Cenk Özbakır, Founder of Citationsy


Who are you?

I’m Cenk, the founder of Citationsy. I do stuff on the web.

Can you tell us the story of your business from idea to where you are now?

Writing essays was the part I liked most about my time at University. Mainly because it meant I got to use iA Writer. The clean, sophisticated look of the app filled me with joy and made writing a truly fun experience. I pitied my friends struggling away with Word, their screen filled with toolbars. While they fiddled around with settings and strange copy-paste behaviour and tried to figure out how to add footnotes, I was happily typing away into a screen filled with beautiful typography and the best kind of interface there is: one that doesn’t demand your attention, shining the spotlight to where your focus should ultimately be — your work.

The other app that helped me with my essays was RefME. I would paste a link, or an ISBN, or the title of an article, and it generated the citation for it automatically. It wasn’t always perfect, but it worked most of the time. When I was done with my essay I’d grab all the references, and paste them into my document.

Earlier this year RefME was acquired by a large company and has been shut down. The service meant to replace it, CiteThisForMe, is pretty bad.

So I built my own reference management tool.

You can read more about the story behind Citationsy here.

What has been your biggest failure or struggle?

I don’t like sales people and have an aversion to most “Marketing” or “Growth Hacking” and am not very good at it, and thus my main struggle is finding out how to market Citationsy and how to get people to notice it. When I start making enough money to hire someone the first person I hire will be a marketing person.

And what has been your biggest achievement or success?

Sure, there’s getting my first signup. Or my first paid customer. Or watching as the number of total references crept upwards, first hitting 4, then 5 figures. But the most memorable moment from the very early, crazy days was when the co-founder of RefME, Tom Hatton, saw my Medium post and wished me good luck.

What’s your must read business book?

It’s not a business book, but I absolutely loved “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia” by the amazing Mohsin Hamid.

Who’s your most inspirational CEO or founder?

Marvel’s Murat Mutlu is extremely cool.

Courtland Allen is incredibly clever and selling IndieHackers to Stripe was such an amazing move that I never would’ve thought of.

Patrick McKenzie’s essays (especially this one) were really helpful to me.

This essay by Anna Wiener is amazing.

Zeynep Tufekci’s thinking on the intersection of technology, sociology and business models has prompted me to think deeper about the consequences of the things we do online.

I love Frank Chimero’s work and his book “The Shape of Design”.

Marco Arment, the maker of Overcast and a co-host on ATP, is great and I’ve borrowed many of his stances on privacy and tone-of-voice for applications.

I would be amiss not to mention how John Siracusa has made me think about what is wrong with things (nothing is so perfect, as they say).

The company I probably admire most is Panic, the makers of Coda (the app I spend 80% of my time in). Cabel’s XOXO talk just made me love them more. I follow a lot of the people who work there on Twitter and it sounds like an amazing place. Special shout-out to their Sign project.

My dream is to grow my company into something like Panic.

And can you tell us something weird or interesting about yourself?

I read a lot of articles (all in Instapaper, of course). I wish article-playlists were more of a thing and there were a better way of sharing a group of articles or essays I liked with other people in a cool way.