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Dhaka Tribune

TURTLE VENTURE

Overcoming obstacles with fortitude, unwavering determination

Anowar Sayef and Saraban Tahura, a Bangladeshi couple who co-founded Turtle Venture, share their views regarding their journey to becoming recognised by Forbes in this exclusive interview with Dhaka Tribune

Update : 08 Jul 2023, 11:05 PM

Anowar Sayef and Saraban Tahura, a Bangladeshi couple who co-founded Turtle Venture, have been included in Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list in the social impact category this year. Turtle Venture is the first venture studio in the country that supports and encourages local entrepreneurs. Since 2018, it has assisted 90 entrepreneurs in raising over $15 million in seed funding. The couple shares their views regarding their journey to becoming recognised by Forbes in this exclusive interview with Dhaka Tribune's Ayon Roy.

What factors contributed to your selection as a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree?

We are honoured to be recognised as Forbes 30 Under 30 honorees in the social influence category. Our selection is a testament to the milestones we have achieved as young entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders. Inspired by Steve Jobs' famous quote, we embarked on a journey to challenge the status quo and make a positive impact through entrepreneurship.

Despite our engineering background, we actively engaged in Bangladesh's startup ecosystem, launching businesses and gaining valuable insights into the challenges faced by early-stage entrepreneurs. We contributed to business growth plans for various firms and established Turtle Venture, a consulting company focused on assisting Bangladeshi companies in global competition and attracting international investors.

Our efforts were further acknowledged through participation in programs such as Biniyog Briddhi, where we combined finance and entrepreneurship to support meaningful initiatives during the pandemic. As organisers of She Loves Tech-Bangladesh, the world's largest startup competition for women in technology, and leaders of the Malaysia-Bangladesh youth program "Youth Hub," we have provided platforms for innovative ideas and promoted STEM education and mental health among young people.

Having organised multiple accelerators, financed startups, and worked closely with hundreds of entrepreneurs, we founded Turtle Venture Studio, Bangladesh's first global startup studio. Our commitment to the growth of the startup ecosystem is reinforced by our role as the youngest member of the Swiss Embassy development fund and our certifications in Investment Readiness and Impact Measurement & Management.

Being named Forbes 30 Under 30 honorees validates our vision and dedication to making a meaningful difference through entrepreneurship. We remain inspired to push boundaries, overcome challenges, and create opportunities for Bangladeshi startups. By working together, we can cultivate a vibrant ecosystem where innovation flourishes, and young entrepreneurs can transform the world.

Can you share any success stories or instances of entrepreneurs who have benefited from Turtle Venture's programs?

Turtle Venture takes pride in supporting and promoting local entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, making a significant impact on the startup ecosystem. One notable success story is Marcopolo.ai, a technology company focused on information optimisation. As their partner in the She Loves Tech accelerator program, we provided guidance and assistance throughout their journey, enabling them to establish themselves as a prominent player in the Bangladesh startup scene. The founder of Marcopolo.ai also earned recognition on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, highlighting their remarkable achievements. Alongside Marcopolo.ai, we have nurtured a diverse portfolio of entrepreneurs who have collectively raised over $15 million USD. While their successes are a result of their hard work and innovative ideas, we are grateful to have played a role in their growth by offering support, resources, and connections. These success stories inspire us to continue promoting innovation and growth in the Bangladesh startup ecosystem.

How did Turtle Venture achieve outstanding results in generating over $15 million in initial investment and supporting entrepreneurs? What lessons have you learned from your experience in the startup environment?

Turtle Venture's success in supporting entrepreneurs and securing significant investment stems from our innovative techniques and approaches. By prioritising teamwork and fostering open dialogue, we establish strong connections with business owners, understanding their goals and challenges. Our active involvement and personalised programs enable us to address their unique needs and provide tailored support at every stage of their business's growth. Leveraging our extensive network, we connect entrepreneurs with investors, partners, and experts, expanding their opportunities and support base. From the startup environment, we have learned the importance of adaptability, resilience, and a positive mindset, guiding entrepreneurs to embrace change and view challenges as valuable learning experiences. We also emphasise the benefits of mentorship and community, encouraging entrepreneurs to engage with networks and seek guidance from experienced mentors. Through our creative strategies and commitment to fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing, we continue to empower startup founders and drive innovation in the ecosystem.

Courtesy

How have Turtle Venture's initiatives for women in technology and young students impacted their development?

Turtle Venture's "Young Turtle" project has made a substantial impact on both their organisation and the wider community. Their initiatives for women in technology have promoted gender equality in the IT industry, providing a platform for female entrepreneurs to showcase their work and launch successful businesses. Additionally, their programs for young students have sparked interest in tech and business at an early age, equipping them with essential skills for the digital era. These efforts have not only fostered a more inclusive startup community but also led to valuable partnerships and collaborations. By championing equality and nurturing the next generation, Turtle Venture continues to make a meaningful difference in Bangladesh's startup ecosystem.

What core values guide your decision-making as a CSO and co-founder, and how do you ensure they are reflected in Turtle Venture's culture and operations?

As a CSO and co-founder of Turtle Venture, our decision-making is guided by a strong set of core values and principles that shape the culture and operations of our organisation. These values ensure that we stay true to our mission and effectively support the entrepreneurs we work with.

At Turtle Venture, we firmly believe in empowering entrepreneurs. This value drives our decision-making process, as we prioritise providing aspiring business owners with the necessary tools, resources, and expertise to succeed.

Anowar Sayef Courtesy

Collaboration is a key value that influences our decision-making. We recognise the power of collective intelligence and actively seek partnerships and collaborations with stakeholders who share our vision. By fostering a collaborative culture within Turtle Venture and among the entrepreneurs we support, we encourage open communication, active listening, and idea sharing.

Integrity and ethics are fundamental to our operations. We hold ourselves to the highest standards of transparency, honesty, and fairness.

Innovation is a driving force in our decision-making process. We foster a culture that embraces new ideas, welcomes experimentation, and learns from setbacks. Our decisions reflect our commitment to pushing boundaries, seeking creative solutions, and adapting to evolving circumstances.

Making a positive social impact is a core value that shapes our decision-making. We are deeply committed to addressing pressing social and environmental challenges. Our decisions prioritise efforts and support entrepreneurs whose businesses align with our mission of creating positive change.

To ensure that these values are embedded in Turtle Venture's culture and operations, we take intentional steps that impact our hiring strategy and communication. 

As CSOs and co-founders, we lead by example, demonstrating our unwavering commitment to these values through our actions and decisions. We recognise and celebrate individuals and teams that exemplify these values, fostering a culture that encourages and rewards integrity, collaboration, innovation, and social impact.

Through continuous evaluation of our operations and culture, we ensure that our core values remain at the forefront of our decision-making. We make adjustments as needed to ensure that our decisions and actions consistently align with our guiding principles.

By incorporating these core values into our decision-making processes and fostering a culture that embodies them, Turtle Venture remains dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs and creating a positive impact in the startup ecosystem.

How do you manage stress and maintain work-life balance while building a venture studio and assisting entrepreneurs?

At Turtle Venture, we prioritise stress management and work-life balance to ensure personal well-being and professional effectiveness. Our strategies for achieving this balance involve setting limits, delegation and collaboration, regular breaks and time off, open communication, and engaging in activities outside of work.

By setting distinct boundaries between work and personal life, we avoid excessive work-related stress and dedicate time for relaxation and rejuvenation. Delegating tasks and responsibilities among our team members allows us to share the workload and prevent exhaustion, while collaboration and effective communication ensure mutual support. Regular breaks throughout the workday and the utilization of vacation days help us maintain a healthy balance and recharge.

Open communication channels are essential for addressing concerns and seeking assistance when needed, fostering a supportive and empathetic workplace environment. Additionally, we encourage each team member to prioritize activities that bring them joy and fulfilment outside of work, such as hobbies, spending time with loved ones, and self-care practices.

By implementing these strategies and supporting one another as a team, we effectively manage stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Our commitment to self-care allows us to better serve the entrepreneurs we support and contribute to the overall success of Turtle Venture.

How do you find support from family, friends, and mentors in maintaining personal well-being while driving Turtle Venture's success?

Balancing personal and professional lives is challenging, but I am fortunate to have a strong support system. My family provides unwavering support, reminding me to take time for myself and engage in activities outside of work. My peers offer a place of relaxation and valuable insights, allowing me to detach from work-related stress. Mentors play a crucial role by providing guidance and sharing their experiences, helping me navigate the challenges of work-life balance. Alongside external support, I prioritise self-care through activities that promote relaxation and personal development. By prioritising my well-being with the support of my loved ones, friends, and mentors, I can drive Turtle Venture's success while maintaining personal well-being.

Saraban Tahura Turin, could you elaborate what you meant in your Facebook status? What obstacles did you face along the way, and how did you overcome them to reach this milestone?

As a woman entrepreneur with a polytechnic background and the youngest startup ecosystem builder, I encountered challenges that required courage and perseverance to overcome. Gender bias in the entrepreneurial scene was a significant obstacle, but I saw it as an opportunity to challenge stereotypes and inspire other women. Being a polytechnic graduate in a field dominated by business and finance grads presented knowledge gaps, but I embraced my unique perspective and problem-solving abilities. Establishing credibility and earning respect as the youngest architect of a startup ecosystem required continuous learning, networking, and demonstrating my commitment to positive change. I sought support from mentors and peers, remained current on industry trends, and leveraged my network of like-minded individuals. With fortitude, enthusiasm, and unwavering determination, I overcame these obstacles to achieve this milestone.

Saraban Tahura Courtesy

What sets Turtle Venture apart from other entrepreneurship support companies and led to your success and inclusion on the Forbes list?

Turtle Venture stands out from other support companies by focusing on facilitating global expansion for young entrepreneurs. As Bangladesh's first venture studio, we offer comprehensive programs and resources tailored to the unique challenges of businesses seeking international growth. Our strategic collaborations and partnerships provide entrepreneurs with valuable networks, funding opportunities, and market insights. Embracing innovation and prioritising impact, we continuously update our offerings to stay at the forefront of industry trends. Our track record of success and the recognition from industry professionals validate the effectiveness of our programs and environment. Turtle Venture has earned the trust of entrepreneurs across the country through our commitment to making global success accessible and our unwavering dedication to our mission.

How will Turtle Venture continue to develop and push boundaries in Bangladesh's startup ecosystem? Are there any planned initiatives to support this vision?

Turtle Venture is committed to expanding and pushing boundaries within Bangladesh's startup ecosystem. We have several planned initiatives to help us achieve this vision. Our main focus is on broadening the scope of our venture studio and providing even more support to early-stage businesses. We aim to bridge the gap between concept and implementation by offering entrepreneurs access to tools, mentorship, and expertise. We also plan to strengthen our global networks through strategic alliances with venture investors, accelerators, and industry experts, providing entrepreneurs with opportunities for financing, market access, and knowledge sharing. Embracing innovation is another priority, as we will incorporate emerging technologies like AI and blockchain into our programs to help startups stay ahead in the digital landscape. We will organise events, workshops, and contests to foster collaboration and idea generation within the ecosystem. Additionally, we will advocate for a supportive regulatory framework by collaborating with government agencies and policymakers. Our planned initiatives revolve around expanding our venture studio, developing global networks, embracing innovation, fostering collaboration, and advocating for a favourable startup ecosystem. These efforts aim to contribute to the growth and success of Bangladesh's startup ecosystem.

Furthermore, we are pleased to inform you that the preliminary step of the Venture Studio Cohort 01 selection process has been completed. This achievement moves us closer to finding and supporting promising startups that correspond with our goals and vision. Soon, we will be sitting at the table with these companies, providing them with the customised support they require to thrive and make a significant impact in their respective industries. Turtle Venture stays in the forefront of driving innovation and nurturing the growth of Bangladesh's startup ecosystem through our dedication to sustainability, future tech ventures, and the upcoming launch of Venture Studio Cohort 01.

What advice would you give to ambitious young entrepreneurs aiming to make a difference in their industries?

Reflecting on our experience at Turtle Venture and personal growth as entrepreneurs, we offer valuable advice to ambitious young entrepreneurs striving to make a difference in their industries. Consistency is crucial; stay dedicated to your vision, taking small steps daily towards your goals. Persistence is key, as entrepreneurship demands hard work and sacrifices. Embrace calculated risks and be courageous, while making informed decisions. 

Regardless of the circumstances, adopt a winning mentality. Entrepreneurship may be a rollercoaster journey filled with obstacles and frustrations. Maintaining a positive attitude and viewing setbacks as chances for improvement are critical. Develop your resilience and learn from your mistakes. Accept a winning mentality that motivates you and inspires you to conquer problems. Your perspective as an entrepreneur can have a significant impact on your success. In summary, for ambitious young entrepreneurs, consistency, persistence, fearlessness, and keeping a winner's attitude are essential attributes. You can manage the hurdles of entrepreneurship and have a lasting influence on your business by embodying these values. Remember that entrepreneurship is a journey, and the lessons you acquire along the way will influence your future success.

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