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Being Brave, Launching Branch: Cemre Güngör

Recently we interviewed Cemre Güngör of Branch fresh off participating in StartupBus North America 2014 as a finals judge. Following this interview, his company Branch was acquired by Facebook.

CEMRE GÜNGÖR StartupBus

Tell us about Branch. How was it founded? What do you do? How big is it?

We make web and mobile products for public conversations. Our team currently has 10 people, of which 4 are engineers and 2 designers. We got started when me, Josh Miller and Hursh Agrawal met in summer 2011, building an online panel discussion tool called Roundtable. Shortly after we met with folks from Obvious corporation and raised funding of $2M.

What were three things that you gained from StartupBus that helped to form what became Branch?

Firstly, StartupBus made me more brave. I had a tendency to self-disqualify myself from opportunities because I didn’t have enough experience and feel ready. StartupBus made me more comfortable with learning on the go, which is what we’ve done with Branch all this time. Secondly, I realized how much work I can get done if I work as hard as I can and not sleep 🙂 I had never tested the limits of my ability before, and I think the crazy work schedule of StartupBus became a decent precursor to crazy crunch times we sometimes have for Branch. Lastly, I really learned that in the startup world, people are judged by their creative output and not their labels. A bunch of us on the bus didn’t have a lot of experience or fancy titles, and through what we made on the bus, doors opened to a lot of us. (For example, based on what I made at the bus, I secured an internship at Etsy, where I worked until we started Branch). I wasn’t very familiar with the startup scene before and I was very happy to find out opportunities exist for people that put the work in.

What did you think about StartupBus before you went on it? What did you think after?

I thought it was a crazy group of people and that I’d fit in, which definitely was the case. However I never anticipated how life-changing it would be for me. The opportunities I got following StartupBus definitely paved way for my current career.

Did you think you’d be doing what you’re doing now before you started the bus?

Probably not, I think I’d shy away from this opportunity thinking I couldn’t do it and just get a regular job.

What are some things about Branch that you’d say are direct results of the StartupBus?

I think the bus had a really eccentric group of people, so even though from the outside you could label us as “tech people”, everyone had something about them that made them very interesting outside the work context. When we started Branch, we wanted to see this sort of culture in our company as well, ie. people who are interesting. It definitely influenced who we hired and helped us get the amazing team we have now.

What would you say to people who haven’t done the bus before but are on the fence?

There is no other life-changing opportunity that’s as fun and will create as many interesting experiences and memories for you. Especially if you feel like you have unrealized potential, StartupBus is a great way for you to explore that and level up in life.