My Sun­day

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - SNAPSHOT - The past seven years have been non-stop for se­rial en­tre­pre­neur Ezel Kokcu. In that time the 25-year-old has co-founded and sold two tech busi­nesses and this year Kokcu added Women of In­flu­ence fi­nal­ist and en­tre­pre­neur in res­i­dence at Te Papa to her list

Is­tarted my ca­reer when I was 18 years old af­ter drop­ping out of uni­ver­sity. The year be­fore I’d spent a gap year in Turkey where I was teach­ing English to chil­dren in or­phan­ages across the coun­try. When

I got back, I went to Vic­to­ria Uni­ver­sity, where I started a com­puter sci­ence de­gree. I was just one of just three girls in a class of about 500 males. It was pretty unin­spir­ing and I felt I could spend my time a lot more pro­duc­tively else­where.

I ended up drop­ping out mid-way through my first se­mes­ter to co-found this amaz­ing app, STQRY. It’s an ex­plo­ration app for mu­se­ums and cul­tural sites. My par­ents were su­per, su­per dis­ap­pointed – they didn’t get it at first.

Within the first month of devel­op­ing STQRY I’d moved to Seat­tle and was pitch­ing to some of the big­gest For­tune 500 com­pa­nies in the world. To get it off the ground I’d work 14 hours a day. Then, when I got home I’d teach my­self about Ag­ile soft­ware de­vel­op­ment, fi­nance, HR, project man­age­ment and how to take a con­cept to prod­uct man­age­ment. I had to up­skill quickly be­cause even within the STQRY board there wasn’t a lot of guid­ance. Over the space of four years we’d raised $5.5 mil­lion from a US ven­ture cap­i­tal firm and grown the com­pany to more than 50 peo­ple.

I then de­cided to leave and pur­sue my sec­ond startup, Non-Stop Tix, a tick­et­ing plat­form built for small venues and artists that didn’t charge huge book­ing fees. I sold that pretty quickly to a lo­cal pro­moter.

Dur­ing the past year and a half I’ve been evolv­ing Pas­sphere. It’s a tick­et­ing and an­a­lysts plat­form to help large-scale events bet­ter un­der­stand their au­di­ences. We’re launch­ing in New Zealand in Fe­bru­ary, then go­ing global in March. We plan to quickly open of­fices in Syd­ney, Am­s­ter­dam, Sin­ga­pore and the US.

be easy, but it ended up be­ing re­ally, re­ally dif­fi­cult. We barely had any money for sev­eral years and

I re­mem­ber a time when my sib­lings and I would care for our­selves be­cause our par­ents were work­ing so hard. They ended up open­ing their own busi­ness in Rich­mond, Nel­son. It’s called Zara’s Turk­ish Ke­babs and it’s still there, 21 years on.

I’ve got a re­ally tight net­work of fe­male founders in Auck­land that I’m very close with. At the mo­ment I’m spend­ing four days a week in Auck­land and the re­main­der in Welling­ton. That means most week­ends I’ll be with Sian Simp­son from Kiwi Land­ing Pad, Sharn­dre Kushor co-founder of Crim­son Ed­u­ca­tion and Lisa King from Eat My Lunch. They’re my tribe. We’re all on the same sphere, we share the same is­sues and the same pain points. It’s a re­ally hard dy­namic be­ing a fe­male startup en­tre­pre­neur in this world and they just get it.

On work­days, I need to be up and gone fast, so I love ease when it comes to my wardrobe.

I’ve nar­rowed my wardrobe down to 10 out­fits and I just ro­tate through them be­cause I don’t have time to think about what I’m go­ing to wear. I’ve got my morn­ing rou­tine down to 20 min­utes, it’s a fine skill now. I only buy from New Zealand or Aus­tralian de­sign­ers. Even when I lived in the US for seven years I’d al­way shop New Zealand made. I like to buy lo­cally be­cause you get the sense that in­ter­na­tional cloth­ing brands, par­tic­u­larly in the US, are over­pro­duced.

In the lim­ited amount of free time that I have, I like to be ac­tive. Lately I’ve been go­ing to the driv­ing range to smash balls. It’s so ther­a­peu­tic, you have no idea. And if I have some free time on a Sun­day af­ter­noon I’ll go for a run around Ori­en­tal Bay, go to the gym or play a bit of ten­nis.

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