A Dream of the Unifying Entrepreneur

Edit: I want to edit this here to say that Wobe is much more than women selling phone credits. It’s a complete effort to empower women in SE ASia with financial tools.

The following came to me after being in Indonesia for eight days. Indonesia has 235 million people. There are nearly 237 million phones in Indonesia. The entire nation is an archipelago. A system of islands that stretches from the eastern bounds of the Indian Ocean to well past Australia and Papau, New Guinea.

One-third of Indonesia, as seen from space

I have this ongoing fantasy; all the mobile devices out in the world, and all the emerging economies will be responsible for most of the world’s innovation and for changes in how we think about collectivism, culture and progress.

Doing the quick math — I’ve spent about 9 years of my life in the developing world. The sense of what is important, what is allowed, what is needed, and what will work is very different, and it depends on the unification or fragmentation of communication networks.

Like Wobe, which banks on two things — the abundance of phone usage in Indonesia, and the abundance of women looking for incremental wage income here. Wobe turns women into sales agents of phone credits, which people are using to pay for goods and services.

Isolation, and its cousin, fragmentation, lead to as many models of technological evolution as Darwin’s sense of evolution in finches.

And when I think about just this perspective alone, imagine what happens when social networks, mobile apps, tools and platforms start creating interactions and confluences of insights.

How technology and culture are intertwined provoked me to write what I wrote this morning on my Facebook page: Knowledge and intelligence is not owned. It is coveted, but only really works when it is shared.

So how do we continue to unlock this and build the unifying entrepreneur?


Empathy unlocks hidden genius. When you reach out to someone and feel what they feel, you understand their perspective and understand what they lack that might be leading them to harm, or you might learn from them what led them to their greatness. But feeling first, and understanding life as if you were in someone else’s position has positive, and transformative impacts.


It is not always true that most people talk without listening. Everyone is always listening. I think listening is something that is happening as if someone left on a tape recorder over night. You wind back the tape and you discover that you talk in your sleep, or you snore. There is always a tape running.


Doing an exercise in reflection with another person unlocks the tape.

Learning a New Language

While it may be true that language encodes reality in a type of encryption, I think there’s also a more pragmatic opportunity in learning a new language. If you speak someone’s language they are more likely to unlock the intelligence and deliver it to you in the interaction.

Create for other people

Creating something in service to someone else’s needs is, by far, the real reason that entrepreneurship exists. It solves problems. Doing this for a massive amount of people is just good karma. And good business ethics.

There are ways to get this knowledge, and share it. Like this Slack group that is made for founders. The purpose is to lower friction down to zero as someone is building a company. It’s called the Startup Study Group.

I will be in Indonesia for a few more days, then it is back to Hong Kong, then Seoul and finally to Manila, to end May in Hong Kong again.

Next month I will be in Jakarta, Bangkok, and Hong Kong. You can follow me on Twitter, and keep me updated on what you are working on.

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