Nuniek Tirta: angel investor, founder of StartupLokal, mother, and wife

ANGIN Women’s Spotlight series seeks to showcase a diverse array of inspiring women leaders and their stories and experiences in order to shed light on the unique experiences of women in business. We hope that both men and women can gain from these shared experiences, that these stories can inspire change, and that other young girls are motivated to become leaders as well.
Tell us about yourself. 
I’m Nuniek Tirta. I’m a digital nomad – meaning I work from everywhere. Along with my husband who is also the co-founder of, I initiated StartupLokal. It is currently the biggest startup community in Indonesia, and has been running since April 2010. We do monthly meetups where we gather startup enthusiasts every month; about 100-200 people usually come these. That’s our non-profit organisation. Apart from that, I’m also a PR marketing and community consultant for some companies, and my husband and I have made investments in 7 companies so far. I’m also a mother of two, and currently also finishing my studies in Masters of Psychological Counselling in Jakarta.
How do you juggle all of this – being an entrepreneur, an angel investor, a mother, and a wife?
I have a support system which is my family at home. I delegate my weaknesses, so that I can focus on doing what I’m good at. If I spend one hour with a client, I am focused on them. My advice on multitasking? Focus on your priorities first and also focus on what you are doing at hand. For instance, right now we are doing an interview and I am focused on that. If I spend one hour with a client, I am focused on them.
Do you have advice for young mothers who want to balance their career and their family?
Everyone has their own system of balancing. For me, I do it based on time. For example, weekends is for family. Me and my husband, we allocate at least one night a week to dating. Even though we have been married for 11 years, we are still dating regularly. We think that the relationship between husband and wife can have a huge impact on the relationship with your children. Many people don’t think so and ignore this while focusing entirely on the children. But for us, it’s very important to keep our relationship healthy, so that the relationship with our children is also healthy.
In terms of women and juggling home life and work life, do you think there are more women moving into the workforce after university? Is there is a trend moving towards that?
Yes of course. Maybe if we go back several years ago, many women were staying home to nurture their kids. There’s a statistic that more and more women are going out and looking for a job – an upward trend for working women. Improved gender equality that has opened up the opportunity for women to have the same opportunities as men to go into the workforce. In some rural areas, maybe there is still pressure to stay at home. But here in the big city, there is none of that.
What was your experience like being female in the startup ecosystem and building a startup organisation?
It’s kind of a privilege actually, to be female, because we have less competitors right? So when women are on a certain level, they tend to highlight us because we’re women.
What are your tips on leveraging being female and the strengths associated with being female for someone who wants to go down your path?
I think being a women…we have so many plus points compared to men. For instance, we have instinct. It’s either a blessing or a curse, I don’t know. But I often use it for business dealings, which my husband cannot — maybe because he doesn’t have the gift of instinct (laughs). I can generally sense what deals are not right, and so I don’t go for it. If you want to follow up, go ahead but I don’t. Usually my instinct works.
Do you have a story of a particular time where you used your instinct?
So often. For example, sometimes we get approached by people and for some unexplainable reason, I just don’t have a good feeling about that person. I just tell my husband. Other people who we meet for the first time — not only one or two, but four different people talked about this person who ends up with a bad reputation. And then that’s it, you know? That’s my instinct, but I can’t explain it, right? Then my husband decided not to continue to, you know.
So you guys work as a team?
Yeah, we work as a team.
How do you perceive these gender and women’s empowerment initiatives in Indonesia? Do you think it’s just buzz or a trend, or do you think it’s something that will last for a long time?
It’s funny you know, because 20 years ago I wrote a paper on gender equality. At that time, there were so many issues, especially in Indonesia. For example, women employees, didn’t get covered for the family, while men got covered for the whole family. Not even single mothers got covered. Those were the kind of gender equality issues at the time, but right now we have already achieved so much of the same. So when you talk about the movement, as long as there is still imbalance of equality, there will also be a movement fighting against it. But maybe the intensity of the movement is downgrading compared to the past.
What do you think other countries can learn from Indonesia when it comes to gender equality?
Indonesia once had a woman president. America hasn’t yet, at least for now. Apart from that, Indonesian women in general have the independence to choose whether they want to work or stay at home, which is different from Japan. My friend, who is marrying a Japanese, always says in Japanese culture when you become a mother you stay as a mother, but sometimes they forget to become a housewife. Can you see the difference? That is also one important point that I always tell my friends and others who come to me for counselling. That when once you become a mother, you don’t forget your rule as a housewife. Because the typical thing is that once you have a baby and the baby cries, and at the same time your husband is calling you for help, they will first run to the baby, because the baby can’t do anything, the husband can do his own thing. While in fact, the role must be balanced. My role as a housewife is number one, then after that as a mother. Back to my principle, if my relationship with my spouse is good, then my relationship with my children will also be good. It cannot be the other way around.
Who are some female role models that you have?
I think in terms of startups, Ibu Shinta has played a very good role in connecting more women in the startup industry. In terms of international figures, my role model is Michelle Obama – she is an excellent example of someone who can be successful yet supportive to her husband. Because I believe that behind a good leader, there is good female support. I think she’s very elegant and brainy.
As an angel investor, what do you look for in your startups? And what do you look for in a startup that tries to empower women?
From experience, the first thing I see is not the idea or the business, but the person: the founder who has a big vision for the startup. Right now, I invest in seven startups; we previously invested in nine startups, but two failed. From that we learned that a very good idea is not enough, and how you run it is much more important. When the founder has a big vision, they don’t give up. So what I look for when I choose to invest in something is a founder with a big vision.
I also tend to vary my portfolio. Right now, I invest in media, AI, web and also in film. I tend to do several things. Some might say that’s not focused, but rather than focusing on the field I’m focused on nurturing the startups that I invest in. I don’t just put money in them but I also open my network to them.In terms of investing in women founders, I invested in one female founder who owns three companies. It’s not actually about whether she is a woman or not — when we see that she has a good vision and that she knows the route to reach her goals, she is investable.
Where do you see the indonesian startup scene in 10 years? Where do you see the growth?
I think in 10 years, the startup scene will really take off. We’ve seen a lot of predictions, especially as GDP per capita rises…so I think it’s about time. There is already a good ecosystem for startups to grow in Indonesia. It will empower more and more people to go into this area, and then directly or indirectly, it will support both the Indonesian and the global economy.
When we first started, even the term startup is not familiar; those who had startups didn’t even know that they had a startup. They were not familiar with it. StartupLokal’s first event was attended by William Tanuwijaya, the co-founder of Tokopedia, and also Leon [Alpha Edison]. There were 33 people who were founders of startups, who are now becoming somebody. So you never know, that was 7 years, almost 8 years ago. I can see in 10 years we’re only going to get bigger.
Just to wrap up, if you had one thing to tell the world, what would you like to tell people right now?
Delegate your weakness, focus on what you’re good at, and find a mentor.

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