UBS x ANGIN Women’s Spotlight: Veronika Linardi: CEO of Qareer Group Asia

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Veronika Linardi and I’m the CEO of Qareer Group Asia.

What got you into entrepreneurship? When did the entrepreneur bug bite you?

I returned from America to help with my family’s manufacturing business. I didn’t enjoy it so much. However, my brothers were interested and succeeding in it. Hence, I felt a freedom to find another career.

I looked at work within multinational companies in Hong Kong and Singapore, but my parents really wanted me to be close by. I therefore joined an industrial conglomerate to do strategic planning in Jakarta. It was a great learning opportunity for me, giving me a helicopter view of diverse industries. Working for Charoen Pokphand, I was exposed to diverse fields, including chicken feed, shrimp farms and telecommunications. It was – such a variety! However, I felt I should pursue something related to my passion: people.

I decided to venture out on my own, leveraging my core competency: connecting good people with corporate organizations, a.k.a. headhunting.

My parents didn’t approve initially; like most Indonesian parents, they wanted me to settle down young. They suggested I help my brother with his new business. I forged on alone. I flourished! Now, my parents are very proud of me.

How did you find the courage to start a business as a young person?

I was lucky to have the family business to fall back on. I was also young and still living at home. Initially, there wasn’t a stable income, but as my reputation grew, satisfied clients gave me more business. It’s all about managing expectations; under-selling and over-delivering – so people trust me.

What does success mean to you?

I define success by knowing oneself and measuring up against my own benchmarks – not other people’s. Needs evolve over time, but we’re only in competition with ourselves. We should always be thankful and happy about how far we have come.

Success is to be grateful for what we have and yet, always, see ourselves as a work in progress. Success is to be bold, to expand beyond our boundaries and create our very own legacy.

Do you have any role models?

My parents.

My mother is a hard worker. When she was young, she had to overcame a lot of discrimination related to gender and race to become a Doctor. Then when I went to school in Singapore, she gave up her ambition and career to take care of us (her children). How Great a Mother’s Love is!

My dad was a self-learner. Unlike my mom who always stayed in school and received scholarships throughout her life, whereas my dad learnt everything on his own. My dad taught himself Mandarin and other Chinese dialects. His ever curious and persevering spirit propels me to continuously improve.

What are your passions?

I love helping people. Through headhunting, I am able to match jobs with people and their passions. It’s rewarding because I get a sense of achievement for recommending talent to flourish in the careers they love. My friends often tease me, calling me a matchmaker (playing cupid for both careers and love life), and I made a career out of it!

I also love food. Good food and great company always brings family and friends together!

Have you faced any obstacle or challenge because of your gender?

I grew up with two brothers who treated me like an equal, so I had to be creative and resourceful to get things done. I feel I’ve been raised in a way that considers men and women as complementary in many ways and have respective duties and responsibilities.

How is Indonesia in terms of gender progressivity in the workplace?

In Asia especially, there are expectations about women. In Indonesia, despite women being seen as primary caregivers in the family context, there are many women leaders heralding business organizations. I also belong to an entrepreneurial organization where women account for 40% of the membership. In other countries, there may not be a single female member.

You can still flourish in Indonesia because we have the right support network: our parents, in-laws — even nannies here are affordable compared to other countries. In addition, having had a female President really makes a difference.

As a woman in Indonesia, people tell you to start small. How did you dream big?

You have to start somewhere, but you must reverse engineer. Think baby steps on how you can grow. I started with Linardi Associates, my headhunting agency. Over time, my contact base grew. Satisfied clients became friends; some also became investors. Today, we connect millions of professionals to the careers of their dreams.

I believe that you are first and foremost accountable to yourself. There are responsibilities and priorities but you can always go back to your dream. Women who have children can still return to work and flourish in their careers.

Can you share some of the milestones that your company has achieved?

The first was establishing Qerja.com, which improves transparency in workplace and reduced the taboo of discussing salaries. From my headhunting days, I knew that many fresh graduates felt a sense of urgency to quickly secure their first job. However, many have little understanding of their strengths and ambition hence often felt dissatisfied because their expectation of first job is far away from the reality of their job.

Another milestone was when we launched Jobs.id, securing Series A funding from SB ISAT Fund. And very recently acquired Karir.com and secured our Series B funding from Emtek group.

Wealth can mean so many things: money, fame, knowledge…. What does it mean to you?

Money is important as a means of exchange to help us enjoy life, the conveniences money can buy as well as to utilize these resources as a means to further our end goals. Wealth means peace at heart and contentment. Some of my team members buy their families budget trips overseas, sharing what they have with their loved ones. I feel that having such purity in your heart is the basis of being wealthy.

Do you have any advice for young women who want to live their dreams?

Yes – follow your heart’s desires while you are young. Some things can wait, but I believe that at every stage of life, you can always choose to focus on your priorities, whatever they are.


 

UBS x ANGIN Women’s Spotlight is a special collaboration project between UBS Unique and ANGIN to celebrate strong Indonesian women who are exemplary leaders, unique changemakers, and role models. The project celebrates and reflects upon the individuals’ personal anecdote and professional journey and how they are challenging, reinventing and innovating their workplace in order to improve gender equality and be a force of change in their respective community and industry.

UBS x ANGIN Women’s Spotlight: Ayu Hakim: Owner of Rumah Maroko & 2Creatives Media

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Ayu Hakim; I’m the owner of Rumah Maroko, an event space, and a mobile solutions business called 2Creatives Media.

What is something unique about you?

Well, in high school, I learned to fly a single engine plane before I got my driver’s license (laughs). My late father liked to dare me to do things, so it’s always been, “Yeah, why not? Why should I be scared?” He wanted me to be adventurous and courageous, for which I’m thankful. He made sure I knew that, as a woman, I shouldn’t be weak.

How have you applied those childhood lessons to your business?

With business, you need to network and socialize. I’m an introvert, but I pushed myself. When I started Rumah Maroko there was no marketing budget, so I would attend every event to promote it, guerrilla marketing-style. I was Managing Director, marketing and PR, so yes, my upbringing helped me venture beyond my comfort zone.

How did you get started with entrepreneurship?

My parents, grandparents, and even my grand-aunt were all entrepreneurs. I jumped into entrepreneurship early. Some say that doing business in Indonesia is difficult, but there are pros and cons. Compared to Singapore, setting up a business here takes longer, but there are many gray areas where you can be creative.

What’s it like to be a female entrepreneur in Indonesia?

In more developed nations, people talk about ‘glass ceilings’. Being a female entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily mean starting a huge company that will IPO; a secretary might sell home- made cookies in the office; housewives might sell prayer outfits or mats. Indonesian people are creative; it’s in our nature to be entrepreneurial at many different levels.

What’s next for Rumah Maroko?

My goal is for it to be a timeless rather than a trendy venue. People ask, “What’s your five year exit plan?” That’s very common in MBA classes. But I want something that endures, like Bluebird, Teh Sosro, Indomie, etc. The founders didn’t just think, “Okay, we’ll build this for five, ten years and then we’re done.” I want my business to always exist. Of course, you have to reinvent yourself and be flexible to survive.

What career milestones are you most proud of?

Founding Rumah Maroko wasn’t just about starting a business – I wanted to create something meaningful. Since 2004, Rumah Maroko has become a sort of landmark in Jakarta, especially for people in the events industry. To me, that’s quite an accomplishment, because we’re not tied to any big commercial name.

What challenges have you faced? How did you overcome them?

Deciding to embark on this path was one of my first challenges. I was working in Australia, finding out what I was passionate about in business. I ended up having to choose between corporate life in Australia or returning home to pursue entrepreneurship – starting from zero.

I became an entrepreneur earlier than expected but, in life, nothing ever goes as planned. At this point, I don’t even bother to plan anymore (laughs).

Do you have any role models?

When I was at college, it was Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett Packard; one of the first female tech bosses. In Indonesia, I admire the lady ministers, Susi Pudjiastuti and Sri Mulyani. They do more and talk less. You can see many progressive results of their actions today.

I also looked up to my grand-aunt, who lived to almost 95. That’s amazing in itself. When she was younger, she started a family business: she was a woman, a mother, a provider, and a store owner. Afterwards, she became a teacher – even in her late 80s, she was still teaching. She never slowed down. To me, that’s very inspiring.

What do wealth and success mean to you?

There are more important things than just money: wealth is your health, your energy, your life experiences. You can be wealthy, in financial terms, but you may have no time to

travel and your loved ones feel neglected. To me, that’s a poor life – surrounded by material objects but not the substantial matters. Wealth is holistic. Having time for loved ones and to do the things you love is also important.

What advice would you share with fellow women entrepreneurs?

The key is just to be. Don’t be apologetic, saying, “Oh, I can’t do this because I’m a woman,” or, “I’m sorry I’m a daughter and not a son.” Just be you and don’t feel guilty. Be as you are.

There are no such things as crazy ideas. Some people still think that being CEO is a man’s role. Just be persistent and go for it.

Sometimes, rather than breaking through obstacles, it’s better to be flexible, like water, to go around them. The key is to move forward. Don’t be apologetic and always know who you are.

Wherever you are, be you.


 

UBS x ANGIN Women’s Spotlight is a special collaboration project between UBS Unique and ANGIN to celebrate strong Indonesian women who are exemplary leaders, unique changemakers, and role models. The project celebrates and reflects upon the individuals’ personal anecdote and professional journey and how they are challenging, reinventing and innovating their workplace in order to improve gender equality and be a force of change in their respective community and industry.

Marianne Rumantir: CEO of Member.id

Tell me a bit about yourself.

My name is Marianne Rumantir and I am currently the CEO of Member.id. Member.id helps businesses create great value for their customers by providing end-to-end loyalty solutions. Our mission is to change the loyalty landscape in Indonesia.

I come from a diverse background; I studied Communication and Advertising at university and ended up working in the corporate world, I was in corporate communications for several banks for about four years. Then I started a family.

As someone who is a career chaser it was very hard, especially because I was living overseas with no support system. So I started my own business back in 2009. My first business was a restaurant that I started with some of my friends in Melbourne. That restaurant actually still exists; it’s been there for the last 10 years. We expanded and opened up a few more branches, expanding to the US. This led me to move to Los Angeles, California.

While abroad, I would always get requests from others to buy them something and bring it back. You know, with Indonesians every time you hear someone is traveling overseas, you’re always asking, “Can you buy me something?” (laughs) That happened to me a lot. I’m actually not a big shopper, but I thought that I could actually make a business out of this. That’s how I started getting into technology. I established an e-commerce business where I would shop US products for Indonesians for a small fee. I had to use my credit card quite frequently because of this, so I ended up collecting a lot of points. From there, it kind of became my obsession, because I found out that I could actually use my points as a currency.

I’ve always had a passion for travel. At the time, I’d never been to Europe and I had no budget as a struggling business owner. And it wasn’t just for me — I had a family to consider as well. I did a lot of research and apparently there are a lot of people in the US that use points to travel everywhere; they can even upgrade to luxury cabins using points. I became obsessed in reading all these blogs, learning about how to travel hack.

When we finally flew to Europe, we basically spent nothing. We flew business class and we stayed in a luxury hotel for free. Combined, we had accumulated over 500,000 worth of points every year. Everytime we went on a holiday, it would be for free. I started sharing these points experiences online, creating a points-hacking blog targeting Indonesians.

Then, I started exploring about the Indonesian market and found out it was quite feasible. I was introduced to Edy, now an advisor at Member.id. Edy actually offered me a role at his other company. He said, “Why don’t you come back and work with us where you can bring some value?” I immediately told Edy yes to Member.id though, but I told him that we would need to change how people perceive loyalty programs in Indonesia. My initial idea wasn’t commercial. I wasn’t trying to make money. It was about how can we help Indonesians do the same thing that I could do back in the US.

I came back last year and then we took it from the ground up.

How is it like to be a pioneer in the loyalty space?

We are trying to take advantage of being the very few players who provide these services. This is why we cater to a very specific, niche market. At the moment, our clients are all mid-market to large enterprises, because a lot of them require some sort of customization. When you go to other smaller companies, they don’t really do any customization because there is one product for everyone, which is another product that we are developing at the moment.. For us, one selling point is that we can hit different kinds of verticals. That’s why we have clients ranging from hotels, retail, lifestyle, food and beverage. We’ve always believed that no one size fits all. After all, the way you create a loyalty program for hotel clients and F&B is completely different.

We’re very grateful that we’re one of the first ones. There will always be new companies in the industry, so it’s good to be the benchmark for others, right? It’s also been a blessing for us to be the first, because client acquisition becomes easier. We stopped looking for clients because we get so many from referrals. It’s a great testament of our services from existing clients that they would actually recommend their contacts to use us. I’ve never really thought of us as pioneers, but I want to take that as an advantage for our company to grow even faster and to hold the biggest market share.

What challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur?

When we first started, pricing was a huge challenge. Many were not familiar with our service, and didn’t understand why they should pay so much for a service that they had no idea about. Our response was to provide value to clients and prove to them that our pricing is worth every penny. That’s why we are quite big on the data team, because a lot of clients sit on a tremendous amounts of data that aren’t being used properly. That’s where we bring value. We can help you analyze all these transactions, create insights, craft targeted promotions, and ultimately increase sales.

As a woman leader, I’ve never really experienced anything too extreme. Most of the time I feel like women have achieved a place in the startup world, even though I know that looking at statistics women still make up a comparatively low number of startup founders. It’s very rare to find women entrepreneurs. But compared to the US, we’re doing better. I know for a fact there’s a big wage gap between men and women in the US. However, I remember working in an Indonesian company, and between myself and another male sharing the same position, we were paid the same. Here, it’s more of a position and level gap than a gender wage gap.

Back then, when people heard about startups and tech companies, there was this perception that you need to be an engineer, right? It was a man’s world, and if you didn’t know how to code, then forget about it. Whereas these days, startups are all about creating disruptive businesses – who can be the most innovative, who can achieve the best product-market fit, who are the founders. So expectations are different as well.

As a female founder, how can you create your own niche and get started?

So you can be a health freak for example. Maybe you want to change people’s behaviors and increase the amount of exercise people do. So it’s not just about coding and programming; it’s everything else. There are many female entrepreneurs in the travel industry and the beauty industry, for example. That’s what I like about the startup world. It’s open. You’re not just creating code or making mobile apps. It’s the whole package. But it’s also the perception and message that we need to create for all women out there to say that hey, the door is open. It’s open for everyone.

Are there any benefits to being a woman founder?

In a way, yes. Since statistically there are fewer women founders, you actually get noticed quicker. But that’s not what success boils down to. It really comes down to your leadership style. And I think women have a definite advantage when it comes to that. We have more empathy. It has its pros and cons of course, but I’d like to think that as a woman I can understand people’s situations better. For example, we have an employee who is also a mother. I would understand if she needs to take time off because she has to look after her family. I also understand that even men who have kids who want to go home early should be able to as well, because they need to spend time with their kids. I always strive to make sure that our company culture is healthy, that our employees know that, look, you are supposed to work hard, but that doesn’t mean that you neglect your other obligations.

How do you balance your time as a founder, a mother, and a family member?

The key is: it takes a village. So I do have a good support system. If I were doing this overseas, I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I’ve achieved right now. In comparison to what I’ve achieved over the past one year here, I’d probably only be able to achieve it in three years overseas. Living overseas, I didn’t have a support system. I have no family overseas, and hired help would be too expensive. Whereas here, the support system is very strong so I get to go to work without having to worry about picking up my kid at the daycare or something. That’s one element.

Second, the most important thing to survive is to make sure I myself am happy. I know that a lot of mothers always put their family’s needs above they ended up neglecting themselves. I’m not saying that’s wrong, but we’re also in charge of our own happiness, right? If we know how to make ourselves happy and content then our families will also feel that positivity. I still socialize and work, but I have my own time at night and on weekends with the family. And of course the weekend is for catching up on sleep. I guess it’s all about quality. It’s not quantity. Making sure everybody gets enough time. As a result, the aura I bring in at home and at work and everywhere, it’s always positive. Then again it takes a village. I can’t do this alone.

What did you learn from failure?

My background has always been working in a corporate world, right? And so I had always been an employee. Growing up, I never thought I would ever run my own business because my parents are all professionals. I mean, I don’t have a trust fund. So I was taught that as an professional, you have to climb the corporate ladder to progress in your career.

I’m actually the only person in my family who is pursuing entrepreneurship full-time. I’m kind of a rebel. I am the risk-taker. Thankfully my husband has the steady job, so even if I failed, at least we could still eat. Honestly, the first six months to a year — that was a big struggle. I almost quit my first business because I wasn’t getting paid monthly, and it was definitely less than the amount that I used to get from my corporate salary.

It was a big struggle for me, but the thing that made it sustain is because I have a good business partner, my business partner came from a background of entrepreneurs. So he was the one who motivated me and told me I needed to be patient and persistent and to just do our best. So he was the one who believed in our venture, and that’s why we continued to expand. Not all of the expansion was a success. But that didn’t mean that we had to stop.

And I’ve learned that in order to succeed, you can’t do it by yourself. You need a team and you need a business partner because otherwise I don’t think you can handle all the hard stuff on your own. When you face issues or problems, sometimes you can’t think of the solutions all by yourself.

I may not be the person with the most brilliant ideas in the company,  that’s why we like to hire a lot of smarter people. My job is to be able to facilitate all these people so that their ideas can come to life. That’s what a leader should do. When you manage something, it doesn’t mean that you have all these great ideas all the time. What you need to do is to facilitate others. Again, the failures that I’ve experienced were largely because I did not have the right team. That was my lesson.

What are the ingredients for the right team? For the right business partner?

You need to find someone who complements you. Don’t find someone who is exactly the same. At the moment, our senior management team all have completely different specialties. I’m more on the external side, like marketing and business development. Robert is more the data/insights person and he’s very good at strategy. All three of us have completely different specialties, so we would complete each other, right? Every time we are facing issues, we can work together to think about what’s next. It’s a good combination when we put our heads together.

Do you have any role models?

I always say that my mother is my idol. She has been a professional all her life, but I feel like I was never neglected by her despite of how busy she’s always been. I have always seen her as someone who knows how to balance things. She knows her priorities. In terms of leadership, I like to see different types of people leadership. I like to follow Arianna Huffington and Sheryl Sandberg for womens’ rights heroes. I like to combine lessons from all of these women and decide what would best apply to me. I don’t think one person’s leadership management is something that I can exactly copy. So I just try and follow different types of leaders to see what would fit my style.

How would you describe yourself as a leader?

I’m a very open person. That’s why we don’t have doors in our offices. I want people to be able to talk to me anytime. Whatever position you have, whatever department, whatever your specialty — if you feel like you have something that you know bothers you, if you’re not happy then you can come talk to me. I want to maintain that open culture. Second, I want to make sure my employees are happy. This is why I like having a lean company, because I know each one of my employees personally. I want to know what makes them tick, what makes them happy, and how I can help them grow professionally. I don’t micromanage, but I know exactly what everyone’s doing. That’s why we have alignment meetings regularly, because I want to know what people are doing without stepping on their toes too much.

Are you the only girl in the family?

I’m the only one — I have two brothers. Maybe it was because I was raised by a working mother, I was never expected to become a stay-at-home mom. I’ve always wanted to work. Like I said, I’m probably the only rebel in the family who took a big risk with her career through entrepreneurship. I see it as a way to set a good example, at least for my nieces, you know, and for the other extended family. I want them to know you can actually make it as a working mother as long as you know your priorities.

Do you have any advice for other girls who want to start their own businesses?

Looking back at my experiences, the fact that I didn’t start my own business straight out of school was a good lesson for me. Because through my professional experiences, I’ve learned how to become part of an organization first, to kind of build my career up from the very bottom. So I know how it feels like, being at the lowest level first, and then how it feels like to collaborate with other people and how to have a boss. Having mentorship is also important because I know these days a lot of younger people start their own businesses straight out of school, so they lack mentors. I mean, it’s not a wrong way to approach entrepreneurship. It’s just that for me, I had a better learning foundation. Either way is fine, but for me, it’s better to gain experiences not as an owner but as an employee, so that you know how to treat your team.

Michele Soeryadjaya: Director of William and Lily Foundation

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Michele Soeryadjaya and I’m the Director at the William and Lily Foundation, which is a family foundation that my father started with his sister about nine years ago. I joined about two and a half years ago and at the time it felt like I just stumbled into it. Although looking back at how I got to that point now, it was actually kind of an organic process. I studied business in college and I was planning to get into finance after graduation, but towards the end I had also developed an interest in sustainability. Luckily I ended up at a private equity fund that focused on sustainable agriculture and water in Singapore, so I was able to pursue both interests. In the two years I spent there, I grew a deep interest in the agricultural space in Indonesia. I really wanted to learn more about it, specifically about working with smallholder farmers.

That’s when I reached out to JAVARA and asked to volunteer with them for a few months. I ended up spending six months with them, half of which I spent in Flores. I instantly fell in love with the island, and at the same time realized that there was a great need in the region. So when my father suggested that I should join the family foundation and help grow its efforts, I jumped at the opportunity to do so and direct its focus towards eastern Indonesia. Today, the foundation’s target areas are marginalized communities with an emphasis on those in that part of the country.

What’s your day to day like at the foundation?

As a grant-making foundation, we do not implement or operate our own projects. It’s not dissimilar to how a private equity fund operates – we find partners who can execute programs we want to run, and work with them closely to ensure we maximize effectiveness and impact. So there are two main blocks of activities, sourcing new projects and monitoring current projects. We are a lean team, so everyone is a little involved in all parts of the foundation’s operations even though we do all have designated roles.

What motivates you to keep doing the work that you’re doing at the foundation?

Growing up in Jakarta, you are exposed to the disparity and inequality that pervades everyday life from a very early age. I’ve been more than lucky and grateful to have been born into the easier end of that spectrum. And even though I’ve always been aware of the difference, I can’t say that I’ve always understood or fully appreciated what that really meant. Being able to go to college abroad in a developed country like the US was what made me really start to realize the impact of that difference, the real difference of opportunity. And from early on I knew that I wanted to do something that would have an impact for more than myself after I graduated, whatever that meant, like many people my age and my generation. For me, a lot of it was also due to the timing – it was also the spring of 2009 when I started my studies in Business Administration, right after the height of the financial crisis. So while I learned about the appeals and advantages of capitalism, its risks and perils were also deeply ingrained in me. My key takeaway was a lesson in accountability and responsibility.

And I feel like if you look at all the big issues around the world today, I think all of it really boils down to inequality. And a lack of accountability. I know there are a lot of people who want to change that and who want to make an impact for those who have been dealt less opportunities in life, and so many people are doing exactly that but there are also many who want to that don’t have the right support or means to do it yet. I feel like I am in a very lucky position to have both the support and means to do it because of my family, and this all is what really motivates me to keep at it.

As a new angel investor at ANGIN and someone with previous startup experience, what excites you about the startup industry?

I think there is something very optimistic and hopeful about the startup industry. I think more and more people are realizing that the status quo is not working for the majority of the population anymore. We are starting to see some of the consequences and negative implications of what we knew before as tried and proven methods of doing things, and there is a need to change some of those immediately. And I think that’s what the startup industry represents for the most part, how to do things better for more people and with less harm. That’s what I find most exciting.

What was one of the most interesting things that you got to see or do during your experience at JAVARA?

I spent six months at JAVARA, half of which I spent at their office here in Jakarta and the other half in Maumere, Flores. At the time they were setting up their production facility there, and I was kind of the defacto mandor (building contractor) because they didn’t really have anyone else who could dedicate their time to it on the ground. So my main role was just really to be their eyes and ears on the ground, and help oversee the construction process. Everything was new to me. I was completely out of my comfort zone on all fronts and I learned so much because of it. The whole experience was really interesting for me. What was really cool was that I just got to speak and interact with all these people with completely different lives than my own. And especially because I got to meet and talk with all these different farmers, which was why I sought out the experience in the first place, and understand more about the issues they face and how they thought about different things. That has definitely been really valuable in guiding some of my decisions and thought processes throughout my time at the foundation because many of our direct beneficiaries are very much like those farmers.  

What are you most excited about joining ANGIN as an angel investor?

I’m really excited to just learn and get to know all the different kinds of companies and ideas that are starting up. Like I said earlier, I think there is something really optimistic and hopeful about the space. The idea that there are people everyday working and thinking about how to do things better is really awesome to me. That may be a slightly naïve way of looking at things, but I do think that that is the most exciting part of the whole startup space. I’m particularly interested in agriculture, food and financial inclusion, and I know there are lots of innovation going on in those spaces so I’m particularly excited to learn about that.

How is the gender dynamic like in the foundation space?

My personal experience was that it was a bit tough for me coming in. The foundation was more alike to a typical, traditional corporate kind of experience here in Indonesia (or in many parts of the world for that matter): mostly or all men in decision-making roles and women in strictly supporting roles. So I was joining a team of four excluding myself, one woman in the administrative position and three men in active operational roles. Obviously being someone directly from the founding family of the organization gave me a boost and helped a lot, but it was definitely difficult in the beginning. There was this one person I particularly had a really tough time with. It was clear that he didn’t take me seriously, he would always just laugh when I talked to him and was just really patronizing and dismissive towards me. And I could see his attitude towards women reflected in the projects he put together as well, he never included women in any trainings the foundation held, for example. Luckily though, that has been to date one of the hardest attitudes I’ve encountered, within our own foundation and other foundations we have interacted with.

So far my exposure to other family foundations have been fairly positive and many of them are quite well-balanced in terms of gender equality both in their own teams and their programs. I think because many of the younger generation, especially the younger women, have taken the lead at these foundations and they obviously tend to be more aware of the importance. I do also think that in general the development and non-profit space is more attuned to gender dynamics, because we encounter the harmful consequences of having that gender disparity on the field a lot. Especially in rural and marginalized areas.

Can you describe the gender disparity that you see in those areas?

All of our projects right now are in Sumba, and I think actually relatively speaking the gender disparity there is not as acute as it is in some other parts of the country or the world. There is definitely still a lot of room and need for improvement. For example, we still encounter many women as strong local figures in the communities we work in. But on the other hand, child brides is still very much an issue and prevalent throughout the island and women definitely still play second fiddle to men in household. For the most part I think it is still very much a patriarchal society and women and girls still suffer many abuses and injustices because of this gender disparity, but I do think that we are starting to see some change and progress. That is definitely the sense I get from talking to some people who have worked and lived there for some years.

For one of our projects that is centered around building the capacity of tour guides, almost half of the program participants are women. And that was not actually pre-designed, it was merely based on applications that were submitted and screened through. For another one of our projects though, it was an issue we encountered on the daily in the beginning. The project is focused on training and equipping new mothers and health workers who are mainly women with awareness and knowledge of the importance of proper nutrition. The intervention requires them to participate in an intensive 10-day workshop. We had difficulty getting this going in the beginning mostly due to the fact that husbands wouldn’t let their wives make that kind of time commitment. Time in the workshop meant time away from household chores and working on the family farms or whatever industry the household was involved in. And this is something that you encounter a lot, where the women bear a lot of the responsibilities but have very little decision-making power. Fortunately though many of the husbands were able to be convinced and so we had many of our target beneficiaries successfully participate in the workshop in the end. So although that mindset does seem to be the status quo, we have seen that it can actually be changed.  

Having been in the field, how do you see shifts in terms of gender dynamic and progressivity in Indonesia?

I think we’ve definitely seen some shifts already in our time working there, both after the fact and as it is happening. I don’t know if it’s like a cultural shift just yet. I think right now it’s still really small and happening in silos, but at least we can see spots and glimmers of it. I’m optimistic because there are a lot of people that have and are currently working on this, both within and out of the island, so I think it will take some time before it becomes a whole cultural shift. But I’m hopeful that it will.

What strategies or tactics did your team specifically employ to get women to speak out?

I think it was just a lot of socialization really. So again, we aren’t actually the ones doing the heavy lifting – it’s all our partners grinding at it. But that’s what we hear when we ask all of our partners about it. In this line of work, and in like many else I think, the key is in making the relationships and building that trust. So in that nutrition project I talked about earlier, the field coordinators spent a lot of time in the villages with the community. It took a lot of speaking to both the women and the husbands, understanding what was important to them and how to speak with them in a way that they could recognize the benefit we were trying to communicate. That’s the hardest part I think, because a lot of these things seem abstract if you don’t see the benefits of it first-hand. So I think it also really helps to have success stories of people that they know or can really relate to. Without the success stories it can be really challenging I think. Possible, but really difficult.

What kind of tangible shift did you feel organizationally on your own team by increasing diversity gender?

We definitely hit a point, or a few really, where I just realized that our team as it was just wasn’t going to work out. It was a really hard decision for me and the first of its kind I had to make, but it had to be done for our organization to grow and move in the direction I hoped it would. So we had to let go of the person that had that fixed mentality of the roles of women and men. And earlier this year we added two more people to our team, one man and one woman. Both of them definitely have a balanced and flexible outlook on the roles of women and men. And I think it really has made a world of difference. I don’t think I fully appreciated how much it would either until it happened. For starters I think we have just gotten a lot more thorough and comprehensive when thinking through and putting together projects because we are really considering all the different angles and perspectives now. So I think it has really improved our effectiveness and the impact that we are able to make as an organization. And I think in terms of team dynamics it’s just gotten more positive and feels more like a safe space.  

Having grown up in Indonesia and then being educated in the States, what kind of differences do you see? What are the pros and cons on both sides in terms of gender equality?

I was in an international school from fifth grade onwards, and I never really felt like gender equality was an issue there. Even if it was, it wasn’t acute enough for me to feel it. I was in local school for a few years before that where I did feel it a bit. I was pretty tomboyish when I was younger, so I did feel like I did get made fun of for being a tomboy. That made me feel like there was this expectation of how a girl should behave, how she should look, what she should like, etc. But it was nothing really malicious, just kids being kids. So although it did have an impact on me, it was not that bad to be traumatic or anything. On the whole, I feel lucky that I was able to have the experience of going to an international school and then going to college in a country like the US where the gender disparity was not something you felt immediately at the surface (in recent years I have realized that it is most definitely there, but much less pervasive and apparent than in Asia generally speaking). Because I definitely felt the difference when I came back to Indonesia and started working here, and it was a kind of a rude awakening. Although I grew up here I guess I was pretty sheltered and insulated from it because of the school I went to, and I think my family is also relatively liberal when it comes to gender equality. And also of course you just realize things a lot more when you are older.

Do you feel that there are glass ceilings that are imposed upon women in Indonesia?

Definitely. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we are the half of humankind who can bear children obviously. But that does not mean the sole responsibility should fall on us, after all it takes both a man and a woman to create another human. I do feel lucky and grateful to be born in this generation, though, because I don’t think that our grandmothers or even our mothers had the same options or freedom as we do now. Even though that disparity still exists today, it was much worse just a few decades ago. And I’m thankful to all the women and men who have worked throughout the years and are working now to change that. Though there is still work to be done, the path has definitely been paved for my generation.

What advice do you have for young women who are entering the workforce for the first time and who are facing similar hurdles?

I think what really helps in the beginning is to find allies and to figure out who are kind of lost causes if you are facing issues of gender disparity. There will be plenty of both. And I think that’s also something that you have to realize, that there will be people who will forever think with that lens and will forever think that women are only born to perform a fixed role in life. And I don’t think that that is limited to older people, I know plenty of young people who still think that way. But I also think it’s important to not take it personally. Because there is a reason why there are people who think that way, that is just how they grew up and how they were raised. It is a systemic issue, which is hundreds of years in the making so it’s not just going to go away like that. But I think it’s really important to stick to the people who realize it is an issue and who stand against it. I feel kind of dramatic talking about it but it really can feel like an overwhelming fight if you experience it. So my advice would be to find your allies, stick to them and don’t let the haters get you down. And just focus on the job at hand and kill it. It still happens but it gets harder and harder to deny performance. So just stick to your guns and do the best you can.

 

Eileen Kamtawijoyo: COO & Co-Founder of Populix

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Eileen Kamtawijoyo. I am the co-founder and COO at Populix. I met with my co-founder, Timothy when we were studying at the University of Cambridge. I was doing my master’s and he was doing his PhD. When I went back for good, I worked at Djarum’s new business initiative, which is their fast moving consumer goods company. Since there were a lot of product concepts that needed to be tested, I found out how market research in Indonesia is very costly and inefficient. Not only does it take a very long time, but the data quality is lacking as well.

When Timothy came back to Indonesia for good, I had already been working with Djarum group for around two years. We were just sharing ideas and brainstorming together, and he was telling me about the advancements made in academic research abroad. Suddenly, we thought maybe there was something we could do to solve the problems here in Indonesia’s market research space.

Around three to six months after the initial conversations that we had, we jumped in and started the journey of building Populix together. Populix itself has been established since December 2017, but we just started running operationally in January 2018. During the 9 months of Populix’s existence, there have definitely been many ups and downs. However, everything has been very worthwhile; so many learnings took place that forced us to stretch beyond our comfort zones and beyond our capabilities imagined.

Populix is a technology-enabled research startup. We are building a consumer insights platform that bridges companies and survey participants. Participants can come onto our platform, register themselves, and fill out their data: their age, their income level, where they live, etc. They are then rewarded every time they participate in a study. Meanwhile, researchers also come onto our platform looking for participants of their target market. They can conduct the survey and have real-time data analysis in their dashboard. In the future, researchers can also buy off-the-shelf data sets from our library or subscribe to these reports on a periodic basis.

What did you find the most challenging as a first-time entrepreneur?

Back then, we were both effectively managing directors, because literally we were managing everything from the very little things to grander things like strategy of the company. You begin to remember the things that you took for granted when you were working in a big company, and you finally realize how much effort it takes to create your own thing. You won’t realize it until you experience it for yourself.

Another challenge was in terms of skill sets. I needed to learn a bit more about finance; back then, I really had no professional experience on finance. So I took some online courses and watched YouTube to teach myself. It’s important so that at least you can have some sort of a financial statement for you to present to the venture capitalists and stakeholders you’re sharing it with when you’re fundraising.

And then there was product development. Timothy and I are both not really tech people. We really have to try our hardest, even up until now, to learn how to communicate with developers, familiarizing ourselves with the different programming languages that we should use, and the reasons why.

We’re still learning as we go. It’s been difficult, no doubt.

What makes you want to continue being an entrepreneur, then?

Well, I’ve always wanted to become an entrepreneur. I feel like it’s so much more rewarding; when you see something that you created yourself — your own vision — coming to life, it gives you a deep sort of satisfaction within yourself. It’s truly rewarding.

And the deeper I go on this journey, I feel that same rewarding sense. It’s just a matter of setting up a strong mentality from the get-go. After all, it’s going to be tough. But you just need to persist. You just need to persevere.

What do you look for in a good co-founder?

I think what makes a good founder is that first you need to know what are the skill sets that you already have — what are your strengths? With the other co-founder, you want to have him or her fill in the gaps or weaknesses that you have, so that you can complement each other. For example, maybe I have more of a reserved personality, while Timothy is more confident. It balances well when we meet with investors or when we are presenting our startup.

What’s more, you both must really believe in this idea. At the end of the day, everyone is going to be against you — even your family and friends. This is vital since there will be times when you may be questioning yourself as to why you are doing this, and to have that someone who can keep rooting for the idea and to keep up the momentum will help you push on.

How is it like to be a female founder? Any advantages or challenges?

So far, it’s been good. I believe that in any organization it’s good to have a balance between males and females because diversity brings richer discussion and richer perspective.

I feel it’s actually advantageous to be a female founder in a way; whenever I was applying for our startup to pitch in competitions, for example, it always have women founders are strongly encouraged to apply, something like that.

I also know that there’s also a lot of organizations who actually are supporting startups with female founders. For example, in the US, you have Melinda Gates setting up an institution to fund women founders. So I think in a way it’s good. I don’t feel like any discrimination or whatsoever. I actually feel encouraged because women are being seen and supported now.

How was it like to be a female employee versus being a female startup founder ?

Perhaps, I just share a bit of my experience. After graduating from my Bachelor’s degree, I was working at Campbell’s Soup in the US, as R&D (research and development). Our CEO was female. It was really empowering for me to see how females can hold such important roles and leadership positions.

And then when I was doing my masters, I found a lot of female PhD candidates, working on amazing and groundbreaking theses.

So, I felt far more encouraged after these experiences than when I was younger. I grew up in a traditional Chinese family, where women are not necessarily encouraged into leadership positions. For instance, higher education and completing a PhD may not be recommended by my parents, since it may result in difficulty finding a spouse. Nevertheless, I feel my journey has been truly blessed, since I am constantly surrounded by many strong female personalities that all encourage me to follow my pursuits.

Do you have any role models?

I don’t have just one per se. I really like Jack Ma; he is really someone who went from zero to one hundred, making it super big. It makes me think that you can’t complain. Like this guy has been through worse. At least I have the advantage of education and having a supportive family. So what’s my excuse? I also really respect his grit and his tenacity of never giving up. He always shares stories of how he pitched countless times, got rejected, but kept on going. I really admire that of him.

Where do you want to be in 10 years?

I really want to make more of an impact, not just in terms of business but also social impact. Maybe I can assume a role in the government sector. Who knows? I want to be a part of shaping Indonesia for the better, for future generations to come.

Do you have any advice for other young women who are looking to start their own ventures or dive into entrepreneurship ?

My personal advice is to first find out what your passion is. It may sound cliché but there are going to be tough times ahead, so you need to really enjoy what you do. Then, really just dive into it since I believe that if you have the will, you will find a way.

And of course, putting in all the hard work, the long hours, and having the curiosity to keep learning is vital. Since there are so many things that we will never know, you need to constantly have that hunger to continuously learn. And meet a lot of people, because you will learn a lot from them. Ask for their advice – don’t be scared to ask questions. In a nutshell, be a lifetime learner, network a lot, and continually persist.  

ANGIN Women’s Spotlight: 50 Stories, 50 Woman Leaders in Indonesia

ANGIN Women’s Spotlight is proud to publish our 50th story highlighting the achievements and addressing the challenges of female leaders in Indonesia. To commemorate our milestone, we are releasing a mini-report detailing our project thus far. The report combines our project data with insights from Connector.ID’s data analysis to draw insights on the Indonesian entrepreneurial ecosystem through a gender lens. Check the report out now!

To nominate an outstanding woman for woman’s spotlight, kindly fill in the nomination form.  All partnership requests and collaborations may also be sent to Meredith at meredith@angin.id.

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Disclaimer: The data in the report is based on applicants who have submitted fundraising requests via ANGIN and Connector.ID. It is largely self-reported data or data based on the information provided from individual pitch decks. 

Anda Sapardan: Co-Founder of Sehati & TeleCTG

Can you state your name, your position, and your company?

My name is Anda Waluyo Sapardan. I’m the cofounder of Sehati & TeleCTG and in charge of the operations of the company. I’ve been in the medical industry for over 12 years. I’ve managed hospitals before, and I’ve worked in a general hospital as well as a maternity hospital – hospitals specially for women and children. Sehati and TeleCTG are products of passion — it all started from our concern with the quality of health of the next generation of Indonesia actually.

First of all, we are lucky that we have all the things that we need. We get access to information and to hospitals and healthcare. Not many Indonesians have that opportunity. So our concern is about how to provide equal opportunity — at least for information and for access to good maternal healthcare. And that’s where Sehati and TeleCTG come in.

Sehati and TeleCTG are technology solutions to track and monitor the first thousand days of human life. What we do are promotive and preventive measures. We try to provide early detection and warning of risk factors that could cause maternal death, infant death, as well as help to prevent stunting from the very beginning. A happy and healthy pregnancy is the right of every woman. Every woman should experience a very calming and happy pregnancy, since it can affect the outcome of birth and of the woman’s own life.

With technology, it’s easier for people to access information; even in remote areas, as long as you have Internet connection you can gain access. However, technology or innovation won’t reach its optimum utilization if we don’t empower humans themselves. So we tap into that as well.

What inspired you to start your own venture? What made you want to create something of your own?

It’s a bit crazy, because actually my husband and I, we sacrificed quite a lot to start this. We already had a stable income, stable jobs, everything we could have asked for. But the feeling of personal responsibility was too great. The rate of stunting in Indonesia is quite high. It’s like 37 percent of all the children. Just imagine the social burden of our own kids in 10 or 20 years from now. I gave birth to my eldest at a very young age. I was 19 at that moment and I experienced a wonderful pregnancy. And we feel that everybody should have that kind of experience. We feel that family planning and good monitoring during pregnancy is crucial. So that’s actually what really drove us to do this, why we chose to start our own business rather than continue working at the hospital. If we just worked at the hospital, then only the patients of that hospital will get any benefit. By doing this, we can reach far more people.

Have you faced any challenges as a female entrepreneur?

Not at the moment. Not really. It’s just that now I’m in the tech industry, and there are not too many women involved in this field. But it’s a good learning process. Actually, being a female should not deprive you or limit you from being an entrepreneur. As long as you have good intentions and and are willing to work your ass off, I think it is manageable.

Speaking of the lack of female entrepreneurs in the tech space, is that also true of the healthcare space as well?

Actually no, there are many women involved in healthcare. Our aim is to reshape how health services are being provided. Our long term vision is to make community-based healthcare and empower midwives, who are our partners in doing all of this. In Indonesia, midwives are all women, so in the healthcare industry, many women are involved.

What challenges do women face in Indonesia in obtaining quality healthcare and a positive birth experience?

For a positive birth experience there are multiple factors involved, from access to good healthcare to social factors such as a good relationship with your support system. And then there are financial factors. Having access to good information actually really helps; sometimes women who are pregnant have very wild imaginations and worry a lot. For many it is their first time and they are not sure of what to expect. If we can provide good and accurate information, then it would help them to understand the process and calm their nerves. I can say that because that’s what we experienced while we were managing a hospital in South Jakarta.

Sehati and TeleCTG opens access to information for not only mothers but midwives as well. We have three programs for midwives: financial empowerment, knowledge, and skills. From the financial side, we have already deployed one kiosk. We call it Kiosk Sehati for midwives due to their need for increased welfare. One midwife has already expressed that it’s really helped her in her life.

We teach the midwives how to use our technology. It’s really not easy because getting them to fill all the data and forms with the Sehati application rather than manually can be quite challenging. But once they know how to do it, it can really help optimize their work. At the end of the month, they usually have to give a report to the government using our application. That report can be automatically done via our app. So by the end of the month so they don’t have to go through the data manually for the report.

We created the kiosk not only to increase midwives’ welfares but also improve their livelihoods. The kiosks are equipped with a screen, Internet access, and a stove. We hope it can be a hub for people around the kiosk to get more information from the midwives, and provide educational videos through the kiosk screen. We’re already seeing good progress. Many children are coming to the kiosk and viewing the videos. The kiosk also helps to benefit the surrounding economy. Because there are many people coming to the kiosk, some entrepreneurial people – mostly mothers who live in the neighborhood – cook foods like meatballs, tofu, and fried dough and put their food into the kiosk to be sold. So there’s something like a sharing economy going on around that kiosk as well.

Why does empowering women matter in the first place?

There’s this saying that once you empower one mother or one women, you empower a lot of people behind them. Mothers are the pillar of a family, so once they are content and happy, I think all the people around them – the husband, the kids – will benefit as well. I think women really run the family, so it’s absolutely essential that they have their own income, that they are financially empowered, so they can also help the family to provide.

How is it like to be an entrepreneur while also having a family as well?

Being an entrepreneur is different from working for a company because you really have to think about all the details. Actually it is very good because then you will help a lot of people to find work and create jobs. But that also comes with a very big responsibility. Luckily our four children are already grown up; I started being an entrepreneur about three years ago. While my children were growing up, I was still working in a company. So, I didn’t have to face a challenge in that aspect.

How is it like to co-found a startup with your husband?

Up to this moment, it has been really good because we come from the same background. First of all, we have the same passion. And because we are married, we have more time to discuss our startup. While it’s not too good for our personal lives – because all we talk about sometimes is work – it’s been good so far.

Did you ever have a low moment in your entrepreneurial journey? One where you thought, “Oh my gosh, what did I get myself into?”

It happened a year after we started all this. Ours is in medical technology and it’s really not an easy thing to do. First of all, not many investors in Indonesia understand how the healthcare industry goes. I mean, it’s not a quick game. And our product involves both an application and hardware. TeleCTG is a medical device. It’s the first of its kind in Indonesia. So the challenges really were quite big. There were so many regulations, so much paperwork we had to fill. It’s very costly.

We started this business with our own money, so when we hit a point where we didn’t have any more resources to be allocated to the business, we really felt like, “Oh my God, why are we doing this?” It’s so crazy because there are quite a few people who said that we are a crazy couple. But I really believe what Elon Musk said, that if you believe in something, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.

So we kept going, and at our lowest point somehow the gates opened. I’m not saying that what we are pursuing is noble, but we are doing this with the intention of the good of the people. And so the gates just opened everywhere.

And has there been a moment in your entrepreneurial career where you thought, “I’m so happy I did this. This is the path for me”?

With every bit of progress we make, I feel that. I’m happy because I know to start this is not easy. Just to see our team happy doing their job. They are extremely dedicated. I don’t know how this happened, but somehow all the people that came to work on our team have the same passion. Some even chose to work with us with a lower salary than their previous jobs. We have a very good team, and that makes me happy. Secondly, when the midwives we work with tell us that what we do really helps them — the online classes, the kiosk, and how we facilitate everything — those are really good moments for me.

Lastly, do you have any advice for other young women who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs?

Being an entrepreneur is a challenging path. But if you really believe in yourself and your capabilities, and if you possess a strong mentality, I believe you can do it. But it’s not easy. You really have to work hard. Secondly, it depends on what industry you want to get into. Make sure you know the regulations and you have the right network before you start everything. And definitely make sure you have enough resources and financial capabilities. Finally, please do this because you have a cause. Do it all with passion and love. It is not easy work, so you will need to believe in this cause to make it through.

Arum K. Putri: Investment Analyst at Openspace Ventures

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Arum. I’m an investment analyst at Openspace Ventures, covering our Indonesian operations through deal sourcing and execution, as well as managing our existing portfolio companies such as HaloDoc and Sale Stock. Openspace Ventures is a Singapore-based venture capital fund investing in Southeast Asian tech-enabled startups, focused on Series A and Series B. We’re industry agnostic and focus on the product, traction, and founders.

I’ve been back in Indonesia for around 3 years now after attending school in Canada. I came back right at the peak of when companies like GO-JEK, Tokopedia, and Traveloka came into the spotlight, and quickly saw the immediate effect technology had on the Indonesian population. Jobs were created, livelihood security was improved, and new access to services were formed. There was no room for that sort of impact in North America, which was why I made the decision to come back and pursue a career in early-stage tech investing.

What is the kind of impact that VCs are making in the entrepreneurship space?

There are definitely many ways that VCs can make impact. For Openspace Ventures, given the early-stage investments that we do, we make sure to add unique, operational value to our portfolio companies and work very closely on the ground with our entrepreneurs to reach their next milestone. We help with all aspects of the business from corporate finance, capital raising, technology strategy, marketing, hiring, and international expansion. For example, recently I helped my portfolio company build their Series B pitch deck and full financial and operational model from scratch, my team helped several of our portfolio with their marketing initiatives, as well hiring engineers for their tech team.

We have a full in-house operational team in technology, HR, legal, and marketing to support our portfolio companies. We also leverage our network across Southeast Asia to help connect our entrepreneurs with other industry leaders, potential customers, partners, or even investors.  Openspace is also very involved in supporting tech founders and investor community in the countries that we operate in. After all, we do focus on building and backing the next wave of technology leaders. I think that’s the sort of impact that we try to make, particularly given the stage that we focus in where most of the founders are operating at a critical juncture.

Has there ever been like a moment where you’ve thought to yourself, this was just so worth it — this moment has made it so worth it for me to have moved back here?

Yeah, definitely. Growing up in Indonesia I’ve always been aware of the large lower income segment of the population that for the most part were largely ignored – those that did not have access to basic financial services or retail experiences in larger cities, and don’t have the same financial power. Several of our portfolio companies are actually changing that, and seeing the type of impact it has is definitely one of my ‘worth it’ moments.

For example, Sale Stock is a women’s fast fashion e-commerce company that enables women in very remote areas of Indonesia – such as Papua or the northernmost point of Sulawesi – who may not have been able to shop at e-commerce sites beforehand, to purchase quality and fashionable clothing at an approachable and affordable price. It’s very empowering. GO-JEK is arguably already transforming the livelihoods of millions through dramatically reducing poverty. I think that sort of impact, definitely had made it worthwhile for me to come back to Indonesia. I think growing up in this part of the world has allowed me to become aware and conscious of the pain points that more developed countries in the West are not aware of. Things like lack of financial inclusion, little access to education and resources, and income disparity were among the problems that I faced. And now seeing that there are technology advances that are alleviating these pain points but also having substantial social impact made my move back to Indonesia so much more worthwhile.

On the other hand, have you ever felt that being back in Indonesia is so challenging that it has made you think, “Why did ever come back here?”

Definitely. Gender inclusivity is an issue here and  challenge in itself. In North America , people have a lot more regard for women in the workplace. Whereas  here, I think the fight for gender equality is still in its early stages. I am fortunate enough to have grown up in a family that are  mostly women who are all very successful in their fields. But I have had experiences where I was looked down upon because of my age and my gender. A lot of times in Indonesia, the stigma is still like, “Women should stay at home, women should cook, women should do this and that.” Grouping women into what they “should” do is what makes me really upset, because I think women have the right to freely choose what they want to do. If a woman chooses to raise a family at home full-time or choose to become a founder of a tech company, then that’s their choice and that’s OK, I think that the idea of women having a choice in Indonesia is still something that’s stigmatized, and something that I wish is different.

Has there been like a specific instance where you’ve felt that gender discrimination or you know, that that kind of stigma against you?

At one point in my life, a colleague asked me why I wanted to pursue a professional career, why I was thinking of venture capital, and why I was deciding whether or not to pursue a graduate degree. He thought I should stay at home instead. He said to my face, “Oh, why do you want to work in finance? Why do you want to do an MBA? You’re a girl…taking care of your home and husband is important you know?” It was so shocking. I didn’t even know how to answer or how to react. I was so flabbergasted and so angry.

Female employees in Indonesia are often still seen as people meant for back office or administrative functions as opposed to having leadership roles. It’s very unfortunate and it makes me really upset that women need to put so much more effort just to be recognized.

What inspires you in this field? Are there any examples of women taking leadership and taking charge?

Something that inspires me is how Openspace Ventures approach female founders and investors. As of right now, we are almost at a 50-50 gender distribution; the partners actually make a conscious effort to have equal representation of women as part of our team, and in our portfolio we also have women-led companies and women founders, which is something that’s rare in Southeast Asia. One of our portfolio companies, Love, Bonito, is co-founded by two very strong women who are leaders in their field but are some of the most hardworking women I know who have come a long way. I definitely think venture capital is a more welcoming space for women to be a part of, whether you’re going on the founder or investor route. We have lots of room for improvement, but it’s going in the right direction.

How does gender play a role in your investments?

We make investment decisions based on the founder and the product, not the gender. However, I think there is definitely a discrepancy between the number of male founders versus female founders I have met. I think female founders only represent less than 10 percent of the startups I meet and that’s quite unfortunate. I think we need more female founders to come to the table.

So how do we get more female founders to come to the table?

Putting the conversation out there, educating and growing the female founder and tech investor community is one way to do it. I think now, more and more initiatives  exist to get more women in male-dominated fields together. There are initiatives like Generation Girl launched by female developers at GO-JEK that teaches coding and data analytics to young and aspiring  developers. There’s SheVC that is a solid community of women investors. Initiatives like those are good for the women community. In Indonesia particularly, access to network and resources are not as widespread  and the gap definitely exist for women who are looking for the right team, founders, investors, and business partners but don’t know where to start. I think from an investor point of view, given our platform we should create more  of these type of initiatives that not only give them the right access to resources, but also give them a space to have a voice and network with other women leaders.

On the other hand, how do we get more women in leadership roles in the VC community?

I think we are barely scratching the surface in terms of women having leadership roles not only in the VC community, but everywhere. It’s still very much male-dominated while gender is obviously not a measure of productivity in the field.  I’m quite thankful that in the VC community I haven’t had any instances with regards to gender biases, and so I’m very fortunate. But in traditional businesses or more male-dominated fields like engineering perhaps, it may not be the case. I think with any business in general they can benefit from gender diversity – I don’t think there is a reason not to. We can start with educating the workplace to having equal opportunities for women to take on leadership roles or even out the distribution in certain functions. Having a general open mindedness and conscious effort to have more women in these roles is a good start. Then slowly more concrete steps can be taken, like a distribution ratio, women-led panels etc.

How is female representation in the private equity industry? How is the dynamic like?

There is definitely less female representation in private equity than venture capital, especially because venture capital involves younger communities like the startups and tech advocates, whereas private equity deals more with more mature and traditional businesses. It’s tough but like with most businesses, more and more women are beginning to pursue leadership roles in male-dominated fields and that is a step in the right direction.

Do you think Indonesia is ready for an all-female fund with a total gender-lens approach?

I think it’s still early, but we’re moving in the right direction. More and more startups are starting to have women founders, but we still need more. Maybe the market is not big enough to address an all-female fund for women-led only investments now, but I hope it will be in the near future.

What is your advice on combating gender stereotypes and gender stigmas, whether it be in the workplace or from family?

Women need to have a voice and to start speaking up for what they stand for . They should  feel free to speak up and advocate for their opinions.I think now more and more women are starting to find their voice in whatever industry or situation that they’re in despite fear. I have been in cases where because I’m a girl, my decision to pursue a professional career is stigmatized because of the Indonesian tradition, but I’ve seen that change because I was able to be more vocal on my decisions, and people and my path are beginning to understand. It’s a process, but it doesn’t hurt to have a conversation

How was it like to be in like an almost all female family?

I think it’s a very rare thing in Indonesia. I come from an almost all-female family of 20 people of which I think 15 are women, down to my nieces. Those who are my age or from the first generation, are for the most part entrepreneurs or professionals. I am so lucky because I grew up with so many women that started from zero, made way through their adversities, and are now successful in their respective fields, which makes it difficult for me to comprehend when people stigmatize what I can or cannot do. I don’t know how I could have lived a different life, for example if I was to be born in a family that was not supportive of my career.

I grew up not knowing that there was adversity surrounding gender until I started working. I saw people in my family that were the only women in male-dominated fields and I thought that was normal. I realized soon enough that that was actually fought for, and that they worked hard in their careers to prove themselves and get to where they are. With most businesses still very much traditional in Indonesia, I think they had to work twice as hard. It’s definitely inspiring to be surrounded by very opinionated and powerful women, but it can also be very intense. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Who are the biggest role models in your life?

Definitely my grandmother. My grandma is 92 and she’s still working. She started her business in the garage, building the family business from scratch. She was very strong-minded, yet humble and so inclusive of her team and I think that’s what got her so far. She is a huge advocate for gender inclusivity and women in the workplace and she has taught me the importance of this from as far I could remember.

She started her career in the 1950s where gender inclusivity is nonexistent. She grew up during the Dutch colony, where women did not have access to schools and weren’t allowed to work. But she was fortunate enough to marry my grandfather who was always very open minded and actually helped her grow her business from very early on in their marriage, so in a way that was equally as important people closest to her. I definitely saw that was extremely inspiring, having a husband that was supportive to her pursuits, being rejected my hundreds of stakeholders from banks to investors but continuing to move forward, and having an open mind to continue learning and growing even at 92. She is very inspiring.  

Where do you want to be in 10 years? What’s your vision for yourself?

Maybe in the next 10 years I have founded a company in a field that I am passionate about. My hope is to bring gender diversity and inclusivity in anything that I do, so I hope to instill that as part of my vision.

Do you have any message for girls who want to start their own startups too and maybe encourage them to how they start their own startup or vc or in this industry.

I think my only advice is to just do it. The best pursuits often take a (giant) leap of faith and you never know what you’re up against unless you start, because that’s one of the most difficult parts.

Reky Martha: Co-Founder & President of Hoshizora Foundation

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Reky Martha and I am co-founder and current president of Hoshizora Foundation. I started Hoshizora in 2006 when I was a student in Japan at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU). Basically while doing part-time jobs, my co-founders and I used our money to help out kids that were dropping out of school in Indonesia. My friends and I started a community to support about 14 street children to get back to school. We set aside our lunch money for one month to pay for the school fees of elementary school students. With more and more traction coming in, it just grew from there. We officially registered as a foundation in Indonesia in 2010. We’re also registered in the United States. Now we’re supporting 2214 students from elementary school to university. We have 25 full time staff, fully paid with benefits – a team in Yogyakarta and a partnership team in Jakarta. And we’re looking to grow more.

Did you always know you were going to be in the education space?

I have always been inspired to be an educator; I feel that Indonesia faces many challenges in education. For instance, public schools are supposed to be free but they’re not. Even today, almost 1 million students drop out of elementary school and never enter middle school. In Flores, for example, I saw so many little kids, with their tiny feet, walking for two hours to go to school. In the heat, you know, with no access to fresh water. How do you expect these kids to learn how to read?

As a person who was lucky enough to get scholarships to study in Japan and Canada and land a job in the United States, I feel that the only small way I can contribute back is by providing better education for Indonesian children. And right now we’re trying to reach the children who don’t even have access to school. We’re here to support whatever the government is doing and work with the private sector.

What exactly does Hoshizora do?

We are an organization that provides access to education through our scholarship program, from elementary school to university. We have about one thousand individual donors right now; 100 percent of these one-to-one donations go to the children (80% in the form of a fund, 20% for capacity-building programs). Apart from this scholarship, we truly believe that character-building is the main ingredient to a more successful education system in this country. We do this through our forum, and through meeting our children and providing mentorship every six months. Our area coordinators are closely monitoring our children monthly as well. We work to be sustainable by having various sources of revenue streams to maintain our operation and management professionally.

So Hoshizora pretty much provides scholarships, but not your usual scholarship. We do a lot of capacity building to help the children grow. We have our own Hoshizora curriculum book, filled mainly with soft skills, for children in every grade. It starts from knowing yourself and understanding your emotions, all the way to critical thinking and problem-solving. And it’s fascinating because we’ve been working with the same kids for 12 years now; one of my youngest kids back in 2006 is now in university and I can totally see the changes. They are not only growing as smart and curious people, but they also become empathetic leaders who now are able to create job opportunities for others. Seeing these longitudinal changes firsthand and through our data really validates our model.

What have been some of the biggest insights or takeaways that you’ve had running Hoshizora over the past 12 years?

I think first of all, education is a very important sector but the urgency is often forgotten because it’s not very sexy. When we started this, we did it as a volunteer activity community, but it wasn’t going to go anywhere like that. The reason why communities and nonprofits are dying so often is because we’re not viewing them as valuable as companies or enterprises. So after four years we realized that we cannot lean on volunteerism. We are still open for volunteers at specific events and giving a chance for young people to experience the work we do, but we do it full time now. And the people who are working full time with us understand that working in the education sector is important, and that they are as valuable as the people working at companies. So it’s competitive enough for young people to move from Jakarta to our headquarters to Yogyakarta, to be part of our team because we value them.

Second of all, sustainability is always a problem. In the beginning, we did lean on grants and donations. The reason why we have two revenue streams now is because we want to make sure that individual donors are able to see 100% of their donations go to the children. We built our own social enterprises that is contributing to our operations, and we also do brand activation for corporates and companies. And to ensure sustainability, we build three-to-four year partnerships with companies, rather than just one year.

Hoshizora is also learning that the impact we’re having on these children is deep impact. In twelve years, we’ve had 2,200 kids in our program.  We have a formula where our program strives for deep impact that is replicable in different rural areas in Indonesia so we can also scale up our impact.

How does Hoshizora Foundation balance public sector and private sector? Where do you fit in?

We’re looking at an ecosystem here, and I think if we break them apart we’re not going to get anywhere. There’s a lot of ego involved in it for sure. So we’re looking at how we can bring everybody together in the ecosystem. The ecological framework that we use is Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological System, which stems from child development theories. We need to stay true to our purpose, which is educating children, and we’re using a lot of positive psychology and social emotional learning frameworks in our work.

To bring people together, we build partnerships. Our closest partners right now are from the private sector looking to create shared values. Obviously we’re here to support the government, even though we do not have any direct collaboration with the them. They have their own system. We’re moving forward at a different pace. We tend to work with the private sector because they can move faster, with less bureaucracy. The impact can be fulfilled within months and we can measure it. A clear measurement is very important for us to know what’s working, what’s not working out, and to keep improving on that.

When we’re working with the kids, we get some social enterprises working with us; we give scholarships to children of mothers who are working for a specific social enterprise, for example. So we’re opening that collaboration where other social enterprises can work with the parents and make sure that these parents are actually delivering good quality of work so that their children can get our scholarship. At the same time, we’re opening a space for corporates to work with schools and teachers, mainly on capacity building. It’s building a whole community together with the hope that in few years we can exit when the quality of life is better for that community.

Is Hoshizora the only thing on your plate? What else are you involved in?

I am still trying to find out the best way to give access to education. I was involved in Humanitree, where I want to see if there is a faster way using technology to provide access to education. Perhaps not necessarily formal education; you know, education is not about getting a certificate but really getting skills that people need, such as critical thinking. So how can we give access to education to children out in Papua or Kalimantan, in a way that they can exercise their critical thinking and problem solving? Hoshizora is one way of tackling that challenge, in a deeper way. But it has to be paired up with something that can provide faster access to education. In a way, it’s just finding ways to tackling different issues within the education space while heading in the same direction.

As entrepreneurs, we cannot stop learning and exploring ideas. We need to stay focused on what we’re doing, but not closing the door to exploring other ways to tackle challenges. I find it very valuable to be in the startup ecosystem in Jakarta, where startups rise and fall every second. To survive and to find the best way to provide solutions to challenges, it’s quite challenging.

As one of the earlier female entrepreneurs entering the ecosystem back in 2006, how has it been being a female entrepreneur? How have things changed from 2006 until now?

Sometimes people are surprised that I’m doing this full-time and dedicating my life to provide access to education. When we incorporated Hoshizora as a foundation, that meant dealing with legal, tax, and building good organizational processes and structure. It’s a lot of work and I’m proud that I have two other strong female co-founders to go through these tough times. Oftentimes when people see this position being held by a female, they have doubts. Somehow they think that when a female gets married or has kids, obviously they’ll only work part-time. Sometimes when I walk into a meeting, I am assumed to be the secretary or PR person. So when I tell them, yes, I’m leading this organization 100 percent, full-time, it surprises people.

Half of my team members are male, so I think gender equality in leadership doesn’t necessarily mean having an all-female team. We need males supporting female roles. I find that in the past two years, there have been more support given to female entrepreneurs. A lot of attention is given. But I also encourage males to understand what females are doing and going through. Because if males don’t understand, it’s still going to be imbalanced. Men should still be encouraged to work with women. There should be equal opportunity within the whole ecosystem for men and women to work together.

What are some strengths to being a female entrepreneur?

Over time I learned that some of the strongest points of leadership are vulnerability, flexibility,  and adaptability – qualities that female leaders often possess. I can give you an example. So, being sustainable is a challenge for every non-commercial organization. We don’t receive a lot of grants for our operations and management. Two years ago, for example, I was worried about being able to pay my team. Rather than framing it negatively, I communicated it as,  “Hey, I’m trying to be sustainable. Give me ideas on how I can be more sustainable.” I think female leaders are quite good at articulating and sharing that in a more positive framework, and it results in leadership that is more agile, and partnerships that are more open. Saying, “This is our condition, give me ideas,” instead of saying, “We’re good to go, we’re okay,” or pretending that we’re okay because of pride, is far healthier.

And definitely over the past two years as a female leader overseeing 25 full time staff, I’m also growing as a person and I couldn’t do it without my team. Vulnerability, flexibility, adaptability, staying focused, and being persistent are all things I am learning everyday. Self awareness and self management – those are key to the recipes for creating a harmonious working environment. I think female leaders have the advantage of being able to be aware of what’s going on, nurturing that empathy within team members as well.

What challenges do you face as an entrepreneur?

Honestly speaking, it’s hard to balance a personal life and surviving in the startup ecosystem in Jakarta. Being on top of what you’re supposed to do and being in the community, it takes a lot of hours. My team is in Yogyakarta while I’m in Jakarta, so going back and forth takes a lot of time. It becomes challenging to keep up a healthy lifestyle. Being able to exercise every morning, cooking my own food, or even keeping up with other parts of life. I’m still learning how to do that.

Jakarta is a bubble in a way. When I go to Sumatra, Kalimantan, Flores, or other remote areas, the working style is very different. Leadership has to change all the time. When I’m back with my team in Yogyakarta, I have to switch back to what’s best for them. So that adaptability, while holding and stimulating the team to grow is quite challenging.

Have you faced any specific challenges as a female in this field?

Society – especially Indonesian society – has a lot of expectations for females. It can be challenging sometimes when people ask me if I have time to take care of a partner or whatever. I think debunking society’s expectations for females is quite challenging. Funny thing, before I moved to Indonesia I used to shave my head completely, just to debunk the notion that females need long hair to be pretty. I haven’t really found a way in Indonesia to challenge those mindsets, of what society expects from females.

What else do we need to do to support female leaders in Indonesia?

Engaging the men to talk about how to balance roles in society is important. Because if it’s just the females going strong, I don’t think it’s going to work out as nicely. The males have to understand what the females are doing and engage in active discussion. If a woman is exploring higher career options, what kind of actions can the male can do at home, for instance, to support that? It cannot go just one way.

And the feminist movement, it’s not just about females supporting females. It’s also about males supporting females and having open discussions on that. I don’t think we have a lot of those conversations in Indonesia — especially challenging male Indonesians to have an open discussion. What does it mean for them to support a female leader? More discussion is needed, and an action plan can come out of that, a movement of some kind. But changing mindset, especially in a culture where it’s quite patriarchal, it’s going to take some time. I think within the startup ecosystem, which is quite vibrant and increasingly run by millennials, if we start opening the discussion there’s going to be positive momentum to disrupt what exists. That can be a start.

How do you personally try to keep balance in your life and practice mindfulness?

Yeah, so I like climbing trees. It’s my meditation, but it’s not always accessible. So every morning for meditation and yoga, stretching is a must for me. My morning glory is my morning glory, and I do it at least an hour before I touch my phone. So that’s one thing that I can do anywhere I go.

The second thing is a component of social-emotional learning: practicing self awareness, self management, social awareness, social responsibility, and responsible decision-making. This can be through a practice where we check our intention every second. For instance, why am I doing this interview? What’s my intention? Will it be useful? Questioning everything has become a habit for me to help choose and prioritize. And it helps me make more responsible decisions.

Another thing is emotional literacy. I think in a country where most people are still in survival mode where the basics – how do I eat, how do I earn money – aren’t fulfilled yet, emotions are often the last thing people think about. We’re not told or taught to recognize our emotions and verbalize them. Sometimes we’re actually sad and lonely, but it comes across as being angry just because we don’t know how to label that emotion. What I’d like to do with my team is to encourage them to express and recognize their emotions, by checking in and saying, “Hey, I’m trying to understand what are your feelings, to help you in understanding and verbalizing them.”

So in a nutshell, we need to practice mindfulness all the time.. And I’d like to find more spots to climb trees in Jakarta.

What’s your long term vision for yourself?

The ultimate goal is to be an awesome grandmother, with a big house, so I can invite everybody to take a break from their lives and have meaningful conversations over a big meal in beautiful nature. That’s the long term goal (laughs). But, I think in the next five to 10 years I’m very keen on finding a better solution to reduce dropout rates. I’m super passionate about finding better ways to reach out to more children. It could be through Hoshizora, or through the digitalization of ways to provide access to education like creating learning tools for critical thinking and problem solving.

Do you have any advice for the younger generation – kids who want to be future leaders?

I think taking time to understand who you are is very important, especially in our world where technology, social media, ads dominate. Everything is changing so fast that it’s easy to think that something is our desire while it’s actually other people’s desire. For example, being a founder of something – a lot of the younger ones want to be a founder of something, but honestly it’s not the question of being a founder or not being a founder. It’s what problem you want to solve. You need to question yourself: why was I born in this world, what purpose am I fulfilling? Because everybody is an important piece of a larger puzzle. No matter how small they are, if you take out the other pieces, the puzzle won’t be complete. Every person is that important, but to know what function your puzzle piece serves is a different question, right?

And I think we are all running too fast, getting all this information without pausing and thinking, okay, is this what I want? Constantly check your intentions and ask, “Why do I want to do this? What is the greater benefit of this? How am I going to be sustainable?” Questioning yourself will activate the neurons in your brain and help you stay on top of your passions – especially if you are passionate in solving challenges through entrepreneurship. Being a reflective person is important.

Retno Dewati: Southeast Asia Regional Manager of Fenox Venture Capital

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Retno Dewati and I’m currently the Southeast Asia regional manager of Fenox Venture Capital, a global venture capital firm headquartered in Silicon Valley. We are managing 1.5 billion dollars Asset Under Management  and we have eight offices globally, Silicon Valley, Japan, Jakarta, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Bangladesh, Middle East and Eastern Europe. I’m responsible for the investment deal sourcing and business development for Southeast Asia.

Fenox was established in 2011 and so far we’ve already invested in over 110 companies across the globe. In Southeast Asia we have invested in over 35 companies. And I’m not only investing directly from Fenox, but also working together with my LP from Japan – Infocom Corporation. We are running another program called GnB Accelerator, which invests in pre-seed startups. Currently we’re running the fourth batch. So yeah, the journey has been interesting so far and I’m really excited to be working in this industry.

How did you get started in the venture capital industry?

Before I joined Fenox, I worked in a US-Indonesia Bilateral Organization. It’s a nonprofit organization focused on strengthening US-Indonesia relations. I worked there for nine months but quickly realized it wasn’t my passion. Later on, I found out that the startup ecosystem in Indonesia is growing, and a lot of foreign venture capital, a lot of funds are trying to invest in Indonesia. So I tried finding opportunities, how I could truly contribute or get involved in this growing ecosystem. Fenox happened to be looking for investment analysts, so I applied and got the position.

To be honest, on the first day I joined the company, they gave me some financial projections and reports of a startup. And I was like, what?! (laughs) Seriously, I didn’t know what it was. My investment manager asked me, “What do these projections mean? Do you think that this financial projection makes sense?” And I told him that my background is international relations, that I learned nothing about finance or accounting, but that I would challenge myself to learn. And I thought to myself, “I think I can do this.”

So yeah, my first week at Fenox was filled with very intensive training. They showed me how to read the financial projection, how to read a financial report and how to analyze the business of the startups. I found it to be extremely interesting. At the same time, our government was also trying to focus on the digital economy. So I was thinking, why not stay in this industry so that I can contribute more?

I know that this industry is male-dominated, but it doesn’t mean that females cannot stand out. So yeah. I am staying in the company, doing a lot of research for the startup ecosystem, for the market, and how startups do business. I’m so happy that I’ve stayed with Fenox. I built my career from scratch, joining in November 2015 before I graduated as an analyst. Later on in November 2016, a month after I graduated, I became a senior investment analyst. Most recently, in March 2017, I was promoted to Southeast Asia regional manager. What I’m trying to say here is that age and gender don’t matter at all. All that matters is if you have the passion and you challenge yourself, if you work on it, you’ll definitely prove to your company and to the whole ecosystem that you as a woman can stand out. Even in this male-dominated industry.

What kind of work did you have to put in to get to where you are?

When I first started, I was focused on deal sourcing, due diligence, and the LP report. So I gave some good deals to my investment committee and my LPs. I also challenged myself and told my boss that I think if I’m only doing this kind of thing – investment reports – I won’t go anywhere. I know that being a good investment manager is important, but I think being the face of the company is also way more important if you want to make the name of the company bigger. Investing in good startups isn’t enough, so we have to go out, you have to speak and then you have to be more engaged with the ecosystem, with the startup. So yeah, I gave a lot of good like investment recommendations.

I also manage the operations for the Southeast Asian office. Back then my boss was actually the regional manager before me. He left the company to go back to Japan and at that time my boss thought I was the right person to replace the position instead of hiring a senior-level person. And to be honest, when they promoted me to be the regional manager, I was also surprised. I was thinking, “Will I really be able to manage this responsibility?” Like dude, I was 23 years old! I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy because I’d be responsible for the whole Southeast Asia. I’d have to fly to other countries looking for deals, speaking at tech events.

But I just told myself, okay, I think I can do it if they believe I can do, and if I believe I can do it. And I did. So now I spend about 70 percent of my time for business development rather than for investment. Because for investment I’ve been there done that. So now I give it to my analysts and associates, and now my focus is become the face of the company, doing everything from marketing, business development, networking, finding partnerships with any stakeholders in the startup ecosystem, looking for potential LPs, and working with both the government and the private sector together to grow this ecosystem.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

Traveling (laughs). So yeah, as I mentioned that I spend 70 percent of my time for business development and marketing. So I travel quite frequently throughout the whole region and to the US, because Fenox’s headquarters is in the US. So I go to California two or three times a year and then report to my boss, to my investment committee, to the LPS. Aside from that, I also travel quite often within Southeast Asia, participating as a judge for startup competitions, being a speaker for tech conferences, or any other kind of public engagement opportunities where I can support and contribute to the startup ecosystem.

It can be very tiring, but when you meet all the startup enthusiasts or other VCs and how they are really excited and they’re really believe in this market, in this landscape, it gives you more energy. By the end of the day you forget about all those tiring times. Traveling, meeting new people, and networking with more senior-level people are the most exciting parts of my job. And especially since I met a lot of startups, it’s also a learning process for me. I learned a lot of practical business skills from different startups. I learned how every founder has their own different strategy in executing the business and how they are trying to disrupt or be the winner in the market.

Have you ever faced any challenges throughout your career trajectory? If so, how did you get over those challenges?

There are two things: age and gender. It’s an uphill battle. I’m young and I’m a woman. When I join any board of director meetings of the startups, or in any kind of very important meetings, I’m often the only woman there. And I’m the youngest of all. Sometimes all of the parties attending the meetings are senior-level men. Or entrepreneurs with five to 10 years of experience. Sometimes we cannot deny that they might underestimate us because we are young and we are women. But I don’t care about that. Again, that’s my principal – I think that age and gender don’t matter.

The first time I entered one of those meetings, I was a bit nervous. But then I realized that if you can deliver, then people won’t underestimate you. They won’t see how young you are. They won’t care if you’re a man or a woman. It’s just a matter of how you can be. You can speak out. Before every board meeting, I always prepare. If it’s a portfolio board meeting, I always try to understand what are their challenges. And then during the meeting, I always try to ask a lot of questions, try to show them that yes, I’m young, but I can be as critical as you are. I can be sharp, I can point out something that’s wrong in the company’s business strategy or structure. And then at the end of the day, people will think, yeah, age and gender don’t matter. I think that even though you already have potential, you need to show that your potential people will respect you and that’s how you actually can tackle all the challenges.

How is the VC industry in Indonesia in terms of gender composition?

It’s still a male-dominated industry. Even for analysts. If you see the ecosystem, most of the analysts and people working in VCs are still men. I’m actually also a bit confused as to why. Because the opportunity is open for everyone. I would really encourage women out there to take part in this industry. You are helping the country to grow the digital economy while helping startups doing business. I see more and more women now are getting interested in working in the VC industry. I would like to encourage them to challenge themselves so they can eventually be in top management in this male-dominated industry.

What is your view on the startup ecosystem from the gender point of view?

I think even the entrepreneurial DNA itself in Indonesia is still a bit low. Most people prefer to get a job in a big corporation instead of becoming an entrepreneur, because being an entrepreneur is not easy. It’s really hard to build a startup. You have to bootstrap first to get traction before you can come to the VC and pitch to them for investment. Right now, there are a lot of VCs that are trying to empower women by having specific funds set for them.. It’s a very good initiative and I really appreciate that kind of effort so that we can encourage more female to be a startup founder.

Being an entrepreneur is a challenge, but that now is a good chance for any females who are thinking of building their own startup. And again, even though you are a female, it doesn’t mean that you will get less funding compared to a male entrepreneur. In Silicon Valley, there are many female entrepreneurs building startups. And some even succeeded in building unicorns. And I believe that Indonesian women can also do that.

How long do you think it is until Indonesia has a unicorn with a female founder?

Realistically maybe in the next few years. But I would really hope that within five years, we can have a new unicorn with female founders. And if that happens, I would be really happy and I will be really proud to be part of this ecosystem and maybe I can be their next. investor. But right now I also already in some startup that actually the founder and the cofounder itself is also women. So for example, Hijup is actually one of my portfolio companies. And I also just invested in Travelio.

How do we get more women to become founders? Especially women who are not necessarily based in Jakarta?

It should be a joint effort. We should involve all the stakeholders from the VC, which is, will be the one that going to inject capital into the startups, any other private sector like corporation who might start interested with the startups and then the government, the policy stakeholder. I think we should work hand in hand to encourage them that they have the opportunity.  I am happy that even now, some VCs have fund dedicated for women founders.

I think it’s a matter of creating more programs from the VC side. It’s a good thing to have a dedicated fund for women founders. This could encourage more women to start their own ventures to build their startups. I also think the government should create more associate services and programs. Even if the government cannot support in terms of capital, they can at least support in terms of creating a better policy environment for startups and female founders.

What are the biggest challenges that Indonesia ecosystem faces today?

I think the biggest challenge for Indonesia is the awareness of the technology itself. If you’re talking about startups, it’s all about the business leveraging the technology in an innovative way. But the people still might not be aware about how to use it.

The second challenge is the ecosystem’s own maturity. We need a more mature ecosystem right now. Again, I would like to emphasize here that we need the help from the government. If you see Singapore and Malaysia, the government itself is more mature in supporting the startup ecosystem through policy. We really need that.

For example, the fintechs startups still face many challenges in terms of the license and regulations. So I think we really need to sit together with all the stakeholders, and with the government to make sure that these startups can work properly, that they won’t have any trouble running the startup just because of regulations. The biggest challenge right now is about the regulations. It’s tough, but I think our government is getting there. So I hope in the next year there won’t be any issue with regulations anymore. We don’t want to hear any startup fintech forced to shut down because they do not meet the government regulation.

What’s your long term game? Where do you want to be?

Of course, I want to have my own VC. That’s my long term plan. I’ve been learning how to close a deal with the startups, how to invest in startups, learning how to maintain relationships with LPs. Now I’m working together with my boss to fundraise and set up a new fund for Fenox VC. My long term plan is to have my own VC. Or at least, become a partner in a VC before 30. That’s my biggest aspiration so far. I am 24 now, and I am sure as long as I am working hard, I can achieve that.

Do you have any role models?

My role model is Elon Musk. I really like him to be honest. In my perspective, he is a perfect combination between an innovator, a visionary and a capitalist at the same time.  He build ventures not only to gain profit, but also to help people get a better life.

Do you have any advice for other young women looking to enter the VC or startup industry?

My advice would be, just challenge yourself because if you think that you cannot do it, then you won’t do it.. Work on your passion. It doesn’t matter if your background has nothing to do with finance or business. Everything can be learned. Don’t worry about that. You can learn, you can ask a lot of people who already have an expertise in this industry. If you have a passion, work on it. Age or gender, they don’t matter at all. The most important thing is actually your mindset.

I always say that sky’s not the limit here. The limit is your mindset. If you can do it, you can do it. So I would encourage more people – more young women – to work together and help our government, our country, to be the leading digital economy in this region. By joining a VC, it means you are going to help startups grow their business. The more startups we have, the bigger chance to achieve our digital economy growth. If I can be a regional manager at 23, you can also do the same thing. You can achieve more than I have achieved so far. You can even be a partner at the age of 24, 25. Who knows? It’s just a matter of challenging yourself and doing everything beyond your limit.