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.

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.

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.

 

[RECAP] Women in Blockchain

Last Thursday, Asosiasi Blockchain Indonesia hosted an all-woman panel discussion on practical blockchain applications from industry experts with Meredith from ANGIN and Connector.ID as moderator. Speakers included Pandu Sastrowardoyo of Blockchain Zoo, Daphne Ng of Singapore Blockchain Association (ACCESS), and Merlina Li of Indonesia Blockchain Network shared their thoughts. If you couldn’t make it, don’t worry; here are the top four takeaways and main points of the discussion:

  1. Blockchain is for women! The panelists pointed out that blockchain technology and its accompanying community are well-suited towards women. Whereas other nascent technologies at the time (i.e. big data) involved big risk with intangible or uncertain reward, blockchain is something built upon years of existing technology with monetary value and actual application. Blockchain communities and fellow “blockchain bros” have also been more supportive of women than their counterparts in, say, the data science field, according to the panelists.
  2. Blockchain is not sexy: You should view Blockchain as a technology tool that will be part of your solution. Maybe 20-30% of your product will have blockchain aspects, but the rest will be other vital components such as user experience, marketing, business model, team, etc. Just because you have a blockchain startup does not mean you can ignore the other considerations of your company.
  3. Blockchain and social impact go hand in hand: The use cases for blockchain largely involve socially impactful causes. Examples include supply chain logistics to encourage fair labor conditions, creating tokens for supporting refugee relief projects, and renewable energy among others.
  4. Blockchain both creates and requires more efficient and transparent systems: Blockchain has the capability of creating a more transparent society; transactions cannot be erased or duplicated on the blockchain, making it ideal for use cases like medical records, digital identities, and crossborder transactions (among others). However, this also requires a world where adopters are willing to be transparent. For instance, a hospital adopting blockchain technology for medical records must be comfortable with the implications – transparency in treatments and patient medical history, risking patient realization of possible medical malpractice. While this should encourage more cautious medical practice, it is easier for hospitals to simply refuse to be transparent. Thus, while the technology may exist, the market may not be willing or ready for the adoption of the technology.
  5. The future of blockchain is bright in Indonesia: Indonesia’s large population and friendlier regulations make for a great market opportunity for blockchain startups. Whereas in Singapore blockchain solutions must compete with other existing and established solutions, there is no such thing in Indonesia. An example is a centralized medical record system – something Singapore already has, but something Indonesia lacks. Therefore, a blockchain solution may face more resistance being adopted in Singapore versus in Indonesia, where the market is craving that solution.

ANGIN and Connector.ID are happy to have played a part in this fruitful discussion on the future of blockchain technology, especially as it pertains to Indonesia. We hope to continue being a part of these events in the future and look forward to the next one!

 

Nina Moran: Co-Founder of GoGirl!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Nina Moran and I am the co-founder of Aprilis Co. Within Aprilis Co,, we have GOGIRL! Media, a retail company called Picnic, and a B2B garment manufacturing business as well.

How do I begin? Well, I started in 2004. About a year before, my sister was a design student. For one of her projects, she was supposed to create a magazine. Although it was just a school project, we kind of got over-excited about it and it became a full business plan. Everything was done – every page, every article. Her aim was just to get an A and we kind of forgot about the project until our dad found our proposal and said, “Well actually, this is really really good.”

At the time, the scene wasn’t anything like now. Now we have angel investors, VCs, crowdfunding – all these ways to find money. Investors now are actually much more visible than when we got started. There was no way that young girls like us – I was 25 and my sisters were 22 and 17 respectively – were going to create a media company. It was insane. Nobody was ever going to believe us or fund us. I said that to my dad – because of those reasons, there is no way to start this business. At the time we needed US $150,000. We didn’t come from a wealthy family. It didn’t make any sense.

So I went to banks. The banks told us we were simply too young. There was only one type of loan we could actually apply for, called multiguna. But the interest rate was very high – 18%. Our dad said, “You’re gonna lose money before you make money, but 18% is insane. So I have some money and just use it, but if you mess up then there’s no way your sisters are going to go to college. This is it, this is what I’ve been working for for 20 years.” And we were like “There’s no way our dad has that kind of money.” Like he lives outside the city and he lives in a kost. Every time it rained it would flood up to his waist, and whenever I’m there I would help him move his furniture and whatever. “You have $100k and you don’t rent a house? WHY?” And my dad turned to me and said because I can take it, and this is my savings for you guys.

So the next 6 months we studied the market and distribution channels, got to know people. A few months after that, we launched in January 2005. After that there was a whirlwind of all kinds of things. We got cheated on for US $60,000 and all kinds of things like that, you know? But the thing is we made it through.

In the publishing market, how many others are giving young girls a voice?

Not many, I’m afraid. There used to be a lot – over 14 players. A lot of them have closed already. Now, there are only two: me and one other. We don’t really like that, actually. Lots of people say that’s good, the cake will be yours, the advertisement budget will be yours. But when the industry isn’t sexy, it isn’t fun. We compete in certain things, but we also collaborate on others. And when we don’t have people to collaborate with, it’s not cost efficient in certain ways. So I don’t like it when my competitors are closing down.

What do you think is GOGIRL!’s recipe to success?

Stories are what makes GOGIRL! alive. It’s how we talk to our audience; we evolved and most people don’t. I really hate when people say media is dying. I don’t think so. I think it’s because [media] hasn’t evolved in a long time. If you don’t evolve or innovate, it’s natural that you become irrelevant. For us, print is still giving us a lot of income. But someday if print isn’t there anymore, the stories behind it will still be there. So the question is, how do we make these stories heard and go to the right audience?

We have different strategies for different platforms. Print is something for you to play with – to write on, to cut, to paste, to share. That’s why we call it a “playzine.” We shifted October 2016. Since we did, we started to see more growth. So that’s the strategy for the print. It’s like a hobbyist thing. For our website, we craft short stories, but in the feminist point of view. It’s deep but short. Those are the kinds of things that get lots of pageviews. And the content on our YouTube channel is super fun, super light. Like how to create the perfect winged eyeliner, what’s inside your bag. Every channel has its own strategy. That’s our growth strategy.

What’s the Indonesian market’s appetite for feminism? And what’s GOGIRL!’s own take?

I think that Indonesia is very diverse. And because we are very diverse, there’s a market for everyone. There’s a market for both liberal feminism and conservative feminism. That’s the way it is in Indonesia. You just have to market it right. You can’t be everything. You can’t be accepted by every group and you have to be okay with that.

For us, feminism is respecting every female’s choice, whatever that is. But we want you to make that choice a conscious choice, whatever it is. So you’ve thought about it, this is my decision, this is what I want to do. We believe that’s power. And we might disagree with you. For example, we don’t believe in getting married at such a young age. There are those who disagree with us on our site. And that’s okay, if that’s what you think. But that’s our point of view. Why are you thinking about marriage now? Shouldn’t you be thinking about what you want, what you dream of, what you aspire to be? It’ll come to you when it comes. But why do you have to think about it now? But if that’s your choice, if you’ve thought it through – then it’s power. It’s your choice. And we like that you have a choice. So that’s what we believe in and that’s how we write the angles on our publications.

How empowered are Indonesian women today in terms of pursuing their own businesses, their own goals, their own choices?

There are still lots of challenges for women all over the world. But I think Indonesia has a slight advantage. We have Kartini. And we have a proverb: “Heaven is underneath your mother’s feet.” Meaning that women are quite respected, quite looked up to in a way. Because we have female heroes as well, we are more progressive in ways versus places like the United States. But having said that, there are so many ways we can improve – for instance, the disparities between women in rural areas or even outside of Java versus those in Jakarta. These women still have lots of challenges compared to us here in Jakarta or in other big cities in Java. There are a lot of cultural barriers, as well as barriers to opportunity due to geographical access. We don’t really see many startups in Kalimantan for instance. Then again, the population there is also not as high as that of Java’s. But I think it’s more due to cultural and geographical access. How many venture capital firms are there actually in Sulawesi or Kalimantan? Technically, entrepreneurs could always access via call because it’s the internet era. But if you don’t live in Jakarta, it’s like going back and forth, back and forth for potential investors. It’s very costly.

Can you elaborate on the term, “cultural barriers?” What exactly does that mean for our non-Indonesian readers?

Well, it’s very similar across many cultures. The expectation that females still belong in the kitchen kind of thing, or that in some cultures, having a son is more desirable than having a daughter. Things like that. Oh, and the belief that if we [females] are too smart, too dominant, too ambitious – most women think that it’ll be much harder to find a spouse, things like that. There are even some subcultures in Indonesia where the father is very dominant and doesn’t allow their daughters to pursue higher education. In a way, it’s almost like we’re second-class citizens.

How can we start combatting those stereotypes and barriers to improve access to opportunities for women?

Fintech helps a lot. I really think so. I’m so happy that there are so many fintech companies that are running now. With fintech, you can help a lot of people in rural areas or people outside of Java. It’s super easy, people can simply apply online [to gain access to funds]. I think that’s super awesome.

I also see that women themselves are the biggest barriers to themselves. A lot of self doubt, over thinking. Lots of things. Yes, there are cultural barriers, religious barriers. But I see mostly it’s ourselves that are barricading ourselves to our futures. We forgot that we have to invest in our own self-growth. Go to seminars. Read books. Meet new people. Ask questions. Indonesian people hate asking questions. Those kinds of things, we have to unlearn from the past.

Have you faced any challenges unique to being a woman in an industry where you’re positioning yourself in a feminist light?

Although the media industry seems to be female-centric, the number of female owners is very small. In the entire media scene right now there are only two female founders. Femina Group and us. Everything else is founded by men. The owners, the founders are all men. We are still very much a minority in this industry. I think the female founders are minorities in most industries, actually.

I do have one memorable anecdote. When I was putting together Resonation (a women’s empowerment conference), I was trying to find sponsors. One prospective sponsor saw our proposal and invited us to their office to have a meeting. At the office, the CEO said to me, “Oh I know about this, this is that women’s empowerment dumb s***.” I was like, “Did I hear that out loud? Was that in my head?” And I was just looking left and right to my staff, and even the staff was horrified. It means that I didn’t actually hear that in my head. “I beg your pardon?” I said. He replied, “No, no, I mean why would I want to sponsor this?”

I was just opening my laptop and beginning my presentation. So I just closed it again and said, “Because of men like you, sir. That’s why I care about this women empowerment dumb s***,” and then I just walked out. Like, what just happened, this is 2016!

And how do you get past all that negativity? How do you brush that off despite the doubt, negativity, and resistance you face?

I guess I kind of recruited my support group in a way. Before I started creating Resonation, most of my network was male. I didn’t actually know a lot of female entrepreneurs or anyone like that. I was like, “Ugh, this is too much testosterone, I need females.” So I followed a lot of people on Instagram and invited them to go on a trip with me. And I mean we all knew each other by reputation but I had this idea of taking a trip together and we actually did. It was 14 of us, all alpha females. All of us had the exact same fear; we knew we are alpha so we were scared we’d all bite each others’ heads off. But because of the commonality and similar struggles we face, we actually got along really, really well. We actually became each others support system. We ask each other for advice, we would go to each other’s events. I think before I met these women, it was hard. All my male friends are awesome but they don’t understand the struggle of being female. I’m really grateful to have these 14 females that will just tell you if you’re doing a bad job or a project and they’ll tell you in your face. Like, “Hey I don’t think that’s gonna work,” and that’s so refreshing. You know there are people on your side.

What advice do you have for people with similar aspirations?

Do your due diligence, but stop overthinking. I think it’s a plague among the 20 year olds. Seriously. What is scaring you so much? Yes, there are risks, but be prepared and then jump. Don’t jump just to jump. Of course you’ll drown. But do your research. And then start. Because once you start, there will be so many lessons you will have to go through. And you’ll learn from that and you’ll get better from that. Stop overthinking already. Enough. It’s plaguing all the youth. Even if you are prepared, there will be so many things you’ll never anticipate. You’ll know what to do when you are in the situation. And if you don’t know what to do, then you’ll find out. Learn. Ask. Do whatever. Because once you’re there, you’ll have no choice but to get better or find solutions. That’s it.

 

Samantha Gunawan & Josephine Bahari of Blueboots Farm

Tell us a bit about yourself.

S: My name is Samantha Gunawan and I’m the founder of Blueboots Farm. I’m 28 this year and I graduated 2013. Upon graduation I worked in Singapore for one year at an industrial engineering firm, and that’s when I realized that I didn’t suit the office life. I’m more of a outdoor person, so I tend to look for something where I can move around more. One weekend, I came back to Jakarta and I was casually talking to my sister like, “Hey, I’m really interested in organic food,” and she’s like, “Oh I know Ibu Helianti Hilman from Javara, maybe you can contact her and just talk.” So I emailed her and she was just like, “Hey Sam, why don’t we just meet the next day at 3 pm at the Javara Kemang office?”

Ibu Helianti ended up offering me an internship at Javara. At first, I thought no, I should be getting a full time job rather than an internship. But maybe because I felt I was still young, I felt that I could still explore. And actually my parents also supported me in the sense that they told me, “You should make all the mistakes now and explore since you’re not married yet.” So I thought, okay maybe a three-month internship would be a good start to see whether I like the industry. Those three months turned into one year.

Ibu Hellianti wanted to open a new side business; she’s doing food processing right but she wants to do fresh produce, too. She has a lot of connections with the hotels in Jakarta and she has farmers in Bogor, but she doesn’t know how to connect the two because she’s too busy. She sees this girl (me) who wants to know more about organic farms, so she’s like, “Sam, you be the middle person and see how you can convey what they want to the farmers.” That’s where I think the trigger was for me to get into agriculture.

J: My name is Josephine Bahari. I graduated in 2016 with a graphic design degree. I was working at a graphic design firm for a year. I actually always had this passion for eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle and I’ve always been interested in Blueboots and but never got the chance to ask Samantha about it. I became tired of my job. Samantha happened to want to meet up (she’s my cousin), and she proposed that I help her. I said yes straight away and the rest is history.

I’ve been helping Samantha with the creative side of Blueboots and a little bit on the marketing side learning more about actual farming and where food comes from. I don’t think people are actually exposed to the agriculture side of organic food. I’m actually pretty blessed because I know where my food is coming from and how it is being nurtured and harvested into our dishes. And I think it made me more passionate and mindful of what I consume.

What is the health food scene like in Indonesia?

S: I feel like the health-conscious market is growing, but people still don’t really understand what “healthy” is about. For instance, gluten-free is assumed to be good but actually it depends on your body type. A lot of people are being eaten by marketing. Indonesians follow trends. So if Americans or Europeans are eating kale, we’re eating kale. But actually there’s a lot of other local plants that can replace that. We’re missing our own health culture.

J: i think it’s definitely super niche. The health scene is growing but there’s no personality to it. We’re really following Americans or Australians. It feels like everyone is copying each other. There’s no creativity or actual thought put into it. I think Salad Stop is actually a good model to follow. They have fresh produce as well, and there’s a story behind their business. I think their business is more conscious.

There’s a real psychology in the food business. It’s not just the taste, but also the story behind the food, where it comes from. The health market here is more about marketing than actual health consciousness. In short, it’s growing, but its growing very slowly.

Why is it important to know where your food comes from — why is that narrative important?

S: I think growing up as a city girl, I realized that I felt so disconnected with where my food came from and that I just took things for granted. So if you don’t finish the food, you don’t tend to have any guilt. But once you go to nature and you realize how seeds grow into plants and that it takes about 3-4 months… then you realize that you should not waste your food, and how you should treat the food. You need to minimize your cooking process because certain ways of cooking has more nutrition. I think when you know where your food comes from, you just become more appreciative and you tend to appreciate the ingredients themselves.

How was the transition between working for someone to becoming your own entrepreneur?

S:  Well, working for someone is really good. You don’t have to think about future steps, you don’t have to come up with a business plan, you don’t have to be accountable to your employees. Your mindset is just to do your job, but you’re not thinking about the whole business aspect of that firm. But when you’re doing your own thing, you have to put everything together, put the ideas into action. It takes more motivation, it takes more effort. You need to have passion. If not, I don’t think you can do it at all. I really love agriculture, so I think I jumped into the business with an excitement; it’s something I look forward to. Agriculture is not an easy task, so there were definitely a lot of worries. But you don’t know until you try.

The food industry in general is it male dominated or female dominated, how do you feel as a woman in that space?

S: I think I’m stepping into two industries; one is agriculture and one is food processing. The agriculture industry is definitely male-dominated. You rarely see a woman working on a farm. In terms of how I feel…I actually feel accomplished. At first, I felt intimidated but after awhile, when you know what you’re doing you feel good about it. I don’t feel any different from the men. Sometimes I feel like I’m even a little better.

As young women, do you actually find it hard to get people to see you as capable?

J: I feel that way in a lot of situations. Even sometimes when I go out with Sam. The people that she meets are experienced. They know more about agriculture. I do feel super intimidated, but I think the key is that I want to learn. That’s why I’m always in the back, listening and learning. I do hope that one day I can speak about Blueboots Farm like Sam. I’m actually in the process of learning right now.

S: I feel confidence is built up with experience. If I’m not experienced and I talk to people about things that are more advanced or technical, I tend to be honest with them and tell them, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’m new, can you teach me?” People are actually open to that. If you are humble to them and tell them you don’t know, they will open up to you. So I’m never scared to go to a space where I meet people at a higher level than me because I think it’s a learning process. I’m sure one day I’ll be at that point where I can understand. One thing I’ve learned is that if you don’t understand, it’s because you don’t know yet. It’s not because you can’t.

Where do you see yourselves in five to ten years?

S: My perfect five year plan is for me to have good family time while at the same time a career. Not a career that will take my whole life and time away from family. So what I’m doing right now is i’m finding new partners and collaborations so that one day I can still run this while also spending time with family. Work-life balance is very important to me.

J: I definitely want to be involved in the food industry. Not necessarily towards the tertiary side. More to the primary side where Sam is at right now. I really want to learn about food and where it comes from, as well as helping get the word out that eating healthy is not hard. It’s actually so simple, but people just don’t understand it. I think that is actually my passion, and I’m learning little by little. Slowly. Learning about farming and maybe learning to talk to people about it and finding a business that can convey it to people.

M: How do you see women coming into the food industry? How are they changing the food sector?

S: I’m very impressed by all these women. Nowadays I see that women are more business-minded. They get things done quicker and more efficient than men. Even my mom. I feel like women are more meticulous. You need someone like that in the company. Every company needs a woman. They’re the drive behind it.

J: I think males – at least in Jakarta – are not as interested in the holistic and organic lifestyles as females are. So I think it’s actually a good thing. As women, we have this mother-like instinct, taking care of people and ourselves. Not saying that men don’t possess that, but I think women are more expressive about it. I think that’s why we see a lot of women in this sector. We want to take care of people. That’s why social entrepreneurship is more female-dominated. They don’t just want to earn profit, but they want to create impact.

Any advice for other girls looking to jump into the industry?

S: If you want something, just do it. Explore more. If you keep exploring, you can definitely find how you can connect your passion with work. I also feel like you cannot be lazy. Keep on finding your purpose in life, what you want to do. Don’t wait until you’re 50 because then it may be too late. Start as early as possible.

J: I relate to the laziness part. I procrastinate a lot. Recently I’ve learned to have that go-getter attitude if I really want to succeed. The key is to just not be lazy. To always have that drive. Find that drive and what you like. Just excite yourself.

 

[UPCOMING] Women in Blockchain

Who run the world?
Women sure have a huge part in running the world, including the Blockchain world.
Asosiasi Blockchain Indonesia is inviting you to join us in a sharing session, Women in Blockchain. We will talk about how women play important roles in Blockchain industry.
Three powerful incredible women will share their experience and knowledge with us:
1. Pandu Sastrowardoyo, Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of Blockchain Zoo.
2. Daphne Ng, Secretary General of Singapore Blockchain Association (ACCESS).
3. Merlina Li, Founding Member of Indonesia Blockchain Network, Head of Marketing & Partnership at Triv.co.id.
Moderated by Meredith Peng, Director of Connector.id and Senior Consultant at ANGIN.
Register now for FREE! (bit.ly/blocktalk52018)
Thursday, 3 May 2018
2.00 PM – 4.00 PM
Wisma Barito Pacific, Lv.1A
FREE

Farina Situmorang: Managing Partner at Catalyst Strategy

Tell me a bit about yourself.

My name is Farina Situmorang. Five years ago I moved back to Indonesia and started a services company called Catalyst Strategy. We focus a lot on marketing and digital strategy, helping companies and even political clients in creating campaigns. In the last five years of my journey, I dabbled in a lot of other companies; by dabble, I mean starting three other companies. Right now, I’m only focusing on Catalyst and am on the board of a beauty company. Catalyst provides consulting services for marketing, communications, and crisis strategy. We take on a lot of interesting projects, including those involving Blockchain technology.

How did I get here? Well, I started my career in Indonesia, and I’ve always been working for technology companies, in marketing and sales roles. I started in IBM, Microsoft. Then I went to the United States for business school. After that, I moved to a company that you might still know, Blackberry in Canada, doing their strategy at corporate headquarters in Waterloo, Canada. Then I moved to San Francisco, where I worked for a small marketing automation startup. Following that, I worked for WhatsApp (acquired by Facebook). Now I’m here.

Such a diverse journey! What made you want to get into the tech entrepreneurship scene in the first place?

Part of it is wanting to prove yourself and show that you can succeed in front of others. You kind of also believe in an idea. When I was in San Francisco, I was fired (this is before WhatsApp) and I thought to myself, “What am I going to do next?” I’ve always wanted to do entrepreneurship for some reason; I think it runs in my family, so it was kind of like, “Oh maybe it’s time to do it.” Because at that point, what’s there to lose? I was sleeping on a couch already.

The only idea I had at the time was to take a lot of the strategies, techniques, and tools that I’ve learned through my technology marketing experiences and use them in a more socially impactful project. At the time, I thought this would be the presidential election. So that was it, actually. I thought, “Okay, I’m gonna come back home and I’m gonna run the digital campaign for a presidential candidate.” I came back to do just that and convinced my two partners to leave their full-time jobs to do it, too. They’re still my partners today. We basically all came together for that particular idea, which in the end we managed to do a year later, but not without blood, sweat, and tears. We got rejected so many times and we thought we failed so many times. But fortunately for us we were rejected by the right people and we got OK’d by the right ones, too.

How do you motivate yourself to keep going in the face of rejection? What’s your strategy to cope with it?

I’m not gonna lie, it always sucks. I think most entrepreneurs, or even investors or founders, we try to kid ourselves and think that “Oh, failures are so important and being rejected is part of success, and you will only learn when you make mistakes.” But at the end of the day, it doesn’t feel good. We have this idea of romanticizing failure, but in the end we still don’t like it. And I don’t like it. But it’s reality. You get rejected all the time. I still do.

To add to that, it’s actually quite easy to be rejected by others that you don’t necessarily care so much about. But when it comes to receiving feedback from people you are closest to – say your partner or your spouse or your parents – that’s a different level of hearing your mistakes or listening to your failures, so to speak, as they’re being put in front of you by people you care so much about. And you want their approval so much.

How I deal with it is not taking it too personally and realizing that a lot of things are not under my control, understanding how I can do better next time, and asking myself, “is this for me, is this not?” Just having that self awareness, that’s how I deal with it. And how I cultivate self awareness is through meditation and self reflection. I actually do it religiously every morning – it’s how I start my day. It’s something you kind of have to build.

As a side note, my husband keeps on telling me I’m really bad at receiving feedback. But it is what it is. I said, “Well, there’s content and then there’s delivery. And your delivery sucked!” (laughs)

Have you faced any challenges as a female entrepreneur and CEO?

I get invited a lot to panels on women in technology or girls in tech or whatnot. You know, sometimes I question it. Like, this is 2018 and we’re still calling female CEOs, “female CEOs” instead of just CEOs. The term is not a “boss”, it’s a “boss lady”. Things like that.

In terms of gender-specific challenges…I realize that we tend to be very permissive. I was asked this question a while back and I was like, “Honestly I don’t feel any differences being a woman in the tech space or running my own company. I don’t think I’ve ever felt discriminated.” Until you know, there was a time last year when all these women founders came out and they named a few VCs that were treating them inappropriately. And all these stories came out. I actually had an interaction with one of those VCs. He lingered in my hotel during a business trip out of town. Yet, at the time, I didn’t think there was anything wrong about it.

You know, how permissive women can be…it’s mind-boggling. I tend to let it go, let it slide. It’s almost expected of them to do that to me or other women. As if it is okay for some men to allude to you being pretty or beautiful or whatever in a business setting. And when they do these things and you’re kind of just like, “Ugh whatever, it happens all the time, right?” So that was like a realization moment for me, to be honest. I didn’t know what to do in that situation, and I still don’t know.

Another example: I was in a restaurant for a meeting only a few days ago, actually. And the ratio of males to females…I was the only female. There were 14 other CEOs and investors, and they were all male. I was the only woman there. And the only question they asked me was, “Are you married?”

That was probably one of the very first times that I had to command a presence in a room, versus people already gravitating towards me or asking me questions. If I didn’t ask enough questions, I don’t think they would’ve seen me there. The environment was aggressive. This is just another anecdotal example.

But the truth of the matter is that 80% of the time, I don’t feel any differences. But there’s always that 20%. I don’t really like to play the victim or the woman card because I don’t feel victimized and I don’t feel like I’m not given the same chance. But maybe I should be speaking out more.

It’s a known fact that an all-female founder team doesn’t get as much investment in the VC game. There are VCs out there that blatantly would just say no to female founders. And they say it very openly. These cases are not ok. I think I probably also need to educate myself on how best to deal with that.

How do we get more girls to be CEOs, managers, partners of firms?

For one, when it comes to choices and options, anyone – regardless of gender, sexual orientation – should have options and choices. And once you have the option, the choice, people should be free to do whatever they want to do.

I dont think it’s a question of should or should they not want to be leaders? Is being a CEO a good thing? I don’t think it’s good or bad. I think it’s just a choice. If those women want to take this choice or exercise this option, then yes I think the ecosystem and industry should be nurturing anyone – not just these girls – who wants to achieve these positions. I could say the same about people coming from outside elite universities, or people coming outside of Java island. These people also don’t have enough opportunities, for example. I think that the conversation should be a lot more broader.

Do you have any advice for first-time entrepreneurs who want to embark on their entrepreneurship journey?

I think first and foremost, you really have to understand why – why do you want to do this? Because you know, if your excuse or your reason to start a company is to make money, there are easier ways to make money. Starting your own company might be one of the riskiest ways you could possibly take. Ask yourself over and over, “Why am I doing this?”

Then, there’s what kind of entrepreneur you want to become. Our company did really well in the beginning doing services. It’s when we decided to stray from our path – what we’re supposed to do – and tried to dabble here and there… that’s when we didn’t do so well. There are going to be investors and other entrepreneurs and other founders that will ask you why you’re doing the things that you’re doing. They’ll ask, “Don’t you want to achieve bigger and better things?” and you’ll want to believe that it’s true. People will come to you if they see you as somewhat capable and they’ll want you to push your boundaries. You have to decide whether you want to be that kind of entrepreneur or not.

Nowadays, people think the only way you can do a startup is to look up to these big companies and aspire to be like them – the Grabs of the world, or Uber, GO-JEK, Facebook. You have to realize how many people actually become that, what it takes to get there, and whether or not that’s for you. I think that was a very painful learning for me over the last five years. Because your ego says you want it and you can do it, and probably you can if you persevere and go through that, but is that actually something you want? And are you willing to give up the things you need to give up to get there?

How about advice for current entrepreneurs?

Asking these really hard, truthful questions is very important. Why? For me, the elegance of the consulting process is something I love. Not everybody is so passionate about that. If that is what I love to do, then why do I want to do all these other things that comes with being the CEO of something like GO-JEK or Traveloka? There’s a lot of operations and routine, which is not what I do best. So knowing yourself is very important for entrepreneurs. Self awareness is so key, and the ability to question that all the time, to ask if that’s something that you want.

Also important is knowing that you probably won’t be great at everything. Knowing that will help you decide who to partner with, who to found the company with. If you don’t know that, you should know that. As I said, I’m much more strategic. I actually don’t really like looking into details. I would make a really terrible CFO. That’s just not me. So you need to partner with people like that and surround yourself with people who are better than you are at doing all these things that you can’t do.

When is the right moment to pivot? To scale? And when do you decide to stick your ground?

The notion of growth and scale and expansion can be tricky. Like why? Are you not happy with being very premier and boutique and just good at what you do? Or do you really need to scale up? You need to ask yourself how much money you need to make at the end of each month. And then your business decision, your business model should reflect that.

It really all comes back to business fundamentals. Will there be a market for what you’re building? Will people pay for it? How hard is it to sell to other people? If it’s so hard, you have to question whether or not you’re doing the right thing. It’s like a test. When things are moving in the right direction, it will still be hard. None of this is easy, but it’s not going to feel like you’re swimming against a current. When it comes to building something that doesn’t have a market and the business fundamentals aren’t there, you’re going to get questioned so much more. 10x, 100x more the usual amount. Swimming against the current is not fun. You’re not going to be moving anywhere. So I would question that.

What is one tangible step to achieving success?

On a lot more practical level, my advice is to seek mentorship. I think what a lot of younger people tend to take for granted are the opportunities to be mentored and coached. They tend to want to go through things on their own. They don’t seek enough advice.

I didn’t get here on my own. I have a lot of mentors and advisors and coaches that have helped me get to where I am. It’d be impossible without them. Nobody can open your perspective more than those who’ve done it before. If you want to be a CEO, then you need to start talking to CEOs. Because they’ve been there, they’ve done it. It’s very important to surround yourself with people who you aspire to become.

In my company, there’s a lot of younger employees. They tend to stick to their own classmates from university or high school. You need your peers of course, but at the same time you need to be talking to people who are older. People who have been out there in the world doing many other things. If you’re not doing that, then your perspective isn’t really open. If you’re aspiring to be a CMO or COO or founder, then you need to be talking to them. I don’t think that’s being taught enough at local universities. In business school, I was told to reach out to as many alumni as possible. That mindset is not being talked about enough here.

Do you have any mentors or role models that you constantly look up to?

Yes. And they come in different forms. You kind of realize that people are not perfect, and you take what you can from different folks. For example I look up to this one CEO and he always gives me very pragmatic feedback on my business decisions, for example. But that’s the only advice I would get from him. I wouldn’t ask him for any personal stuff.

I very much look up to a group of my girl friends. I seek advice from my friends who are investors, other CEOs, and my own husband. He’s my constant coach and mentor. I look up to my grandmother very much. She is probably one of the most successful entrepreneurs I know but has also failed multiple times. She was a widow at 28 with five children; my mom grew up without ever seeing her father. One day she started a textile factory on her own and ended up becoming worth tens of millions of dollars. Her story is fascinating and means a lot to me.

 

Elsa Dewi Santika: Co-Founder of Luminocean

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Elsa Dewi Santika. I’m working for an organization called Luminocean. It is an educational ecotourism organization based in Banda Neira, Maluku that I set up with my business partner – Mareike Huhn from Germany. We started it in November 2014; it’s been 3 ½ years of a journey for us.

Can you talk more about Luminocean? How did you get started? What was your inspiration behind it?

Well, it started when I was in Banda Neira, in September 2013. I had come to Banda Neira to do humanitarian activities, bringing donations from Jakarta, Singapore, and Malaysia and distributing it to remote islands in Indonesia. When I arrived in Banda Neira, I came across a dive center owned by a German, who was also a dive instructor. I learned diving from him and fell in love with the place. When I found out that they have an NGO set up by a few Germans in marine conservation, I signed up as a volunteer to work at the NGO and stay in Banda starting from Feb 2014 until October 2014.

While I was there, I had this idea: Why not start a self-sustaining organization, rather than an NGO which relies on donations? An entity that has its own business model. I was inspired by Blue Ventures in Madagascar, which provides a scuba diving internship for the purpose of conserving the environment in Madagascar. I brought this idea to my friend Mareike. She agreed and said “I also have the same idea – why not do it together?” It was actually born as Sea Ventures, but we changed it to Luminocean in 2017. So yeah. After some brainstorming, Luminocean was born.

Can you describe what social impact Luminocean seeks to achieve and how you go about achieving it?

So I think there are a few types of impact. First, we want to create environmental awareness for the people, especially for the local people. In Banda, the Bandanese – they live from the sea. However, they do not know how to take care of the creatures living in the sea such as coral reefs and the fish there. There’s so much plastic trash in the ocean in the Banda Sea. And every year there are certain religious traditions where plastic ends up being thrown away – into the sea, into the water. We want to help educate locals in Banda to not throw the plastic waste into the ocean.

In addition, we want to create environmental awareness for the international community. There are a lot of scuba divers – tourists from Europe that come to Banda. However they just dive for fun without thinking much about the environment. So we want to create another product, where diving is not only for fun but meaningful as well. For instance, you can learn about the coral reefs. You can participate in scientific research. We work together with some universities –  one from Germany, another from Australia, and local universities in Indonesia. We bring scientists and projects to Banda and we offer these projects as part of a package of scientific diving to these international divers. That way, they can come to Banda not only for recreational diving but also for environmental and scientific diving. The revenue that we get, we channel it to environmental education as well as English and computer literacy to the Bandanese people.

You mentioned that your passion is in environment and education. How can the private sector go about addressing education and making a difference in people’s lives?

Basically, education in Indonesia is already established, you know. The mainstream education. However, the private sector can contribute on top of mainstream education in terms of more practical education. For example, the voluntourists we bring to Banda can interact with the local kids. Kids can learn in terms of practicing their English with the tourists, or other skills like computers. At the same time, these children can also learn diving. In the future, these kids – upon graduation – can work in the diving or tourism industries.

More and more tourists are coming to Indonesia and to Banda Neira every year, and I want this next generation to be prepared and to be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills, and therefore be independent and self-sustaining. In remote islands because of the lack of jobs and opportunities, they might just want to be a civil servant or teacher when they graduate. Or maybe those who lack opportunities, they think they can only be fishermen or do some labor work, which only gives them a very minimum amount of salary. But in the tourism industry, there is a huge chance to earn more than just being a fisherman or laborer.

Based on your experience, have you noticed any difference working with girls in education? Are there different issues?

From my experience, girls are more motivated than the boys (laughs). I ran this English course – 3 girls 2 boys. The girls were much more motivated than the boys – the boys were still playing.

The challenge for Banda is that it’s still quite a traditional society. Girls are expected to behave in a certain way – it’s not liberating. It’s not good for the independent kind of thinking that we want the girls to have. We want the girls to be educated and to be independent, not to only think, “Oh I want to get married after I graduate,” because of obligation, but to postpone the marriage and to do something that they want first, to be something that they want first before finding a spouse and having a family.

How do you kind of go around that traditional mindset? How do you convince girls or their families that they can pursue their goals rather than immediately start a family?

At the moment we cannot force people to change their mindsets, especially in the short term. What we can do is work with others who are more open-minded. Some people allow their daughters and children to work with us. Some people do not. So we choose to work with people who allow their daughters to work with us. However, we hope that in the future we can bring some changes – we can open the mindset of the people and show them that working with outsiders – foreigners including me (in the Bandanese point of view, I am a foreigner even though i’m Indonesian) – is fine and can bring benefits as well.

What challenges have you faced, being a woman in the startup ecosystem?

Well, I mostly faced challenges from my own parents. They have these expectations of me working in big cities – in Jakarta, or…because I used to study and work in Singapore, they expected me to be more oriented towards more “developed” countries or cities. However, me choosing to work in more remote islands was pretty challenging because they didn’t really agree with my idea. I think that was the biggest challenge I faced at the time.

What are some tips you can give women entrepreneurs going into a room full of investors, who are often all-male?

Just be confident. As long as you know what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. Even if you’re male – if you don’t portray that self confidence, people will sense you don’t know what you’re doing. Investors will have that sense as well. But if you’re sure and full of self confidence, people will feel that. Know what you’re doing.

Any advice for other women entrepreneurs who might want to start up a venture?

My advice is just do it. Sometimes we think too much – you see there is this thing called analysis paralysis. We think too much, about how we can earn money from a startup, how we can survive. I didn’t think about any of that at the time of starting Luminocean. I was pretty naïve (laughs). Looking back, I probably would have thought if over 2-3 times more. But I think if you’re passionate about something enough, you should just do it. And everything will fall into place if you just do it.

What’s your advice for overcoming doubts or doubters – for example parents, a spouse, or other naysayers?

Starting from where you are is also a good idea — not making a big change, because people – parents, spouses, children – might not react well to sudden change. Starting where you are is so good.

However, if there is a calling in which you have to go somewhere else, where you have to make big changes – I think it is important to have a support system. Maybe a group of people who also have the same ideas who share the same passions. If there are two or three or more people who can walk with you, it is more fun and more bearable. It becomes easier to brush off those negative voices that come your way.

 

[RECAP] UBS x ANGIN Empowering Women High Tea

On 4 April, 2018, ANGIN co-hosted a high tea event with UBS Unique. The event was a chance for attendees to gain greater insight into the world of impact investing and gender-lens investment. Tracey Woon of UBS moderated the discussion – two presentations and a fireside chat with James Gifford, CIO & Head of Impact Investing at UBS, and Shinta Kamdani, CEO of Sintesa Group and Founder of ANGIN.
James Gifford spoke of the many ways that the next generation could have an impact on investment activities, as well as how the world is changing to reward sustainable businesses and punish ones that do harm. Meanwhile, Shinta Kamdani gave a presentation on the strides that ANGIN has taken in women’s empowerment: from the Women Fund to empowering women through Women’s Spotlight, ANGIN has shown a track record of dedication to supporting women throughout the Indonesian startup ecosystem.
The high tea was filled with buzz, networking, and conversations on responsible and sustainable investment. We hope that some of the discussions at the event will lead to concrete actions in both the Indonesian and Singaporean investment ecosystems. ANGIN is looking forward to hosting more productive and insightful events with our friends at UBS Unique in the future.