Linasari Santioso: Business & Operations Controller at UnionSPACE

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Linasari Santioso – you can call me Lina. I was working at Kejora as Senior Investment and Portfolio Associate. We do deal review for the startup as well as industry research. Additionally, we help our partner to make a decision on whether to invest or not in those startups. Currently I am Business and Operation Controller at UnionSPACE.

After realizing that the startup industry is tremendous, I started off wanting to build my own startup. But still, I was still unconvinced about whether I really knew how to actually build a company. Then after that I moved to Kejora, on the investment side. It’s totally different from my previous experience. It’s a new challenge for me. I learned about startups, how they succeed, and how they fail. I realized on my first week that I should not build my own startup because I needed to learn. There’s a lot of things to be learned to be there.

I started to meet a lot of startups in different industries and sectors and stages. It’s a really, really big industry, and ventures are beautiful things. Usually when people invest in something they want returns as soon as possible, right? If we bought stocks, we can always just sell the stock. But if you invest in a startup, you cannot just get the profit, let’s say in two or three months or in one year. You have to wait until they develop. And I think it’s beautiful how capital can actually sell the thing to get investors and also to invest in the portfolio.

What gaps or needs do you see in the current Indonesian startup ecosystem?

I actually see a lot right now, because we know that a lot of startups are being born, as well as startups coming in from outside Indonesia. It has become competitive. Right now I think we really need more accelerators, so that startups can connect with strategic partners and actually fix the problems within their startup.

What are some exciting initiatives in the startup world that you know about?

The government is actually becoming supportive towards startup industry. Especially for “Slipicon Valley”– all the startups in Slipi. Before it was just hypothetical, but now the government is actually looking to build up the startup ecosystem. It would be great if we could work together with the government. I also think that they’ll start supporting women in this industry.

What do female VCs bring to the table?

In my opinion, female and male VCs, we complete each other. I mean, we cannot just have a man in venture capital. We need women there because we can give different perspectives. For instance, men tend to think about how can we develop this become profitable because scaling up and everything. But from the woman’s side actually, we are thinking, “Okay, I want them to become profitable. I want them to become scalable. But how about their internal? Actually we need to see, we need to talk with them.”

What do you think is preventing women from joining the higher ranks of the VC world?  

Right now we need a leader in the VC community who is actually open-minded to women. It’s a bit difficult to change. I think the culture is shifting towards gender equality, but let’s say if I am a female co-founder of one startup, it’s going to be easier for me because I built the startup and I can be respected as an equal. But if you work for other people and when, in the company, the leader is a man, I think it’s a bit difficult because they have their own pride. We also need to educate men to actually become open-minded enough and give chances to women, so they can actually gain skills. They can explore about themselves more and they actually can try to become a leader.

But I think right now most of the VCs don’t prevent women to work. Even in Kejora, my supervisor says it’s a good thing to have women on the team because if all men are going to be very awkward, there will be silence. But women can start a conversation.

Have you faced any challenges in your work as a female? Any gender bias or anything?

Yes. Because, like I told you, let’s say when we meet founders of major startups, sometimes they are still not so open-minded. Sometimes they actually don’t pay attention to us. They may be ignoring us, but when our partner reaches out to them, they are very nice.

I think it’s also a good idea to develop female confidence. We can develop our inner selves so we know that, okay, we actually have the same knowledge as the men. We have the same skill on the business side. So this confidence-building has to be from women ourselves.

So you talked a lot about the female side – what we can do as woman to reach gender equality – but what can men do to help support gender equality?

First I think they need to try working with women as equals. I think that will make women feel respected. Looking from it startup-wise, we can say, why don’t males try to give the leadership position to the woman? Normally if you see the structure, the CEO will usually be male. Then, the people who actually do all the detailed work are women. So why don’t we try to shift those kind of things?  That way it directly encourages women to be in the spotlight. I

Do you have any female role models that you look up to?

I’d have to say my mom. My mom is really a tough woman; that’s why I look up to her as a role model. My mom is also quite good at communicating with people because she is quite brave. She pushed herself to become like that. My father realized that he has a lots of weaknesses, so he actually treats my mom as an equal. Even at home I can see gender equality.

Lastly, do you have any advice for any young girls who also want to join the VC world?

I only have one piece of advice: don’t be afraid to try. Because most women, when we try once and get rejected, we sometimes think,”Oh, maybe I should not try to go into a VC right now.” No, you just need to be brave. You just need to talk about yourself bravely. You should like be able to push yourself a little bit harder.

Maria Ivena Amanda – Chief of Human Resources at Design for Dream

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Maria Ivena Amanda, but you can call me Vena. Currently I’m working at a startup called Design for Dream, which aims to empower members of the disabled community through technology and partnerships. I am in charge of the human resources department, managing all of our workforce so that we can work more efficiently and building up a stronger team.

I grew up in a Javanese family, and you know, the stigma towards a family with disabled children is quite strong. There are a lot of people who can’t really accept that their children are disabled, so they tend to hide their children. The worst I’ve heard is that there are people who hit their disabled children in their homes. They’re caged away. It’s because they tend to feel  shame from society, since according to traditional views we are considered cursed or diseased. I’ve been mocked as a child because I was different. So it’s quite hard to socialize, especially with people who have that mindset.

My parents sent me to an inclusive school because they didn’t want me to feel depressed. I came back from Pekan Olahraga Pelajar Disabel Nasional  (National Sports Week for the Disabled) with a gold medal. And that’s the first time I could see myself more clearly. Back then, I honestly felt ashamed of being disabled and tended to hide my disability. Living that kind of life is not what I want. You know, I don’t want to hide myself. But I’m afraid of being rejected by society. And that is the first time I felt empowered by myself, despite my disability.

In university, I wasn’t really involved in the disabled community because as you can see there are still only few communities. Even within the community, most of the members are not disabled but care a lot about disability issues. And fewer still are organizations built by disabled people themselves or disabled figures in the spotlight.

For a few years after, I joined the feminist organization JAS Associates. They needed translators to evaluate their organization in Indonesia. From this experience, I also learned something about acknowledging my power as a woman. After all, being disabled is difficult enough — being a woman who is disabled is even more difficult. Luckily over the past few years, the expectations are changing. There are a lot more career women out there versus stay-home ones. I don’t know the reality, but in my opinion there are still very few opportunities for us to be able to join a company because our government has the regulation of 1% of the population in their company should be disabled. But the reality isn’t like that, in one company only one or two disabled people can enter. So that there is still a lot of disabled people that can’t even sustained themselves.

Another turning point for me was when I participated in a camp event for disabled people held by the Ministry of Communications, meant to train disabled people on technology use. We were trained for three days to develop skills on things like graphic design and Microsoft Office. So there were a lot of people with physical disabilities. We were grouped together, with one group consisting of different people with different disabilities. One of my teammates suffered from vision impairment. When I asked for his number, he edited his name as “pijet,” or massage therapist. People who have vision impairment tend to become therapists. It’s a stereotype. You can be anything you want, but unfortunately because people have an image of the visually impaired being therapists, they exclude and limit themselves with that belief. With that experience, I came to realize that sometimes disability is created in our own minds. We limit ourselves because we think that we can’t, even though we haven’t tried it yet. But we already think that we cannot.

These realizations made me feel like I had to do something. And as psychology student, I have to use my knowledge to fix this situation.

What challenges do you face as a woman who is disabled?

I mentioned before that in Indonesia is difficult enough, but being a woman who is disabled is even harder. The first challenge is self acceptance. As a Javanese woman, I am told to lower myself towards men. But as a woman who is disabled, I was already lowering my pride; being disabled just adds to it. It connected to my self esteem as a woman, and I feel like it’s quite difficult to socialize. I mentioned earlier that the stigma of disability is still negative in our society.

Another challenge is education. I think there are a lot of women out there – especially women with disabilities – who have limited access to education. Like when their family is ashamed of their children they tend to hide themselves so they can’t have access to education.

How did you personally overcome those challenges?

It’s quite a terrifying process; I constantly have internal battles with myself. It’s like an endless doubt, like, “You can’t do this, you can’t do this, you can’t do this,” but at the same time, “I have to, I have to, I have to.” And then I realized that I didn’t want to live this way. I don’t want to seek social acceptance from external sources.

I am also watching some of motivational videos in youtube on Helen Keller or Frida Kahlo. They’re women, they may have their own difficulty but they won’t give up on their dream. So I want to be like that in my best version of course.

For those disabled women who struggle with challenges such as education and opportunity, what does society need to do to support them?

Well first of all, it’s educational access. In Indonesia, there are still very few inclusive educational institutions. Maybe in the most urban areas like Jakarta and Yogyakarta, there are fewer problems in terms of facilities and access. But in rural areas, there are many. So I think that it is better for the government or people concerned about this issue to create more inclusive and accessible educational environments. Access is important because I cannot ride a motorcycle or car. And when we ask for a driver’s license, the procedure is quite long for us. Thankfully today we have GO-JEK, so it makes our lives easier. But if we depend on government transportation, it’s quite hard for us to mobilize.

What are some ways the disabled community is breaking glass ceilings and shattering boundaries?

As I mentioned earlier, we need more disabled people who are successful at exceeding their own limitations. With the growth of social media (like Instagram and Facebook), we’re seeing more of these. In Indonesia, there is a huge growth of influencer; I’m quite happy with that because there are new faces. For instance, the disabled model Angky Yudistia. She’s a model  with a hearing impairment. On Youtube, there is Surya Satehapi. He is also an activist for hearing impairment. Some people with vision impairment, they tend to have a podcast. But there are still not as many figures who have physical impairments, like myself, in the spotlight. So I’m dedicating myself to be one in the future.

In Design for Dream, I am learning to become a model for our product. I remember back then when I felt afraid or ashamed of my body. Now I have to embrace it as a model of Design for Dream. I think that in the future I can share this with my fellow friends with disability: That you can be anything. You don’t have to be a masseuse or a tailor or a beggar. You can do something or create something while sustaining yourself. You can even make social impact.

There’re aren’t many in the disabled community that are entrepreneurs yet. In many ways, you’re one of the pioneers. How is that like?

It’s an amazing feeling. I guess this is my chance to tell other women that, “I was able to do entrepreneurial things, so maybe you can do it, too.”

What’s something exciting that your startup is doing now?

My startup is initiating our first project to empower a disabled organization, Binasiwi. They make batik and we help them not only sell their product but also how to advertise and create a good brand image. We increase the social recognition of their product, their community, and their activities, as well as the people in the community and their artworks. They can draw very well, so I want them to believe that their art is something that can be appreciated by spreading their artwork.

What’s your goal five to ten years down the line?

I want to make my startup company more successful and have a great social impact. I want to help as many disabled as I can, and possibly do a TED talk. That’s one of my dreams: to share my story and tell people that, “You are loved and appreciated enough, so get your ass up and do something!”

Do you have any message to tell other girls that want to be in the startup or entrepreneur’s space?

Of course. First of all, I’m so proud of you girls. I’m so proud of you. With your story, we have to spread more to our sisters who may still be being locked away by their minds or by society. We have to tell them that, “We can do something,” like, “We can create something and we can become something,” even when society tells us we cannot, but we can.

I think it’s a great move to make our society more inclusive, because being a disabled person does not lessen you as a person. Our disability shouldn’t limit our ability to succeed, because “normal” people tend to underestimate our abilities due to our disabilities. But I want to break that stereotype to show myself that I can become great and continuously develop as a person. And I want to encourage my sisters to do the same and to love yourselves and spread that love to everyone else.

Dheta Aisyah: Chief of Business Development & Co-Founder at Binar Academy

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Dheta Aisyah. I am the Chief of Business Development at Binar Academy. To be honest with you, I never planned to do this. Before I started Binar, I worked at GO-JEK and I met my co-founder Alamanda there. After GO-JEK I joined a consulting company called Palladium; I was there for three months and then Alamanda called me and she shared to me this idea that she had. At that time I found that I didn’t fit with consulting life. I didn’t really enjoy it too much and I thought that I could use my potential better at Binar.

Long story short, I spent five years in the U.S. studying and working for a year. When I came back from the US, I hated it. I was quite depressed and I didn’t like what I was doing. In the US, I worked in politics and loved it but because of immigration issues I had to go back. I wasn’t really accepting the fact that I had to return and was having a really hard time adjusting with the new culture. It’s quite ironic because it’s not really new culture; it’s like my home culture, but then it became something that is so distant to me. And so I really hated it and it took me a while to really like Indonesia again. While I was working at GO-JEK, I was looking for other opportunities to come back to the U.S.

But after a year of being depressed and really tired of hating my country, one day I just came up and kind of like switch my point of view you know like instead of me trying to go back to the U.S. because it was comfortable, so why don’t I just switch my perspective and try to change Indonesia to be as comfortable as the US? And not long after that, Alamanda came to me with this idea of digitizing Indonesia, of giving out opportunities to students and second-tier cities of Indonesia more I.T. education. I shared the same vision with her. I thought it aligned to my calling at the time, so I just took the opportunity.

Why is Binar Academy so needed in Indonesia?

One main problem that we are trying to solve is that digitalization is very centred in Jakarta but in order for us to move forward and compete in the global scene, Indonesia as a whole has to be digitalized and I’m not seeing that right now. We are trying to really cultivate the hidden talents – the underdogs if you will – in second-tier cities so that they have more opportunities.

The second thing is that we’re seeing a huge talent war in Jakarta. Good programmers are very scarce and big startups with limitless capital are trying to double down their offers, to the point that it hikes up the market price of software engineers. Companies need to be brave enough to look at Indonesia as more than just Jakarta. There are a lot of opportunities and talents that they can leverage to build their products outside of the capital.

And three, I see that there’s a lot of ideas that are not able to be executed because they don’t have the talents to build the product. At Binar we’re opening up a host of talents in Yogyakarta, and with the abundance of potential hires, we’ll be able to help early stage startups build their product and realize what was once a dream turn into a real product.

Can you comment on the gender makeup of your program? Of the programming world in general?

We have been running for about a year now and have graduated about 300 people over 6 batches. I would say it is very sad that only about 10% of the student demographic are women. I think the stigma is that women are more emotional. That they’re not very systematic, that they’re not very technical. So tech seems to be an unfitting sector for them and so it marginalizes women in that way. But I don’t think that’s true. Tech, as it grows, needs more women in it. The emotional trait of women is very much needed in order to personalize a product, in order to make it widely used. It has to solve specific problems in people’s days, and that’s where women can really make a significant contribution.

How can we encourage more girls to, say, start applying to Binar? Or to similar programs to become engineers and developers?

it requires cooperation from a lot of stakeholders. If it was just Binar, I don’t think we are big enough to be the catalyst of that change. But, for example, in the past we’ve worked with Adidas and Citibank. They have supported us in giving out more scholarships for women to study in our academy. And that is necessary. Corporations should really be aware that the tech sector is something that cannot be dominated by men anymore. So that’s one. And then the second is that parents should be more supportive of the tech sector as a viable sector to pursue as a career. Because, as you know being an engineer or being in the tech industry is not easy; it requires hard work and long hours. Unfortunately, we live in a country where traditional values are still being upheld. It’s like the dichotomy of women and men are still very strong, as if women has their own role which cannot be interfered into by men and vice versa. And I think that certain values might need to be dissolved. It’s not an era where women have to be stuck at home taking care of children. They need to have a career and remembering digitalization is going to be the future of work, the future of our era. Parents and families in general have to start planting their seed to women in their families to see tech sector as a viable sector to pursue as a career.

Can you speak more about your own personal experiences as both a woman in the tech sector and as a female co-founder?

I think I am very fortunate to not really care about what people think of me. Maybe judgement is out there, but it really doesn’t affect me. I can tell you that very often I am the only woman at the table. And sometimes it is quite degrading where guys would start to flirt with me just because I’m the only woman on the table. And given my age, I think it’s very tempting for them to do it especially in my role as BD. I negotiate deals a lot and sometimes being a woman kind of puts me in that kind of position.

How do you deal with that stigma or that temptation from guys kind of do that? Like how do you how do you deal with that?

Like I said, just show them who’s boss. You know, if they are being flirty with you, maintain your composure and just stay professional. It’s their problem, not yours, so you’re not the one to solve it. You just keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re negotiating, just keep negotiating. If wearing a knee-length skirt or dress is what’s comfortable for you, don’t change it just because you’re afraid that someone some guys on the table will flirt with you. Just do you and be honest. A lot of people are thrown off and discouraged by this environment that they’re in, and it’s very unfortunate because I’ve seen a lot of women do that. Just be confident. Stick with it.

Are there any digital trends in Indonesia you are excited about?

What I’m really excited right now to see is that the move towards the digitalization in the manufacturing industry I think like if we see the global trend. A lot of them are going to 3D printing. And I’m really excited. If the industry in Indonesia will start adopting that technology. Because I think it’s going to make our goods a lot cheaper which is good for consumers. It will force us Indonesians who are used to working in factories but want to be in a better position to use their brain and potential into something that is more worth it. You know I think it was very Victorian era to work in a specialized field doing the same thing all over again. And now we have this technology that can free us to really explore our  societal needs. So I’m really excited to see that.

Do you have any advice for those who want to become an entrepreneur in the tech sector?

I would say start to think about your first $100,000 as soon as possible. Now if I interview people, one thing that I always ask is, “How did you make your first $100,000?” If the answer is like, “My first $100,000 is from my first job out of college,” then I don’t think you have the entrepreneurial mindset within you. So start thinking about it. Start relying on yourself to sustain the kind of life that you want.

And don’t wait to start until the end of college. If you are still in elementary school and have a good idea, for example. Start by buying something on the market and then selling it. Jack up the price and sell it to your peers. It’s that easy to make money. Like me for example, a little bit of an intermezzo but when I was in 4th grade, I was very fortunate to have been given permission to subscribe to magazines. A lot of my peers didn’t have that luxury. So what I did was I cut up sections from different magazines – I created my own magazine of sorts – and then I sold it to my friends.  And it was really for no cost; literally, my parents paid for the magazines but then I got to make money out of it.

So yeah, think about how to make money and don’t wait until other people give you that opportunity. Make that opportunity for yourself to start having a dream. Start thinking about where you want to be 10 or 20 years from now. Because that vision in your head is something that will really help you move forward. If you have that vision, often enough you’re going to create an itch in yourself like, “I really want it. I don’t just want it to be in my head. I want to actualize it.” And that’s going to be the base of your motivation theory.

Start looking for a role model. I think that’s very important. Sometimes I think people in Jakarta are very globalized and they’re open to information. But what is important is that Jakarta is the minority. Jakarta is not representative of Indonesia. And the sad thing is that a lot of women and the rest of Indonesia lack that information of what they can achieve. As you explore a lot of role models, try to define what success means to you. Because as you grow up, you’re going to be so tempted to really follow what your role model is doing — but don’t forget to be authentic as well.

Who is your role model?

I like a lot of people, but I would say my role model is Tim Ferriss. He is very balanced, very ambitious in his work and worldly pursuits. But at the same time, he’s very spiritual. And I think having that balance is very, very important. He’s very sharp. He’s very disciplined. What I like the most about him is that he always experiments on himself and tried to create new habits that made him even more productive in everything he does. That’s really something that I look up to because even though he’s now very successful, he always sees that there’s room for improvement. And I think that is very admirable.

[RECAP] UNLEASH Innovation Lab 2018

UNLEASH Innovation lab is a global non-profit initiative that brings together 1000+ passionate young talents, experts and facilitators from all around the world to collaborate on ideas and solutions for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). UNLEASH was first held in August in Denmark in 2017. This year the UNLEASH Innovation Lab was held in Singapore from May 30, 2018 to June 6, 2018. It featured 1000 carefully selected talents from 100+ countries and diverse backgrounds, who participated in 8 days of intense ideation to unlock the power of collaboration and human innovation to provide solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. I was fortunate enough to be selected from a pool of more than 7,000 applicants to attend and participate in the UNLEASH Innovation Lab in Singapore this year.

Inspiring and thought-provoking speeches from experts and leaders such as President of Singapore Halimah Yacob, former President of Timor Leste, Jose Ramos-Horta, Academy Award winning actor Forest Whitaker and the social humanoid robot, Sophia, were some of the highlights of this year’s event.

This year, UNLEASH focused on 8 SDGs: Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well Being, Quality Education, Clean Water and Sanitation, Affordable and Clean Energy, Responsible Supply Chain and Production, Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Climate Action. The participants, called Unleash talents, were divided among these 8 categories. In a team consisting of amazing 6 individuals, I worked on SDG 12, Responsible Supply Chain and Production, and developed a solution to tackle the problem of food waste by supermarkets at the consumer level. My team created ‘Second Life Shelves’, an offline and online platform that enables supermarkets to connect with consumers to sell the food that is approaching the specified date (use by, sell by or best before) using a dynamic pricing algorithm.

During the eight-days program, the teams followed a structured innovation process facilitated by content and business experts to co-create innovative ideas and solutions for the designated SDGs. UNLEASH’s innovation process consists of five steps: problem framing, ideation, prototyping, testing and implementation. The teams were carefully formulated to ensure diversity in terms of experience and strengths. Many people might argue that innovation and ideation cannot be structured via pre-determined activities and steps, however, UNLEASH believes that with the help of a structured set of activities and design thinking, teams can co-create and innovate to develop viable solutions for a variety of problems.

Although my team did not win awards for the solution that we developed, I brought home invaluable experiences and gained immense knowledge about how innovation and collaboration can be used for creating an impact and changing the world. I am so glad to have participated in UNLEASH 2018, and to have met so many amazing, inspiring and like-minded individuals that I, now, can call my “UNLEASH Family”.

 

UNLEASH is a global non-profit initiative that is supported by various global actors, including UNDP, Deloitte, Carlsberg Foundation, and Dalberg. UNLEASH will be hosting the innovation lab every year until 2030 with an aim to tackle the SDGs. It’s exciting to see UNLEASH creating a wave of change around the world and inspiring thousands every year to create a better and more sustainable world.

Find out more at www.unleash.org

If you would like to know more about my experience at UNLEASH, shoot me an email at riaz@angin.id

Women’s Entrepreneurship & Access to Finance

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[RECAP] ANGIN goes to AVPN Conference 2018

ANGIN is proud to have both attended and participated in the AVPN 2018 Conference in Singapore. Valencia Dea, Principal of ANGIN, shared her insights during the panel, Financing the Missing Middle in Southeast Asia alongside several other policy experts. Riaz Bhardwaj, Senior Consultant at ANGIN, was invited as a keynote speaker to share the findings from ANGIN’s recent research project about Start-up Assistance Organizations in Indonesia and their role in gender-inclusion during a Gender Lens Investment breakfast gathering hosted by Sasakawa Peace Foundation. The conference had a heavy focus on gender lens investment and women’s empowerment – a refreshing take on investment, especially as ANGIN expands its women’s empowerment  programs.

In addition, the team was able to attend meaningful workshops such as Big Data for Social Impact and Investing in Digital Inclusion and Last Mile Connectivity in Asia, hosted by the likes of USAID, Google, Microsoft, VillageCapital, and Mastercard. The Deal Share Platform speed-dating sessions were also eye-opening and informative as some of the best social innovations and entrepreneurs were given the chance to present their products and solutions. ANGIN is grateful to once again have the opportunity to attend the AVPN conference as a member and participate actively as speakers and attendees while reconnecting with old faces and meeting new ones. We look forward to more AVPN activities in the future and see the impact investment space of Asia to be extremely promising.

 

 

Denica Flesch: Founder of SukkhaCitta

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Denica, and I’m the founder of SukkhaCitta. We’re a social enterprise based in Jakarta that connects artisans in villages across Indonesia with the modern global market.

With a background in Economics, I worked for the World Bank when I first returned to Indonesia. There, I got quite frustrated as I didn’t feel like what I was doing made any direct impact. This led me to do my own research, I wanted to understand what poverty looks like so we can find what works.

When going from village to village, I found an interesting trend. That is, poverty tends to be clustered around economic activities, on what people do. I started to narrow down my focus, and it led me to the craft industry – the second largest employing industry in rural Indonesia, especially for women.

I found out that the current system, the craft industry itself, is kind of broken. The economics seem to be upside down. People earn more from simple jobs like working in Indomaret or as a waitress then being an artisan. Artisans are aging and none of the daughters want to continue. Why would they? And yet, without regeneration, how can the craft survive?

Now, this really intrigued me. I realized that the last thing the world needs is another fashion brand. We do not need more pretty things when the way it was made is ugly. Something needs to change. A bridge needs to be built – and that’s exactly why I started SukkhaCitta. To leverage craft as a viable mean of poverty alleviation – while at the same time sustaining our craft through our modern reinterpretation.

Besides the economic aspect, what drew you to crafts over everything else?

It was also a personal attraction. As an economist, you are trained to judge production based on scale and efficiency. Yet, there I was living with the women in these villages. They would tell me how their mothers, grandmothers, shared stories through the fabrics that they made by hand. Batik was their mean of saying a prayer to their families, of meditation.

There, I realized how much stories and values get transferred like this in our culture – and how much is lost today with the rise of mass-produced clothes. With the pursuit of fast, everything becomes homogeneous. In craft, you find the story of our culture, of our humanity. And I believe it has its place in today’s time, not only in museums. We just have to make it relevant again.

Fashion has the reputation of being environmentally destructive. How can fashion be ethical while also being sustainable at the same time?

You’re right. Through my research, I was shocked to see just how dirty the craft industry is – both on the people and on the environment. In fact, it’s the 2nd most polluting SME sector in Indonesia! I feel that part of the problem is that currently, there is simply no transparency whatsoever. There is no traceability, no way to see how a fabric was made for customers like you and me.

Now, we do things quite differently. Our impact model is based on our own transparency standard: #MadeRight. It is a promise that this fabric provided a living wage, is environmentally sustainable, and at the same time sustains culture. Working with Villages, not factories, means that we are even more careful when it comes to our environmental impact because otherwise, production causes a lot of negative externalities for the community.

The price of fabric is very unique because fabric uses a lot of water and dye. Villagers will use synthetic dyes because it’s very cheap, and then they will dump it in their waterways. The problem is the community lives with the water from the rivers. That’s why in our work we use a lot of natural dyes; we actually spent almost IDR 50 million just doing capacity building so that all of our villages understand how to do natural dyeing.

At the same time, the production of clothes itself produces waste. So even if your fabrics were made ethically and sustainably, the production of fabrics into clothes produces waste. That’s why we have a lot of upcycling and zero waste programs as well — we’re turning our waste scraps into paper now, so all our tags are made from our waste as well. Our aim is not to cause unnecessary damage.

Ultimately, we believe that the way forward is not only about production, but also about consumption. So in our marketing, we focus a lot on storytelling, because we believe if you have a connection with your clothes, you’re not just going to wear a piece for two weeks and throw it away but you’re actually going to take care of it. If it’s broken you’re going to repair it, so it’s a complete and holistic cycle. If you produce ethically sustainable clothes, but you promote fast consumption — it doesn’t work as well.

In the craft industry, do you see a greater movement towards that holistic sustainable model, or are you guys going against the current?

The current for fast fashion is definitely very strong. Really. What I see in Indonesia is that of course you have this positive trend of brands trying to bring light to this issue, but the problem lies in how they go about doing it. Because you have to make sure that your solution is 10 times better than conventional practice, so you can actually contribute to solving the issues.

One of the things I saw is definitely the hype towards natural dyes. For us, it’s a natural choice. Again, because we work with Villages, not factories, we need to be very mindful to ensure our production causes no externality to the community. From this, I learnt that there is actually a difference between natural dyeing with natural process – or natural dyeing with chemical process. Unfortunately, most brands that I see in Indonesia don’t really take this into account. We need to be careful that we do not actually add to the problem.

Why is it important to empower these rural women in the first place? Why do we need to care about this demographic?

Because there’s a lot of potential for impact. What I’ve found is that nobody has ever taken the time to believe in these women. In the beginning, when I started this journey, I noticed a very strong sense of inferiority that people living in rural areas feel compared to someone from the city. The women wouldn’t look me in the eye; the prevalent mindset is that they can’t. They’ve worked as artisans for 20 to 30 years and have always been exploited, so they don’t believe that they can actually change their lives. But now, every time I go to the village, they keep harassing me about what they’re going to do next. “What new products are we going to try?”, “What new techniques are we going to learn?” There’s this new sense of optimism and hope.

And I noticed that once you empower women you empower her community as well. Especially in villages, women typically spend 80 percent of their expenditure on their family. You start noticing things, like one woman would tell me about the healthy, nutritious food that she can now provide to her kids. She started asking me about how she can best provide an education to her kids, what kind of books she can buy — so there’s this new sense of empowerment that we didn’t expect.

And most importantly is this desire to pay it forward — we didn’t start off with that in mind, but the women in the villages, they started to come to me and ask to be involved in the capacity building of other villages. When I asked why, they said it’s because they’ve been helped and now they want to help. So you start seeing that when you do this kind of work, there is also a ripple effect in the community that you’re initiating in. So that’s why I find that it’s very important to be able to empower these women, and also for them to be role models in their communities. Before we started our initiatives, typically the artisans were typically above 40 years old. Now we’re actually really happy because there are these two women under 30 that came up to me asking if they could be trained as well. And I couldn’t imagine doing all this without doing it for the crafts sector. Because suddenly they feel so proud — they feel like they’re visible to the market again, they feel like there’s actually value in what they do, and the pride is just unbelievable.

In your work, you’ve gone into the villages, and you’ve interacted with these women. What would you say are the main challenges these rural women face in their everyday lives?

It’s the general mindset, this social conditioning that after getting married they should be moms and that’s it. It was actually very startling for me during the last field trip; we were sitting in a circle and I was asking them about why there were no women entrepreneurs in the village. They said, “What would we sell, who would buy anything? That’s what men do, right? They work and we just take care of the kids.” I asked them about whether they thought about something beyond just being a mother, because obviously being a mother is not enough for them, right? And they just look at me, puzzled, “No, we haven’t.” Because their mothers were like that, their grandmothers were like that, so they have never left the village. They don’t know a world beyond this.

I was doing a survey about living wage and I wanted to know what was the living wage for that village, so we broke down their expenditure and found that the bulk of it was from their kids’ snack money. Everyday, kids would take IDR 8,000 to 10,000 just to buy snacks. And I asked them what snacks they would buy and they said, “Oh you know, just chiki (a type of snack) that they buy from the warung (small local eateries).” So I asked them one question: “You farm a lot of moringa. Why don’t you just create snacks which are actually healthier than chiki? Make them cute, colorful. Your kids can just buy that instead.” And they look at me and it’s as if they think of it for the first time.

And that’s when I found out that the biggest problem in rural Java is this social norm. These women were not educated, and so they don’t have the courage to dream beyond things as is. But once you start introducing entrepreneurship into their minds, it’s really quite amazing. I just went back to the village last week, and they showed me samples of different snacks that they made and they asked me how to brand it and everything. They can clearly do business; it’s just about whether anybody would take the time to sit with them and guide them through this process. I feel like when you empower women to be entrepreneurs, the impact is a lot larger than men.

Speaking of women in entrepreneurship – you yourself are a woman entrepreneur, but the percentage of women entrepreneurs is quite small in comparison to how many male entrepreneurs there are in Indonesia and around the world. How is it being a women entrepreneur, but being a minority in that sector?

I actually try to use that as an advantage. Because there’s so few of us, it’s very easy for us to be noticed. I personally never noticed that there was any difference between women versus men. What I noticed is that men tend to be impressed to hear that you as a woman dare to go to these villages, stay with them for a few days and do this kind of work. I do feel that especially in our field it’s very advantageous because the community trusts women more. And I think as a man it would be a lot more difficult to do what I do. Because you work with women, and how comfortable would they be with some man living in their house and telling them different concepts of sustainability and design and everything? So you have a different kind of credibility, socially, as a woman. I think that’s a plus point.

Do notice any differences between the mindset of women entrepreneurs and male entrepreneurs?

Yes, in terms of the way that we think about scaling businesses. There’s definitely not much aggression in terms of scaling when you meet a lot of women founders, especially in the field of sustainable fashion. They seem to be very content with where they are. Let’s say they impacted five, ten people, and they seem to be very happy. But they don’t understand that it’s not enough just to do that, because the problem is so big that you need to think big as well. What the industry needs is not five women you’ve impacted, but a sector change. That’s why it’s very important that startups like ours need to grow, to show that it’s possible to grow in a way that does not exploit the environment or the people in it.

On the other hand, male entrepreneurs seem to really think about this. Maybe they typically go more into the tech sector which is easier to scale, so you find them constantly talking about acquisitions, about percentages, about growth — whereas women entrepreneurs, we’re playing nice. We don’t want to compete, we feel like we should form a community, and how do you balance these two? Because you find a lot of startups that remain small, but then how do you create sector change?

What direction do you see your impact model growing: breadth or depth?

Both. Our impact model is grounded in our Jawara Desa program (village champion). In the beginning when I first started, we worked directly with artisans. So literally, if I worked with 50 women, it would be 50 houses I directly had to visit and train. We changed our impact model because that was not scalable. In each of our village, we have a Jawara Desa who we select, train and provide access to microcredit to so they can start their social enterprise on the ground level. In a way, we transfer our DNA, our values to build mini SukkhaCittas on the village level.

In general, we see each of our Jawara Desa leading up to 20 artisans. In that sense, by scaling our breadth, we directly intensify the depth of our impact. We’re already seeing it happen; it’s really interesting when you introduce the concept of entrepreneurship into a village. They start being entrepreneurial in the ways they solve village issues as well. Last field trip I went to visit this village, and on their walls, I saw that they put up A4 papers. Apparently they were brainstorming how to improve the education of their village. It really gave me a sense of validation to continue with this impact model.

Do you have any advice for young girls who might also want to build their own social enterprise? To face all the things that might have to go with handling a social enterprise?

Be patient and persevere, because nobody will prepare you for the job. It is very hard. Not only do you have to take care of the whole business side — because if you just want to keep asking for donors you should be an NGO, you have to understand that you need to be as cutthroat as conventional enterprises — but at the same time, you must maintain your mission. It is seriously very difficult. You will experience higher highs than your typical job, but also very much lower lows. My biggest advice is really to stop giving your power away, because as women sometimes we’re scared to think big. We don’t think that we’re capable or that we don’t have the experience or we don’t have whatever is required to do it, but I find that if this is truly your mission then you’ll find a way. You’ll learn, you’ll find people, you’ll make alliances to achieve your mission.

Pandu Sastrowardoyo: Spokesperson & Co-Founder of Blockchain Zoo

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi, I’m Pandu Sastrowardoyo and I’m one of the co-founders as well as spokesperson for the Board of Directors of Blockchain Zoo. Blockchain Zoo is a consulting company based on the blockchain. We try to find out what companies want to do with the blockchain and we try to matchmake their business models, the business values they seek, and the kinds of blockchain technologies that fit them. We focus on being really agnostic; we don’t just focus on one technology, but multiple technologies, which is actually very rare in the blockchain consulting industry right now.

We’ve been here for about a year. But the people that founded Blockchain Zoo have been in the blockchain ecosystem for many years. A lot of us actually started nine years ago; blockchain is nine years old, so we have a combined experience in blockchain that is very unique. That’s how we are able to execute in such an agnostic fashion. Our experience is in a lot of our  technologies that for others have just appeared; we’ve been in those technologies since the very beginning.

How did you get to where you are today?

I started as an engineer — no, rewind. I actually started as a programmer when I was six years old. I learned to program when I was six. My dad really loved programming. He taught me to program. When it came time to choose a career, I chose to become an environmental engineer. This is very geeky, but what I did was I created expert systems, which are basically simple artificial intelligence programs back when I was in college. These expert systems are basically being used to create environmental impact assessment reports, which are usually created by humans.

Funnily enough, when I graduated I wasn’t actually accepted to be a programmer. I did try to apply, but somehow the only companies that hired me were marketing companies and consulting companies. I was accepted into Procter and Gamble for marketing rather than being a programmer. In my spare time, though, I did a ton of work just playing with games that I created on my own, while being an assistant brand manager. I went on to work in several other companies, but always at night I programmed, because I liked computers so much.

One day, I decided that I needed to utilize my computing capabilities and my developer capabilities, just to break into something that is closer to what I want and what I have skills for. So I decided to try out for IBM. I got into IBM, and I can say without exaggeration that the best years of my life were actually spent within IBM. I rose through the ranks very quickly. I started as a sales specialist, then I became country leader for product. IBM basically always allocated me for new products, the products they’ve never sold before or never opened to market before. I found my calling, basically. I was in enterprise IT. How to find the proper way for systems to be able to help people in their daily lives, and how corporations can utilize systems to make it easy for them to get value. I was in charge of about six divisions when I was in IBM, and I’ve lead multiple countries for most of them.

At the end of the six years in IBM, I found out that most Enterprise IT companies’ strategy for addressing blockchain was not agnostic when focusing on blockchain itself – something I did not agree with. Most consulting companies focus on one technology, and pushes that technology everywhere. It’s like they have a hammer and everything is a nail. They have exactly one type of hammer that is being pushed to solve everything.

So, I contacted my old friends – a lot of other people on our website basically, and after discussions we basically decided to create Blockchain Zoo. The idea is that blockchain is a jungle, so let’s create a zoo. That’s basically how I helped co-found Blockchain Zoo. The funny thing about my background is, if I had gone the regular route and just became a developer, I probably wouldn’t have the marketing skill sets, the sales skill sets, probably not even the enterprise IT skill sets, so I’m actually quite grateful for the journey that I’ve been through.

What are the challenges you face first in the technology space, and second as a woman entrepreneur?

The challenge as a blockchain entrepreneur in general is that a lot of people just equate blockchain with cryptocurrencies. Everyday I receive messages asking me for trading advice. Which is not something that I do! I mean, I’m a terrible trader. If I tried to trade, I’d lose all of your money. (laughs) Now, that sounds funny, but there’s a less funny part of it. Cryptocurrencies in Indonesia is a gray area for the government. The government doesn’t like it too much, so if I get associated with cryptocurrencies, especially in Indonesia, that dilutes my brand. It actually dilutes my capability as well.

Second — this is what’s funny about blockchain as a technology compared to other technologies — the killer app already exists, and that’s cryptocurrency. But actually the killer app is not the best app. Let’s talk about artificial intelligence for a moment. What’s the killer app for AI? I think it’s personal assistants, and I think in a few years, everyone is going to agree with me that the personal assistant is what the AI killer app will be. Well, blockchain started as bitcoin. It started as an app, so now people cannot forget the killer app. It’s really hard to get out of your mind. Because that’s actually the top of your mind, of what can be done. However, we at Blockchain Zoo focus on something that is not the killer app, but other solutions on the blockchain which actually have a lot of business value. For instance, blockchain for the supply chain, blockchain for trade finance, all of these things which are not cryptocurrencies. All of these things are not threats to the banks; they’re actually tools for the banks. It does sound like an awareness thing, but it becomes very complicated because the media insists on focusing on the sexy part, which is people getting money from almost absolute zero from trading cryptocurrencies.

In terms of being a female in the technology space…you know what, let me tell you several stories. One of the stories actually has to do with a friend of mine who is a very, very good programmer and developer. Yet she’s had a lot of issues in the past. The Whatsapp groups where the developers hang out are all boys and she is not welcome inside the groups. She works for a company that is actually on the same level of IBM, and she experiences discrimination. The reason why she’s not in the group is that a guy said, “Oh, if you’re in the group you wouldn’t like it because there’s a lot of dirty jokes.” Which is dumb, right? These are groups filled with developers. It’s not a joke group. For the people who are in technical fields, this often happens. There are sort of like boys clubs that sprout up. And it is a bit difficult for women to come in. Not because of the skills, no, but because of the resistance of the existing technical workers, who are mostly men.

Now, for an entrepreneur, it depends on the level. Right now I don’t experience these discriminatory practices. At the beginning, of course, being a female leader in the tech space, not just in the blockchain space, there are things that are expected differently of you. If you’re a guy in the IT space, you’re basically there because you have technical knowledge and you have business acumen. If you are a woman, there are two scenarios (and this is true in Indonesia, I am not sure for other countries): business acumen, maybe, or you are good at relationships, with the bapak-bapak (older men), with the guys who basically make the decision. We’ve seen that a lot. I’ve seen a lot of female managers who are literally flirting to get deals. And that actually happens a lot in the IT world.

I actually hired someone from my partner back in IBM, and well, we were going to bulk up this new partner company. And I’ve asked them, “Okay, so what would you like to have in your sales team, your sales manager?” And they wanted to have a pretty girl. Literally, their wishlist, number one, is pretty girl. So that still happens, especially for the IT industry. That still happens a lot. When you’re at the director level, the chairman level, or Board of Directors level, that doesn’t get associated with you. But when you’re still a young sales manager and you’re a girl, the first question would be this. Like you could see the calculations in their minds, and they are calculating whether you’re here because you can talk with people, or you’re here because you can flirt with people. The calculus is still there.

Do you have any recommendations for how leadership or even everyday employees can start fixing that mindset?

This has to come from both genders, of course. Men especially, the technical guys, should try to make women feel more welcome. Women have a lot to add to the conversation. I’ve worked with both male and female developers, and they all have different thoughts to add. It’s not something cliche, like “women are better at user interface.” With the addition of women into the workforce, you get additional thoughts that you as a male might not have thought of. Simply more variety in terms of your thinking. When I see the construction of boys clubs within developer organizations, those are usually because of dirty jokes, because of people trying to have fun. But in terms of professionalism and basically to make people welcome, it may be best to discourage these so that you can have a very safe environment for everyone in the end.

I think there are two suggestions for women ourselves: if you’re a woman, you’re a technical person, and you really want to be a programmer, don’t be afraid of venturing inside the boys clubs — it doesn’t mean you have to be a boy or a tomboy even. Just be yourself, but show that from a merit perspective you have the capability. In the end, I think it’s all about capability. If you want to be more of a business manager or developer, I think it’s the same. There will be people looking at you sideways, especially in this industry, and that’s going to be true at least for the next few years. But just focus on the merit of the discussion, your business acumen, your ideas. Don’t let the guys push you to do just relationship-selling. Focus on the content. The content will set you free.

Can you speak more on blockchain’s unique positioning with women?

Other technologies are not inherently community focused. For example, AI has a community, but without a community the technology itself still works. Big data, yes of course there are communities sprouting around big data, but that is less about the technology itself than the gathering of the data. Now, blockchain – and especially the more public blockchain like ICO activities – even the development of new technologies are all created by communities. It is a way to make multiple people from competing interests work together as a group, as a whole. That requires a lot of community acumen. Which means the successful ICOs, the successful technologies of the blockchain, have both active technologies and active communities.

I’ve been saying this for awhile. Women are actually very good at the social aspects of technology, which until now was just social media. We are better social media users, we post more on social media, and we have an innate understanding of what creates a good community, whether its online or offline. Social media itself, have you ever heard of CAMS? Cloud analytics mobile social? About three or four years ago, it was decided that the next trends of IT was to be CAMS. Everyone was about to be working with social media; if you were in an office you’d be using something a lot like Facebook, within an enterprise. That never came to pass in enterprises, but it did come to pass in blockchain work. The way people work in blockchain — we don’t use emails. We use our own internal social media, like Telegram. It grew out of the importance of communities.

I think women in blockchain actually have a lot of potential that can be pushed. And Indonesia itself needs to be more open to this possibility. The women of Indonesia need to understand that this is a wonderful niche where women can make or break a new blockchain project. Whether the project succeeds or not could be determined by whether there’s women or not.

What’s something that you’re excited about in terms of Indonesia in the blockchain space?

I’m excited by the number of islands that we have: 17,000 islands. The number of people that we have: 260 million. And I’m also excited by the fact that we can’t get along. There’s a lot of autonomy because of democracy. Which is good, you know. Regional autonomy is good for countries such as ours. But it also means that it’s really hard to merge data, because everyone wants to own their own data. That also means that our identities might not fit. For example, I could have an identity card in Jakarta, but I could also have one in Kalimantan. And no one’s the wiser because there are different databases for each of them. The capability to merge multiple databases into one single stream of data into the blockchain without forcing people to centralise would be a boon for the entire country. And I think it’s something coming soon in multiple aspects of our daily lives in the next couple of years.

Finally, do you have any advice for young women who want to follow your path and go into programming?

It’s all about following your passions. I’ve never let go, in the many years where I was selling shampoos, when I was working in Sampoerna, I’ve never let go of my passion for computing, and that has always been my passion. That sounds geeky, it sounds weird. It’s just, you know, coding is my passion, computers are my passion, and I’ve never let go. So, I think, don’t follow me, but follow your heart. Follow what your passions are.

 

Suri: CEO & Founder of Diffago

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Suri. My complete name is Ni Komang Ayu Suriani and I’m founder and CEO of Diffago.com, an online platform helping to organize corporate social responsibility (CSR) for impacting disability issues.

I started my career in disability issues five years ago as founding team and project coordinator of DNetwork.net – a pioneering jobs network connecting people with disabilities to employment in Indonesia. During my journey as project coordinator in Indonesia, I realized that there are so many factors impacting the disabled community’s chances of gaining employment. Some of those factors are education, mobility, accessibility – among others. That’s why since January 2018 I started Diffago.com, to address some of the issues that cannot be tackled by my previous organizations.

Diffago has four services. First, we are creating a platform – it is similar to a crowdfunding model, but we will approach companies and organization to give their CSR for disability issues. Second, we will provide trainings that prepare those in the disabled community to be work-ready. Third, we will connect them to companies to get employment. Fourth , we will provide a platform that will connect buyers with disabilities in the middle-up level who need mobility aids (prosthetic leg. Prosthetic hand, etc) to mobility aids provider. So it is helping people with disabilities on a very economically diverse level. Because one of the issues that people with disabilities face here in Indonesia is that not many of them know where to get appropriate mobility aids. Especially for people from middle-low also middle-upper economic class.

Why is disability an issue we should care about?

There is a huge population of people with disabilities in Indonesia. Based on the International Labour Organization data in 2012, there are approximately 24 million people with disabilities in Indonesia. Of that 24 million, 13 million are unemployed – over 50%. Unemployment affects other sectors as well; largely the root causes are lack of mobility, accessibility, and education. They cannot attain a good education because they cannot go out easily; there is no infrastructure to help them do so independently. Many of them are not as mobile as able-bodied people; they can’t just go anywhere at anytime. It’s very hard for them. That’s why it’s so hard for them to get employment, to get better education, to get better health. That’s really what made me go, “Wow, this is a very complex issue.” It’s much harder to address than it seems.

And besides, anybody can become a person with disability at any time. If you don’t care about these issues, if you don’t care about creating inclusive communities, then what will happen? If you become a person with disability from, say, a car accident, what will happen next? This is a societal issue. We have to care, we need to create more inclusive communities for people with disability – if not for others, then for ourselves and future generations.

What are some unique challenges that women might face in the disabled community?

The majority of women with disabilities find major difficulty in gaining employment and education. This is also the case for able-bodied women without disabilities. You could imagine how much harder it is for women have disabilities. It’s also related to the culture in Indonesia. Again, even for women without disabilities it’s a very difficult to get involved in the community, to gain meaningful employment, or achieve a high level in the workplace. Even in attaining education. Because some people in Indonesia believe that if women get married, they will end up in the kitchen. So why bother attaining higher education? Can you imagine if those women also had a disability? It’s an even worse case for them.

Are there specific ways we can help women with disability? In which areas can we help them?

We need to ask ourselves how we can build their confidence, how we can help them to feel that they also have value and a good future. And we must help them realize that value first. If they realize it, then we can help them to increase their confidence. If they have the confidence, we can help them to gain employment and education, to integrate and involve them in the community more. We need them to realize that, “Hey I’m a woman, I’m smart, I’m beautiful, I’m a human being just like you who deserves employment and a good livelihood” – instead of just staying at home and waiting for help form their family. At the present, they feel as if they can’t do anything, even though they’re adults. As if they have to wait for their families, or that they can’t make decisions for themselves. I think we can really help them realize otherwise through family approach to change their family mindset firstly that their daughter/ aunty/ whoever women with disability in their family; they also have a “holly” future that we can help to create together tobe a better one. Then we can involve them into trainings and workshops related to the problem they face..

What’s it like to be a (female) entrepreneur in Bali?

It’s like you’re entering the real jungle, you know? (laughs) It’s so hard, especially in Bali. The resources here aren’t like those available in Jakarta. It’s hard to access opportunities. Events, network, et cetera. Even my own team – none of them are based in Bail. All of them are in Jakarta or Bandung. I’m actually the only one here in Bali.

Being an entrepreneur is challenging for me. I have no background in business; I studied law and have experience in the nonprofit sector. But I’m the kind of person who loves to learn new things, and most of my team members have a business background so I learn from them. And I got motivation from my advisor, Faye Alund . She’s someone who had experience in the nonprofit world for 10 years but still found success in business. So I am sure I can learn; it may take time, but through my team’s and advisor’s help, I will learn how to build a social enterprise. Because social enterprise is not exactly the same as a commercial business right? So we have to think on two sides: how to be sustainable and generate revenue, and but also the social aspect as well. It’s very hard. Maybe harder than just running a 100% commercial business.

Have you faced any specific challenges being a female entrepreneur?

Yes. For instance, when we’re trying to approach investors or when we need to pitch, sometimes I don’t feel very confident. I feel intimidated because all of the founders are men and constantly think like, “Oh okay! Am I doing good?” So confidence. And how to approach investors — most of the investors are men. How do I approach them? Making deals with impact investors and investors in general is quite challenging. That’s the most difficult thing I think.

What are some other challenges you’ve faced in the startup space?

I find so many challenges. One of those challenges is how to build a solid and strong team. I am the only female in my team, by the way. My whole team is male. As a startup, we are quite small as well. We don’t have a huge amount of money to work with, so most of us work pro-bono.

Another thing is that it’s very hard to explain some of my decisions to the team because none of them has a background in disability issues. Disabilities in Indonesia, it’s a very complex thing. It’s not what you think. It’s not like, “Let’s just do a coding training” and that’s it. No. After that, then what? It’s not like that. If you think, “OK, we just train them in IT and then they can start their own business and work from home” — actually, you have to build up their confidence, their professional mindset, their mentality. So that if they work from home they will not only finish their job, but finish it well. It’s a complex thing. I have to explain this to my team. They’re from a purely business background, no social background. That’s one of the challenges.

Resources is a huge challenge. That is, access to networks, funding, angel investors. Disability isn’t a sexy issue, it’s not trendy. So how can we convince potential stakeholders that this is an urgent issue as well as a pressing social issue? That if they help us then they can create significant impact. It’s challenging to convince impact investors and angel investors of this.

What is the startup and social enterprise scene like in Bali?

I think there are not as many as in Jakarta. Maybe it’s due to the culture. the Balinese mostly prefer to have careers in hospitality, or civil servants, or in travel and tourism. Being a social enterprise or having a startup…maybe it’s still rare or not very familiar for us. This is what I heard. I heard Balinese don’t really like to take risks. And social enterprises and startups are full of risk, right?

So what got you to take those risks and start your own enterprise?

I have a vision. I really want to make a bigger impact for people with disability. I see this is as an opportunity. And if I’m not the founder, it’s hard to make an impact. If I work for others I need to wait for their instructions. If I’m the founder, I can set the agenda. I can make the policy. I can decide quickly. So I thought, well, this is the time to be 100% involved in entrepreneurship. And I think social enterprise is the best choice for me rather than starting a non-profit, because nonprofits are very hard to sustain.

Do you see Bali as becoming a startup hub?

Like I mentioned before, it isn’t popular with young Balinese to build a startup. We will mostly choose the safer way, the safer career. But I think Bali has a huge potential to become like Bandung or Jakarta. Maybe in 10 years. Through 1000 Startups Program…I think that’s the gate for young people in Bali to see more opportunities in entrepreneurship. Because maybe we’ve never seen success stories from Jakarta or Bandung, we don’t know so much about what’s out there. But if we are exposed to those success stories, if successful entrepreneurs come here and share their stories, then maybe slowly but surely our mindset will change.

Do you have any tips on overcoming that initial feeling of doubt and finding that confidence?

Just do it. Sometimes we have so much doubt in ourselves. We’re afraid to start, we forget that the first step is to just do it. How? First, set your goals. Like, why do you want to create this company or social enterprise? What is the impact you want to create? You have to make it clear. So that when you ask someone to join your team, they can also share your vision with you. So you will have one vision together.

After that, once you follow your heart or your passion…somehow, it can take a long time or a short time, but you will find a way. No matter how hard it is, as long as you believe in it and start it you will find a way. When it comes about, it depends on the network, the opportunities. That’s why I also mentioned the importance of location, like Bali versus Jakarta for instance. But nevertheless, just start it. Very often I feel I doubt myself, like, “Oh my God, disability is not a sexy issue.” But every time I feel that, I remember, “Wait, well, I created this for a reason and this is a good reason. I believe there will be a way.” Maybe it won’t happen right away. But I keep doing it. Because if I stop even for a bit, it will take longer to achieve my goals. So just do it, keep moving.

 

Claristy: Operations & Growth Lead at Luno

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Claristy and I am the Operations and Growth Lead for Luno. Luno is a global digital currency platform that operates in 40 countries across Asia, Africa, and Europe. We aim to help people to buy, store, and learn Bitcoin and digital assets easily and securely. In Indonesia, I manage the day-to-day activities and operations to ensure that the business is growing smoothly. I joined Luno around two years ago. Initially I never thought I’d be in this industry – digital assets, digital currency, cryptocurrency, and blockchain – they are all really new to me. You wouldn’t see a lot of people in these industries yet, but I’m really happy to be one of them.

How did you get to where you are today?

So when I was in college, I was learning about public relations, communications – working in that field was my absolute goal. I wanted to work as PR at big, global companies: representing them, speaking for them, talking to media, et cetera. But when I interned at a PR agency, I learned that a lot of things that I thought what PR was about is not what they were. Maybe I was just being really innocent, but I thought PR was something really pure – like you’re representing the company, connecting with the community & the people so they will understand your vision. That is, until I heard of this motto in the PR industry: “We are not lying, we are just telling the truth that we want to tell.”  Yes, You’re not actually lying, but I feel like that means you’re not actually being honest with what you’re doing either. I believe not every PR or company works like that, but after seeing more cases around me realize that this is not what I wanted anymore.

So I decided to look for the other industry or division that I might have interest in. It was close my graduation so I had that pressure of ‘finding the right job that pays well’ ASAP. I was really ambitious before so I felt like it was a race with my fellow colleagues. Typical fresh grad. I found out that startups were beginning to build momentum so I tried searching for a job in one. I was actually offered a role in a local fintech company as a Digital Communication Specialist until a senior of mine, who worked with me together when I interned at GEPI, introduced me to Luno. He was trying to find somebody to work as a country analyst. I was like, “I have no idea what Bitcoin or digital currency is, much less what being a country analyst actually means.” But he told me that I can do a lot of things in Luno. I can work on operations, marketing, advertising, community engagement, and I can also speak to customers, interact with media – a lot of things. I’d be basically assisting the country head to make sure things run smoothly in Indonesia.

But I was still unsure. At the time, everyone thought Bitcoin was all about buying narcotics on the black market, funding terrorism, and money laundering. And I had nobody to ask about these things because not a lot of people were knowledgeable about the topic. So I spoke to the CEO of Luno, Marcus, who explained what Bitcoin was to me. He made me confident that I would grow a lot in Luno, and I love how humble he was (and still is). I was a fresh grad after all, but there was never a moment he underestimated me and that to know that somebody believed in my ability to give value to the company – I decided to go with this offer. So that’s how I jumped into this industry and got the chance. And now I’m really glad that I’m one of the people who knew about it before others did.

Can you explain a bit more about what Bitcoin is exactly? What’s so special about it?

Basically, Bitcoin is a technology that allows a cheaper, more efficient, and more effective money transfer between two parties. People call it a currency because it works like money, but it’s actually a new technology that facilitates the exchange of money. And it affects money just like the Internet affected information back in the 90s. But the difference is that back in the 90s when you knew that the Internet was going to change information systems, you could not actually invest in that technology – even if you believed that it would revolutionize something big. But for Bitcoin – you can actually invest in the technology. That’s why people are buying Bitcoin and other tokens. Currently, we see people using Bitcoin as investment vehicle rather than a currency. People don’t use it to pay things yet, but that will happen in the future.

What’s are some challenges currently faced in the Bitcoin industry?

I think the huge challenge is that you have to educate a lot of people about what exactly Bitcoin is. Of course there will be people who will misuse the technology, but there will be a lot of positive things that will happen because of Bitcoin as well.

And it’s not just about educating current Bitcoin users, but also people who want to do something with the industry – people who want to work on Blockchain or in the Bitcoin industry but haven’t yet. I really appreciate the people who educate themselves on Bitcoin and dive into the industry. But a lot of people will choose the safer route rather than this new industry.

What are some interesting use cases that you’re excited about in the Bitcoin and Blockchain industries?

An interesting use case of Blockchain is for elections, or say, voting – storing data or information of voters before they vote, and storing the vote that they give. This will diminish the possibility of a third party intervention making the data unreliable. It’s something that people are trying to encourage governments or even companies to implement.

The other intriguing use case is that I can create a contract between you and me without having a notary or third party helping us. We can store all information in the Blockchain and the contract will run automatically. It will read whether you give me the payment when I give you the service, and whether I really give you the service or not. This will make it more efficient and effective for two people to do something without a third party. Less cost, more efficiency.

For Bitcoin, it would be international money transfer. For example, if I need South African Rand I would have to buy US dollars first here, because Rand isn’t available in any money changer in Indonesia. I will then need to bring this USD to South Africa to exchange it. Hence, there will be double rates differences and fees I need to pay – not to mention the hassle of going through this whole process.  If I do it by bank or internet banking, the bank will charge me fees.But with Bitcoin, I can send money instantly after exchanging it to Bitcoin, so it will be cheaper and faster. So Bitcoin actually allows for a cheaper and more efficient cross-border money transfer.

How is the Bitcoin industry like for women?

Actually, I only know three or four Indonesian women in this industry outside of my company, as there are not many companies in Bitcoin. At Luno, 40% of our company members are women. Everyone is equal here.

Sometimes I feel like I’m even a bit better because naturally women are better at details, right? For example when we have event, women will be looking at the details to ensure nothing is missed and that things will run smoothly. And as our industry involves people’s money, we need to build trust and relationships with customers. So if a Bitcoin company has women working on this, I believe it may work better. Women have a way with communicating with empathy and feeling more, that the social skills will help us in speaking to customers.So I think all companies should have women, especially those in the fintech space.

Yet I think a lot of women in general are not in the industry yet because first, it’s a very new industry and people – they tend to lean to something safer like fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) or multinational corporations, etc. – something that everybody knows about. Digital assets aren’t something that everyone knows about, right? I hope that women can be brave in this industry because I think it’s just as welcoming as any other industry.

Have you faced any challenges yourself as a woman in this industry?

There’s this funny thing that happened to me when I met a bank manager for work. I think it’s because I’m young and a woman, and he didn’t expect an operations lead at Luno to be this young and to be female. When he first saw me, his facial expression translated how shocked he was. Like he looked so — I really think he was looking down on me. I was laughing in my head because his facial expression really showed it all!

So this is one tip for people who think they are too young or feel inferior in given situations. For me, I just wait until I have the chance to blurt out everything that I have prepared in my head. In this case, I just started explaining after he finished his questions, “Oh yes we do know risk scoring, API, sanction list, and this is what we do…”. And that is when I saw his facial expression started to change. He began to smile and became more welcoming. He stopped investigating me and started promoting his own product. So that’s one funny situation where I was looked down upon as a young woman in this industry.

Do you see any notable Bitcoin trends in Indonesia?

I think for Indonesians, it’s hard for us to take risk compared to other companies. We need someone to take us along the process to try new things. I think that’s how Bitcoin users in Indonesia are different from those in other countries. For example, Luno’s app is built to be intuitive and it is the same for all users around the world, but for Indonesia we have to add a special segment that actually explains the process of depositing money or sending Bitcoin or something like that. A lot of users will send us tickets or questions via social media to reach us asking us to explain step by step. That’s why in Indonesia we do community meetups to explain how we do things. We also do webinars, events, Youtube videos, step-by-step responses, and others. We don’t really do this in any other country — even if we do, it’s less than what we do here. We need to be more passionate, careful, and detailed in the Indonesian market. But to be honest, the whole process is actually more rewarding. Indonesians tend to be more thankful when they know you are there, together with them, and you have helped them going through this process of upgrading themselves to a better financial world.