15 questions to ...
15 Questions to …is an interview series dedicated to spotlighting women in entrepreneurship. Women entrepreneurs question the status quo and lead change. They push boundaries and leave their marks on all aspects of (entrepreneurial) life. As such, they are strong role models who inspire and empower future generations of women and deserve to be seen and heard. We see women entrepreneurs in all areas of our community and want to make sure they are recognised far beyond the RWTH Aachen University ecosystem.
Therefore, we are leaving the stage to hear what they have to say. The format is simple: 15 questions, 15 answers – and lots of (un)learning throughout. Our guests: women entrepreneurs with that special can-do and will-do attitude. The stage is yours!
Sinem Atilgan is COO and co-founder of 4traffic, a young start-up that accompanies cities and municipalities, as well as municipal utilities and the logistics industry on their way to digital transformation. To do so, the team has developed a universal adapter for smart city sensors that provides access to a wide range of real-time field data, such as traffic flow, pedestrian flow and environmental data. 4traffic takes legacy hardware into account, focusing on energy, time and cost efficiency. The software dashboard provides easy and quick access to real-time data and analysis. The goal of 4traffic is to enable a data-driven, green transformation of urban spaces for a sustainable society. The founders of 4traffic are alumni of RWTH and received the EXIST-Gründerstipendium. They are also participating in RWTH Innovation's Fall Batch 2022 Incubation program. Here, Sinem shares some entrepreneurial insights with us.
1) 1. Why our idea is going to change the world?
It will make the most needed resource for efficient processes of the digital transformation and demand-based cities widely available and accessible – real-time data of the infrastructure and environment. For a greener and happier living in even our bigger cities.
2) Did I choose it or did it choose me?
The idea chose me. I have joined the initial idea team, after they needed to reorganize the team to found the company. When I met the other new team members and the two initial founders –we just clicked. The whole team harmonizes on a human level, which is the most important factor for me personally.
3) Biggest challenge on my entrepreneurial journey so far:
When everything is new and exciting, it is hard to stay focused and prioritize the tasks, which is essential! Also, everybody needs be on the same page about essential topics. This requires an organized communication and decision making process.
4) Lessons I have learned as founder:
Get coaching at the very beginning, if you can. It feels weird at first, but it’s basically “family counselling” for the team, and recommendable even for perfectly fine teams. The earlier you learn how to communicate in a solution-based way, the faster you get on track. Also, we have decided early on: The person is above the task, meaning that we do not want to lose ourselves and the human relationship among team members in all the new entrepreneurship challenges and pressure. That was immensely valuable since everyone gets into ups and downs in life, so we support each other, rather than get frustrated.
5) We financed ourselves...
with the “EXIST Gründerstipendium” (Business Model): Our business model consists of a modular selection of services and a flexible selection of a purchasing or subscription model. This depends on the duration of the project. On top, we have returning revenues from licenses and maintenance agreements.
6) 5 years from now we will …
be one of the leading companies for the smartification of infrastructures and one of the most efficient suppliers of real-time smart city data for scalable applications.
7) If I weren’t a founder, I would be …
something totally different. To found a company has been a “once in a lifetime” chance that I grabbed with the support of my family. If this hadn’t occurred, I would have been in a company seeking a career with more safety and probably more money. But at any given time, I would still choose being a founder!
8) What do I need to be a successful entrepreneur?
“There are no stupid questions” especially applies to real life. No one is an expert in any field. Just be open to learning, to helpful criticism and to growth. The whole journey is learning something new every day with your team. If you think about it that way, founding, especially with the funding nowadays, is not as frightening as it used to be. Take a year, find a team, and just do something that you are passionate about. If it works out, great, if not you still can look for a job. So, what is the worst thing that could happen?
9) RWTH Innovation helped us with …
the most annoying parts of being a founder. We are very lucky with our coach Patricia. She helps us with the financial planning and every other issue we might have. The whole team of the Incubation program is very competent and motivated. Also, our mentors are very experienced, successful people from the incubation network who guide us through occurring issues and hint us towards issues we didn’t consider yet. The workshops give you a nice insight of important matters and you can do the follow-ups with your coach. Also, the benefit program aids you with pitch deck design and product videos, basically everything that you might need but don’t have the own resources for.
10) Is there anything more that could be done for entrepreneurs in Aachen?
I would say that especially during the project acquisition, start-ups might need a little more support from the network. Innovative ideas can die with missing applications, that lack because start-ups don’t have the references yet. This conundrum is a real problem.
11) 3 reasons to become an entrepreneur:
- You will never learn so much in a limited timeframe.
- You will never be as free in what you do and how you shape your work.
- The saying “your colleagues are not your friends” doesn´t apply when you choose your team.
12) To me being an entrepreneur means …
the best mixture of independency and responsibility and to just start doing things without overthinking them.
13) My favourite digital tool:
Gather for our meetings, Jira for task organization and Buffer for social media planning.
14) We are inspired by / our role model is …
my dad. He came from Turkey to Germany when he was very young, realized that he is not the type of person who wants to be employed forever and just winged it with opening and partly closing different establishments until he gained the experiences to successfully manage one. Now he is retired. He told me and my sister that we should do something that is our own if we have the chance. If one project fails, you learn from it and try again and one day it will work.
15) Our advice to women who aspire to be entrepreneurs:
You have nothing to lose, if it feels right, do it. The most important thing is not to regret the decisions that you make and don´t decide out of fear and insecurity. Also, choose your team wisely, they will become as close as your family for a very long time.