BizSpark Startup of the Day –, one of the Showcase Startups from the European BizSpark Summit, is Turkey’s online destination for tutoring where students can find good and affordable tutors and courses.

The BizSpark startup of the day is (SELP), based in Turkey. Below you will find an interview with Zafer Gurel, CEO of SELP. All the best to them and congratulations for being the startup of the day!


 Tell us who you are and your role in the company:

I’m the CEO of SELP, the company that created

What did you do before creating your company?

I co-founded Advancity which is one of the leading e-learning technology companies in Turkey. I was the project leader of the biggest academic e-learning project (10.000 e-learning students of Sakarya University). I worked for clients from banking to telecommunications sector as an e-learning consultant.

How do you feel being the most promising ‘Startup of the Day’ per Microsoft BizSpark?

I feel happy and strongly believe that BizSpark will help us a lot to get more visible to potential investors.

What is your company’s mission?

Our vision is to create a sustainable e-learning platform for learners and tutors and help them benefit a great user experience by providing all the necessary tools.

In 140 characters or less, tell us what your company does: is Turkey’s online destination for tutoring where students can find good and affordable tutors and courses.

How did you get the idea for your company?

The average age of the population in Turkey is 28. Internet penetration ratio is 35% and increasing very fast every year. There are 16 million students and 850.000 teachers. 4.5 million students enter high school and university entrance exams each year.

We’ve observed that there was a demand for online private tutoring. We did have the technology called Perculus which is a virtual classroom software. It’s being used by schools and universities and currently, it has more than 15.000 users. So, with this core technology in hand, we thought it would be great to provide tutors and students an online tutoring platform. So, we wrote a business plan and went to Inovent (our current investor) and told them our story. They got also excited about the project and we raised our first fund. We started in the beginning of 2010 and launched private beta at the end of March. We are going to open public beta at the end May.

Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding? If so, how much?

After we wrote our business plan, we went to Inovent. We were in relationship with them before. Inovent is a technology commercialization company founded by Sabanci University. Sabanci University was established by Sabanci Group which is one of the biggest groups in Turkey and is one of the most prestigious universities in Turkey. So, we believed that Inovent would add great value in terms of strategic advice and mentorship to our business if we became partners.

We got a seed fund of $170K at the beginning of this year and started the business.

How many employees do you have? How many developers?

There are 3 employees. And I as a CEO also doing part-time development besides managing the company.

Are you hiring? If yes, what are you hiring for and where?

We’ll be hiring a few months later. We’ll be hiring a developer in Turkey.

Which platform are you building on? Why?

We’re building on .NET platform and using MS SQL Server as the database solution. By using .NET and MS SQL Server, our software engineers work very efficiently and develop software more bug-free. Also, by .NET, scalability is not an issue.

Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/Internet area?

I think there are really still great opportunities in e-learning, especially in the developing countries like Turkey. As we get more connected to internet and more mobile, e-learning will always be important. Also, as the bandwidth becomes not an issue and developing scalable and robust applications on the cloud gets easier, live (synchronous) e-learning platforms will gain momentum.

What do you think about the BizSpark Program?

I think it’s great. We’ve been accepted to the program in a few hours after we sent our company information to Microsoft Turkey. As a startup, we need to be fast and flexible. And what I see is that Microsoft is aware of that fact and responds very quickly. Also, using thousand dollars’ worth software for free is amazing.

Do you have any advice for young Software entrepreneurs?

I advise them to work hard for what they believe and focus on what creates value. Also self-motivation is crucial. I advise them to keep themselves highly motivated which will help them inspire people and make others believe their visions.

Who’s your role model?

My father is my role model. He’s also an entrepreneur. He’s running his business since ‘90s. I always learn from him although we are in different sectors.

What’s the ONE THING you would like readers to take away from this interview?

I personally believe that one should do his best in his job. As, we focus on creating value for students and tutors by providing a great e-learning platform and try every day to do our best.

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