Koray Bahar Gültekin

Success Story From Internship to CEO! Koray Bahar – Sovos Foriba

As Voxmedya team, we continue our interview made series with names we think we will be inspired, with Koray Gültekin Bahar, Sovos Foriba‘s CEO.

We had the opportunity to get to know him on the Yollarda TV YouTube Channel and we stood at the Foriba gates to listen to his experiences.

We edited the transcript of the video interview we made and shared it below. You can scroll to the sections you want to read by clicking the titles in the table of contents.

🏂 Touch&Go 🏂

# Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? You can also start with your student life?

# Would you describe yourself as a hard worker?

# When did you become such a hard worker or have you always been like this?

# Who were you inspired by, were there people you follow blog posts or videos?

# You have worked in Foriba for many years with its former name, FitSolutions, and you’re continuing as CEO. How did your Foriba story begin? What kind of services do you provide as Foriba?

# Foriba has announced that it has been exiting in the past months. How much did you sell? 🙂

# Could you tell us a bit about your memories that you could never forget in your professional life?

# Is that the life you dreamed of?

# What advice would you give us and the young people who have just started life?

# Turkish video version of the interview

Voxmedya: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? You can also start with your student life? We are looking for interesting snaps.

Koray Bahar: My student life can be interesting. Because I started working as a student in Foriba. I was in the first year of university. Ahmet was my partner, chairman of the board, they had opened an office in Cyprus, at the Eastern Mediterranean University, the university that I studied. Then I started working as a part-time developer with Ahmet. Today, I am the general manager and partner of Foriba. When you think about it, it is a long process, so I can say that I have been with Ahmet for 18 years. In other words, the university has an important place as the place where I started to make money in my life.

Voxmedya: Would you describe yourself as a hard worker?

Koray Bahar: Until the year I graduated from university, unsatisfactory, so my grades were below 2 in the 4-system. I extended the school one year. I can’t say I was a good student. I was a bad student. It cannot be said that I am a very successful student, at least from an academic perspective. In general, my technical lessons, that is, my programming lessons were good. My math was very bad I took the course of differential equations 8 times, passed in the 8th Campaign and graduated.

I had an active university life. I was the president of the computer club for 3 terms. I was actively involved in the computer club before that. The year I graduated, we transferred the club to other friends and helped them again. Cyprus may seem very social and developed from the outside, but I went to Cyprus in 1999. The school was in Famagusta and it was not a very developed place at the time. We went again recently. It has become a completely different place. There was one cinema at that time, an underground cinema. As a computer club, we were organizing open-air cinemas at school. We were organizing organizations at the spring festivals. We had a very active group of friends. We are still working with many of my friends there in Foriba. We did different works with some of them, we established a partner company with some of them.

So the university is where my life sprouted. The people I know who have carried me to the present day, the most important environment that I have developed myself about my business life is university life. In other words, the active life at that time, the feeling of “let’s do something constantly, discover new things” are among the most important factors that brought me to this day.

Voxmedya: When did you become such a hard worker or have you always been like this?

Koray Bahar: I don’t know if I was always like this. I usually do things I enjoy with my friends. I also meet with my teammates at work and most of my manager colleagues in social life. We already have a company culture with good friends. So it’s an issue that has accumulated since these years.

For a while, I had a chance to get a salary and work in the IT service of the university. At that time, WAP, the mobile openable version of WEB, was just developing. We developed a WAP application. Then we integrated it into the student affairs of the school and integrated it into sentry pharmacies. Although very few mobile phones were still WAP at that time, we did business to the university, Kuzey Kıbrıs Turkcell. In addition, we were preparing MAS projects for business students. Currently, Altuğ was working on 3D videos that I worked in the same company, and I was preparing presentations. I buy bulk SMS, both in Turkey and in Cyprus. While I was in my university years, we tried 4-5 different jobs. These works fed me constantly.

Voxmedya: Who were you inspired by, were there people you follow blog posts or videos?

Koray Bahar: First, let’s face it, there were not so many videos at that time. There were rare occasions where you could follow someone’s blog post. But for example, we invited Görkem Çetin to the university. Görkem Çetin was at the forefront of Pardus native Linux software, in Tübitak. He had opened our horizons too much. In addition, we brought very good speakers from Microsoft. But then it was not an easy time to access information, we are talking about 1999-2005. It was the time when Google Engineering just sprouted. Blogs were more active at that time, but there was no Turkish content. We were fortunate in this subject as our school provided a complete English education. Still, there were not so many phenomena and videos in the world. We were lucky if we could download MP3s, video clips, divx movies from the internet.

Voxmedya: If we go into a little more detail, you have worked in Foriba for many years with its former name, FitSolutions, and you’re continuing as CEO. How did your Foriba story begin? What kind of services do you provide as Foriba? Can you talk about a little bit?

Koray Bahar: Also before Fit Solutions, there is Fit Consulting. In fact, his name is Fitcons. it came from Fit Consulting at that time. Because Ahmet and his team are setting up the company as an SAP consulting company. Since I started working part-time in 2001, they had a company called EG Software in Cyprus. I started working in that company. It was a very interesting job. They made an in-memory database. Imagine that we are in a time when everyone speaks real-time computing and in-memory. In 2001, we were developing a mobile application on an in-memory database written by Ahmet and his team. In other words, it is an application that can work on the SIM-card of the mobile phone. This was a very timeless job. Of course, we were not developing that core structure in Cyprus, we were developing applications on it. When I graduated afterward, I was getting ready to go to full military service. Ahmet said do not go to the army, come and start a little work. I also have to go because I said I will get married after military service, but somehow I started work. It started at Altuğ at the same time as me. Altuğ then went to Tüpraş. Then he returned to us again. It was September of 2005 when I started Fit Consulting. I worked for 1.5 months then went to the military. Then I started again when I returned. At that time, I learned about SAP consulting, that is, writing applications in SAP. On the one hand, I was writing .NET.

For the mobile app, then iPhone 2 was not selling in Turkey. We brought iPhone from America. I don’t have a MAC, I installed Hackintosh on the PC and started writing the first mobile apps on it. I originally wrote “Hello World”. Then it was great for us to see “Hello World” on the iPhone screen. Then we formed a team of several friends who were interested in this issue within the company. We wrote the first mobile application of İ We wrote the first iPhone and android application of Mekanist (called Zomato) in about 2008 years. We first met Ömer Erkmen at that time. Ömer Erkmen was at the head of the Mekanist, he entered the Mekanist as an investor and then stayed on his job.

Then we pivoted the mobile application business. At the end of 2008, we established a separate company called Dotto.

Volkan, Ahmet, I have 3 partners. We established a new company with a team from Fit Danışmalık, writing .NET, working with microsoft technologies and writing mobile applications. Then in 2012 we broke up in this business and handed it over to Volkan. Volcano still continues this job beautifully. The game company founded it. They are doing very good jobs right now.

I bought shares from Fit for the first time at the end of 2012. It was precisely when this Invoice business began to grow. Then we did instead Fit Consulting, Fit Solutions. Because we said, “We are not consulting anymore, we are selling our solutions.” That transformation was a difficult time. Ayhan, Gökhan joined us. Arman was with us. Hasan has been writing e-Invoice with us since the first day. With that core team, we have now become a company that makes its product.

At the end of 2017, we had an appetite for both buying a company and going global. When Fit Solutions was mentioned, there was a perception of a company selling sports equipment. And the brand’s new name was Foriba.

They started the company in 1999. I start part-time in 2001. I’m starting full-time in 2006. Since 2006, I have worked in the company under 3 names. Actually, I worked in every position. Part-time developer, team leadership, team manager, department manager, and then establishing a joint company, it was a very pleasant career to return to Fit, to change and transform Fit. In fact, when looking at professional life, “More than 5 years avoid working in the same place.” There is a strange motto. But we tried maybe 10-15 different start-up ideas in Dotto. We wrote a magazine application, we wrote an e-book application. We tried many different projects in Dotto. We tried many projects in Fit. It was e-Invoice works that we really believe and focus on, which holds and has a market.

Voxmedya: When you look at it as a career, you also have an exemplary career.

Koray Bahar: So I don’t know if it is an example. It would have been nice in a career like this. – He entered Microsoft, became the Middle East official, Germany passed to Oracle, and then came and started an initiative.- It could have been a nice career in such a thing.

Now we have a team of 218 people when I returned to Istanbul and started working at Fit, we were 7 people, I was the 7th person. Not only Koray, Ahmet, Ayhan, Gökhan, Evren, who brought Foriba to this day, everyone has a collective touch.

Voxmedya: If we come to the main subject? Foriba has announced that it has been exiting in the past months. How much did you sell? 🙂

Koray Bahar: I wish I could say how much we sell. I will relax if I say it but I cannot say it. We have explained everything transparently until this time. How much investment we got, what we did with the investments we received, how much we have turnover, what we had, how many customers we had. In general, not many numbers are given in our sector. The reason for not saying the amount of exit is; SOVOS continuous to buy companies. Potential in Turkey, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific had growth in appetite. We already had, so we became a team compatible with Sovos. So was the Turkey team and the team really complementing each other Sovos global teams. This is an opportunity for us, they do not want to have a benchmark because they continue to buy new companies. “They gave Foriba 10₺, then I will make 20₺ or my company should make 5₺.” For example, we also researched the company before selling it, so what was Sovos who bought before but we could not find any of them. If we could find it, it could have different meanings. They have such a strategy, so the figure has remained hidden in investors and buyers.

Voxmedya: You became our national pride by exit. Exit of companies involved in quite a few in Turkey.

Koray Bahar: Unfortunately, few. Having more will have many advantages. 4 companies this year; Gram Games, Opsgenie, Trendyol, Peak Games… These are all beautiful stories. If one company to exit 50 news we heard of it, it would have more funds to invest in Turkey today. It would be more local and foreign investors who have the appetite to invest in Turkey. People with money in the traditional economy, real estate in Turkey, to the field, rather than giving the money to fund was able to invest in technology companies. That’s the advantage of having more. The more similar successful exit stories we hear, the more successful companies are, or the more people like those who have worked in these successful companies, the more likely you are to do the next startup by me, or by him. And more money can come. This cycle continues to grow like a snowball. For these reasons, I am proud of it. At the same time, 3 exits of Paraşüt, Iyzico, and Foriba that came in the same week were very good. I wish we had heard 3 exits every month. This would draw the money that could bring 30 exits from behind to the country. That’s why I care about this job.

Ahmet founded this company in 1999 and made exit in 2019. So it’s an adventure for 20 years. I did today, I made exit tomorrow, stories are not very easy. Of course, Foriba pivoted a lot; From Fit Consulting to Fit Solutions, From Fit Solutions to Foriba. So we pushed too much. Indeed, the year we say “we are just doing this job, we are not doing any other work” is about 2012-2013. So we have been doing this job only for 6-7 years. With the accumulation we brought before, we said yes to something in 2013, and after 7 years, we came out. So this job is long and arduous. Unfortunately, there are a lot of blood, sweat and tears behind saying how nice we got out here.

Everyone working in this company has incredible efforts in this success. This success, not only by Ayhan, Koray, nor Foriba, but by the serious labor of every employee, a brand, a service, a quality emerges, and the company is valued with it. Of course, the founders are important, but unless you can provide that collective environment, as long as not everyone goes the same way, it doesn’t really make much sense.

Voxmedya: Thank you very much, you summarized very well. Could you tell us a bit about your memories that you could never forget in your professional life?

Koray Bahar: My story of starting to work in this company and to establish Dotto was the breaking points for me. Dotto was where we started to take the first steps to productize from a SAP consulting company. Dotto was like the Lab for us. For the first time, we said we will make a product there and we will take it to tens and hundreds of customers.

Our very fact that such firms in Turkey, which tailor the software. A project comes to the customer, we do it. Such companies are bootstrap. So there are many companies trying to grow with equity. It is really hard to move from that mindset to a solution company, a product company.

When we first started the e-invoice business, we were 30 people. If these 30 people go to the customer, there is the luxury of making money from the man-day or man-hour fee. We call it a drug business. If I get more jobs with more men, I can earn more money and a spiral never ends. You can never make a big leap, that tailor is in the works.

Let’s not send the 3 guys to the customer anymore, sit in the office, write products, or look at anything else, it really stands out for a long time. We spent 3000 man-days until we made money from the first e-invoice product. If we say 1000₺, we spent 3 million lira. How did we spend it? Ahmet’s tailor’s job came when he brought the money he earned from the software and invested it in this team. Until that point, if we did not have such a strength, that is, if we did not earn money from tailor-made works, we would not be able to invest in e-invoice works in Ahmet, and today we would be a company that would not receive any investment. Today, we could not reach such a product, such as a fan, so many teams, so many customers. I think that breakdown was an important anecdote. That is, the tailor’s job is to change from a company that makes software to a product company.

Everyone is having trouble at this point. I have a chance to talk to a lot of entrepreneurs. I am lucky I see the same problem in most of them. I ask how they make money. They say we are doing a project. Well, if this job goes bad, I ask what they will do. They say we will make a project again. It is hard to come to the point where I can say that I will not do a project. Because there is no money. If there is more money in the country, if it can reach more financing, initiatives can be much more successful.

Voxmedya: Is that the life you dreamed of?

Koray Bahar: I think this was it. I love working, I have fun. Because I work with the people I love. We have a very high-quality customer base. They love the work and product they take from us. So if there was also this, there is nothing I said. I was not a person who said to have a house, a car, a yacht, a floor. I am not a person who loves to live luxury. After Exit, I did not buy a house, a car, or a yacht. Because they are not valuable to me. What is valuable is to be able to bring out a success, bring it together with a team. Therefore, the rapid growth of the company has led me to a life that makes me very happy.

Voxmedya: As Final, we came to get advice from you with this interview. What advice would you give us and the young people who have just started life?

Koray Bahar: In my opinion, try as many things as possible experimentally. Just yesterday, there is a friend who knows us on the RoadsTv, and we constantly correspond with WhatsApp. He wants to start his own venture. I told him too. Find a beginning, where you can improve your experience and skills. For example, Ahmet debuted in his 20th year, Ahmet tried a lot of jobs, Koray tried a lot of jobs and finally, we could find the right job. It takes years. Find a Startup.

If you think I am a software developer, a computer engineer. I did computer engineering, managed a team, made sales, made presentations, gave lectures, went abroad, told something to the customer. I learned all of this thanks to this company. If I had established my own company, I would not have the luxury to experience it annually. I had the opportunity to try it during a trial right now. That’s the advantage of being in a small team. It is a risk to invest in a company, to establish a company, to work at the beginning is a risk, but to come across to a founding team that you really believe in for the right founding team, you trust their conversation, listening to your ideas, I think the best thing is to experience such a startup. Not the first company, maybe the second company he founded and experienced another life before. I can’t say that it works for everyone, but it worked on me, I am very satisfied. So this is my biggest recommendation.

It is a good idea to start your own business right after school. Why not but it feels like you see your risk. Beginning with a beginning or working in a company that will allow you to try different things in the institution, even working while in college. I worked at the university and made very good money. When he was a student, Ahmet was giving us a salary with the mark that he was under Cyprus. It was a great blessing for me, I read, I earn money, I learn new things, I need to give money on money to be given. Very an important chance. It is a fact that it is not easy to make money for a long time in our industry, but after 3-5 years, we can make good money. I think it’s the advantage of the technology world, but it is necessary to pay allegiance to it. This is even if you start your own venture. Even if you work somewhere. Here the more different things you can try by that period, the more you feed. It turns into everyone’s arm as a gold bracelet.

Turkish video version of the interview

The original of this interview was published in Turkish in October 2019 in

Selim Ensar Köksal

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