Shanghai Rendezvous is an interview series for women entrepreneurs of Shanghai. Inspired by ‘Superwomen in Data’, we feature exceptional women in the digital space.
This week, we feature the founder of Expat Neighbors, Evrim Kanbur.
Superwomen in Data is a series of innovative conference on digital topics. A team of exceptional women organized the event as a venue for sharing their valuable experience in the digital space.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Evrim Kanbur, founder of Expat Neighbors, Shanghai Story Club, and While Travelling Blog.
I’m a native of Istanbul, Turkey but has been living in Shanghai for more than three and a half years. I also head the Business Management Department of an international school.
I used to work as an auditor for three and a half years for Deloitte. Later on I got hired to be the Business Development Manager for Riot Games. It was a local payments system and one of the biggest company games. Eventually I got promoted to Payment Systems Manager for Turkey.
Can you introduce your company: Expat Neighbors and how the idea was born?
Expat Neighbors provide a community feel and neighbourhood spirit to expats and returnees. We also offer help to neighboring and global businesses connect with the local community.
We understand how difficult it is for people with nomadic lifestyles to make friends. That’s why we want to help them build relationships with fellow expats.
Today, we are three thousand members strong in eleven districts in Shanghai. We even expanded recently to Hong Kong and Tokyo.
We help individuals create lasting connections. And we pride ourselves as a matchmaking platform for resources. Our network provides members find their business partners, travel buddies and cat sitters.
My life wasn’t going as planned. I was so broke I can’t even get 30 RMB to buy myself a potato salad. I felt like I was alone and I missed the community back home.
This inspired me to meet the people in my community and create a support group. I wanted it to be a haven for expats and returnees to feel welcome and at home.
I came from a culture where neighborhood bonds are very strong. And I realized that it’s time to trigger neighborhood spirit in Shanghai.
The next day I took action.
I started observing people and approaching them. In 90 days, I was able to gather 90 people to join me.
People saw the value of what we were doing. We were solving a problem and people wanted this kind of community in their districts too. So I decided to go online and connect with other people in Shanghai.
Returnees, local people who have worked, studied abroad, and came back, started to find us. In time, the neighboring and global businesses wanted to join us. They wanted to be in touch with their neighbors as well.
Slowly, our understanding of what the word ‘expat’ turned from a status into an international mindset.
We take online interactions offline through neighborhood events like District Dinners. Community events like picnics welcome up to 250 people who later on become part of the community. We will soon have an app that will help more people connect with our community.
How do you learn new skills in technology?
I’m not a techy person. So what I do is learn digital design and coding courses to make up for it.
What are your bigger success and failure in your professional life?
My biggest success is finding my passion in life by not giving up when times were tough. Pursuing my dream against all odds like starving and seeing that more and more people are becoming expat neighbors. And when I recognized by TEDx and spread the word to the whole world.
My biggest failure is hiring wrong people last year but lesson learned!
What is your best advice for women to help them to succeed?
You need to find your purpose and passion. You also need to be resilient enough to go after it, despite the expectations for you to fit the norm.
Every person is unique, and you have to believe that you can offer something special to the world. Dedicate yourself to that idea. Once you find that, you will be able to change the world in your own way.
Have you faced adversity being a woman in digital /data world? If yes, how did you overcome it?
I think it’s all about skills. Once you learn to get the right skills, sooner or later you’ll overcome whatever comes your way.
The biggest challenge I had was the lack of technical knowledge. So I decided to take online courses in digital design, computer sciences and coding. This helps me speak the same language with my tech team.
What does it take to be a “Superwoman in data”? Why do you believe people see you as one?
The next big power is data, not oil anymore.
Through data, we’re able to serve our neighbors better. I study the data and leverage it to help our community more. I know every single of my neighbor’s name. Some of our people feel surprised saying: “how come you remember my name, the time we met, the place we met, what we talked?” They can see that I’m fully committed to my dream to change the landscape starting from Shanghai.
To know more about the event “Superwomen in data” on 22nd of June in Shanghai. Scan the QR Code below and follow them on WeChat. Or register directly on this link.