Two years as a data scientist at Microsoft in Toronto has taught Ozge Yeloglu the importance of enterprise sales — something she wishes she’d known more about when she was running Halifax-based data analytics startup topLog.
Yeloglu is known locally for being a co-founder and CEO of topLog, a venture that made life easier for IT operations teams by analyzing the events that take place over IT systems and identifying anything unusual. TopLog ran for three years before folding in 2016.
Yeloglu then joined Microsoft as a data scientist working in fintech. Since September, she’s been the chief data scientist leading Microsoft’s artificial intelligence team in central Canada. She and her staff work with sales teams and clients building cloud-based solutions using Microsoft’s Azure Data Services.
In her leadership role, she is also working with startups and finding ways for Microsoft clients to work with the young companies.
At Microsoft, she’s learned that enterprise sales, which focus on high-volume or high-dollar sales often over months or years, are complicated.
“I’ve learned about enterprise sales by working with banks, governments, insurance companies,” she said. “I’ve realized you need to be where your clients are — remote selling is not feasible. You need to build relationships.”
Not that she didn’t build relationships at topLog. Yeloglu visited Silicon Valley to get to know potential investors and partners and she succeeded in raising seed money. The company went through Launch36, the early Propel ICT accelerator. In some ways, the learning curve at Microsoft has been similar to the one she experienced at topLog.
“We were so lucky to get into Volta (the Halifax incubator for startups). It’s not just about a cheap rent; it’s about networking, connections, mentorship. Also, we did accelerator Launch 36; that was very useful, too.”
Originally from Corlu, near Istanbul, Turkey, Yeloglu came to Halifax in 2005 to take her masters in computer science at Dalhousie.
When she joined Microsoft she had to leave Nova Scotia, which was not easy.
“I worried about leaving Halifax. I loved life there, loved living in the Hydrostone area. But we now live in Etobicoke. We walk our dogs by the lake and are 25 minutes by train from downtown.”
She is still learning about life in a big corporation and says she may return to entrepreneurship one day. She keeps in touch with the Atlantic scene by volunteering with Creative Destruction Lab Atlantic as a mentor for Halifax entrepreneurs.
“I know the challenges of entrepreneurship,” she said. “Adaptability is important, being able to learn many things at once. That helps at Microsoft, too — being comfortable with things I don’t know and having the drive to learn and keep growing.”
Looking back, she says there were several reasons for topLog’s demise, including, perhaps, raising investment too early.
“Another main thing was enterprise sales. We didn’t know how to sell our product to enterprise companies and our product was designed for enterprise companies. None of us had that specific experience, and our investors and mentors didn’t have experience in our specific market. . . . Technology and product are great, but if you can’t sell it, it doesn’t matter.”
She expressed surprise that no regional university has yet taken up Gerry Pond’s challenge to create a program for teaching international sales. Pond, a well-known New Brunswick-based investor, offered $500,000 to any Atlantic Canadian university that would do so back in 2015.
But, she said, perhaps sales is best learned in the workplace.
“Now I’m seeing how Microsoft salespeople close deals. Learning from them is a whole different experience. . . . As I said, I’ve learned how much of sales is relationship building.”