Can corporations innovate like startups?

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We are mostly giving bits of advice to startups in our blog, thanks to our experience that we gained seeing the lifespan and mentoring hundreds of startups in our programs or events. Even if we are trying to change the mindset of our corporate friends with those events, in the end, they are still working for corporates.

As I was writing this blog while watching Top Gear on my 2nd screen, I can say that while a startup is like a Caparo T1 which has twice the power-to-weight ratio of the Bugatti Veyron, but completely untamed. On the other hand, a corporation is like 18-wheeler; powerful with more control, yet slow. But can that truck let go of its wagon to get more agility? Not quite.

caparo t1
Believe it or not: This thing is street-legal.

As Hackquarters, our team has a corporate background, so we can easily tell that we understand what you need to go through in a corporate environment. We know about some of the obvious problems in most of the corporations.

Fear of rejection in corporate “battlefield”

While we use those fancy words a lot in our startup environment, it’s hard to be innovative or disruptive in a corporate hierarchy. Usually, innovation is “commanded” from the top to the bottom in corporations, yet our experience shows that it starts from the bottom to the top. But we have “brave warriors” within the corporations that we work with, who fight for innovation within the company and luckily they have the support to make mistakes for the better good.

“I love my job, more than you do”

In a corporate environment, most people have their own agenda for keeping their job, appear successful (even if they suck) or gaining promotion. They are usually not brave enough to take responsibility within the company to create space for innovation. They have “What if I fail?” in their mind and they don’t want to lose their ground for possible future opportunities.

Trust issues within the company

Most corporations want to keep their privacy. They list lots of unnecessary things as confidential. When you want to sign an agreement with a corporation, there will be at least a few “confidentiality” clauses within the contract and this also applies to their employees. In some companies, even information exchange between some departments is limited (and I worked for one of those companies. Can’t tell the name; it’s confidential).

When it comes to innovation, things do change a bit, but in the end, you still can only see the top of the iceberg only. So when someone from the lower levels of hierarchy tries to do something new, he/she can hit an invisible wall (like the ones in old racing games like Need For Speed).

Turnover rates in managerial positions

It’s not like the 70s or 80s when people work for a single factory for 40 years until they retire. According to research, %21 of millennials change their job almost every year and 60% of them are looking to change their jobs. Thanks to them, it’s no different on managerial positions. And this situation affects innovation possibilities on corporations.

Assume that you have a great, supporting manager who appreciates your efforts on innovation, but in the middle of a great project he lands another job and leaves your company. The new manager is not very fond of innovative projects and he doesn’t want to risk his new position. There goes your effort, right into the trash bin of ideas.

Vanity metrics FTW!

As corporations usually can’t move as a whole, turnover rates in lower positions or managerial positions hinder the progress toward innovation.

Costly and risky experiments are a NO NO

As an entrepreneur, usually you don’t have much to lose, because you already know that less than 10% of startups “succeed” and this number is lower in entrepreneurs below 45. You can experiment, you can try new things that even it’s idiotic to some people. But it’s OK, you don’t lose much if you fail, and if you hit rock bottom, you can just insert another coin to start from the beginning. As a corporation, this is not applicable.

Corporations can try new things, but if they fail, they may lose a lot of money, which makes investors very unhappy and sometimes even causes the corporation to go bankrupt.

When a startup builds their plan, they can take a high risk – high reward path. If they succeed, they enter that 10% we mentioned before. A corporation, on the other hand, doesn’t take high risk unless its absolutely necessary.

Is innovation “impossible” in established corporations?

If the answer was “Yes“, we would be looking for another business. But most of the corporations are trying to handle innovation on their own, and 84% of them just spend money without any results at all. In fact, their expectations were neither met nor exceeded and the gap between expectation and meeting were so enormous, so it was considered a failure. Corporations cannibalize innovation (without guidance).

Here’s our secret. We push the secret INNOVATE button.

It is said that “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, but the most adaptable”. Corporations can’t adapt as fast as a startup. When a startup feels like “blockchain is sexy“, they can integrate blockchain into their model. But for a corporation, this operation needs lots of research, lots of manpower and lots of approvals. When they are ready to adapt, usually it is no longer “sexy”. It is just like my example at the beginning: Caparo T1 vs 18-wheeler.

Corporations need “startup-like” mind to innovate their current processes, and this is possible with collaboration. Partnership with a startup is a win-win for both parties. A startup can gain opportunities such as market access, workforce, resources and visibility from corporations, while corporations can gain agility, endless new ideas, willingness to take risks and potential high growth.

But how?

Solution: Inbound Open Innovation Projects

As we stated before: Corporations cannibalize innovation. But also, “All generalizations are false, including this one” as Mark Twain said. As Hackquarters, we are working with the few that chooses inbound open innovation as their way to keep pace with the new generation.

Inbound Open Innovation is a way of collaboration that corporations choose to include external resources into their own processes. Managing innovation effectively means rethinking corporations as a whole and usually problems are invisible from the inside. In Turkish, we have a saying “… you need a third eye” and this fits perfectly to this situation. Even if you believe that you are a digital, innovative company, you can not see what you are doing wrong. Hackquarters is the third eye.

Grants4Apps program that we are proud of!

In short, there is a growing culture of innovation and raising awareness of the need to review corporations as a whole, review processes with a view to seize opportunities for innovation, absorb knowledge and increase the engagement from all levels within the corporation. One of the most basic obstacles to moving forward on the road to innovation is whether or not employees within the corporation are aware of the challenges. Because if they’re not aware of the challenges they won’t get involved in the solution. Basic awareness about those challenges is probably the key indicator of how well the process will do.

As Hackquarters we provided lots of startup engagament to corporations such as Isbank, Bayer, Here and many more. If you need guidance on your way to true innovation, we would always love to have a cup of coffee and chat about what we can accomplish together.

e-Residency for Startups & entrepreneurs: Am I to be an Estonian from now on?


If you are reading this blog, I can easly assume that you are already experienced in startup scene, one way or another. The most basic explanation of a startup is usually “solution to a problem”. We tell that “being a startup is not about your revenue or size of your company” and there are countless examples to bigger startups like Uber, Slack, Airbnb. In a way, we can call Estonia “a startup” with their e-Residency initiative.

In 2014, Estonia started accepting e-residency chance for startups all around the world. E-Residents gained the chance to work within Europen Union by establishing a digital company in Estonia, without a physical office or an individual in Estonia. If you apply and get accepted for the program, you receive a physical Estonian government-issued digital ID and start your program from anywhere in the world. But one important note: you DO NOT become an Estonian (therefore EU) citizen with e-residency, you only get the right to start a company.

Even if Estonia has less than 2 million population, they are using digital IDs since 2000.

e-Residency Opportunities

E-Residency gives great new opportunities, as you now have a company within EU borders. You can gain access to the banking system or international payment service provider, sign your documents safely and digitally, have easy access to EU market, work within EU laws and last but not least you will have an EU company which removes some trust issues (especially when compared to developing countries).

To apply for e-residency in Estonia, you just need your local government-issued ID, passport, photo, credit card and a letter of motivation for your application. Then you need to pay 100€ and wait for 6 to 8 weeks for background check. After that, you will be notified via e-mail and if you get accepted as an e-resident, you can get your ID from the nearest Estonian consulate.

Your digital ID is the way you can get into anything related to Estonia: from starting your company, to paying your taxes later on. Estonian ID cards can be plugged directly into a computer through an e-reader that connects to the USB port. The ID card holder then simply enters their unique pin codes to either authenticate their identity or digitally sign. Even if Estonia has less than 2 million population, they are using digital IDs since 2000.


I started my company. What now?

Even if you don’t need a physical office, you still need an adress within Estonia to start your company. And as most of the things in your way can be handled digitally in Estonia, that problem is easy to solve, too. There are services like LeapIn, which provides services you need for your digital company in Estonia. Starting at 60€ monthly, you can get a bank account in Estonia, accounting, taxing and compliance help.

After you handle all the “digital paperwork” for you company, you can start doing business asap. E-residents pay 20% income tax and it can also be done digitally with your ID.

For now, Estonia is the only country in the world that accepts e-residents, so there is no alternative unfortunately.

More Info about e-Residency in Estonia

Further reading: e-Residency whitepaper

Further reading: Why e-Residency is popular with Turkish entrepreneurs

Credit: Burak Büyükdemir @ Startup Istanbul 2018

How to setup a company in Turkey


The main point to set up a company is to determine what to do exactly in Turkey with future forecasted activities along with your main goal. What you need a trusted and experienced setup master, a professional.

Times are desperate, currency is like a yo-yo. With an unstable economy, it is difficult. But (a big but) is the key point of all, every weakness and threat is a great opportunity is waiting to be turned to an asset. Here are opportunities that why you sset up setup a company in Turkey in these difficult times…

Yoyo currency looks a threat but actually is an opportunity on capital aspect. If you have capital in Euros or US Dollars, you are sitting on a good opportunity.

An individual, whom I called setup master, has to know administrative processes, procedures, red tapes, and regulations. He/She has to tailor a customized map for your goals.

Turkey is a logistically ideal place to conduct a business to reach Asia, Middle East, and Europe: A perfect gateway for transportation. On the HR aspect, you can find trained and quality employees with low costs in Turkey, along with incentives of the Turkish Government such as smart marketing, innovation, and administration tax incentives.

Due to the current economic status of Turkey, costs are reduced by almost 50%, such as employment and, utility terms during recent months. The government takes dramatic actions to attract foreign investors, which makes easy to set up company any of red tape procedures (bureaucracy).


Basically, this identifies the type of establishment. It has to be chosen accordingly, aimed business objectives in Turkey. It takes 3-4 days to establish and once details are set it is easy to form a company. A certified public accountant (CPA) and a lawyer can form a company, and carry out all red tape procedures easily under the liaison of setup master. Type of the company presents itself with different advantages in terms of liability and taxes. Obligations are title of the company, subject of business activity, HQ of the company, managers of the company (signatory). Important note; In Turkey, foreign partners can establish company but the working in a company is up to different regulation such as work permit, legal documents,etc.. There are 7 options to form a company in Turkey but 3 of them are most used type as follows;

Limited – minumum 10.000 TL as capital. Advantage is low capital to start-up company but, partners have unlimited responsibility on capital terms. Min 1 founder/partner – max 50 founders/partners. The capital is expected to be more than minimum fund due to establishment costs and also can be predicted with feasibility chart.

Corporate – minumum 50.000 TL as capital. Advantage is high capital to start-up company but partners responsibility is limited to their share. Min 1 founder/partner – max unlimited founders/partners. (above 500 partners, the corporate has to register to SPK (Stock Exchange Institution of Turkey). The capital is expected more than minimum fund due to establishment costs and also can be predicted with feasibility chart.

Branch of A Company – The regulations and red tape procedures are difficult and limited to company operations in tax terms, incentives and grant terms and work permits terms. Obligations are more and various.

What Can A Setup Master Do For You?

A setup master can help set up an ideal company according to your needs and future plans with efficiency and economy. When it comes to efficiency, a company’s mandatory needs present the priority lists. Certainly, you don’t need to set up fully decorated departments; suitable outsourced services can serve you well enough for the time being with low costs till your company needs an increase in personnel, such as administration, human resources, accounting, logistics etc. Setup Master does find best outsource options for you and manage them for the best interest for your company.

Setup Master manages intellectual properties of your company with multi-tasking manner. There are serious documentation and deadlines involving government, notary, embassies and outsource company as in to prepare due dilligence processes.
He/She can set up an office and its major organs on technical background/utility and suggest key people (admins) according to your company utility needs. A setup master conduct accounting and admin processes due to core business’ needs, tax applications, regular tax responsibilities, official certificates, ISO processes etc. He/She can run grant and incentive applications on various scale, as the process needs quite a documentation and timely applications.

How to prepare a Pitch Deck in 13 easy steps


When you consider that sometimes the only thing that you can reach to a potential investor is by your pitch deck. When you can’t even tell the people about what you do face to face, the quality of your pitch deck matters more. A few months ago we shared an article titled “7 startup pitch decks from time when they were not huge” which shows earlier pitch decks from startups such as LinkedIn, YouTube, Airbnb and more.

Absolutely no ambitions to write about the ‘Best’ or the most impressive pitch decks. Just want to be more practical, and focus on the skeleton of the pitch deck. So many pitches and presentations available on youtube; a lot of mentorship and training done; and why there are still so many fails?


Your pitch is a chance to tell your story, how you see it and want people to know about it. Your pitch is not just a powerpoint presentation, but a page of your ‘story’. Make it as much more unforgettable; even when it comes to investment pitch. What is special about you for the users? Your growth until now; and after this moment is the thrilling part of your pitch. Why they should choose you? So, to write your story I would suggest starting with a script first.

Before you start, check the best practices in your sector. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Check how the same startups like you are managed to create the difference.

Slide 1. Cover.

Just use your imagination and use visuals and colors wisely. 🙂

Slide 2. Mission Statement

Just 1 sentence to describe your product. And please check out your competitors before you start; what is their mission statement; what keywords do they use; how do the position themselves. You will, definitely, have more clear ideas about own statement. There are some guidelines about designing a mission statement; so, please don’t ignore standard formulas like;

(Name of the Company) is developing (defined offering) to help (defined audience) (solve a problem) with (secret sauce).

Slide 3. Challenge/Problem

Usually, we call it a problem; however, some mentors suggest to avoid negative words in your presentations. So, suggestion- ‘Challenge’:) Sounds more challenging, isn’t it? What problem is out there in the world? How many people need this problem to be solved?

Slide 4. Solution

What do you propose? How does it work? What opportunities do you provide for people to be faster, happier, safer, more cost-effective or efficient? Don’t forget about your value proposition; which is definitely the main driven power.

Slide 5. Features

This is the slide where you can give more details about your solution; give screenshots or dashboard to explain your product in details; supporting the previous slide about effectiveness, etc. No more than 3 features; though you have more than this. Focus on the most life-changing solutions that none of your competitors have.

Slide. 6. Market

3 main numbers about the market you operate in. How does it look like a big picture? What is the size and potential you intend to fit? And for the investor, it is extremely important to show how much you know about YOUR market.

Slide 7. Competitors

Who else is in the market and what is your difference? The best way is to give a chart focusing on 4 major advantages. And please don’t waste too much time on competitors; you have them- yes; you know them- yes; show the slide and emphasize on your own product and advantages, not theirs; though they can be cheaper, do better, or have more users, etc.

Slide 8. Business Model

The slide that should be precisely clear. How do you get paid? What is the price? Is it B2B or B2C? Do you have Standard/Premium packages? What’s the price?

What is the opportunity for growth and how can you scale beyond your current scope; industries, technology, etc?

Slide 9. Product Milestones

Now it’s time to visualize your story. When did you start? Apple Store/Play Store release? First 100K users? Dates and major numbers/or logos. Don’t overload it! Don’t forget, this is the success story slide. As an addition, you can support this slide with client testimonials or cases.

Slide 10. Metrics/Traction

We love hard data! Show your metrics to share your success so far. Again and again; no more than 3–4 numbers for the audience to remember; like # users you have, churn, clients, pipeline, conversion rates, etc. Major Brands? Why not.

Slide 11. Team

It is all about the team, don’t forget! Make it more personal. Though I would recommend showing just photos/names/areas to make as clean as possible; you should definitely tell about your backgrounds, brands you’ve worked before. And, of course, how you, as a team, are going to change the world. As an alternative why not to use a happy team photo instead.

Slide 12. Investment

This slide is to tell about your expectations. By the way, investment is not just a money. Mention, if you need a network, sales channels, or anything else. Time to share how much money have you raised so far? How much are you looking for now? What big next steps will you use your investment for?

Slide 13. Thank you 🙂

Please give your contacts for people to remember you, and can easily contact you if it is not one-pager. If you have iOS or Android app mention again.

10 Food startups was at Impact Hub Istanbul for EIT Food

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Our followers on social media are always the ones, that get the news related to Hackquarters, first. As you are aware, Hackquarters founder, Kaan, was attending an event last week that we announced on our social media channels. The event was organized by EIT Food, which is a consortium of 50 partners with the ambition to create a future-proof & effective food sector through a connected food system. EIT Food is supported by EIT, which stands for European Institute of Innovation and Technology. The event was hosted by Impact Hub Istanbul.

Here are competing Turkish startups for EIT Food;


Batır is a company focusing on creating healthy, all-natural, nutritious snacks, which is easy to carry and packaged for daily consumption. Batır is using mostly local ingredients in their products.

Can Hydroponics

Can Hydroponics grow micro-greens using local and natural seeds without any additives, hormones, GMOs or fertilizers. Rather than using plastic pots, they are using waxed fabrics and water. Some of their products have up to 200 times more nutritional values than their traditional counterparts.


HAD (or Human Architectural Development) is a startup focusing on rooftop agriculture. They help communities produce soil from kitchen waste. They also help those communities with agricultural ecosystem by helping breed bees, worms or chicken. With those actions, they are hoping to contribute lower carbon emissions in cities.


Hyggefisk aims to provide nature-friendly, healthy, sustainable and low-budget alternatives to luxurious animal-origin food, by using vegetable alternatives. They are already working with some hotels and restaurants with their vegetable-based caviars.


MUMO Wrap is a health alternative to traditional fridge bags, plastic or aliminum foil. It’s made of fabric coated with wax, pine resin and coconut oil. Their product is reusable, healtier than its alternatives and keeps food fresh for longer.


Naturansa‘s name is based on latin words Natura (natural) and Ansa (cycle). Based on their name, team is working on sustainable, modern and ecological food and food systems with scientific and technological research. They are working with black soldier flies (BSF, Hermetia illucens) and they are feeding flies with food waste. Feeding with natural products, BSF also provides “the cycle” with edible larvae and natural fertilizer.

Nu Snacks

Nu Snacks products are hoping to help people with health snacks without any gluten or sugar. They have raw bar, granola and nutbutter products currently on market.

Shaman’s Secret

Shaman’s Secret has been founded by Beril, who grow up within a family, interested in nature and natural products. She decided to turn their home-made kombucha into a product. Their products vary such as kombucha starter’s kit and dried kombucha cultivation kit.


HAUS produces healthy, dried food with a special technique called “freeze dry”. Their technique sucks out 98% of humidity from food such as cheese, olives, okra, and thus keeps in nutritional values of their products. Their food not only keeps its shape and nutritional values, but also has long years of shelf life. (Editor’s note: I tried it. They are awesome)


Tarlamvar is working closely with farmers all across Turkey. They are removing middle-man, and lets customers reach out to farmers, who grow all-natural products. Customers “adopt” trees or farms and they get their products delivered to their homes, directly from the farmer.

Lord of the Rings: The story of an entrepreneur

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(If you did not watch or read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, things I will mention in my blog will make no sense to you. Also, come on… You didn’t watch that masterpiece yet? You need to. Otherwise, you will get spoilers. *SPOILER ALERT*)

In a previous blog that I wrote, I mentioned “3 Idiots” as my favorite movie of all time (and now I remember that we deleted that part). But for me, that’s because the Lord of the Rings trilogy is in a completely different class than movies. I probably watched complete trilogy more than 5 times; and every time I watch the extended version, I notice something new.

There are lots of myths about the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Some say that J.R.R. Tolkien got influenced by Norse mythology, some say he got ideas from Epic of Gilgamesh and some even say that he got influenced by early nomadic Turkic tribes while creating orcs. But today, we will assume that he foresaw entrepreneurs and their problems.

The main characters and their roles in your startup

I think almost all of the main characters in the Lord of the Rings can be applied to a startup in various ways. I will tell about them in detail and what you can learn from them in the following paragraphs.

Samwise Gamgee = The Founder
Frodo Baggins = Your Product
The One Ring = Your Growth Strategy
Merry and Pippin = Your Team
Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli = the Accelerator Team
Gandalf = the Mentor
Lord Elrond = the Investor
Sauron = the Corporate
Gollum = Your main competitor

It starts to make sense now. Right? There are a lot of side characters that you encounter on your way to success, but we will talk about them later.

Main Characters

Gollum, the Fuckup Story

You might be asking “Why are you starting with Gollum?”. The reason is that Gollum and ring bearers before him are all bad examples. Gollum came across the One Ring by chance and for that power, he even killed a friend for the love of this Ring.

Gollum has been carrying the ring for ages before he lost the ring. He fell in love with the idea of power that the Ring provided, he didn’t even notice that it is killing him from the inside. One Ring gave him an eternal life, but he was just surviving.
Gollum still had a good side of him, before he was Smeagol. But he lost all of it during the time he carried the Ring. He can be helpful to you, but not to be trusted. You need to stay on your feet during your own journey. He lead Sam and Frodo to a secret path, but that path might lead to Shelob.

Lesson to learn: Do not fall in love with an idea. Fall in love with your business. Learn from the mistakes of other startups who failed while trying what you are trying to do.

Samwise, Frodo and the Ring

If you ask people about the main character of the Lord of the Rings, you will see that most people think that Frodo Baggins is the lead character. But if you ask the real fans of the series, you will probably hear that Samwise Gamgee is “the one”. And also as a fan, I can relate to that.

Story of a founder.

Samwise was the founder of the startup to solve a problem. The problem is that One Ring needs to be destroyed, to give the power back to free folks of Middle-Earth. There is a lot of potential in Frodo, but he is yet to discover. He needs to destroy the Ring with Frodo so that Frodo can be free of his chains. The One Ring is Frodo’s burden, and Samwise needs to carry this burden to lead Frodo to success. Sam needs to carry Frodo to Mount Doom to get rid of the One Ring. Sam takes a leap of faith while in cornfields outside of Shire, as he gets as far away as his home he has ever been.

As you can see from the whole paragraph above, I’m not very fond of Frodo. Frodo is a useless pile of shit without Sam’s guidance. Sam needs to shape Frodo as a character. And one-time he gets so bored of his bad trips that he abandons Frodo, only to save him from death later on.

As the founder (Samwise) of a startup, you need a product (Frodo) and a growth strategy (the One Ring). Your growth strategy is not always a pretty thing. It might help you grow, help you get more people around you, but it is not necessarily the main thing you want out of your product.

I don’t want to name any startups, yet I can use them as an example. One of our beloved startups are trying to create a platform for their customers to use, which aims to be an autonomous system them fulfill their needs. But while they are growing, they are working just like an agency and they are completing tasks for their customers that their platform is supposed to do. That’s their growth strategy. But when they reach enough customers and show people that “their platform can do that”, they will abandon their “working as an agency” strategy and move people onto their platform. They are looking for the day that Frodo throws the ring into the fires of Mount Doom.

Lesson to learn: Your growth strategy is not necessarily a thing you want to do at the end of the day. But if it will move you to the top, you need to go for it.

The Team: Merry and Pippin

Merriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took are overlooked characters in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They are friends to Frodo and Samwise, but they were not supposed to join the journey of the One Ring. Their paths have crossed with Sam and Frodo and the situation made them form a team. Another interesting fact is that in LotR lore, Merry was aware of the One Ring, way before Frodo and Sam started their journey. Merry saw Bilbo use the ring once and then read Bilbo’s journal to learn more about the ring, But he kept this information to himself, probably thinking that no one would believe him.

In the movies, Merry and Pippin were the ones who took care of Frodo, Samwise and the Ring at the beginning. While Ringwraiths were following them in the woods, Merry and Pippin got them out of a sticky situation. Merry and Pippin was not parted with Frodo along the way, even in the council that formed the Fellowship of the Ring. They even brought down Saruman without help from anyone but Ents, that they convinced that Saruman is hurting their forest.

They have fuckup stories as well, of course. You remember the fire atop Weathertop? Because of their foolishness, Ringwraiths found their place, but thanks to Aragorn, they got out alive. And the reason they got alive was that Aragorn convinced Arwen to help them.

They fought for Frodo till the very end and they did everything they can for Frodo. Did they cause problems? Definitely.

Lesson to learn: Pick guys who believe in you and can give everything they have on your way to success. They don’t need to be superstars at the beginning but have the potential to be one. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

Gandalf, the Mentor

Gandalf is the superstar of Middle-Earth. He has a mighty beard, a cool-looking staff. He can talk to butterflies and call-in giant badass eagles. But he has experience that no other mortal can provide, and that’s his main thing in the movies. You would love to have someone like Gandalf in your team.

Rather than taking the Ring for himself, he brings together Sam and Frodo for this opportunity (or burden). He believes that together, they can destroy the Ring, but he is also aware that they will need help along the way. He helps form the Fellowship of the Ring, which can lead the quest to success. Gandalf helps the team of Hobbits meet with “big guys”.

At the end, Sam and Frodo needs to take the journey. Even if they got a lot of help, and certainly would fail without it, they got to Mount Doom by themselves.

Lesson to learn: You need experience on your way to success. A mentor can talk the talk, yet you have to walk the walk.

Lord Elrond, the Investor

After first funding from Lord Elrond.

Lord Elrond is also one of the overlooked characters in Lord of the Rings. He is the Lord of Rivendell, home of the Elves, and he believes in Sam and Frodo. The reason why is that he believes with his investment in them, they can defeat Sauron by destroying the Ring. So he calls his friends (I know, I know. Dwarves) for aid in this quest. As he also wants to destroy Sauron, he gives a shot to the Fellowship of the Ring. He knows it is not easy to defeat Sauron on a battlefield. That’s why he also doesn’t want the ring in Rivendell. He doesn’t want to piss off Sauron (for now).

In the past, he was in a team which reached the top of Mount Doom and was so close to destroying Sauron for good. Yet his team was not up to the task and rather than following his instincts and experience, he let it slip.

Lesson to Learn: An investor can help you meet with right people and those people can guide you to your success. He may have valuable experience and power that you can use on your quest.

The Fellowship of the Ring: Accelerator

Basically the life of an entrepreneur.

We all know that Frodo and Samwise would lose the ring easily to Sauron if the Fellowship wasn’t there. Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Boromir are warriors that can help the Hobbits overcome obstacles on their way. They came across Aragorn while he was still known as Strider in Prancing Pony Inn. Even if they were not very keen on joining him, Aragorn helped them stay alive with his experience.

Except for Boromir, they are all selfless guys who just want Middle Earth to be a better place, so they help Sam and Frodo on their quest. Boromir, on the other hand, wants the power for himself. He thinks that the power of One Ring will be much more helpful for his personal goals.

Lesson to Learn: An Accelerator can put your team and your business on the right path. They also work as one of your team and help you reach your goals faster. (I’m talking about Hackquarters, of course. The article is on our blog. Have you really thought that I would not include Hackquarters in some way?)

Sauron and his Entourage: Big Bad Corporation

Sauron is our bad guy in the movie. He created the One Ring in secret and by distributing his other rings to leaders of Middle-Earth, he became the most powerful guy of his time. He just gave the leaders of Men, Elves, and Dwarves the sense of power and made them his slaves. He lost some of his power as he lost the Ring, yet still controls a lot of power from his prime. Sauron wants back the power, so he sends all of his forces against the people of Middle-Earth, hoping to get the One Ring back.

The One Ring is also dependant on Sauron, which is a pretty bad thing on Sam and Frodo’s quest. But they need to resist his power and use it only when they need it the most.

#JusticeForSaruman #GandalfTheTraitor

Sauron sends his lawyers, accountants, marketing and PR guys after Frodo and Sam. Those Ringwraiths also have day jobs. Do you really think that running a place like Mordor is easy? Of course, Sauron has guys like Ringwraiths to do his bidding. Those poor guys followed Arwen to their Doom so that they can use it as a PR campaign against the Elves. Don’t you remember the news after that river incident: “Ringwraith lives matter”. Also, do not forget barbarian Ents destroying Saruman’s R&D center.

Lesson to learn: Disruptive is a word that startups use a lot. Being disruptive helps you make enemies on your way. You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain (What? I love Batman trilogy, too)

Other Characters

Theoden, the Lord that may be of help

Theoden is the Lord of Rohan, who got mindwashed by Saruman to do his bidding. The Fellowship of the Ring (or at least the ones who are left) help him break free of Saruman’s chains. In the end, Theoden helps in the Battle of Minas Tirith, to return the favor for the Fellowship’s help at Helm’s Deep. In the end, he helped them stay alive longer, but if he wasn’t there at Minas Tirith, Aragorn would’ve swept the remaining Sauron forces with Army of the Dead anyway.

Lesson to Learn: Some people may be helpful on your way, but they have their own agenda. Even if they can be of help, they are not necessarily helping you directly. Try to get as much help from them as possible.

Galadriel, the potential Investor

Galadriel is Lady of the Woods. She was a potential investor for the Fellowship as their paths crossed. Galadriel thought about getting the ring for herself, but at the end, she decides that rather than taking it for herself, letting Frodo keep the ring was for the best. She even blessed Frodo with the Light of Eärendil, which helped Sam and Frodo overcome Shelob.

Lesson to Learn: Don’t be shy of meeting people with power. Even if they don’t directly invest to your cause, they may be of help.

Tom Bombadil the “Who?”

Blockchain is…

As a fan of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, I’m not very familiar with Tom Bombadil. I’ve read about him, as fans of the books were talking about him a lot. But I agree with Peter Jackson on not including him into the movies. Peter Jackson justified his omission of Bombadil from the film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by pointing out that he did little to advance the story, having nothing to do with the Ring storyline, and serving little purpose when it came to getting the hobbits to Rivendell, and putting together the Fellowship.

Tom Bombadil is the “blockchain” of Middle-Earth. Everyone knows about him, they think that he is a crazy but lovable guy. But they don’t know what to do with him.

Lesson to Learn: Don’t include technologies and features to your startup, just because they sound sexy.

6 Shittiest Piece of Advice about Running Your Startup


If you watched “The Social Network” movie, you probably remember the scene where Sean Parker tells Mark Zuckerberg to get a business card saying “I’m CEO, bitch!”. I’m not sure if this scene is pure fiction or taken from a real-life situation, but I think that’s a pure shitty advice. In a theatrical point of view, it might sound cool: but would you really like to hand out a business card saying “I’m CEO, bitch!” to a corporate CEO that you can do business with?

Almost everyone loves to be an influencer in their field of study. It feels good to give advice to “young padawans” and enlighten them with your expertise. So, it is an important thing that entrepreneurs only follow good pieces of advice. (Yeap, I’m looking directly at you Senator. Because of you, Anakin “pivoted” and… You know the rest).

As a blockchain enthusiast, the most important thing that I learned in blockchain is “DYOR”, which stands for “Do Your Own Research”. We can’t say that all of those pieces of advice are completely wrong, but it depends on your situation. Even if some of them might make you feel like “Not that bad”, they are generic, to say the least. Here are a few examples of shitty advice that you can get;

Take a leap of faith and quit your day job for your startup!

No! Don’t! You need a long checklist to complete before you quit your job and follow your dreams. Did you research about your competitors? Do you have a solid business plan? Do you have enough funding to survive? Do you have enough resources? Can you trust your team in mid-term? Do you have the mental strength to embrace upcoming psychological difficulties? And many many more questions need an answer before you take that “leap of faith”.

There are great stories on the internet that you can find easily with a Google search. What you see there are probably like 1% of people who quit their jobs for their new startup. And all people in that 1% have done it after they completed the checklist that I mentioned

Your idea must be out-of-this-world!

There is a famous phrase that you have probably heard: Ideas are worthless, execution is everything. It’s a bold statement but think about it this way: Thinking of climbing Everest is an idea, and climbing Everest is execution.

While Charles H. Duell was the Commissioner of US patent office in 1899, he said: “Everything that can be invented has been invented”. I’m not gonna say something similar, yet ideas nowadays are dime a dozen. Neither Google was the first search engine ever, nor Facebook was the first social media service ever. It was about how they execute the idea. Of course, there were loads of innovation and great ideas involved in the process, but the main idea was nothing original.

A great idea might be your key to success, but certainly not without great execution.

Be passionate about your idea! Don’t give up so easily!

Another problem about ideas is that some entrepreneurs fall in love with their ideas. When that happens, entrepreneurs lose their ability to think logically. They become incapable of critically asking the fundamental questions.

You need to be passionate about your business and how to make it work. But falling in love with your idea hampers your progress. Rather than trying to improve your product, based on your feedback, entrepreneurs might try to shape their customers to like their idea.

Learn > Build > Measure (Repeat)

Don’t rely on anyone! If you want it done right, do it yourself!

It’s a very common approach among entrepreneurs, that they try to handle every bit of detail by themselves. Thanks to Elon Musk, who spent thousands of hours studying (literally) rocket science before founding SpaceX, entrepreneurs might think that knowing everything down to the detail is feasible. It’s not. That’s why most of your potential investors will look for “TEAM” page in your pitch deck. You will need to delegate crucial aspects of your business to your team members.

Learn to delegate tasks to your team members according to their expertise. Your time is so valuable, so let them free up some time for you while (probably) completing tasks better than you can imagine.

And another thing, do not put your teammates under a microscope. Let them do, what they do best. Quit trying to micromanage.

Offer the lowest price possible!

For a new startup, it is always attractive to enter the market with lowest prices possible. By undercutting the competitors’ prices, it feels like you can get more customers onboard easily. Yet, it is a dangerous approach. Your customers may think that your product is cheap because it is inferior (and this is a psychological fact).

Focus on determining a feasible pricing strategy based on your product and your profit margin. Being sustainable is much more important than being cheap and getting lots of customers.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

That’s an approach that 80-year-old corporate giants may find useful. They have a model that keeps them afloat for decades. But, come on, you are a startup. The first keyword that people think about startups must be innovation, it must make you think about something new, something disruptive.

As a startup, you should always focus to improve in every aspect of your business that you can. You need to take risks, but (of course) calculate the possible outcomes first.

Again: Learn > Build > Measure (Repeat)

5 Must-Have Applications and Services For Startups


Start-ups and small businesses often maintain a group of less than 10 people to manage the entire business. This is when these 5 applications come in handy. If you’re interested in finding out how you can be effective at what you do and spend less time on things that don’t bring value to you or your business, then read on because this article is for you.


Trello is an application that is available for free. It can be accessed through the web or your Android or iPhone. Trello lets you keep tasks and projects organized. If you’re handling a small group of people, Trello helps you assign tasks and monitor deadlines. You can attach files, add a checklist and view all project developments at a glance. Since it is accessible via phone, it helps you stay updated regardless of where you are. Any updates can also be shared in real time. Say goodbye to unnecessary progress related meetings that take up most of your time.


Slack is an application that lets you chat and send private or direct messages. It’s also available for free, can be used from a web browser or from your Android or iPhone. If you’re working on different projects, you can easily create channels and send/receive chats simultaneously throughout the day. What’s even better is that it integrates with applications you might already use such as Google Drive and Trello. Everything is searchable in Slack which makes communication a lot easier.


When you manage a business, you’ll be surprised with the number of documents you will need to sign on throughout the week. Imagine loads of paperwork filing on top of your desk and the time it’ll take to go through each document to sign, scan and then send back to the sender. HelloSign helps you out by letting you create an electronic signature. There’s no need to download and print any files, no need to leave Gmail, and take less than 30 seconds to complete.


Zapier is all about automation. Avoid having to do the same things time and time again. Zapier connects with apps that you normally use and allows you to create triggers that would initiate the start of a workflow. With just a few clicks, you can create workflows that happen automatically once set up. It links your systems together, removes redundancy and drives efficiency in your everyday tasks.

Google Drive

Did you just finish a report you’ve worked on for 3 hours but then clicked on exit without saving the document? It happens to almost everyone. You won’t have to worry about a thing when you have Google Drive in place. Google Drive lets you work with spreadsheets, slides or documents. It saves files in real time so you don’t need to worry if you’ve accidentally closed a file without saving. Everything is accessible from a cloud service so never worry about forgetting where you’ve saved files again.

Running a business is not a walk in the park. Make use of your time wisely and take advantage of tools such as these 5 applications to make your life easier. Work smart and take control.

7 startup pitch decks from time when they were not huge


You have probably heard of LinkedIn, YouTube and Foursquare. Their founders were hungry entrepreneurs like you once, who were trying to get investment for their ideas.

Here are some great examples on their pitch decks before they got big.

LinkedIn (from 2004)

YouTube (from 2005)

Foursquare (from 2009)

AirBnB (from 2009)

Tinder (from 2012)

BuzzFeed (from 2008)

Buffer (from 2011)

You can find many more pitch decks at Source:


10 weird startup ideas that failed miserably


Hackquarters is (mostly) about providing people or corporations with experience. When we are mentoring a startup or an entrepreneur, we tell them about our or our friends’ past experiences that may light the way for a new idea. The best examples are usually bad experiences we had or witnessed. In his famous book, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde wrote: Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes. And (I think) that quote was a keystone for Fuckup Nights, which is a global movement and event series that shares stories of professional failure.

People learn from mistakes, even if it is not your own mistake. So here are some great examples of how NOT TO create a startup.


Of course, there are some great examples that create their own problem to solve or re-invent our habits. But most of the time, startups provide solutions to common problems. But Washboard was trying to impose a problem that doesn’t exist: Quarters for laundry machines. Washboard was a service that delivers quarters to their customers on a monthly subscription basis. But the thing is they were sending $20 worth of quarters for $27. Washboard even had the “honor” to be named Worst Startup Ever by Washington Times.

They lasted just one week, and had “more than 10” customers.

Lesson to be learned: If your service is not value for money, it is destined to die.

No More Woof!

In the startup world, it is common to hear promises on non-existent technologies. Most common examples we hear about are on renewable energy. Time to time, entrepreneurs come to meet us and tell us about their “great” ideas about green energy, yet most of the time, the technology that they dream about does not exist. The same thing applies to No More Woof, which promised to be the first device to translate animal thoughts into human language and got backed on Indiegogo.

There was one huge problem with No More Woof: The technology wasn’t there yet. They promised their backers to deliver the project, even if it is well off schedule. But current EEG technology is not capable of telling what exactly a person or an animal thinks. Recently there has been some wearable devices on the market, but they are also on crawling stages.

Lesson to be learned: Don’t make promises on technology that you don’t have yet.


Smart homes and smart cities are some sexy keywords for a new startup, and they have been in our lives for almost a decade. Even if the idea behind most of new technology sounds good, some of them are destined to be in sci-fi movies for now.

Grovio is a “smart” device, using specialized sensors, it automatically waters and monitors your plants in real time. It has a 1600 ml water tank that is said to be enough for up to 3 plants and 45 days. And that water tank is probably useful for small, tabletop plants that some people love to have on their desks. Even if it sounds “why not”, they were backed less than 20% of their goal on Kickstarter.

Lesson to be learned: People prefer some things to be done manually. Don’t try to force technology in every aspect of our lives.

Dog PC

I used to have a dog of my own, that I spent 15 years of my life together. And she was never into technology. Yeah, sometimes she got angry because I was paying attention to my phone, rather than petting her. But I never noticed her watching TV. There are some videos on YouTube that show cute doggies playing games on tablets, but that does not showcase a problem to be solved in my opinion.

Dog PC, which was on TechCruch Disrupt 2016, is a Dog PC (as you can guess). Dog PC “helps your dog achieve their dream”, as stated in the company’s rollup at Disrupt. What is the name of the company? Tesla. Not “the” Tesla, but Tesla that produces state-of-art dog houses with latest available technology.

Tesla promises to solve the loneliness problem of dogs with a PC that has games to play all day. As a gamer myself, I would not recommend showing the wonders of PC gaming to any dog, because I’m sure he will stop playing with humans (for a while at least).

Lesson to be learned: Do your market research thoroughly before your production. (And I want my pet to play with me, not with a PC)


I couldn’t even find a proper screenshot for Agester. The one you are looking at is from Wayback Machine and its mostly non-functional. But the “legacy” of Agester remains to this day.

Agester was a service, that lets you upload your photos and after moderation your photos get published on the service. Then comes the tricky part that you let people guess your age. The idea was to get feedback to learn that you are hot or not for your age. If I was a teenager, that wants to hear “Wow, you look like you are 25” from the girls on my radar and all I get was “You look like 14”, that would probably lower my spirits. And if I was a fit woman in her late 40’s and hear “You look like 54”, I would never open that web page again.

There were some social media elements like befriending with users, but most people couldn’t find what they were looking for. Service died eventually.

Lesson to be learned: Get feedback on your product, especially negative feedback to see your weaknesses. But you don’t need to give negative feedback to your customers, that make them feel bad.


You were probably expecting a swastika on a service called Fashism. Or if you somehow got fashion relevance from “fash” part, you probably were still thinking something to do with Nazis. Guess what? Nobody from the team of Fashism thought about that. Also another fun fact: Ashton Kutcher invested in Fashism.

Fashism was a service that you get feedback on your fashion choices from the community (which are normal people, mostly). Majority of the users were US teenagers who were looking for feedback on their clothes for school (also who probably had no clue on what fascism means, like the founders). But Fashism worked smoothly between 2010 and 2012, and even had enough funding to pivot to e-commerce.

Lesson to be learned: Use common-sense while you name your startup or product.


Digital Transformation always reminds me of OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software, which is great at transforming old-school documents into editable text files. But as a term, Digital Transformation means a lot more, especially for traditional companies. What Outbox does is to turn our physical mailboxes into digital ones, by sending people to homes to get mails from mailboxes. They described themselves as “recreating the US Postal Service”.

First of all, people getting mail from your physical mailboxes and opening them (even if it is to send them to you digitally) is a great privacy concern for most people. Also, on average a mail gets delivered to you in 3 days and Outbox adds at least 3 more days to that. Last but not least, people driving to your house and back increases carbon emission.

Most of us are trying to kill physical mailing by choosing to get digital bills for everything. The main reason for that is to be more efficient for both ourselves and our planet. Outbox did exactly the opposite of that.

Lesson to be learned: Make life more efficient for people, not the other way around. Also, people care more and more everyday about their privacy.


If you are a netizen, you probably wandered in deep web a few times out of curiosity. But on our regular web, illegal stuff gets busted usually. Blackmailed (currently a porn website, as you can guess) used to be a service where you can blackmail people for money. You post photos or videos on the service and photos got revealed daily if the target doesn’t pay up.

Blackmailed was a joke, a real joke. Probably the website never ever existed, but the legend says that it was a real project and the founders got arrested even before the service goes live.

Lesson to be learned: A legal consultant will always be handy. (And Tor is there for a reason)


Steve Jobs got all of us into that “i” madness with iPads, iPhones and iSmell, but iSmell has nothing to do with Apple. Sounding and looking like it is a gadget from a South Park episode, iSmell is a device that emitted more than 100 different scents after being plugged into a PC. When user clicks on a website or opens an email, iSmell sends out the related odor.

Investors were very interested in the device, as it raised more than 20 million USD, yet the customers thought it was useless. Even if the technology was unrelated, in the late fifties and early sixties, in fact, during the screening of some films, such as the famous case of Scent of Mystery, cinemas were sprayed with perfumes to implement the visual experience with that smell. The attempts failed because you got the opposite effect: the audience was even bothered by it.

Lesson to be learned: A nice idea is not always a useful one. And always learn from previous mistakes, like the ones in this article.

Bonus: I Am Rich

There are loads of useless apps on every app store, on every platform. But most of them get eliminated by the algorithms that the platform uses, regarding user votes, comments, download numbers etc. As free apps are the ones that get most downloads, most of those apps are also free. But there was one legendary app, that was sold for $999, which is the maximum amount allowed by Apple.

I Am Rich” was an app (or a bait, whichever you choose) that promises nothing, but reportedly 8 morons bought it on the first and only day, only to see the screen only contains a glowing red gem and an icon that, when pressed, displays the following mantra in large text: I am rich, I deserv (yeap, typo) it, I am good, healthy & successful.

After being published on 5th of August 2008, Apple took down the app on 6th of August. In one day, developer of the app Armin Heinrich earned $5600 and Apple earned $2400.

The next year, Heinrich released I Am Rich LE. Priced at $9.99, the new app has several new features (including a calculator, “help system” and the “famous mantra without the spelling mistakes.”) to meet Apple’s requirement that apps have “definable content”. A year later, Google Play and Windows Phone Marketplace also got the same app from different developers.

Lesson to be learned: Don’t be these guys; neither the creators nor the buyers.