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.

Putri Athira: Founder of Her Dreams

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Putri Athira and I’m the founder of HerDreams. It started from my dreams to contribute to the education sector for girls, specifically for unfortunate girls. Back then, I was confused about my job and what to do in life. I’ve always dreamt of building a school for unfortunate children in Indonesia, but then to build a school would require more money and resources than I had. Still, doing something for girls and contributing to their educations doesn’t necessarily have to be done through building schools. I realized that I could share my own experiences and dreams with other girls and motivate them to reach their dreams also.

At that event, we share about how important it is to have a dream, and we teach them how to make a dream map – a visualization of your goals and future. We believe that if you write out your dreams and see them everyday, you can motivate yourself towards your goals. We also emphasize the importance of having dreams. Next, we teach them confidence and public speaking. Thirdly, we emphasize independence. We summarize all the materials that we have taught them during the program and contextualize it to being brave and independent. We share the value of independence, how to lead, and how to communicate with people.

Why is educating girls in ambition, confidence, and independence so necessary? Especially in Indonesia?

Before I started HerDreams, I visited some schools. I met many different girls, and they all really lacked motivation. They have dreams, but they were scared to pursue them because their surroundings were unsupportive and so they thought they could not achieve those dreams. So what I saw was that they needed some external motivation in order to believe in themselves. From there, I realized that the main foundation to be brave enough to pursue one’s dreams is confidence. That way, at the end of day, they can be independent.

What are some success stories from the program?

During one session, we told one of the girls to present their dream map and explain it to the audience. But there was one girl who cried due to a lack of confidence. She was afraid that her friends would laugh at her. After that incident, our team discussed internally and realized that girls not only need to have a dream, but they also need to be confident. Because of that situation, we added another session because we believed that changes don’t happen overnight, you know? After the end of the third session, we saw that the girl who had cried before became more active. She became more of a believer in herself, especially after other girls told her how cool her dream map was. She really wanted to be a designer.

What do you think is the biggest hurdle that Indonesian girls and women face nowadays?

I think the biggest hurdle is finding support because, as you know, many Indonesians tend to see women differently. People question what a woman will do with a higher education because at the end of the day, you’re going to be a housewife and you don’t need to have like a higher education to do that. But I think that’s wrong. Even to be a good housewife, you need a good education as well. And that’s the problem. We see in every session, every girl that we meet, their families are not really being supportive of them. That’s what is holding them back from pursuing their dreams.

Do you yourself face any challenges in the workplace or in finding support for pursuing your own dreams?

At first, yes. My family is very supportive with regards to education. But in choosing a career, it was different. I always had dreams to become a diplomat, to go abroad. But then, my family reminded me that I still need to think about my future regarding the way I take care of my future family. So when I was in the stage to choose the priorities I have in life, including my job choice, I came to the conclusion to hold myself back from that job and find another way to fulfill my passion.

How did you personally deal with not being able to pursue your dreams in diplomacy?

The main reason I wanted to become a diplomat was because I really want to represent my country. I really want to engage with other people and help others in many sectors.. But by the time, I realized that it is not the only way to fulfill my passion, I could still help others and share what I have in a different way. So rather than doing it through diplomacy, I’m doing it through HerDreams instead.

What’s your goal for HerDreams in the next few years?

I really want to reach more schools and more girls, not only in Jakarta area but all across Indonesia. I hope that in the next few years we can also go abroad and contribute to girls education with other communities or organizations. And I really hope that there will be more volunteers involved. Currently, we have almost 200 volunteers in our community, with almost 80 school girls in our program and an international organization that has partnered with us to help motivate the girls – including refugees that live in Indonesia.

What issues do female refugees face specifically?

They struggle to find the spirit to live out their dreams again; here in Indonesia, they don’t have opportunities to pursue their dreams because they cannot work and go to school here. So we have to motivate them; they have to believe in themselves and believe that something good will happen to them after this stage of their life in Indonesia.

How do you balance between a day job and running HerDreams?  

It’s all about time management. I always conduct program sessions on weekends, so I still can manage the needs of HerDreams and my day job. And also the matter of communication with my partners, the arrangement of the meeting time and the preparation.

What are the biggest challenges you face in running HerDreams?

So far, perhaps is the financial support. It is because nowadays, in Indonesia there are not many companies that willing to help. We still depend on personal donors, so yes, I think that’s the biggest challenges right now. However, in the matter of man support, we are not worried. Currently, we have almost 200 volunteers that have been registered in HerDreams. And seeing that enthusiasm, we still believe that there are still a lot of young people out there, both men and women who really want to help and contribute together with HerDreams.

Do you have any advice for other girls who want to become leaders or start their own organizations?

What matters most are to know what you are capable of, the problems you want to solve in the community, and to be focused. Because to build this kind of movement, you need to be focused on what problems you want to solve and how you will help. You must be focused and consistent in what you do, so your help will give a significant change in the community.

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.

Indah Mariani: COO & Co-Founder of Infradigital Nusantara

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Indah Maryani and I am the COO and co-founder of Infradigital Nusantara. We built this company in December 2017. I’ve been partners with my co-founder for seven years now and it has been an interesting journey.

I have been in the payment industry for the last 15 years. I was a part of the first wave of digital wallets, and have carried out the installation and implementation of digital wallets in many countries throughout Africa, Europe and America. Seven years back when I met my co-founder, we were both working in a startup called Fusion Payment. As you know, the digital wallet market is very competitive, with big players such as GO-PAY and Tokopedia. We saw that the competition was very stiff, and we realized that in payment systems what you want is recurring transactions. Basically what we did was create a platform called Beruang, which allowed you to buy all the digital goods like pulsa, electricity, and water – goods that you pay recurrently every month – as products on our platform. However, we realized that everyone was playing the same game. Everyone was developing their own versions of digital goods products.

Back then, my co-founder and I were trying to onboard traditional merchants to do online payments through our product. It was very difficult because we were such small players; when we offered Beruang as a platform, they were asking questions about us and who we were, but they were excited about the fact that our product enabled them to digitize their billing and pay through any method they wanted. After that experience, my friends and I decided to quit our jobs at the time to create Infradigital.

 

What exactly does Infradigital do?

Infradigital allows non tech-savvy businesses to digitize their bills. For instance, schools, apartments and SMEs. There are many schools in Indonesia, and a lot of them had not tapped into the possibilities of technology yet. They did everything manually. Let’s say if you wanted to collect payment from the parents, you would hand over a paper to the student, who then passes it on to their parents. Basically, it was a very manual job. We helped these institutions digitize their bills and connected them to all the payment methods available now in the digital ecosystem. So, it’s not only using a bank account. Not only using banks, but wallets and retail markets too (ie. Indomaret). It applies to any kinds of channels that the consumer wants. From there, since the bills are already digitized, the bills could also be leveraged for other things, like student loans for instance.

 

What challenges have you faced so far as a one-year-old startup?

In a startup, time and money are very important. Naturally, you have limited time and limited resources. You have to move fast and prove that your product has a lot of traction, which requires a certain amount of focus. We launched our product in March and the first traction was only around 150 million Rupiah of transactions per month but now we are able to process transactions as large as 2.2 billion Rupiah per month. We are actually seeing a lot of traction, but it’s just that it’s always a busy day. Because you always have to find the right product with the right market fit, you always have to listen to your customers, but you also have to do things like fundraising simultaneously. So, juggling all these things at the same time is challenging.

 

You’ve been running your startup for less than a year and you’ve already grown to over 2 billion Rupiah worth of transactions! How did you gain traction so fast?

It’s funny because we actually sell our product door-to-door. First we visited around 100 schools per month and administered surveys to over 2000 parents. These schools weren’t even in Jakarta – they were in Depok and other pre-rural areas. We asked them whether they were ready to migrate to digital payment. Out of the 2000 parents that we asked, 80% of them were ready to do so. The schools and other partners were keen as well. We saw that there was a lot of interest amongst the parties and we knew that in the near future, offline payments would be obsolete. But capturing the market was not as easy as we thought, because the people we were targeting were traditional people.

So, we came to them selling door-to-door. Back then, the system wasn’t even built yet; we were just marketing a prototype. But still, people showed interest in our product. In the first month, we got 20-40 schools signed up, but none of them had started using the product yet. In our sales funnel, there are two processes involved: acquisition and activation. Because we saw a lot of interest, we provided the platform for free as long as they were willing to migrate to our system. Migrating was taking a lot of time because literally everything was done manually, so in order to create a database of students, our team had to take pictures of them one by one and upload them in an excel sheet. This migration process was pretty complicated, but after we were done we noticed that the parents were starting to migrate to online forms of payment, too. This was because everyone was really eager – especially the schools because their manual processes were a source of corruption. If someone took away some funds they would simply claim that the pages were lost or the payment wasn’t traceable, or the incoming money was being used for activities that the principal wasn’t aware of. This corruption ended up forcing the school to migrate their system digitally.

Nowadays, we are not doing it door-to-door anymore. We actually have monthly acquisitions now, and we have 6-10 schools every month. Some of them are referrals. You will know when you build your product and it delivers value to your customer, it just keeps rolling with more requests and referrals. We also believe that if we build trust in the market, we will actually get a return.

 

How do digitalization and a cashless future affect women?

I imagine that digitalization will open up opportunities for women and will enable women to make some moves. Moms decide everything for the family; they are the ones who make all the purchases, so financial inclusion will actually help women to manage their expenses more easily. Over time, I really believe that women will understand things like savings, returns and interest. I think it will impact women as they will be the first ones to respond to this kind of change, especially if they are the ones in charge of the family.

 

Why exactly did you decide to jump into financial inclusion?

Financial inclusion is actually a big market and it hasn’t been tapped into yet. If you go to the World Bank Indonesia SME Banking Study 2017 and look at their database, you will see that out of many small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs), only 3% of them are using internet banking and 97% of them are still untapped. Meanwhile, everyone is at war on the consumer side because everyone wants to become the next Alipay. When I went to the schools and saw the reality…it’s pretty sad, you know. 60% of parents don’t pay their tuition fees on time; 40% pay late, and 20% don’t pay at all. Imagine how much of a hassle that would be if you ran a school. On top of this, there is a regulation from the government that prevents you from notifying the student directly if their tuition has not been paid, so as not to discourage students from attending all the classes, you know? In Indonesia when you are talking about education, everyone is trying to make things better for the greater public and for the kids, and yet the reality in the market is that the schools themselves are unable to make enough money to pay for their facilities. So how can they even start thinking about their quality of education?

Meanwhile in the digital world, everyone is so fancy already. Everyone is talking about all these next-level innovations, but very few of these actually touch and are applicable in the current market situation. So that’s why we really want to focus on education. We want to help not only the parents, to allow them to have access to funding, charities and loans for educations, but also these institutions to help them grow and focus on building up their quality of education.

 

Are there any specific challenges you face as a female founder in Indonesia?

Sometimes, women’s voices are not heard. I have been in the payment industry for quite some time. Even now, I sometimes feel like when we voice something, your audience doesn’t take you seriously because your tone and your voice is different from that of the average man’s. I just find that a woman’s voice is not really heard, especially in a big forum. Men are perceived as more trustworthy in a forum than women.

 

Do you see that shifting at all? What can we do to change that assumption?

There’s a lot of things that we can do. I don’t like arguing, and I prefer not to be in the spotlight, I’m not sure if other women feel the same or if it’s just me, but I really do think that if women speak up more, it can change something. The thing is, in Indonesia because we have an Eastern culture, we feel as if we should be more reliant on men. That’s one of the factors that have been built into our culture. Over time, this will change because a lot of women now are very outspoken and smart. They tend to not take the spotlight, but this can be changed for sure.

 

On the other hand, are there any instances where you have felt more empowered as a female entrepreneur?

Yes – in my own company. Women are generally better able to multitask, so they can oversee many different problems and different situations. This is something women are very good at and men not so much. So, when you’re making important decisions – or any decision in fact – you have to look over a range of factors. I think in my current position, I need to be sensitive to many things and consider a lot of aspects as well in decision-making. I think most of the decisions are being made based on those considerations, and I think that’s where I am playing a bigger role.

 

Did you feel empowered to become an entrepreneur? Was there a lot of support and did you face a lot of doubt?

I think in whatever situation you are, regardless of your job title, the utilization of your knowledge and your wisdom can be empowering in many ways. I received a lot of support, especially from friends and family because they were not gender biased. I have friends who developed their businesses from the early age of 18; they were already entrepreneurs and they were always ready to help and gave us non-entrepreneurs the courage to start thinking of building a business. It’s actually a contagious act 🙂 When my friends (who are non entrepreneur) were talking about their jobs and how stressed out they were getting from their tasks, I asked them why they didn’t just become entrepreneurs – it’s something very challenging yet enjoyable. It’s full of ups and downs, but the thing is this feeling is something that I really appreciate, and I think most of the entrepreneurs who have been doing this business since an early age understand that and encourage other people to do the same.

 

What is it like to toggle being both an entrepreneur and being a mother – both 24-hour, full-time jobs?

It’s tough. It’s so, so tough. I always feel guilty if I don’t see my son for at least three hours a day, but the thing is that I love both my work and being a mother. Sometimes when I’m stressed and I don’t know what to do at work, I go home and feel so safe because I see my son and suddenly whatever happened in the office doesn’t really matter anymore. It’s a big challenge, but women should not give up their careers to become mothers. Because in order to be a good mom, you need to be a good role model, too. Full time moms are great, don’t get me wrong. But you don’t have to be a full-time mom to be a perfect mom. You can be both: you can be a successful woman as well as a mom at home. It does get really tough because if something at office is stressing you out, you tend to bring it with you to home and vice versa. So, you need to find a balance. I have to give myself some credit sometimes and tell myself I need to do this in order to be a good role model for my son.

 

Speaking of role models, do you have any role models that you personally look up to?

Yes, my mom. She’s a very tough mom. My childhood was not wonderful because my dad left and my mom was a single mother who raised three children. So, she has been my role model forever.

My mom was a victim of abuse from my dad; the abuse got to the point where she was in a coma for three months. After that, my dad disappeared and then no one was taking care of us. When my mom regained consciousness, the doctor told her that she would probably never walk again. She had never worked before, but she thought that if she didn’t get a job then how could she feed her kids and send them to school? She fought a lot and started walking again, which the doctors found miraculous. She juggled three jobs a day just to raise us and feed us and to give us proper shelter and education. That’s a lot to handle.

 

If you were to give a girl advice on becoming an entrepreneur, what would you tell her?

Just jump in, and you’ll find a way. If there’s a will there’s a way. Believe in yourself.

 

Michella Irawan: ANGIN Angel, Managing Director of PT. Etmieco, & Leader of NEXUS Indonesia

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Michella Irawan and I’m the managing director of PT. Etmieco, my family business, as well as a NEXUS Indonesia Outreach Ambassador and a part of the NEXUS Asia leadership team. I am also an angel investor at ANGIN. I’m actually very new to the angel investment scene – I’ve been at ANGIN for less than a month. I’m excited to learn more about what angel investment is, investing with impact around Indonesia, what people are thinking, and what they’re investing in. What the support, needs, challenges and gaps are in Indonesia’s startup ecosystem. And also I’m excited to meet other angels.

As for how I got to where I am, I’ve always liked social work but it’s always been very traditional like donating, going to orphanages, and volunteering. I came back immediately after graduating from university to help out with the family business, so I’ve not been exposed to any other world. Four years ago, I was invited to a NEXUS summit in Singapore. That was my first exposure to  impact innovation, creativity and how they can be used as tools for social change. Business is a big driver for change – there are those that contribute to negative impacts, and those that can actually change how things are being run for the better. I was just amazed and inspired to meet all these individuals from all sorts of backgrounds: students, next-gen leaders, mothers, and high-end investors. I saw what they are bringing to the table and how they are using their own unique creativity to really innovate on solutions and businesses.

What do you think is the role of angels in impact investing? How can individuals make a difference?

I think that for anyone who wants to support start-ups, they can start identifying and learning about the gaps that need filling. And after that, start thinking about what you have personally as a resource to support them. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of funding. Support comes in all forms – it can be your expertise, connections, time, or even just a brainstorming call.

As someone from such a unique part of Indonesia, could you tell us a little bit more about your hometown, Manado?

I will say that it is very special. It’s a special economic zone and has a wide variety of natural resources. If you go back in time, we had a special spice trade with the Dutch and Portuguese because of our soil. Whatever spice was grown in it would be the highest quality in the world, may it be cloves, vanilla, chocolate, or coconut. Manado is called the “Coconut City” and Bitung, where my family businesses is, is called the “Tuna City”. Ecology-wise, the soil is unique and fertile because of the active volcanoes all around. As for the ocean, we have a very deep cool water current flowing that actually creates a rich marine species diversity.

Another thing: Manado is instrumental in the One Belt, One Road initiatives. I think Manado and North Sulawesi are the first ones that opened it up. We hosted a Manado Investment Forum last year and are really opening up for tourism. Right now we have 18 direct flights from China and they’re opening more from Korea, Japan, and other countries. On the other hand, by having access to investors, there is also a high risk of us becoming like Bali or being overridden by people who really don’t care about our nature. So I think that it is a very interesting time because we’re getting a lot of funding and government support. But at the same time, the locals have to be empowered as well to take care of the land and make sure that the government understands that every investment deal has to have 10-15 years of thinking.

What is the business climate like in Manado? Do you see any promising startups there? What does the ecosystem need to thrive?

There isn’t much of a startup scene yet, because I think the ecosystem is not there. Then you start seeing all the youths going to Jakarta or overseas. This is a pity because when I talk to universities, actually they are really good and they have great programs and they really have a lot of local talent. But one thing’s for sure, we are more advanced because our industries have been there for awhile – spice or seafood, and tourism as well. I also would say the locals there are generally better off. Land is passed down from generations. So we’re not talking about, say, a city that’s really at the bottom of the pyramid. So if we want to start something, empower the local youths, and create an ecosystem, it’s already been done halfway.

How does it feel to be a woman business leader in your community?

Interestingly enough, there are a lot of women leaders in my community. The Mayor of Bitung’s wife is actually an ambassador for a local NGO called Selamatkan Yaki. She’s an advocate of the environment. I think in Bitung alone, there’re a lot of women general managers. All my admin are women. It’s where a lot of powerful women are. And I actually just looked into a WhatsApp group recently called “Perempuan for Environment.” There are women from all sorts of places in that group, from the Head of Police’s and Head of Military’s respective wives, college students, businesswomen, and more.

What can other people learn from these powerful women?

I think first of all, you need to let them meet each other. That’s why there are so many events and co-working things going on. Let them meet each other more and more, facilitate and build more bridges. And the magic will happen automatically. Women’s instinct will play its role.

Do you have any advice for young women who are looking to also become next generation leaders?

I would say it has to be coming from you because if you’re interested or not, and if you’re passionate or not. If you are interested in something, read on it more. If you’re passionate, go for it. Stop waiting. Even just by attending an event on something you’re passionate about, it’s a start. Meet people who are more experienced than you. Learn about their challenges and their successes, then reevaluate whether or not that’s really your passion. Because once you find it, and if you’re a leader by nature, you will automatically go forward.

Linasari Santioso: Business & Operations Controller at UnionSPACE

Tell us a bit about yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do female VCs bring to the table?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us a bit about yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did you personally overcome those challenges?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us a bit about yourself.

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

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

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

Why is Binar Academy so needed in Indonesia?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is your role model?

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

Merlina Li: Founding Member of Indonesia Blockchain Network & Head of Partnerships at Triv

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Merlina Li and I’m a founding member of the Indonesia Blockchain Network. The reason why we founded Indonesian Blockchain Network is because we want to educate Indonesia on what blockchain is, and to eliminate scam projects from this industry, making it as positive as possible. I am also the Head of Partnership at Triv, the second-biggest cryptocurrency exchange in Indonesia.

How did you get to where you are today?

Actually, that’s a bit of a wild ride. I’ve been interested in technology since college. I majored in computer science because I wanted to play games (laughs). That’s the only reason why I got to technology, but then like I fell in love with it. It isn’t just about playing games; it’s about believing in the system, running the system, making the system more efficient without having to depend on a single identity. From there, I worked as a business analyst for Asia Pulp & Paper for five years. It was quite a good journey because I learned a lot of things about the industry, especially how the manufacturing and supply chain industries works. It really enhanced my current experience in blockchain.

Afterwards I worked for GO-JEK as the IT project manager for the core background team. In GO-JEK, they wanted to develop more females in the engineering side, because when I joined them, there were no female developers or female project managers in the core background team. So GO-JEK wanted to give more chances for women to perform in the engineering side.

GO-JEK was a pretty nice experience, but after awhile I felt that I should go deeper into blockchain. Because if I only stayed on one side, then I wouldn’t be able to see the whole side of the blockchain industry. I saw how blockchain is able to make people’s lives better, making things much more positive. That’s how I got into this industry.

What was it like being one of the first female project managers on the core team at GO-JEK?

Some of the guys really appreciated me, but some didn’t give appreciative looks because they thought females did not belong in the engineering side and aren’t able to work as developers. People really underestimate females in the technology industry. For example, if they know that you’re female, they say it’s not your field and it’s not what you should do. According to them, a female’s role is to be a housewife – cooking, cleaning the laundry, going to the salon, and putting makeup on. While there are some male counterparts that really appreciate females in this industry, some only think of females as the sidekick. That’s the bias we want to eliminate.

What advantages do females have in engineering?

Females tend to have more empathy, so we think more about the user side. We have empathy and also conscience, so we think more about how people are using our applications, how they navigate, how they run it, and whether its smooth or not. And the cost — I think females are more cost-efficient than our male counterparts. Therefore, I think both genders have to work side by side instead of mocking or putting down each other.

How did you overcome the stereotypes and expectations you encountered as a female in the technology industry?

In the blockchain industry, which is quite new, sometimes we try to keep our identity hidden. We want to know what people’s true opinions are, without gender bias. 80% of people in Telegram groups still call me a bro; I tell them that I’m a female, I’m not a bro! I think that blockchain is female-dominated right now. But some of the identities are anonymous, so some of the guys who work in blockchain are giving females a chance to prove themselves – wittingly or unwittingly. Most of the “blockchain bros” are much more appreciative of females in the industry compared to other technology “bros” — that’s what I feel in this industry. They’re more willing to give females a chance to perform.

What I’m trying to do is prove that I’m able to perform. Actually some of the “bros” still perpetuate the stereotype that females are not worthy to be in technology, but we are able to prove otherwise. That’s how we gain respect in this industry.

How conducive is the Indonesian market for blockchain?

I think Indonesia is a good place for blockchain to thrive. We are a big island country where not everything is connected yet, so there are a lot of things that could be interconnected in the future compared to other mature countries. Actually, some Indonesian people are more open-minded to receive new technology, so I think blockchain could develop in a way that will help them more.

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

My role model, I would say, would be my mom. Every woman is like a wonder woman — they can have a job, they can be entrepreneurs, and also have a family and kids. I think every woman in every stage deserves respect, whether they are a housewife or a career woman. I think every woman deserves respect.

How can we make sure more women are being more pulled into the blockchain community? How do we encourage more women to take that risk, take that jump, and go forward?

They could start through cryptocurrency trading — that’s the easiest way right now. Through this, they can see how the technology works and see which part of blockchain they want to contribute to. In cryptocurrency, females can jump in right away, and then start to learn step-by-step about the technology, about how the fundamentals work. I think what they need to be in the blockchain industry is open-mindedness. Because if they’re not open-minded, then it’s going to be hard to start in any industry.

The best tip I can give is keep trying to be persistent in this industry, keep their determination strong, and just keep going forward. If this is what you really want, you need to believe in yourself, and find people in the right tune with you. If people criticize you, just leave them behind and move forward with the positive ones. If you really believe that blockchain will be able to change people’s lives in the long term and not only in the short term, then that’s how you’re going to survive. Because you’re becoming persistent in what you believe in.