In mid-2010, Sertac Tasdelen was in a goodbye party his friends threw for him, before moving from Dubai to Singapore. They were having Turkish coffee, and the friends said they wished his mother, who is great at telling fortune reading finished coffee cups, was with them to unveil their future. Tasdelen suggested they take pictures of their cups and send them over to his mother, so she could 'read' them. In 15 - 20 minutes, his mother emailed them readings, and that's when the idea came to him.
He is now the founder and CEO at Binnaz Abla , an online fortune telling service, using coffee cups, Tarot cards, Astrology, dream interpretation, Katina's cards and life questions. The Singapore-based company offers its service in Turkish and English, and available on the web, as well as apps for iOS and Android. The company employs about 120 experienced fortune teller. They are chosen following a rigorous testing approach, and provided with strict guidelines on writing their readings. Users evaluate the fortune teller by ratings; those who get less than 90 are let go.
Tasdelen says that fortune telling was the perfect idea for him to "escape the prison of corporate world to the freedom entrepreneurship, which was my childhood dream." He quickly created a blog that allows users to take pictures of their coffee cups for his mother to read, free of charge. Orders became so many that the mother was "getting overwhelmed. I decided to make it 10 Turkish Lira per reading and orders dropped to zero." That's when he used Google AdWords, and orders started to come back. With the expansion, he needed a good CTO. "I met Kaya Diker, a geophysics masters student in United States. We started working 20 hours a day on our site without any contract! We started hiring readers and adding new ways of fortune telling. I named the website after my mother and used her photo as a logo."
Tasdelen thinks of Binnaz as "a living organism, like any other startup. It needs care and to feed on man hours," he says. That pushed the team to keep coding and improving their platform. "Now I can proudly say, technically we are very strong, and up to par with global standards to handle humongous demand," he adds. He doesn't forget to mention the skill and dedication of the CTO, who "codes even while he's sleeping."
As for challenges they face, the founder of Binnaz says creating a startup is a big challenge to begin with. At the same time, he is not worried. "We make a living out of selling fortune telling," he says, "I don’t think there is anything we can’t achieve."
The Middle East is interesting to Binnaz, according to Tasdelen. "We are customizing our services for the region," he explains. "We will be listening to our customers and grow organically with an ever increasing marketing budget. We believe in steady increase rather than a flashy enter into the market with millions of dollars of investment. We believe in a much longer term plan with a leaner approach
On another note, he doesn't think there is a reason to worry of competition, since Binnaz is the first service of its kind in the region, with a few international competitors.
His advice to digital/online entrepreneurs is right to the point: "Know yourself, dream big, define solid goals, work like crazy and stay positive."
Tasdelen says he found his happiness and freedom in entrepreneurship. "It's not about creating a startup. It's an endless journey of self discovery," says Tasdelen. "I think I was born again when I resigned from cooperate world on June 1st, 2012. Since that day, my life is much more meaningful, with less physical possession, simpler and much happier. We create jobs, put a smile to people’s faces and have a charity fund to cover educational expenses of disabled kids in Turkey."