This article was originally published in the Harker Quarterly Spring 2011 Edition
Yasemin Denari MS ’96 attended Harker from kindergarten through grade 8. The upper school had not yet opened at that time, so after Harker, Denari attended Saratoga High School, where she ran track and cross country and volunteered at a skilled nursing facility on the weekends.
Denari went to UCLA for her undergraduate studies and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude with a major in Italian, plus a special field in French and a minor in Spanish. During her time in college, she spent a summer abroad at the University of Salamanca in Spain and attended UCLA Extension where she studied broadcast journalism. During her last year at UCLA, she worked as a production intern at the K-NBC News Investigative Unit, “Celebrity Justice” and “EXTRA.”
Denari was also interested in learning Turkish so she could communicate with her Turkish relatives on her mother’s side, so she moved to Turkey the day after her graduation from UCLA in order to attend a summer language program at Bogazici University in Istanbul. She immediately became enamored with the city and decided to stay there to work. She worked for three years in the marketing and international business development departments of Garanti Bank, Turkey’s second largest private bank, and helped to launch Turkey’s most renowned credit card loyalty program in Romania (through Garanti Bank Romania). During her time in Turkey, she spent many of her weekends volunteering at an animal shelter in Istanbul.
Denari returned to California in the fall of 2008 and shortly thereafter began working with William H. Draper III at his San Francisco-based venture capital firm Draper Richards LP. She helped him to write a book, “The Startup Game: Inside the Partnership between Venture Capitalists and Entrepreneurs” (www.thestartupgamebook.com), which has recently been published by Palgrave Macmillan in the U.S. She is currently pursuing her MBA at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Q: When you were at Harker, did you dream of doing what you do now?
A: No, I don’t think so. I have had a rather varied professional career thus far, and I don’t think that there is any way that I could have anticipated it!
Q: What do you find most exciting about your career or current project?
A: I am really excited about the book on which I collaborated with William H. Draper III. He is a VC legend, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to work so closely with him on this project. “The Startup Game” has received positive reviews and endorsements from renowned venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and President George H.W. Bush, and we have also recently signed publishing deals with leading publishing houses in China, Taiwan and Russia.
Q: What personal traits make you successful at what you’re doing?
A: I am ambitious, hardworking and optimistic. In some ways, I feel like I have a guiding force that leads me through life. When one door closes, I never get upset about it because I know another one is about to open. I am a networker, and I do my best to maintain my professional relationships. I also value integrity above all else.
Q: What in your life so far took you the longest time to learn?
A: I would probably say that learning Turkish took me the longest. I had studied a few Latin languages in college, but Turkish required an entirely new way of thinking. I was living in Istanbul at the time, so the fact that I was immersed in the language definitely helped.
Q: What’s on the top of your personal and professional “lists” right now?
A: Professional: Graduate from Stanford and work in the venture capital industry. Personal: Learn Mandarin and practice the other languages I’ve studied.
Q: Tell us something surprising about yourself.
A: I was a video game playing tomboy in my youth and needed to get stitches on five different occasions before the age of ten.
Q: What advice do you have for current Harker students?
A: Always remember that anything is possible.