Scaling Heights, Seeking Roots: Canberk Beker’s Quest for Innovation in Tech

Canberk Beker | Head of Growth at HockeyStack
Canberk Beker | Head of Growth at HockeyStack

Canberk Beker is emerging as a transformative figure in the dynamic realm of B2B ventures, defying conventional narratives. His journey is one where the corridors of law, filled with suits and legal jargon, seamlessly converge with the fast-paced landscape of startups. As the Head of Growth at HockeyStack, Canberk stands as evidence of a reformed corporate lawyer turned born-again startup enthusiast.

Endowed with a distinct flair for crafting game-changing solutions and a natural inclination for disrupting traditional growth strategies, Canberk is rewriting the script for B2B success. Transitioning seamlessly from law offices to the innovative hub of Cognism, he brings a unique perspective enriched by a wealth of experiences.

Canberk’s journey unfolds with a focused dedication to mentorship, community support and a commitment to empowering the next generation of entrepreneurs. His vision extends beyond traditional success metrics, emphasizing the joy of building and nurturing. This reflection of a personal ethos transcends corporate norms, defining Canberk as more than just a corporate professional but a catalyst for change in the evolving landscape of B2B ventures.

A Maverick’s Path

Canberk’s journey from a law graduate to a startup enthusiast is a tale of twists and turns that led him to discover his true passion. Studying law in Turkey, he initially aimed to address human rights violations. However, as he delved into the corporate law world during internships, he realized it wasn’t the path he wanted to pursue. “Law was about maintaining the status quo, what I wanted was to disrupt the status quo,” reflects Canberk on his disillusionment with the legal profession.

In search of a new direction, Canberk found himself drawn to the startup world, a shift he hadn’t initially planned. Despite lacking experience in tech, he persistently applied for opportunities, facing the challenges of unpaid internships and countless rejections. “I had no idea what this growth title meant, or what I was going to be doing. Back then, I didn’t know this growth title was going to change my life,” Canberk recalls as he narrates his entry into the tech realm.

His breakthrough came when a connection in the industry informed him of a junior role in a B2C company called Cleanzy, where he started as a Growth Hacker. Despite the initial uncertainty and a lower salary compared to his legal career, Canberk prioritized learning and fulfillment over financial gains. “Cleanzy was basically Uber for cleaning, where users would order cleaners for their houses. After I joined, we expanded operations from Turkey to Italy, Spain and the UK,” he recounts.

Acknowledging the pivotal role of his manager, Engin, Canberk expresses gratitude for the most educative year of his life. However, the love for startups didn’t extend to the cleaning industry prompting him to explore new opportunities. “Because, no matter what we did, it was impossible to make customers and suppliers happyeveryone had a different idea of good cleaning,” Canberk explains his decision to move on.

His journey took an unexpected turn as he interviewed with Getir, a tech startup that would later become a unicorn. Just before his final interview, Cleanzy terminated his employment due to his engagement with another tech startup, revealing the competitive nature of the industry. The last part of the interview at Getir was meeting with one of the founders. He shares, “The founderI won’t give the nameasked me if I smoked. I said yes. He said they didn’t hire people who smoke and asked if I thought about quitting. I said no.”

The tech landscape in Turkey was toxic, a realization that prompted Canberk to contemplate building his venture. However, the path forward was paved with financial challenges, as he had only $1k to kickstart his entrepreneurial journey.

As Canberk faced setbacks and unforeseen obstacles, his narrative unfolds as an example to resilience and determination. From the corridors of law to the dynamic landscape of startups, he navigates a career that evolves with each experience, shaping his perspective and goals. “I cared about learning and feeling good about what I did,” he emphasizes, encapsulating the essence of his professional evolution.

Navigating Entrepreneurship

Canberk’s journey took an intriguing turn as he recounted his experience as a founding product manager at Workindo. This temporary gig marked a pivotal moment, revealing that “B2C wasn’t for me.” It set the stage for a significant shift in his career trajectory. A serendipitous encounter with a technical Co-founder coincided with his foray into coding. Together, they swiftly developed and launched the MVP of Mowico, a no-code mobile app builder for e-commerce infrastructures. Reflecting on this achievement, Canberk declares, “To this date, its launch is still my proudest moment.”

The timing of Mowico’s debut proved fortuitous as the COVID-19 pandemic reshaped market dynamics. During COVID, e-commerce grew exponentially and so did the demand for mobile commerce apps. In less than a year, the startup experienced remarkable success boasting hundreds of sales, a burgeoning team and impressive revenue.

Canberk’s entrepreneurial journey is marked by resourcefulness, as he initially navigated with a modest marketing budget. “It all began with my $300 monthly budget from our own bank accounts where I had only $1k just three months ago,” he recalls, highlighting the scrappy beginnings that paved the way for substantial growth.

Tech, Turmoil and Triumph

Managing multiple roles, he took on responsibilities spanning product management, sales, marketing, and business analysis. The startup’s success attracted the attention of venture capitalists but their vision differed from Canberk’s. “They wanted to acquire Mowico, I knew that once your company is acquired by VCs, it will never be your company,” he acknowledges. Despite reservations, the decision to cash out was made, leading to the acquisition of Mowico three years ago, completed in February 2021.

However, the aftermath revealed a sobering lesson for him, “I’ve never seen a penny from this acquisition.” This experience served as a profound realization, emphasizing the importance of choosing business partners wisely in the tech industry. It underscored the adage—never partner up with someone you don’t know.

The broader context of Canberk’s professional journey also includes a decision to leave his home country, driven by both industry dynamics and political unrest. “The tech industry in Turkey was the extension of the Turkish political system,” he states. As someone who had faced police detention for protesting, he recognized parallels between the challenges of demanding democracy and rights in the broader society and those within the workplace and tech industry.

Fueled by a desire to escape personal and professional oppression, Canberk set his sights on the UK in pursuit of new opportunities. This encapsulates the complexities of entrepreneurship, from the thrill of innovation and success to the harsh realities of partnerships and the impact of socio-political dynamics on professional life.

Rising through the Ranks

Canberk’s professional journey continues to unfold with remarkable twists and turns, each chapter contributing to his steps in the techbook. A pivotal moment arrived as he joined Deepcrawl as a demand generation manager. Things went well—the team hit all of its targets every month which highlights the early successes that set the tone for his tenure.

Canberk swiftly climbed the corporate ladder at Deepcrawl earning a promotion to the position of Head of Growth within six months. Reflecting on this period, he emphasizes the role of pressure in driving his performance. The journey took another exciting turn as he transitioned to Cognism assuming the role of Global Head of Paid Media. In an evidence to his capabilities, he achieved yet another promotion becoming the Group Global Head of Paid Media within eight months. His success in the UK tech landscape was acknowledged with the prestigious exceptional global tech talent visa. Canberk reflects on his diverse experiences, having witnessed the growth and milestones of various companies. “I saw Cleanzy getting Series A, Mowico getting the seed and later being acquired, Deepcrawl getting Series B and B bridge, and Cognism getting Series C and D,” he recounts.

Advising, Innovating, Building

Canberk had an amazing opportunity to work with different companies in different stages, ranging from one employee to 600 employees, from a $300 monthly budget to $15M. Once Cognism reached 600 employees, he realised it had become too big for him. However, as the tech companies he worked with reached substantial scales, Canberk recognized a personal truth. “My happiest times were when I was building everything from scratch,” he admits.

Canberk has an analogy that he uses all the time, the whale analogy: whales always need to be moving forward in the ocean. They always need to go to new places; if they stay in the same place, they die. He feels the same. He shares, “I need to be delivering all the time; if not, I feel suffocated.”

Transitioning from established enterprises to the realm of advising startups, Canberk shares his expertise with over fifty companies in the UK and the US. This mentorship extends to pro-bono work with charities and advisory roles. One notable startup in this journey is HockeyStack, which he joined as an advisory board member. Witnessing its remarkable growth, he recognizes it as his next adventure.

As of this month, I’ve joined HockeyStack as their Head of Growth to, once again, build everything from scratch,” he announces, marking a new chapter in Canberk’s journey. His story serves as an inspiration, illustrating the importance of staying true to one’s passion, the willingness to take on new challenges and the perpetual quest for innovation in the ever-evolving tech realm.

Diverse by Design

Canberk’s journey is an evidence of resilience and self-discovery. Despite engaging in diverse pursuits, he acknowledges, “I never really excelled at any of it.” At 22, a diagnosis of severe ADHD became a turning point with medication significantly impacting his life. He states, “My success at tech was partly due to Asperger’s because this industry allowed me to be myself.” In a world that often demands conformity, tech embraced his individuality.

Canberk’s transparency about his neurodiversity was defining aspect of his narrative. He reflects on his school years, acknowledging, “I have never been the most popular kid at schoolI was the odd, underachieving, nerdy kid, just like most of my coworkers.” This honesty reinforces the idea that the tech industry thrives on diversity, welcoming individuals who don’t fit traditional molds. His inclusive perspective shines through as he describes tech as a haven for those often labeled differently, “I truly believe that tech is reserved for people like me—the freaks, the weirdos, the misfits, the geeks, the dweebs, the dorks.”

The Double-Edged Workday

Canberk’s journey from law to tech brings forth valuable insights. ” I truly hated my life as a lawyerI hated the job, the clients, other lawyers. But tech was different, tech was me.” The shift prompted a profound appreciation, “And since I’ve been on the other side, now I appreciate what I have more.” The appreciation stems not only from the contentment found in tech but also from the contrast with his legal past. Despite the potential for long hours in tech, the experience differs significantly, “I used to work 18 hours as a lawyer and sometimes I still work 18 hours a day, but this doesn’t impact me because I know what it felt like when I was a lawyer.”

Canberk highlights another crucial aspect of his tech experience—the importance of double-checking. In a realm where meticulousness is often underrated, he emphasizes its significance, “That’s what I taught my teams all the time for the first thingalways double-check before sending it to me.” This seemingly basic principle, he asserts, holds unparalleled importance at scale offering a glimpse into the meticulous mindset that distinguishes the tech landscape.

Innovating the Future

Canberk’s commitment to giving back to the community stems from his firsthand experiences navigating the challenges of the early career journey. “I’ve faced adversity because of what I studied, where I grew up, who I chose to work with and because of my undiagnosed (now diagnosed) neurodiversity,” he reflects.

Motivated by the need for understanding and guidance, Canberk outlines his plan to support others facing similar struggles. His vision unfolds in two impactful ways—a pro-bono accelerator program and teaching initiatives. “I want to help people in the early days of their careers,” he declares. His first initiative involves establishing a startup program, aiming to work closely with first-time founders assisting them in product development and go-to-market strategies. His hands-on approach reflects his passion for startups, evident in his assertion that, “For me, it’s never been about the positions, shares, or money, I just love startups.”

Looking ahead, Canberk envisions a more profound impact through academia. “Secondly, I’m planning to go back to university in seven years, do my PhD and start teaching,” he reveals. This future endeavor signifies a commitment to long-term contributions leveraging his extensive hands-on experience for the benefit of aspiring entrepreneurs.

In a world often driven by success metrics, his focus remains steadfast on the essence of building and nurturing. “After that, I just want to focus on helping people like me, people who want to build,” he shares, encapsulating a vision that transcends personal achievements emphasizing the enduring joy found in supporting and empowering the next generation of innovators.

Aspiring Entrepreneurs, Take Note

In Canberk’s perspective, navigating the complexities of decision-making involves relying on data, “People are often mistaken and biased. You’ll find the answers you need in data.” When data is absent, he advises trusting one’s instincts. He emphasizes the importance of self-scrutiny: “Always challenge your ideas before anyone else does.” Canberk believes that consistent self-questioning leads to resilient concepts, concluding with a timeless truth, “And, hard work always beats talent.”