Building A Nation , One Startup At A Time

With the other amazing leaders of Indonesia’s startup ecosystem

Hi guys! I just recently had the amazing chance to share the stage for Gerakan Nasional 1000 Startup, a movement to transform Indonesia into “The Digital Energy of Asia” in 2020, by creating 1000 startups who will develop many solutions using digital technology. This program is initiated by KIBAR and supported by Ministry of Communication and Information Technology of Indonesia. KIBAR is a company aiming to develop ecosystem of technology in Indonesia through capacity building initiatives, mentoring, and incubating in various cities.

There are five different stages to this program — ignition, workshop, hackathon, bootcamp, incubation. Today’s session was an ignition session in my hometown, Jakarta. During ignition, we run panels and talks with the shapers of Indonesia’s startup ecosystem. The aim was to introduce the startup mindset, and help out people to think like a startup founder.

This movement is important for many reasons:

  1. Indonesia has 93.4 million internet users and 71 million smartphone users as of today
  2. Startups are not intuitive and resources are not universally accessible, especially in a country like Indonesia
  3. We need to help solve challenges for the entire startup ecosystem and not a single segment of startup. Sure, the fintech sector and e-commerce sector is growing fast in Indonesia, but we need to also bring a general approach for other types of startup.

The session that I helped to moderate was called The Startup Journey, where essentially we explain the real life stories of startup founders. My wonderful panelists, who are also Launchpad Accelerator alumni, are Belva, CEO of Ruang Guru, and Jaka, Head of New Product of RUMA. My inspiration throughout this whole session was my favourite book “The Hard Things About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz which resonated well with many startup founders’ experience.

Here’s some learnings that I can summarise from our panel session that Belva and Jaka mentioned:

1. Startup is Hard

Anyone else who says otherwise is lying to you. The media will often give you the “glamorous” view of startups — the unicorns, the funding, the cozy offices. The truth is often far away from there. As Belva puts it, “if you pull back the curtains, behind the scenes, there are lots of blood, sweat and tears involved” — no one becomes the next Gojek, Tokopedia, or Traveloka in one day. Many startup founders work late — worrying about their runway, about a product launch that did not go their way, and about the livelihood of their company.

2. Don’t Build A Startup Because It is The “Cool Thing To Do”. Do It Because You Are The Only Person Who Can and Will Solve This Problem

The startup boom is huge right now, and you can’t help but want to join in the wave wanting to be the next Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg. But if you are chasing after only the prestige, you are going to burn out. You won’t attract the right kind of talent. You will be unhappy solving an impossible problem. In Jaka’s words, no startup will succeed without the right mission.

Startups are hard — and that’s because startups fundamentally try to solve hard problems using technology that no one else wants to solve. To be a startup founder, you need the right mission. You need to have either founder — product fit, which means you have high expertise in building the product, or founder — market fit, which means you know the market very well — or even are the user.

3. You Will Spend At Least Your Next 5–10 Years Building A Startup

Startup is a commitment, possibly, longer than a girlfriend or a job. If you get a job at a company, you can easily quit after 1–2 years. When you quit a startup, it has more stake than beyond yourself — your friends, your family, your employees, your users. As such, you must really plan to build a startup only when you feel ready.

4. Find Support Within The Startup Ecosystem

When you are trying to solve a problem yourself, it’s a lot harder to do than doing it with other intelligent people. Look for co-founders and look for smart & talented team. Work with other people in the ecosystem. It’s a long and hard road, and you need a group of talented, smart, and hardworking people with a mission to get stuff done.

And with that, I will leave you with a quote from Soekarno:

A thousand of old man are just able to dream, but a young man is able to change the world!

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