2 June 2021|Brand Story, Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
For the latest in our popular Meet the Successful Founder series we recently caught up with Halil Aksu, co-founder of Digitopia to discover more about his entrepreneurship journey.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I was born and raised in Germany, but have spent a significant amount of my time travelling the world – so, I would consider myself a global citizen.
My background is in engineering, which meansI have always worked closely with technology, innovation and digital. Throughout my career, I have picked up a lot of experience, working for some huge organisations such as SAP and Gartner, but I’ve spent the best part of the last decade following more entrepreneurial avenues.
Digitopia is actually my third start-up. My previous two were very successful, but this time I’m excited to make our Digital Maturity Index the global standard as a digital maturity measurement tool. We aim to turn it into a platform that facilitates the measurement of every organisation’s digital transformation efforts.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
We’ve worked with some fantastic companies across the globe and in business you manage what you measure. What we found was that there was no good measurement for digital transformation.
With digital transformation becoming so high on a number of organisations’ agendas, we identified a big gap in the market for a tool to measure this. Therefore we decided that this would become our niche and since then we have focused solely on the measurement of digital maturity. As you can imagine, it didn’t just happen overnight. Over the past two years we’ve gone through at least ten iterations of the index but each time has allowed us to refine it even further. We’re very happy with the product that we have now, but we will always be looking at how we can continue to evolve the index and improve it.
How did you achieve awareness?
We are in constant communication with our customers. We always have been and always will be. We owe it to them to understand their needs and wants. On top of this, we’re constantly undertaking market and competitive analysis – it keeps us up to date and in tune with the wider industry.
We’ve also been fortunate enough to hire some of the greatest people, who fully understand our vision and who are truly passionate about their work.
Much of our business comes through word of mouth. We get high customer satisfaction ratios and we find that these satisfied customers frequently recommend us to their peers, customers or suppliers. On the other hand, as a result of our thought leadership efforts and benchmarking capabilities, we’re often recommended by industry associations as well – and this has brought us a lot of new business, particularly in banking, retail, insurance, manufacturing and automotive.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
In the early days, we had revenues right from the beginning and didn’t need a long lead time to develop our product offerings. We also invested our careers and put up our own capital to get the business off the ground.
Earlier this year, we recognised that external resources would help us to accelerate our global expansion and further growth, and we received our first seed funding from Cypriot entrepreneur, Ahmet Bilgen.
What are the key successes?
In some countries, we have already become the gold standard for digital maturity measurement for a number of industries, having only been operational for two years.
We are changing the way that consulting is delivered. If we are talking about and working on digital transformation, then we should be applying those concepts and technologies upon ourselves as well – so we do. Because of that continual drive for perfection, we have now developed cloud-based and AI-driven software for our digital maturity assessment service. It augments, streamlines and enables our service delivery and it’s something that we are really proud of.
What were / are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Over the last few years, many organisations have embarked on a digital transformation journey – particularly since the pandemic began. It’s one thing to be on the journey, but few actually measure their progress. The challenge for us is around educating the market, and showing these businesses why it is so important to measure their digital maturity. Our value proposition is quite unique. Therefore, as part of this education process, we run a lot of events and webinars, we write about the subject a lot, and we are continuously and persistently talking to the market about it.
As a start-up, we must juggle all activities at the same time. Hiring, growing, selling, marketing, product development and much more. This in itself is a challenge, but our decades-long experience helps a lot. I think being a seasoned entrepreneur makes a difference to our younger staff members, who sometimes lack corporate experience.
What are your plans now / for the future?
As a highly ambitious company, our plan is simple: to grow as fast as possible. So far, we are certainly heading in the right direction. We want to become the global gold standard for digital maturity measurement and benchmarking, and change the way that consulting is delivered – fully automating our service delivery with high-tech.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
If you are passionate about solving a particular problem, then nobody and nothing should stop you from doing it. Don’t listen to anyone who doubts you:your spouses or partners, parents or siblings, colleagues or friends.
You have to take that leap, but remain realistic about the difficulties and be sure that there is a market for what you try to solve.
Can you share you top tips for entrepreneurial success?
- Be patient. Everything will take longer than you think
- You must remain persistent. You will have nay-sayers around you – customers, friends, even co-founders. Believe in your vision, believe in your capabilities
- Watch the market very closely. Understand your customers’ true needs and wants
- Don’t risk all your stakes at once
- Funding is good for you. Investors are your friends. Usually, they want their investments to shine and flourish, because your success works in their favour
- Hire passionate people, and hire for cultural fit. Emotionally expensive people will turn you down, demotivate you, and will cost too much energy
- Be flexible. Accept that you might have to throw away your product or idea, and pivot until you find the best market fit. Otherwise you, your team, and your resources may burn out.
Who are the people who inspire you the most, and why?
I find my inspiration in various categories. Of course, there are some “usual suspect” entrepreneurs who are truly successful. However, I try to establish my own style and follow my own gut-feel, vision, and passion.
People like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King inspire me a huge amount. They all radically transformed something to become much more substantial. And then there are people like Michael Jordan, Diego Maradona, and Usain Bolt (@UsainBolt) who, even after retiring, are kings of their sports and remain household names. They are truly inspiring.
What are your favourite inspirational / motivational quotes?
Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
William Gibson: “The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
Lord Martin Rees: “If we survive the 21st century, the 22nd century will be awesome.”
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