Over the past year, the Indonesia tech startup scene has sprung out of nowhere to captivate the minds of investors and entrepreneurs alike. There’s always been a base level of tech entrepreneurship in Indonesia, but its most recent breakout can be traced back to Koprol’s acquisition by Yahoo in May 2010. East Ventures led the charge with a steady string of investments into Indonesia-based startups, starting with Tokopedia in March 2010 and followed by Urbanesia, Apps Foundry, Trendiest (f.k.a. Scrapplr), Disdus, PriceArea, and most recently TeknoUp and NightSpade. Other foreign and local investors weren’t far behind in descending upon the largest homogenous internet market in Southeast Asia to scour for opportunities. Sarah Lacy of TechCrunch wondered what the hell was going on in Indonesia, and tried to figure out whether East Ventures is early into the game or just crazy. The verdict was still out, until lightning struck twice and saw Groupon acquire Disdus earlier this month. Phew~
Against that backdrop, I made my first trip (5 days) to Indonesia in August 2010, and my second trip this weekend at the invitation of event organizer Asia Strategic Advisory, to attend the pitches by the winners of IMULAI 3.0 over the weekend in Jakarta. A bunch of us representing the Singapore investment community – Deepak Natarajan of Intel Capital, Pierre Hennes of Extream Ventures, the East Ventures team and Jeffrey Paine – joined the GDP Venture team and several local angels in the pitching room. My first trip had been more ad-hoc; I had a few meetings and drinks and got to know a segment of the tech entrepreneur ecosystem and Jakarta in general. This time round, IMULAI’s structured schedule meant I was able to review 15 pitches in 5 hours, in addition to the 5 startups I picked to spend time with as part of DailySocial’s Startup Sessions the day before the event (thanks Rama!). I even found the time to attend the final hour at StartupLokal‘s 1st birthday party after IMULAI 3.0. Not too shabby for 2 days of work if I must say.
My experiences from both trips further reinforces my opinion that Indonesia’s tech startup ecosystem is still in its first decade. Almost all the startups I met were focused on the Indonesian market. Many teams were trying to juggle product development on top of existing software consulting service businesses. Few founding teams had more engineers than businessmen. Most of the products and services resembled or mirrored funded startups in the US.
And there’s really nothing wrong with that; there were a couple of pitches by startups that if well executed within the Indonesian market alone, could become viable businesses and/or result in exits in the US$30 – 50m range. Neoteny Labs and our fund’s LPs lack the networks, reach and influence within Indonesia to be helpful to companies focused on Indonesia, which is probably why we haven’t made any investments there as yet. That’s not to say we won’t ever invest in Indonesia; I guess I’m still waiting to meet the right team with international ambition, strong product sense, and a well thought-out product/service.
For the curious, here are my tweet notes for the 15 pitches I sat through (further notes in italics):
- Rockto – reminds me of digg/reddit/tumblr, content recommendation & discovery
- Football Saga – fantasy soccer, social simulation, player as individual soccer athlete
- MediHaste – realtime notification of medical results as initial core utility, towards integrated EMR
- PrimagamaPlus – online learning for all ages in Indonesia, building atop education company PrimaGama’s reach + Microsoft tech
- RBTads.net – ringback tones as an ad network, call your friends and hear ads while waiting.
- Nolimit – reminds me of Brandtology, Jamiq, PressArmy, etc. Attack of social media analytics clones?
- VeriShop – VeriSign for Indonesia, SSL/trust seals for online businesses
- VirtuTrade – competitive virtual stock trading social network to educate & encourage participation in Indo stock exchange
- NgaturDuit.com – Mint/Blippy + marketplace for independent financial planners
- Movreak – social network for movie freaks, as a mobile app for movies info, showtimes, theatres
- SendokGarpu – HungryGoWhere for Indonesia. 10k users to date
- Ngomik – web-based Graphic.ly with social features/engagement & analytics for artists. Love the site & its community.
- NyanyiYuk.com – social karaoke online, looks awesome!
- Prohukum – case management system for law firms and legal consultants in Indonesia
- Inkuiri.com – shopping search engine for online stores and marketplaces in Indonesia
I‘ll leave you with a bunch of photos I took on this trip as I grab a shower and get some sleep. I reckon I’ll be making more trips to Jakarta the rest of this year, if not to just hang out with the close-knitted investor and entrepreneur community. Till next time, sampai jumpa!