Çağlar Karataş started GastroClub, Turkey's first GastroClub for elite diners, with a partner soon after he left his finance career in the wake of the world financial crisis. GastroClub of Istanbul was his second venture. The first was Derivatives LAB, a boutique derivatives consultancy firm he founded with three partners that offers derivatives business development, training, and leadership acquisition in the derivatives business worldwide. The consultancy, barely a year old, already has clients in New York, London, and Hong Kong and is about to open an Istanbul branch. Turkey’s first GastroClub for elite diners attracted more than 10,000 members in its first six months.
A derivatives expert who worked for Lehman Brothers, GFI Group, and Tullet Prebon (Europe) between 1999 and 2013, Çağlar earned his Master of Science in Global Finance degree from HKUST-NYU Stern in 2011, completing his term project on the use of weather derivatives related to southern China to “cash in on Mother Nature.”
Çağlar, 34, was born in Izmir, Turkey, and educated in Istanbul and London. He worked for much of his career in New York, Hong Kong, and London in the financial trading and brokerage business. Since 2007, he has been chairman of the Turkish Bankers Association in the UK, and in that position has been a fierce and public critic of Turkey’s Islamic president.
In 2010, with the thought of moving on in his career, Çağlar discovered HKUST-NYU Stern’s MSGF program through an online search. It appealed to him because “it was part-time, executive, pure finance-focused, relatively short, and to the point.”
Moreover, the program covered many aspects of the financial sector. Çağlar says the company valuation and business analysis classes were immediately applicable to his day job, as head of emerging markets volatility at Tullett Prebon in London. Further, he adds, with the MSGF program, “You get a good overview and understanding of many branches within the financial industry. It has become a solid foundation for me in the areas of finance that I had not had the chance to specialize or work in.”
The difficult economic environment motivated Çağlar to branch out professionally.
Çağlar’s two ventures have been rewarding both financially and personally. GastroClub in particular, located in his home country, has been gratifying, he says. The concept, which achieved 15 times return on investment in its first six months, was deemed one of the top 10 inspiring business ideas in the Turkish startup community and as a result was sponsored by TEB, the Turkish subsidiary of BNP Paribas.
The MSGF program helped equip him to move into a more entrepreneurial space and succeed there, Çağlar acknowledges, and the degree continues to be an asset. “I have that extra qualification to offer not only to prospective employers but clients, too,” he says.