Demet Mutlu, Fashion-Forward in Turkey

Her native Turkey had no decent online fashion outlet, so she bid Harvard güle güle to start one

It doesn’t take expertise to recognize the appeal of flash-sale fashion sites in the Gilt vein—just a taste for clothes and deals. But it may take an expert to create such a site in a new market. After five years in brand management and one at Harvard Business School, Demet Mutlu, 30, dropped out to start Trendyol, a Turkish discount sale site that now boasts more than 4 million members.

Born in New York and raised in Istanbul, London, and Rome, Mutlu graduated first in her class at New York University. In 2008, after working successively at Deloitte & Touche, Altria Group, and Procter & Gamble, she stepped off the corporate track to go to HBS.

While visiting her parents in Istanbul the summer before her second year, she found herself shopping for clothes online but couldn’t find an outlet based in Turkey. She saw an opportunity. “I wanted to do something in Turkey. It made so much sense to do fashion,” says Mutlu, who owns 200 pairs of shoes.

Mutlu invested $300,000 of her own money to start the site, which launched in 2010. Trendyol drew 100,000 members after just a month, and she dropped out of school to work on her startup full time. Within a year, she had received almost $50 million in funding from Tiger Global Management and the venture capital fund Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, among others. “It’s the most any startup has raised in Turkey,” says Mutlu, whose site is now valued at $150 million and employs 500. Mutlu hopes to expand internationally, but her aspirations go beyond geography. “Our goal is to become a billion-dollar company,” she says.

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