Q&A: Meet Akin Akbiyik, our newest Vice-President
Akin Akbiyik has joined Hyphen in the role of Vice-President of Client Partnerships, adding a wealth of top-level strategic business experience to our A-team.
His role with us will see him look to build new long-term strategic relationships and push us into new markets. This follows on nicely from his previous role as a Vice-President at Mastercard, where he led a team of more than 120 people and oversaw data and services delivery across 12 countries.
Now, he will help us reach new heights and continue to build on the work carried out by our talented team. In this brief interview, he discusses:
- His already strong bonds with our co-founders
- His motivations for joining us and his desire to build something special
- His first impressions of the rest of our team
- His belief that Hyphen has the potential to be a major global player in the world of professional services
What inspired you to join Hyphen?
AA: “One thing I know is that you pick people first, right? You don’t choose the place, but the people that you work with.
“I worked with Erhan for years before this, but I respect all the founders. Michael and I shared an apartment, we lived together in New York in business school, we literally shared the same flat and we were classmates, but I know Avi too.
“When these guys came together to start a company, it was something very exciting. They started something and since then it has really got some momentum and found a space. They have already built something, but now they want to go beyond that and I was literally super excited to be asked to join this company.”
Could you tell us a bit about your role and what it will involve?
AA: “My role will be strategic business development. They’ve done an amazing job so far but there are still significant opportunities to grow the company to the next level. I’m here to expand into new clients, expand into new geographies – there’s no limit and that’s what excites me.
“I’ve done my market scans, looking at different geographies and asking the questions like, ‘Is there a potential for Hyphen? Are there any connections that we know that could be useful?’ We are a B2B business so it’s about building relationships, and then there are going to be repeat customers.”
How important was it for you to know the calibre of clients Hyphen works with before you decided to join? Did seeing the size of the projects Hyphen is being engaged on give you confidence?
AA: “Yes, it shows that they know what they are doing, right? Of course, my goal is to have a lot of big collaborations with different clients but it’s impressive to see very big, very complex, very demanding clients already working with Hyphen. Of course, it gives you a lot of confidence.”
What particularly made this opportunity stand out for you?
AA: “Before I joined, I left a very senior role so it was not an easy decision where I was just going to join my friends. I looked around, I talked to organisations I knew to be clients of Hyphen, I did my market scan and I saw there is huge potential.
“There is no company like Hyphen in the market, anywhere, so the potential is huge. There are some things that Hyphen does that no one is doing, it’s unique. I strongly believe there is a big market and a big need for our services and what the company is doing so I think there’s no limit to how global we can go.
“Hyphen is combining the best of an executive search business, a top-tier consulting firm and a tech company – this shows how innovative the company is and is why I wanted to be a part of this. The team here is exceptional and I have total confidence in the value proposition. This is a tremendous opportunity to build something special.”
You mentioned your previous role as a Vice-President with Mastercard, one of the biggest and most established companies in the world – now you are joining a start-up that is growing quickly but that is at a very different point in its business lifecycle. What motivated you to make this change?
AA: “I was at BCG for nine years and then almost four years at Mastercard. I was always part of a big and very high-quality brand, it was very good and I’m grateful for every minute.
“However, I came to a point where I really wanted to be part of building something from scratch. Okay, here it is not totally from scratch because the team here has done very well but it’s also still at the beginning in some ways. Here, there are opportunities to decide where to go, how to build, things like that, right? We can build products and can explore new geographies, so there’s unlimited potential and that gives me real joy.
“I think I was at a point in my career where I just needed something to really push me out of my comfort zone. Because in the corporate world, you build your career and then it’s a little bit like you get to a point where you’re just cruising so I really wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone to really also develop myself at the same time.
“This was a unique opportunity because in I am part of a start-up and it’s with friends that I love, it’s a business that I need.
“If there’s an opportunity, it’s always to be better to be sorry and try something than to not be sorry and not try something. I thought that if I don’t try this, then I will always go back and wonder ‘what if?’ so I decided to really jump on the train and be a little bit entrepreneurial. Now I will see if I have a skill set I have that I haven’t discovered yet!”
You mentioned that you already knew Michael and Erhan but how did this opportunity actually come about?
AA: “Since these are my good friends and I was always catching up with them, I was always being informed how Hyphen was doing. We were always talking and over the first few years, they were just building up but in the last year, things have started to ramp up.
“Right now, they have such a good brand and have such a good list of clients that they built but now they can look for new opportunities. When this situation arose, they invited me to the end of the previous co-working week in Antwerp [in November 2022].
“I joined them on the last day I got a chance to meet the team, spend a lot of time with the individual members of the team, and with Michael, Avi and Pietro. I just discussed what my role could be, what their vision is, and then I saw the team.
“Everything aligned in terms of our vision and I knew that was it, I was sold.”
You mentioned your connections to the co-founders but what were your first impressions of the rest of the Hyphen team?
AA: “That’s actually what really impressed me. If the founders had built another boutique consulting firm, there would have been no point in me joining, that’s not what I wanted.
“When I came, I saw that there is a communications team, there is a design team, a technology team and all the rest. I said to myself, ‘okay, so these guys have a different vision, so they’re not just trying to build another professional services company.’
“That really impressed me and was one of the most important criteria for me when considering joining Hyphen because when I saw how they built the team structure, et cetera, I could see the potential of this group.”
So, what do you think the potential is for Hyphen?
AA: “There’s a massive need in the market, but the way I see it, there’s more than that. There’s also the team here as I have mentioned and another thing is we have a lot of potential to expand our current products and our current services.
“But at the same time, I see Hyphen has the potential to also be something like a tech company, building new kinds of technology solutions, et cetera, for this B2B market and then possibly even just providing those solutions to the market. There are new tools being built right now by the software developers on the back end, so I see Hyphen as being both a service company and also a tech company, which excites me.
“I think there’s no limit on how global we can go. Of course we have a strong reputation in the Middle East and some other markets but I have also lived in the US – I went to business school there for two years and worked in the BCG New York office – so I know the market. Then my vision would be, of course, to bring all that to the other side of the world.”