Linasari Santioso: Business & Operations Controller at UnionSPACE

Tell us a bit about yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do female VCs bring to the table?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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