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Veteran Investors Encourage More Tech Funding in Indonesia

Nur Yasmin
January 16, 2020 | 8:41 am
John Riady, chief executive of Lippo Karawaci, discusses tech investment at the DealStreetAsia PV-EV Summit 2019 in Jakarta on Wednesday. (JG Photo/Nur Yasmin)
John Riady, chief executive of Lippo Karawaci, discusses tech investment at the DealStreetAsia PV-EV Summit 2019 in Jakarta on Wednesday. (JG Photo/Nur Yasmin)

[Updated at 12:15 a.m. on Monday, 20 January 2020]

Jakarta. Veteran tech investors say people should invest more in the Indonesian tech market since they have seen a shift in consumer behavior in Southeast Asia's largest economy toward a more digital lifestyle, which will provide a strong foundation for growth for tech companies. 

The investors were speaking at the second DealStreetAsia's Indonesia Private Equity-Venture Capital Summit in Jakarta on Wednesday.

The Singaporean news platform's event featured 41 notable tech industry actors, investors and entrepreneurs. Among them were the Northstar Group, Grab, Gojek, OVO, RedDoorz, Traveloka, Bukalapak, East Venture and Lippo Karawaci.


Each of them gave their take on tech investment in Indonesia.

John Riady, the chief executive of Lippo Karawaci, shared the experience of his early investing days before managing Lippo Karawaci. 

"When I made my first proposal to invest in tech, I remember I had a chart mapping out all the tech companies in China, which totaled a trillion dollars in value. Indonesia had only a billion dollars worth of tech companies back them. But I was positive in five to ten years the market would grow to be worth $20 billion or even $100 billion," John said.

John was among the first persons to build a digital payment service in Indonesia with OVO in 2017. The startup is now a unicorn – with a valuation of more than $1 billion – and an important player in the digital payment market.

John said there is much excitement in Indonesia's tech industry and that it has developed a very friendly ecosystem for investors to ensure its long future. 

"Tech is one of the most exciting assets a company can have. Tech enables amazing changes in consumer behavior. It impacts consumers' livelihood to the point that it can never be reversed. I'm really confident with all these fundamental changes going around," John said.

Patrick Walujo, the president of Northstar Group, who has invested in OVO and Grab, said the character and quality of a company's founders are the most important aspects to consider before investing.

"We make hypotheses on young startups, to work out how much we want to bet on the company. [To do this] we need to see the quality of the founders because things could change quickly, and we rely on the founders to be benevolent and creative," Patrick said.

Patrick said founders also have to be realistic and result-oriented.

"I think the most successful companies are those that can project what kind of help they would one day need. I've seen situations where people get carried away. I always tell them not to have too high an expectation and focus on what needs to be delivered," Patrick said.

Joji Thomas Philip, DealStreetAsia's editor-in-chief and founder, pointed out that in a decade Southeast Asia has already produced 11 unicorns.

"Back in 2010, Southeast Asian startups had raised a total of less than $100 million. In 2019, they raised $9.5 billion in total," Philip said.

He said startups still need to work extra hard to raise funds and make profits but predicted a good venture trend for them in the next few years.

"In 2019, Southeast Asia-focused venture capital firms closed funds worth a total of $3.5 billion, up from $2.2 billion in 2018," Philip said.

Nevertheless, he also warned that startups in Indonesia might have to look out for regulatory uncertainties on taxation and e-payment this year.

Correction: The previous version of this article misquoted Jiji Thomas Philip and misspelled the name of the publication that he founded. The Jakarta Globe regrets the errors.  

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