#FoundersFriday with Pinar Erzin from Accucoms
We run a popular blog series called #FoundersFriday in which we interview entrepreneurs from science and technology businesses. Founders Friday provides a platform for our interviewees to discuss their entrepreneurial journey and their perspective on the industry as a whole.
Pinar Erzin is the founder of Accucoms International – a leading provider of sales and marketing services to academic and professional publishers worldwide.
Can you talk briefly about your entrepreneurial journey to date?
I am an entrepreneur in the STM publishing community and I am the Founder and President of Accucoms International. I’ve been fortunate enough to apply my passions of travel, meeting new people and discovery to business – developing many ideas and creating a global community within Accucoms.
To date, I’ve fulfilled commercial roles in the subscription management industry since 1999, as Sales Manager for corporate libraries in Turkey, Publisher Relations Manager at Swets and as General Manager of Extenza Marketing Solutions. In June 2004 I started Accucoms because I wholeheartedly believed that a focused effort was necessary to serve scholarly publishers to help maintain and grow their businesses globally. In 2011 we sold Accucoms to Swets and grew the business at a rapid rate, however for reasons completely outside our control, we were confronted with Swets bankruptcy in September 2014. I must say the weeks starting from the announcement of bankruptcy and the day we bought Accucoms back were the toughest six weeks of my life. We have successfully come out of a disastrous situation only because, at a community level, we had the support of our customers and staff, unanimously. Since then we have grown and as an independent company and we are strongly focused on delivering excellent results to publishers. Our aim is to try and simplify the sales process, offering transparency where buyers and sellers achieve their goals economically and purposefully in terms of more qualitative content to more readers.
Aggregagent is ACCUCOMS’s new product. Can you explain what led you and your team to develop this product?
Aggregagent is the outcome of many years of experience in the industry. These include our efforts to sell the content of multiple publishers; the efforts of our competing colleagues trying to sell collections of content from across publishers and the successes of large publishers selling ‘the big deal’ and the reaction of librarians to all these models.
While learned publisher’s content is in high demand, buying from multiple small societies is a tedious process for librarians administratively. Buying collections from a group of publishers can be rewarding, but the quality, as well as logical subject clusters, are questionable.
Buying ‘the big deal’ offers the most economical solution, however, this leaves no space in library budgets for any other meaningful acquisition. Also, the existing aggregation models don’t offer transparency to publishers. A lot of the time publishers don’t know the true value of their titles in a collection. Publishers with top quality content needed an alternative to collaborate with other publishers in the same niche fields. At the same time, librarians need to be able to acquire meaningful collections easily by communicating with only one person who speaks their language, with one invoice and one point of contact for all their inquiries – transparency is key here. All publishers who participate continue controlling their business decisions, pricing and branding. Finally, we wanted to build this alternative without expensive hosting platforms and without blurring the connection between the library and the publisher.
You are part of a series of global communities within publishing. How have you gone about developing such communities throughout your career?
Between the value of people, the cultural global knowledge of STM publishing and the library market, there is an ongoing need for professional support and services in a simple and central way. We have positioned ourselves and our company to be able to support and give practical advice and provide business solutions that would not be possible for small to medium publishers, or global libraries. Our success, and more importantly the success for our clients, always came through simple, straightforward solutions: overcoming the language barrier, bringing cultural knowledge and understanding to the table and the ability to translate our global industry knowledge into clear and honest advice for publishers.
Would Aggregagent have been possible without the communities you are a part of?
Our communities are our clients, their clients, our competitors, our advisors and most importantly our staff. We are constantly learning valuable lessons from these groups. Our staff are the true source of knowledge as they each have practical experience and expertise in their own fields/territories.
Building up trust and effective business solutions is key. Our communities may offer us a wealth of knowledge however if we don’t act on it and implement new solutions, we would only be dreamers or talkers…
The concept of Aggregagent may take some time to understand, and like herding cats, we work with individual publishers, in a collective way. But with our history, relationships and knowledge of the market, we have helped reassure and foster trust and a pioneering spirit within the industry. We will slowly but surely show practical cases that there is an appetite for meaningful collections of top quality content amongst the buyers within the library community.
How would you like to see Aggregagent grow and mature over the next five years?
My vision for Aggregagent is for it to become an alternative channel for scholarly publishers of all sizes. Predominantly serving societies and university presses, but also commercial publishers whose content would marry well. A channel for established as well as new content, for open access titles, for e-books, for tools and even for commercial publishers who want to give that extra service to their society titles.
All major companies in our industry have heavily invested in technology and tech-driven tools over the last ten years. Services that would help bring these tech-driven tools to users are crucial. Our goal is to continue evolving as a cutting-edge services company in the industry.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs with plans to create innovative products within publishing?
Find your passion and your talent. Be bold, follow your passion, do what you do best.
Listen, know and learn from your community. Serve them well in an honest way and they will support you in return.
Be positive and believe in what you’re doing. People will see your energy and enthusiasm. Be a person of your word.
Surround yourself with great people who have a different set of skills to you. Don’t be afraid of competition. It is good for you, for the community and for the customers. Just work very hard to be the best.
Finally, don’t try to find a business idea for the sake of making money. Focus on finding real solutions to real problems and aim to help solve the problem. If you are good at what you do, money will come.
A newly gained skill for me is sailing. So, I dream of living on a sailboat where I teach people how to sail and also how to live in a small space with little material possessions. Simplicity can invoke a meaningful and purposeful live. Have fun doing with what you’re doing. There is only one true goal in life and that is being happy. The rest is just a means to the goal.