Jakarta. Shinta Dhanuwardoyo, better known as Shinta Bubu, made her way into the Internet sphere way before Google even existed in the public domain — through the Lycos search engine. A year after returning to Indonesia from the United States in 1995, she set up Bubu Internet, named after her dog.
These days, Internet companies are a dime a dozen, but in 1996, people in Indonesia barely owned computers, let alone had an Internet connection. Shinta persisted in her vision by building Bubu, believing that it was only a matter of time before the Internet was adopted throughout the country.
Today, the company has evolved into a digital agency, and Shinta herself has become one of the nation’s leading authorities on IT, as well as a forerunner in fostering ties with Silicon Valley.
Indonesia’s digital activist
In a quest to develop Indonesia’s IT players into global players, Shinta has been actively scouting talented program developers across the country by visiting and lecturing at universities and, on a bigger scale, organizing the Indonesian Digital Byte (IDByte) events.
The biennial event was first held in 2011, with workshops led by world-renowned industry speakers as a networking event to connect IT developers and investors.
Included in the program is the presentation of the Bubu Awards to developers deemed to have the potential to put Indonesia on the IT map. The Bubu Awards have become a great motivator for young, talented developers to present their creations to the public.
Last year’s winner was Bandung game studio Digital Happiness, which presented DreadOut, a third-person supernatural horror game with a twist: the game’s antagonists are Indonesian ghosts.
“What we lack in Indonesia is the public relations, or marketing for our developers,” Shinta said. “By winning the Bubu Award, Digital Happiness gained not just international attention from gamers around the world, but also managed to secure close to $30,000 from international crowd-funding site Indiegogo to develop their game.”
DreadOut catapulted to international recognition after getting on Steam, the premier global online gaming distributor and dream platform for any digital game developer to sell their creations globally.
Angel boot camp
When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg came to Jakarta in mid-October, Shinta told him about her vision for Indonesia to be a global IT player, and not just a viable market for foreign players. The biggest hurdle to realizing her vision, she observed, is the need for business mentors in the industry.
“We have a huge talent pool in the country; the problem is we need experts to mentor the talent,” said the mother of two.
“There are lots of local start-ups that are great in coding [programming], but they need an entrepreneur to help them sort out the business side, especially acquiring capital.”
To address this issue, a few months ago Shinta held IDByte-X, essentially a smaller-scale IDByte, with the workshop covering angel investing. The event got investors and potential investors thinking and learning about how to become angel investors, and how to contribute to the digital industry in Indonesia.
Present were business mentors from Angel Labs, a premiere boot camp from Silicon Valley, who provided insight on how to be a successful angel investor. The workshop also won support from the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), the Tourism Ministry, the Indonesian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) and the Asia Pacific Media Forum (APMF).
Further, Shinta hopes telecommunications players will get involved with business incubators to support start-ups that can leverage on their data services to enrich their content.
“The event successfully identified the sheer number of people interested in becoming angel investors, and we introduced them to the nation’s many start-ups in dire need of business know-how and capital support,” said Shinta, a former chief executive of Telkom’s Plasa.com platform.
“When I started in 1996, I didn’t have anybody to help me — no venture capitalists or angel investors. I had to go through many mistakes, and quickly learned and grew from the mistakes. What we want to accomplish is for the younger start-ups to have a better chance and opportunity to become bigger, better and faster than I did 18 years ago.”
Lessons from an angel
As an angel investor in some start-ups herself, Shinta believes the most important factor for her to get involved with such outfits is for both parties to share the same vision: to be a world-class company.
The next most important factor is the team, and especially the founder’s passion and vision for their company. Last but not least, the product itself must be something that she is interested in.
Angel investing, she added, is not just about funneling money into a particular channel, but also about giving time and energy to teach and mentor people. Shinta said she was impressed with young entrepreneurs who dared to call her directly to seek her advice, and even encouraged it.
“We want to support people with an entrepreneurial spirit, and for me that means a person who will not quit until he succeeds, is resilient, a risk-taker, fast-moving, innovative, gets up from failures and uses that as a good lesson to progress,” said Shinta, who has been headhunted on several occasions to lead business incubators around the region.
“We are also looking for business mentors, a lot of whom are already serial entrepreneurs who have set up several companies.”