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CEO Gül Akcaova on Digital Detox & Entrepreneurship: “I had to prove myself as an entrepreneur”

Gül Akcaova
Founder & Owner at Sidekick Mattie

How is your story, how did you become an entrepreneur and create your own business?
My story is very simple, to be honest. I first participated in a challenge, and after the challenge, I realized that I was actually able to create a solution for my distraction caused by the smartphone. I was studying business administration back then. My teachers did not have faith in my gradation while becoming an entrepreneur. But I was passionate and very optimistic. Did not have any experience, but I could try at least. And I did!

What is the main challenges for a start-up to start selling a new product within a new market? How did you test your market fit?
My first attempt was to start in education, higher education to be more specific. I talked to a lot of teachers and counsellors about the app. They were enthusiastic, but in the end, none of them was willing to be the launching customer. By then, there was only the idea and a first prototype.

A few months later I was able to have a minimum viable product to see how users would respond on the app Mattie. This was a very very very simple app that could only function on Android. In only three months I had amazing media coverage without having the intention. The app reached a download over the 500. Since having this validation of the market-fit, the app is available for everyone.

Now, with a track record, schools are interested in the app because it can support the development of skill like self-regulation and finding a balance when it comes to media consumption and screen time.

You are very visible, you were selected among the best 20 Dutch start-ups by The Next Women Pitch Competition and you are selected on the final 10 Female Founders at TED@Amsterdam, How did you become so successful?
It is true that I am visible, but that is because I am doing a lot when it comes to personal branding. In 2015-2016 no one was talking about the “dark” side of social media and the smartphone. People did not take me serious about the issue. So I had to prove them wrong. I had to prove myself as an entrepreneur. Since 2015 I am raising awareness, and I am showing my dedication. It has to do with believing in yourself, keep on going and adaptivity.

What is Sidekick Mattie? Which type of person can use Sidekick Mattie and for which reason?
Currently, I am the founder of Sidekick Mattie. The focus of the startup is the wellbeing of people with the support of technology. At the moment we have developed the app Mattie (available in the app store, iOS & Android) to improve the productivity by disabling notifications from social media. Everyone with a device could use it. It can be for time management purposes. It can also be for self-regulation: to work on a task without any (social media) distraction. With the shift to education, the app will be a tool for students to support them in planning the study activities.

How are you growing and market your company being a mobile app? And what is your communication strategy being a B2C app?
As any companies and startups, I am also using social media. Without advertisement, we are seeking engagement with the audience. I know we get bored while studying. We prefer talking about what we do, most of the time, instead of working on it. But that is normal because we don’t always like what we have to do.

What are the success stories you are most proud of while working at Sidekick Mattie?
I am proud of the organic reach of the app. We have users from all over the world. We passed the 5k downloads. But most of all… Finally, the issue is being acknowledged!

How do your mornings look like?
I wake up between 9 and 10 am and within 30 minutes I am on the road. Sometimes for conferences and meetings, and on a regular day to the office.

How does a day look like for you?
My average day … is about socialising, like a lot! I am at networking events or I have meetings at the office or out of office.

What are you doing during your spare time?
Spare time is a moment for me to avoid stimuli and just hang on the couch. I am trying to think about nothing. While watching a movie I hear interesting things or a word that immediately starts a whole process of thoughts.

Books recommended by Gül Akcaova:

If you want to more about Gül Akcoavas values, please read her Golden Rules for Living, here.