Interview with Hal Tezcan, Manager & Founding partner at Startup Port

“Running a business is a team effort. An army of one is not scalable. You need to be able to convince at least two other people to share the same passion for your startup idea.”

Hal has had a great career in the telecom industry for over a decade. He created his first startup in 1987, has raised capital since the early 90’s, and built a telecom startup in 1993 before exiting in 2001.Hal is a business and technology facilitator, a startup Sherpa, mentor, and team leader with 34 years of “from the trenches” expertise, working directly with early-stage entrepreneurs and established companies, commercializing ideas and concepts. With his vast and proven professional network as well as his multitude of resources, Hal validates and advances business models at each stage of development, assisting in the progression of new ventures through the achievement of financial clarity and enabling founders/ stakeholders to scale their ideas in a profitable fashion.

During “Global Opportunities Beyond Borders” conference which took part at Faculty of Economics in Split, we sat down with Hal for an interview.

About his work

Startup Port is not an “Incubator” or “Accelerator”. It is a “Hybrid” startup support platform that offers a full suite of venture development solutions specially created for seed to growth stage technology operators whom are looking to build companies that yield sustained traction. Since 2008, the partners of Startup Port have been helping entrepreneurs and founders build great businesses. The firm’s partners have deep operating and startup experience, collectively having founded multiple companies and provided executive leadership to many.

The majority of the startups we work with come to us through word of mouth. Each quarter, out of many we only select few startups, and the selection process is pretty strict. They have to answer a questionnaire consisting of 80 questions. This process, as well as some additional evaluation criteria, serves us, as well as them, to find the critical gaps in their business model. Once we determine the foundational gaps, we work together on providing the best possible solution to fill these gaps. This is done by bringing into the startup team our own “matter experts”, each with thirty plus years of “from the trenches” expertise, who provide guidance to fill the gaps.

We pay great attention to the intellectual capital (this should not be confused with IP). We will not work with a startup that has only one founder! There must be at least three partners; one that has the passion for the idea but at the same time is a disciplined organizer, a leader and a team player who puts “We” in front of “I”; Then another partner who is the tech and software expert, who is open minded and capable of adapting to change; And finally the third person needs to be a great salesperson who understands marketing matrix, and sales.

After they pass our screening process we provide them with a 90 hour “Sprint” program with our own matter experts from areas where the gaps have been recognized. Within that short period of time we set up a complete roadmap and model of key processes that the startup needs to do in order to become successful. After that they have 90 days to implement the roadmap, model and at the same time come up with sales. The main component in this process is to have a market proven process that can self-support and scale, or can be used to raise funds.

In summary we are hedging our intellectual capital as an investment in our selected startups in order to scale their revenue model and attract different investments methods at the end of the process. During this process we are making sure that the startup is going to be successful in the market for a long period of time. Since the startups we work with have been vetted, screened and primed by our team it makes it easier to access funding.

About differences regarding entrepreneurial challenges in Croatia vs. USA

It doesn’t matter where you are in the world; the business culture is the same. In a nutshell no matter where you are building a solid house always requires a solid foundation! The key is to create in the very beginning of the startup process the right foundation.

In regions where free market economy has been recently available to entrepreneurs (such as in the Balkans) young entrepreneurs face the challenge of having to do business in a new way, new environment. I noticed talking to many local entrepreneurs and established small businesses that there was still a reliance on government resources. I think young entrepreneurs need to find innovative and new ways to adapt what the local market demands and create new solutions of addressing old problems. They need to quickly adapt to what took us many years (in the US startup ecosystems) to learn in a very short period of time.

Besides the challenges of the new free market economy adaptation there will also be the challenge of finding investments. There needs to be reliable angel investment platform to help early seed stage companies launch and prosper. The existence of this type of funding speeds up the launch process of new innovations and help entrepreneurs accelerate their business successes.

In helping entrepreneurs, the purpose of Universities and Incubators should be to provide guiding light, cross-pollination and mentorship for students to improve their business models and turn their ideas into reality. We were impressed with the fantastic entrepreneurs and their great ideas during the fast pitch event; they just need to discover how to better present their ideas and how to execute their model in the right manner.

Word of advice for entrepreneurs

I would ask them to focus really well and learn about certain basic rules in modelling their business. And keep in mind that they constantly need to adapt and scale their business; not only grow. There is a big difference between growing and scaling. And in order to do that they have to look at the models others are using and modify/adapt them according to their business cultures.

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Misija udruge je biti neovisna središnja institucija kroz koju splitska tehnološka zajednica ostvaruje svoje opće interese. Vizija udruge je da tehnološki sektor bude najznačajnija gospodarska aktivnost u Splitu.