Kickstarting Emerging Markets Startup Ecosystem Part 1 - Bandung/Jogja

It was my first time in Bandung and Yogyakarta (Jogja) Indonesia recently speaking and visiting startups, incubators and co-working spaces. I caught up with several Founder Institute Singapore graduates in Jogja (above) and dived deeper into the startup community and where their state of affairs are. Here are some findings and feedback on what I discovered.

Ecosystem report card (1-5, no 3): Jogja/Bandung

Founder Pool - 2 (getting better)
Labour Pool - 4 (strong in tech)
Training - 4 (strong technical training)
Culture - 2 (risk adverse, little coopetition)
Infrastructure - 2 (slow broadband speed infrastructure, low operational cost)
Regulation/Policies - 2 (some friction incorporating new companies)
Market Size - 4 (large domestic market)
Capital - 1 (early stages of risk capital coming on board)
Media - 1 (little to no media coverage celebrating startup heroes)  

Positives:
- 1 mobile operator backed accelerator program (Telcom). They run it both in Bandung and Jogja. Definitely a great initiative but not enough from what I hear, as they have certain criteria (telco related) before accepting applicants.
- A large density of Universities and Sekolah Teknik graduates who are technically trained. Strong technical talent pool which is well known for the last few decades.
- Low cost of living compared to other larger cities in Indonesia with much better traffic. Quality of life is better according to many.
- The community is hungry for knowledge, expertise and are gradually looking to be in business for themselves. Looking at product not services companies.

Negatives:
- Little to no risk capital.
- Little to no mentors. Jakarta mentors do come through, but not often enough.
- Crowd are shy and not open to critiques and discussion. Rarely share what they do or what they are thinking.
- Not bold enough to think they can do well outside Indonesia. Even in Indonesia, they don’t think of using Jakarta as a launching pad.
- Ideas are not refined, too insular, but I found a few great teams with great ambitions who hold back because of the realities of life and the ecosystem. No funding, hence need to go slow or bootstrap by doing client work.

Actionable Plan:
- Organize meet ups to discuss ideas (e.g. read Techcrunch, Hackernews, AngelList, producthunt.co) to exercise their thought process on how company/product visions are set.
- Bring more mentors to energize thinking/ideation process. In person or via online. e.g. an Ideation Weekend. Put the community online or on Qiscus/Slack for discussion and feedback.
- Startup a Jogja tech blog to keep track of activities. E.g. Jogjastartup.com
- Set up a Founders Guild to meet, discuss, and keep track of everyone’s progress. Include mentors and investors via an online platform (e.g. Qiscus/Slack). Founders sharing with founders.
- Setup a co-working spaces similar to Hubba in Thailand or Hideout in KL, only for technology startups and developers/designers work/contract for product startups.

I love emerging startup ecosystems, lots of potential especially Jogja and Bandung. Will be visiting more often and striking matches to ignite some crazy teams.

How do someone get into the venture capital industry in Singapore?

I get this question quite a lot in the last 3-6 months from students and professionals from the industry. To not repeat myself over and over, I thought I will just blog about it.

Venture capital is broadly categorized under Private Equity as a financial asset class. "Venture capital" here will be referred to early stage - seed, and Series A investments. Growth and late stage venture capital is quite different in many sense (which I will not go into in this post).

If you like to work for a venture capital firm that invests in early stage technology startup companies in Singapore as an analyst, associate, principal or junior/venture partner level. The points below will give you an edge above everyone else who are smart, hungry and full of initiative, willing to be coached etc. After all, it is an apprenticeship business. Everyone starts somewhere.

First, you have to love the world of start ups. It has to ooze out of conversations with you, your resume and the way you talk (live and breathe it). What are some of the tell tale signs that you are crazy about entrepreneurship and starting up?

  1. You have participated in business plan competitions or entrepreneurial clubs and associations.
  2. You have started a company or worked in a startup (family businesses do not count).
  3. You have dabbled with a side project or two while you are holding down a day job.
  4. You have taken a class to teach yourself a functional skill in technology - coding, design, UX, online marketing etc.
  5. You have invested in a startup and are able to articulate why you have invested.
  6. You have helped, advised founders of a startup.
  7. You have organized or ran community events and activities for startups.

Second, you have to have founders' empathy. How do you acquire this particular empathy?

  1. You have started a company or worked in a startup and worked under the founding team.
  2. You have invested in at least a startup and are active either on the board of directors or speak to the founders 1-2 times a month. And have done this more than 5 years.

Third, you have a skill that is relatable to founders of startups.

  1. You can code, design, growth hack, online/mobile market.
  2. You are helpful with smart introductions. With potential hires, partners and customers.
  3. You have a specific engineering background. e.g. machine learning, artificial intelligence.
  4. You have a specific industry background. e.g. advertising networks, gaming studio.

At the end of the day, irregardless of what your position is in the venture firm. You need to command respect from the best founders out there. This is more important than just money. As you grow with experience, it will help propel you to the next level.

Lastly, be yourself, hustle your way there and know deep down what is your motivation to join our profession.

Good luck.



Humbled by Honest and Courageous Founders

Last week, we had our first event of the year for Founder Institute Singapore 2014, entitled "Making the Leap from Employee to Entrepreneur". It was the first time for the past 4 years with this particular event content. I invited 3 of my recent FI graduates to talk about their founding journey.

What transpired during the 2 hour session totally overwhelmed me and brought me  to tears more than once (especially Rishi's talk). 

I hereby salute all founders who have made the decision to make the leap. You will always have my respect.

Our next 2 events before starting the semester can be found at www.fi.co/join