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Ezel Kokcu is named as Te Papa’s entrepreneur-in-residence for 2018

Te Papa’s most recent choice for the entrepreneur-in-residence may be in her early twenties, but her achievements show age is just but a number. Kokcu is onto founding her third start-up in the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) sector called Passphere, which is a ticketing platform that helps event organisers understand their event attendees more.

This makes her a great fit for Mahuki, which is onto its third year as the world’s first culture-tech accelerator that develops leading digital businesses in cultural sectors.

Kokcu’s family immigrated to New Zealand from Turkey when she was just four-years-old, but within years, her parents saved enough to quit their jobs and found their own restaurant business. 

She says this is where she gets her appetite for entrepreneurship. In 2012, she co-founded STQRY, a consumer-facing discover app that helped visitors find and navigate content in museums and cultural institutions that matches their interest. The start-up raised $5.5 million in funding and has since gone on to sell to more than 500 organisations in four countries under the rebranded name, Area360.

Kokcu then co-founded Non-Stop Tix, and she describes her third start-up, Passphere, as a “wish list” of all the things she wanted to build in her previous platforms, but didn’t.

Entries for the Mahuki programme close tomorrow, while Kokcu will begin mentoring the participants in early August. She says her main focus will be to advocate for GLAM-sector businesses, as there is ample opportunity for start-ups in that sector.

“The museum and gallery space is ripe for disruption and we have the capability in New Zealand to pave the way to the rest of the world,” she says.  

“So much has changed in the last couple of years [in the culture and heritage sector] that I think we’ve all got this amazing opportunity to be a part of.”

Kokcu says her main goal will be to assist the companies and give advice on problem areas such as how to expand a business locally and globally, hire the right people, raise capital and maintain customer relationships.

She says she’ll also be drawing on her experiences of the importance of diversity and pay disparity to maintain employees and create a healthy work environment, as well as insights into contracts, HR and company structures.

“As an entrepreneur, your skillsets span across every facet of the business, so I want to be able to help them validate and grow their business,” she says. “Having been in the GLAM sector for the last seven years, I hope to share my learnings with them so they can learn from my mistakes but also our successes with STQRY and Passphere.”

And if she was going to impart one crucial piece of advice to new entrepreneurs, she says it would be to take every day as a learning experience, as failure or feeling uncomfortable can be very educational.

 “There is no growth in a comfortable place,” she says.

As for the what’s on the horizon for her latest start-up, Passphere, the company is about to embark on its official seed round and launch live with customers in November or December.

“Our team will double by the end of the year with our sights set to launch in Australia and US within the next year. We’re committed to working with New Zealand conferences, expos, festivals and events so will be looking for partners to work with over the course of the year,” Kokcu says.

Check out this podcast with Mahuki and Kokcu below. 

Elly is Idealog's editor and resident dog enthusiast. She enjoys travelling, tea, good books, and writing about exciting ideas and cool entrepreneurs.

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