(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)
Tugce Bulut is the Founder and CEO of Streetbees – an interesting app that connects with real people on the ground to gather real-time insights through the power of Artificial Intelligence and geolocation technology. For six years, Tugce used to be a strategy consultant advising technology and consumer companies on how to accelerate growth in international markets.
What makes you do what you do?
I’ve always been driven to create something better – to solve a problem. I started my company, Streetbees, as a direct result of that, and have loved building it from the ground up. We’re on the very cusp of a huge change in all industries, not just in market research – machine learning and AI are going to change the way we do everything, and Streetbees gets to be at the forefront of that. That’s a pretty exciting thing to work on every day!
How did you rise in the industry you are in?
After finishing my education in the UK, I worked for a consultancy but kept running into the same problems time and again – I couldn’t find the accurate data I needed about new markets and sectors that would make a difference for my clients. I thought: “I can do better than this.” I put my idea to friends and colleagues, who were hugely supportive, built a product, and took a leap of faith with it. We now employ 100 people, across three countries, in just four years.
Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
I’ve always felt quite able to make my own way – but leading a start-up was a step into the unknown. While things are getting better, the lack of female leaders in the tech industry is noticeable. Each time I see an inspiring woman, leading in the industry, I’m reminded of the importance of role models for attracting girls and young women into STEM subjects at school and tech, science and engineering industries when they’re older. It has a huge effect on how young women see their futures playing out.
Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
I’ve been inspired by many people – I love to see success stories of all shapes and sizes. In terms of direct mentorship, a colleague of mine – Paul – who was my old boss has been greatly supportive of me and the company. But being surrounded by and working with my team at Streetbees to solve problems, and seeing people really believe in what we’re doing every day, is a great source of strength.
How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
Paul was originally one of our earliest investors, when I first started the business – we have a great deal of mutual respect, and he believes whole-heartedly in our vision. So much so, in fact, that he’s now joined our leadership team!
Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I believe in a fairly flat hierarchy – I want to create an environment where everyone is able to flourish, play on their strengths and learn from others, and not be pigeon-holed into one specific role. I think that in an environment where everyone’s talents are valued and free to grow, people do their best work. As a start-up, that mentality has been key to making sure that our working culture and team spirit hasn’t grown stale.
Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
Diversity is built into the fabric of Streetbees. We’ve never had any quotas, or boxes to check. But we’ve still ended up with a team that’s an even split, in terms of gender and across the management team, and includes people from all over the world – we have 27 languages spoken in our London office alone. I always try to hire the best people for the job – not just on a purely professional level, but also those who will match our culture in the right way.
What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
I think you have to stay true to yourself and what you believe in. Take advice from others, but don’t waver. ‘Listening’ is not the same thing as ‘doing what someone else says’. A leader has to be strong-willed enough to make tough choices that they believe in – but being open to alternative viewpoints can help. Getting the balance isn’t easy. But it’s not an easy job.
Advice for others?
Always keep going. There’s a quote by Miles Davis that I love: “If you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note you play that determines if it’s good or bad.” When you’re a leader, there’s a huge weight of responsibility on you, and you’re bound to make some mistakes. But it isn’t the mistakes that define you – it’s what you do next. So learn, listen, and keep going.
If you’d like to get in touch with Tugce Bulut, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tugce-bulut-5568bb1/
To learn more about Streetbees, please click here
Here’s how to BECOME A BEE!