An Exclusive Interview with Ibrahim Colak of mrUsta
Q. Tell us about yourself. (Education, background, experience etc)
Ans. I’m originally from Istanbul, Turkey, and spend the best part of the last 8 years in Dubai. I hold a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering along with an MBA, and prior to starting mrUsta, working in IT and product management for both Nokia and IBM.
Q. Tell us about your startup mrUsta.
Ans. mrUsta is an open, online marketplace that allows customers to find quality service providers (‘Ustas’). Customers deal directly with the Ustas with no middlemen and free of charge and receive offers from multiple Ustas based on their requirements. Customers simply choose the preferred offer to complete their job, and rate the Ustas on the platform based on their performance. The service is web-based, but for a more immersive experience, we recommend that customers download our app, which is available for both Android and iOS phones.
Q. What inspired you to start and run mrUsta?
Ans. A few years back, our air conditioner broke down in the middle of August. The building’s management promised to get it fixed, but never showed up. I called around for service providers in Dubai who were willing to work in short notice – it wasted hours of my time, with more broken promises, and atrocious rates. After talking to several friends and colleagues, I realized that this was a common story in Dubai and the UAE. That’s when I thought to myself – “how can I make this process easier for everyone?” At that very moment, mrUsta – the idea – was born.
Q. What motivates you in getting out of your bed in morning?
Ans. My wonderful and supportive wife, Dunia, who is also a co-founder and my newborn daughter Janna are the reasons I get up every single morning thinking how lucky I am. In addition, I look at mrUsta as more than just a company, but as a social initiative. It leaves a smile on my face every morning knowing that I can help solve common problems with an innovation that I created, and leave a positive impact on strangers that I will probably never meet nor speak to. Making a difference to people of all walks of life is what really drives me.
Q. How you define entrepreneurship and an ideal entrepreneur?
Ans. An ideal entrepreneur is passionate and creative, willing to take a risk, and firmly believes in what they created. They humbly accept rejection and are driven by success. They welcome criticism, learn from feedback, and has the skillset and determination to bring their idea to life.
Q. Tell us about your hobbies?
Ans. I enjoy high-adrenaline activities and especially enjoy scuba diving. On the opposite end, I love mellowing down to good music and taking my own nature photographs.
Q. According to you what is the definition of success?
Ans. Simply putting your dream down in stone, setting your targets, and achieving them.
Q. One piece of advice that you would like to give to young entrepreneurs or startups?
Ans. Don’t ever let go of your passion, ask for feedback and advice from experts in the field, and be prepared to give more than 100%.
I think my advice can be summed up by a famous (or infamous) Winston Churchill quote: “Never give up! Never give up!! Never! Never! Never! Never! Never! Never!”
Q. Where do you see yourself and your startup in 10 years?
Ans. I see mrUsta as being a regional powerhouse in the online marketing sector, moving 80% of offline service market online. I also see mrUsta synonymous with service quality, and our name always being associated with happiness and convenience.
Q. Is it easy to begin your startup journey from Dubai as a startup?
Ans. Our journey can best be described as a roller coaster ride, with lots of ups and downs. The startup scene in Dubai is a culture in itself. People are generally very welcome to good and creative ideas, and it is fairly easy to find early adaptors to your platform. The government and its institutions are also very supportive of technology start-ups; we extend our gratitude and thanks for this priceless and unparalleled support.
That being said, some processes here are not clearly laid out so it takes time to maneuver through certain hurdles. Marketing is also not cheap, and it takes a lot of time and money to ramp up marketing efforts in order to reach the masses and your target audience.
Another difficulty we find is that larger, more established companies aren’t favorable to partnerships with smaller start-ups that they deem as a possible PR risk.
I believe that all stakeholders, within and outside the start-up environment, including angel investors, venture capitalists, public institutions, and others should look into more proactively supporting entrepreneurs and their enterprises in order to foster a more collaborative and growth-charged ecosystem. There is no shortage of great ideas and great people in Dubai and the UAE; what lacks is the across-the-board and streamlined support.
Q. What you would like to say about us ?
Ans. At mrUsta, we are big fans of the media and platforms that allow brands such as ourselves to be heard. 100Tech.co and Farah epitomize what it means to be true journalists and true media outlets: a place for everyone, no matter how big or how small, established or newly-founded, to have a voice. And for that, we salute, and of course, thank you.
In the end we would like to say thanks to Ibrahim for giving us his precious time and also wish you good luck.