It has been almost a year (10 months to be precise) since I’m involved in the startup scene in Indonesia, no, not as a co-founder (yet) but just a mere employee. I find this startup world is quite fascinating, it moves fast, agile and very challenging at both ends: business and technical. Also, it forms some sort of community that at some point it is competitive yet very constructive at the same time. There has been regular startup talks organised by startups or VCs to share insights, practices and knowledge to others. Tech a break from Tokopedia is one of the example.
In recent years, startup scene in Indonesia is getting hotter. A lot of new startups founded, and bunch of them got founded by investors, Happyfresh for example. A well summary of Indonesia’s startup scene as off 2015 can be found here. With more than 250 millions of population, which around half of them around productive age (below 40) with the raise of the consumptive middle class (kelas menengah ngehe), it is given that Indonesia is a tasty and juicy yet delicate piece of meat.
Despite the potential market, Indonesia’s startup scene is clearly behind the startup’s mecca, Silicon Valley. Indonesian startup still yet to found unicorns. The closest one maybe Go-Jek with IDR 5,6 Trillion (around USD 400 million) of valuation. Another success story is Tokopedia, which raised a record-breaking funding around USD 100 million. Well, maybe those successes that inspire others to just quit their day job and build startups.
However, as I dive in inside a couple startup companies, it becomes clearer to me that to reach that level of success it is a lot more than just what we read or hear in news or tv. It is always easier said than done. To reach beyond that point, i.e., unicorn, the effort logically should be at the very least proportionally increasing, at worst it could be exponential. Only those who are committed and fully prepared can achieve that.
Technologically, unicorns are trend centres. They create cool projects/platforms/libraries/tools that are used by million other developers around the world. They don’t have much technical debts (if they have it at all) so they can keep improving their product instead of fixing bugs. Adding, removing and changing features are daily routines. Ever heard how Netflix and Spotify can have tens or even hundreds production deployments in a day? That’s how reliable their development methods are. And to be honest, Indonesian startup still far away from that level. Even Go-Jek struggled with their system earlier this year causing negative sentiments across social medias.
It is true that the road to unicorns is hard and will be even harder along the time as the competition arise from local or global competitor but I believe that won’t stop founders yearn to be one. Maybe it’s more akin to mountain climbing, the higher the mountain, the greater the challenge, the more obsessed the climbers are. One think I can think of, startup founders are masochist.