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.

 

Denica Flesch: Founder of SukkhaCitta

Tell us a bit about yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suri: CEO & Founder of Diffago

Tell us a bit about yourself.

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

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

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

Why is disability an issue we should care about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you faced any specific challenges being a female entrepreneur?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you see Bali as becoming a startup hub?

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

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

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

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

 

Claristy: Operations & Growth Lead at Luno

Tell us a bit about yourself.

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

How did you get to where you are today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How is the Bitcoin industry like for women?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you see any notable Bitcoin trends in Indonesia?

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

 

Melina Subastian: Investment Manager at Alpha JWC Ventures

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Melina. I am an investment manager at Alpha JWC Ventures. We are a venture capital firm with a focus on Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia for early and mid-stage tech startups. We do investments with the founder-first principles, where we like to back great mindset and potential entrepreneurs.

Describe your journey. How did you get to where you are today?

My journey. My first job was in management consulting with McKinsey & Co. in the Jakarta office. I spent about three years there, and I did most of my projects in digital transformation and community development (in McKinsey, they refer to “tech” as “digital”). Some of the projects I did were things like digital banking development for conventional banking, e-commerce platform development for modern retailers, and ‘digital village’ creation where we empower offline-to-online technology transformation in rural areas in Indonesia.

Working on those projects made me very excited about tech industry. After couple of years advising corporations, I got interested in seeing the wider scope of tech in the startup landscape. I interviewed with both tech start-ups and VCs. I ended up in a VC because I felt very passionate in making a wider impact, and VC role would allow me to do it. By doing assessments and leveraging a network and wide community of companies, we can provide a wider impact and also help in community development and ecosystem building, like what ANGIN and Connector.ID do. I really think that based on my character and personal preferences, this is something that really suits me. I can also apply what I learned during my time at management consulting, especially in the assessment of companies, compatibility with founders, and portfolio management. So far, I feel very happy here.

As a VC, you’re able to see a wide variety of start-ups. From what you see, how are women entrepreneurs doing? How are the numbers? Do you see a lot in certain sectors?

This is a very interesting question. I’ve spoken at some panels and events on gender-lens investing and women’s entrepreneurship, and this question often popped up. I see that – and everybody knows this – women entrepreneurs are still very much a minority in Indonesia and in Southeast Asia. I would say that the visible ones are around 10-20% of all start-ups. If you look at our 20 portfolio companies, four companies have female founders. Four out of 20 is actually quite a good number for female VC-backed startups. We are actively trying to promote and encourage more women entrepreneurs in our investments going forward.

How does the investment landscape actually view these women entrepreneurs?

So when I said around 10-20% of all start-ups have female founders, those are the visible ones. But the VC-backed ones are even less than 10%. Yeah. And there are a few reasons for that. Which are actually due to how the landscape views women as entrepreneurs.

This goes without saying, but there’s a nonverbal stereotype within the VC community that I have actually observed and is also something backed by data. Recently, Alpha JWC had a female-led event called Alpha Female on women’s entrepreneurship and gender-lens investing. We featured some female leaders and practitioners that we see have great impact in female entrepreneurship. Some of them included: Sonia Barquin, a partner in digital banking, Dayu Dara, Head of GO-LIFE at GO-JEK, Alyssa Maharani of Google Accelerator and Grace Natalia, one of our female co-founders. We were talking about one very interesting data point from a Google research project indicating that there is a big discrepancy in terms of the proportion of males that got investments after pitching compared to females who got investment after pitching. Females are less likely to get investment, even though the content of the pitching was the same. The research was conducted across VCs, accelerator programs, and pitching competitions. To me, that is quite ironic. This is a data-backed research.

Even without data, I can see this in practice. For example, I was once in a chat with some other VCs and they were saying something like, “Oh the business idea is great, the market is big, but she’s the only founder and she’s female.” That to me is sad. Why? One, the community still holds females to unrealistically high social expectations. They ask, “What if she gives birth? What if she gets married? What about our investment?” That’s very sad, right? Second, they also don’t believe that females can scale themselves up or push themselves to be great tech leaders. Third, these people take it as a casual chat. They chat about it in front of me – who is also female – and they think of it as something that is very normal. To me, this is something that is deeply rooted in gender bias stereotypes. It is something that we – starting from us – really need to take action about, and a sign that we must encourage entrepreneurship from females. Create more chances for them, give more opportunities.

What are some tangible ways we can move forwards as a start-up ecosystem? Is it having more gender-focused events? Showcasing more stories? Or targeting a quota for women in portfolios?

Stories like these are definitely important. But what is equally, if not most important is actually how we take action. I like action-oriented initiatives such as gender-lens investing – really targeting female entrepreneurs and backing them to give them support. Second, we should not forget other female communities in the ecosystem who are non-founders. These are people like female tech enthusiasts, professionals, and leaders like C-levels, Head levels. They also need support. We should create support groups. Even small things like WhatsApp groups or small mini-networking events once a month, those are very helpful. I’m personally involved in some communities like this. One is SheVC, a community driven by female VC leaders and associates in Jakarta. Another is Fintech Female, a community driven by female fintech leaders in Singapore, including fintech founders, enthusiasts, and active investors like us in Southeast Asia.

How do we drive more female talents to the VC scene?

Similar to tech companies, tech VCs are also a male-dominated industry. Many times I found myself at a table or room full of men. In fact, in many pitchings I’m the only female. That is a fact. And so one solution is definitely role-modeling. Role-modeling is about two things. One is in terms of communication, the second is in terms of number. In terms of communication, initiatives like this – ANGIN Women’s Spotlight – is very helpful. Because you spotlight women in the ecosystem and that triggers other women to join and contribute in the VC landscape. In term of numbers, we should look into eliminating gender bias in recruiting. By hiring more women, we increase the number of role models.

I found very few female VC role models in Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia. When I started my career as a consultant, one piece of advice that the HR told me was to look up to female role models at the firm in order to boost my development quickly. The firm at that time consisted of 30-40% female, with few of them in partner level. The female proportion is considered minority, but that is more doable compared to this industry. As a female VC – especially ones starting out in the first 1-2 years – it’s important to see how to succeed as a female. Even simple tips like how to self-brand, how to build presence, how to bring yourself in a meeting by asking right and targeted questions – those are the things we should get with more role models in the tech industry.

Men also carry responsibility for getting more females in the room and encouraging female role models. What are some tangible steps we can take to hold our male counterparts accountable?

I like this question! We’re talking about what men can do, right? One is eliminating gender bias in recruiting. If the quality of the candidate is the same, think about how to also balance gender in recruiting. Another is definitely during meetings, in pitching, or in discussions with other VCs, to try to really involve female counterparts by giving them a chance to speak or asking them questions, or even as simple as introducing them in the beginning. That helps in terms of confidence. Of course, we would expect a proactive approach from female VCs as well, but sometimes in a room dominated by men, that might be a challenge that is not really visible.

How do you go forward in your day-to-day being the only female in the room? Where do you get your confidence from?

The most important thing is definitely the mindset. If you think that because we’re female that we’re victimized, then we would act or behave as if we are the minority. Like we’re being discriminated, that we’re victims. I never felt like because I was female I had different capabilities than men. That has never been my mindset. But I see many females think that way.

A second tip is to try in every meeting, in every pitching, to give a good if not great impression. Show your credibility and capability, ask the right questions, and then give some good advice, some good feedback.

The third is to leverage our natural advantage as female. Being female, we do have one advantage in terms of character. We’re seen as more caring creatures. We are perceived as being able to understand and sympathize more with others than a man can. So leverage that. Because during pitching, entrepreneurs like to be listened to. Not just about whether they can be invested in or not, but also if we can give feedback to their challenges.

Have you yourself faced personal challenges? Any incidents of facing gender bias?

One is perhaps in terms of the jokes. I feel like some jokes are improper and can lead to sexual harrasment. Not extreme, but it’s still a form of harassment. For example, I once spoke at a tech event dominated by male audiences and they said, “Oh you should be his girlfriend, oh you might want to know me further.” It’s just improper. Building presence is very important. It can be done by not responding to those things while keeping ourselves polite.

Another challenge would be the one I mentioned before, where I saw some VC investors talking about a female founder, where they actually doubt her just because she is a female. The business is good, the market is big, but just because she’s a female – because she might get married or give birth next year, they chose not to invest. Those are the two incidents I see.

Do you have any advice for other girls who want to get into the VC industry?

One is to think about yourself as a pioneer. Because if you join now, you’ll be one of the first female VCs in Indonesia and in Southeast Asia. You’ll probably be one of the first 10% of the female VCs in Indonesia actually. While venture capital itself is a growing industry – we’re getting more mature, compared to a few years ago. Think about it as ‘we’re writing history and you’re being a part of it’.

Second, if you’re facing any challenges or any difficulties in building confidence, that is a very normal thing. But with time and through mentorship, by sharing with support groups or anyone you can trust, you can overcome it.

 

Dian Wulandari: COO & Co-Founder of Instellar

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Dian Wulandari, co-founder and COO of Instellar. How I got to where I am, it’s a long story. Basically I come from a PR & Marketing background. The last job I had was COO of Marketeers, a media and communications company focusing on youth. We did projects on oil, coal mining, DDI, and an NGO as well. I’m also a big believer in technology; I’m the woman lead of Google Business Group Jakarta – a community supported by Google.

Because I’m a believer in technology, I’m also an early adopter of tech. I used Google while it was still in beta testing. I even used GO-JEK when it didn’t have an app yet – you had to dial a call center to ask for a bike to pick you up. That’s how I got into this startup business. Even though I’ve worked at different companies, I always do two to three months of sabbatical each year to work for non-profit organizations and to do volunteer work. I’ve found that my passion is to help people. But I still have to pay the bills, right? So I go back to work.

I always wanted to have this balance – you want to do good but you want to make money also. And then I heard about the term “social enterprise” – a way to balance social and business. I co-founded Instellar with four partners. It is basically an ecosystem builder, trying to build an ecosystem where everyone can be a social enterprise. Well, I don’t really like the term social enterprise actually. My vision is that in the future there is no such thing as social enterprise. Every company should be responsible to the environment, to society. You don’t have to categorize.

We’re thinking that as an ecosystem builder we can’t just focus on one stage of entrepreneurs. We have to tap into different stages of businesses to make an ecosystem. If your goal is to achieve a vision where everyone is a social enterprise, when everyone is taking care of the planet and its people – it’s not going to work if you’re only focusing on the prototyping stage. We have to do it all as an ecosystem builder. That’s why we created Instellar.

In terms of creating a more socially-minded ecosystem, what work remains to be done?

I do think the first barrier we need to tackle is to stop looking at money as evil. If you have that mindset, you will think that having a profit is not the same as having an impact. Actually, that’s not the case – we can do both. I think that’s the first barrier we need to tackle. You know what they say about money being the root of all evil? Well I think that it’s actually the lack of money that is a root of evil. You can have profit and do good – the two are not mutually exclusive.

Instellar doesn’t only focus on early social enterprises. We do have to give consideration to big corporations as well. Take Ben and Jerry’s, for instance. They’re making good impact. They don’t use GMO products, they have a good business process, good business model, they make profit. I think these big companies also have to be shown in our publications, conversations, and awareness. Stop thinking about these big corporations as these evil, profit-creating entities. That’s the first barrier we have to tackle. Yes, there have to be better regulations and incentives – but it’s the mindset that we have to break down first. Having money and profit means you can do more.

On one hand, we have to shift profit-makers to making impact. On the other hand, we must also work with impact-makers to sustain themselves through business. It’s a balance between profit and purpose. From my experience, it’s harder for the impact entities to go to the middle than for the profit side. So we did have an experience incubating this NGO. Very good, very impactful, the team was also good. They wanted to change, they wanted to have a business model. Their operations of just asking for grants wasn’t sustainable. They really wanted to, but their mindset was very hard to change. For instance, when we asked them to increase the price they were reluctant.They felt it was hard for people to buy at a higher price. But actually for the same price it was very hard for them to grow. That’s the mindset.

In general, there are fewer women entrepreneurs in relation to other entrepreneurs, but there seems to be a lot of women entrepreneurs in social entrepreneurship. Why do you think that is?

Yeah, it’s true. There’s a growing trend in social entrepreneurs led by women. For example, we currently incubate 78 social entrepreneurs. Last year the proportion was 60% male-led, 40% female-led. This year it is 55% female-led and 45% male-led. So that’s a growing trend. Why? One, because again the global movement is different now. There is a lot of momentum in giving more chances for women to become entrepreneurs. And we do find that when women create something, they do it not just for themselves but also for their families. And women tend to be the decision-makers of the family. They’re thinking about others. It’s a common research topic – McKinsey and a few other consultancies have findings on it. I don’t know if it’s a stereotype or not, but I do think that women tend to think more about impact – not just about profit. That’s why a lot of social entrepreneurs are being led by women, and it’s coming from their hearts and solving problems in their societies.

One example: there’s Kostoom, an app for tailors to find customers. The founder, who is female, created it because her mother was a tailor. She found it was getting harder for traditional tailors to find customers. Since she knows tech, she created an app for it.

Do you think there is a greater focus on women in the startup space?

I think we are creating more opportunities for women. People are recognizing that there are more and more women-focused programs in accelerators that are being held in Jakarta, in Indonesia, and globally. I do think there’s a thin line between women’s empowerment and discrimination against men. A lot of people are asking, “Why only women? How about men?” Well, men already have all these facilities and everything, you can join it if you want to. The bottom line is that there are several things that women need to learn specifically. That are different. Problems that are different from what men are facing.

For example?

For example, being judged by your appearance. And then also this is a personal experience, but sometimes if your counterpart is male, they will sometimes hit on you. For other people it’s hard to draw a line between personal and professional.

But I think the bigger barrier for women is coming from within. One is the confidence level. I don’t know why – being in society, being in the patriarchy, it makes women more timid. For some of us, it doesn’t come naturally to speak their opinions – unlike men – because we are afraid of being judged. So that confidence level and fear of being judged…you don’t know what you think of yourself and you care about what others think. We’re born to this kind of society where we have this perception of what women should do.

Do you have any specific challenges you’ve faced as a woman in your industry?

I had problems while I was still new in Marketeers. I had joined the company for one year. I was in charge of everything. People talked about me, saying I’m a new kid, I’m female. People also judge their bosses differently when it comes to gender. When a male boss is meticulous, they call it “detail-oriented.” When it’s a woman, they call it “ribet (complicated/fussy) ”. Some women think about that and take it into consideration. They spend their time working on relationships instead of working on their professional goals. That’s one of the challenges of being a female.

When I talk to a lot of investors, some investors prefer to invest in women. They say that women are more reliable. They set realistic goals compared to their male counterparts. But the problem is that these females don’t want to be invested in. They don’t want to grow a bigger company. Why? Because one, confidence level. They don’t know if they can manage it, they don’t know if they can fulfill investor demands. Meanwhile, their male counterparts are more confident.

That’s why we have our workshops and trainings that focus on women. It’s not about business, it’s about soft skills. We teach them about unconscious bias, because it’s not just about men that harbor them. We as women have unconscious biases as well. Sometimes, women are also more judgmental to other women than to men. So before we change the world, we have to change ourselves first.

Do you have any advice for other girls who are facing those same confidence issues? How can we begin to overcome gender biases?

The short answer will be that when people say I’m bossy, I say, “OK, I’m the boss. So what?” I’m not bossy, I’m the boss. So just embrace it. It’s actually from my own experience. Once, I heard some of my subordinates calling me bossy behind my back. It hurt me from the very beginning. I thought to myself, what should I do? Should I be nice to them? It was important for me to get their approval. What I didn’t realize was that it was important for me to get the approval from them professionally. What they think about me, it’s not something I can change. What I can change is myself, how I interact with them.

You should recognize your own talent. Recognize your own talents and skills. Be humble, but be proud of yourself. For a lot of females it’s hard to take compliments. When you say, “You’re doing a good job,” their immediate answer is “The team is working on it, it’s not me, we’re working on it together.” Learn to say thank you. Embrace it. Be mindful but be proud of yourself. And learn how to say no. These tips sound simple, but try to practice it in your life. You’re good. You just have to believe in yourself.

How do we get to the point of creating a world where all businesses have social aspects when we live in a world where the system rewards revenue and not impact?

Well, I’d like to disagree with that. Because I think the world trend is going towards our direction. Yes, on the investment side they want to make bigger and faster profits. But I do think there is a shift in the global consensus as well when it comes to being socially conscious. Like the movement in San Francisco – all of those tech companies have high profit, but they do think about the welfare of the company, their employees, and the need to live a balanced life. To be a social enterprise, you not only need to be socially conscious about the world, but also about your employees as well. That has to be one of your considerations. It doesn’t matter if you’re giving a lot to society if you have modern slaves in your company. So I do think that the trend is going there.

The trend is going there in other ways. For example, governments around the world are now recognizing social enterprises. They give incentives – tax incentives. In Indonesia, we haven’t gotten those incentives. The latest case I know is Vietnam, where they have very good tax incentives for social entrepreneurs. We also see the B Corporation movement, which is going big and going global. I see a lot of big corporations are joining that movement and want to do good for the world.

 

[RECAP] Women in Blockchain

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

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

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

 

Nina Moran: Co-Founder of GoGirl!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What advice do you have for people with similar aspirations?

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