
Here in Trendyol, culture is everything. Our company comprises Trendyol’s dedicated teams and members working tirelessly to provide the best possible service. Just like Anita Schjøll Brede, Norwegian CEO and Founder of Iris.ai, Anita trusts that her dedicated team is an asset to her company’s success. Such successes can only be achieved through passionate teamwork. Trendyol works daily with the spirit of "One Dream, One Team."
Technology and Innovation
With the Trendyol Tech R&D center, we are one of the technology companies that invest the most in technology in Turkey and the region. With nearly 1000 engineers, we work to provide our customers with the best shopping experience and to provide new technologies to our business partners.
Strategic Partnership and Investment
When considering a business partner, we must look at things from a long-term standpoint. Experience and know-how are much more important than investment in a long-term strategic partnership.
Indications of the Right Leadership
- The team is everything. It is important to be a team working with shared values and culture.
- The company should have a mission, and that purpose should be set beyond business objectives.
- It is necessary to improve and learn from mistakes constantly.
- It is important to be modest and development-oriented like a student.
Demet Mutlu’s Accomplishments
With Trendyol’s success, it is no brainer that Demet Mutlu became recognized as Turkey’s dynamic entrepreneur.
Fortune Magazine named Demet Mutlu one of the 10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs. The World Economic Forum selected her as a founding member of Global Shaper of the Global Shapers in Turkey.
Demet Mutlu was the only Turk on the BOF 500 list prepared by Business of Fashion, which includes 500 names that lead today's fashion world.
Mutlu was named one of Europe's 50 Most Inspiring Women In Technology in 2015.
Demet Mutlu was the only leader nominated of Turkish origin who got selected to the Young Global Leaders list of the World Economic Forum. Trendyol was defined as the world's most exclusive private social network. She was also cited by The Hundert and Forbes magazines as a model for European women entrepreneurs.
Demet became the representative for Turkey of the Inspiring Women project of the world-famous lifestyle platform Refinery29.
Economist magazine named Demet Mutlu Woman Entrepreneur of the Year at the Business People of the Year Awards.
Demet Mutlu’s Personal Life
Demet Mutlu is currently married to Evren Üçok. She has taken the world by storm with entrepreneurship, including Demet Mutlu’s husband. He is also a successful entrepreneur as a partner at Earlybird Venture Capital and co-founder of Peak Games and Trendyol.
Key Takeaway: Demet Mutlu
Demet Suzan Mutlu, otherwise known as the mother of eCommerce in Turkey, is one of the most successful female tech entrepreneurs in the world today.
We go through life and carve the future and name for ourselves, but unexpectedly life throws us in a different direction. When an idea sparked, Demet Mutlu dropped everything in her hands and spearheaded Trendyol - the best eCommerce platform in Turkey.
Just like Anne-Marie Imafidon, Demet Mutlu is a math prodigy who is a trailblazer bridging STEM opportunity gaps for girls in a male-dominated sector. Demet Mutlu is Turkey’s Anne-Marie Imafidon and is one of the most successful Turkish tech entrepreneurs and has garnered many rewards and achievements.
Imitate Demet Mutlu to be bold and never shy to grab opportunities. She took the leap of faith and halted her career to jumpstart her tech empire–Trendyol.