What’s your job like as CMO of GDP Ventures?
My job as CMO is to expand the business, especially the companies that we have under our portfolio now through various marketing technologies that help us make better decisions. Next, the job of a CMO is too seek out new opportunities. I build companies and I sell them, so I learn to know what it takes for people who want to build their own start-up. As I have mentored many young entrepreneurs, the way they think is something that I always challenge. I always encourage them to keep on practicing discipline as well.
What are your current activities other than being CMO?
I’m also an active investor. Other than my investments in Carousell and 88rising, I love motorcycles, so I am currently helping out Elders, which sells the motorcycles that have been used by Jokowi—I’m helping them to scale up. If I want to learn about a new industry, rather than learning from zero I will invest in companies that provide me with the chance to learn about that industry.
You must be a curious person.
Yes, but the negative side of that is that I get bored easily. So after I have mastered something, I feel the need to move on to other things.
What’s the story behind 88rising?
Sean Miyashiro came to me with the idea of taking Asian culture onto the world stage. So I did my due diligence and I know that he was good at what he was doing at that time, which was creating content for Vice, so I invested. I think that’s a very important lesson: do the best that you can at whatever you’re doing then, because people will notice it in the future. Whatever position you’re in right now, it should not stop you from going after your dreams.
Do you think that start-ups have to be confident enough to attract investors and customers in order to succeed? What is the most important mindset that you think they should have, especially when they’re in the beginning stage?
You have to be confident, but not overconfident. The mindset should be that you’re always willing to go through trial and error. The ability to be agile is the most important part of being a start-up. If you persist in whatever idea you have initially, there’s a possibility that you’ll fail. So having the mentality of perseverance and the desire to be better all the time and to never stick with one idea will help a lot.
What’s your advice for young entrepreneurs on the best attitude towards competitors?
A lot of start-ups focus on their competitors, and I tell them that they can look at competitors but not follow them. You have to fully understand your own situation, adapt, and then build forward momentum.
What is your advice for young entrepreneurs who are excited about new start-ups?
Everything should start with good preparation. You need to count on yourself and be ready not to get paid for the longest time. Also, many start-ups fail because of fights between partners, so choose them wisely. Meanwhile, prepare your financial planning properly because it is important to remember that you are building a profitable company, not a non-profit company—don’t depend on investors only, because that means you don’t have a business model. It’s also important to note that there are different types of business, so you can’t always be thinking of conquering the world—sometimes you can only conquer Jakarta.
As someone who went through a lot to achieve your current position, you know the value of working hard. What kind of start-up culture do you think should be cultivated that will be good for both mental and physical health?
Work hard and play hard. You need to balance yourself and have fresh starts. There’s a book called Good to Great, which teaches you about being consistent. You don’t have to overwork yourself, just produce the greatest amount of work you can within the time that you have set yourself. It’s important to have enough rest, too, so that the next day you’ll be fresh instead of sluggish. If your mind isn’t fresh, you won’t be able to think of new ideas, and that will be the downfall of your start-up. So you have to balance yourself to maintain your sanity and then you can produce a huge amount of work.
As the CMO of GDP Ventures, can you share with us some experiences of failure and what you learned from those?
Because there are so many things that we do, we have to constantly undergo a process of trial and error. We deliberately design for failure instead of doing it accidentally. We always test something first, and if it’s not great, we’ll kill it. The thing that we learned for years is that meeting with the right partner and the right people is important. You also have to stay focused, assemble great people, and don’t do anything half-heartedly because it won’t work. Every individual has different skills and ways of doing things, so we have to learn how to communicate and handle them best. Lastly, I think it’s best to work with someone else first and learn from your mistakes before you proceed to build your own company.
What are some important life lessons that you want to impart to the younger generation?
Being CMO of GDP Ventures is something that I never would have dreamed of. I just do whatever it is that I am good at, and I always feel great about my work. I paid myself Rp1 million during the first years of my business as I had to pay my staff. If you don’t taste the bitterness first, you will not have that “wow factor”. And don’t wait for opportunities: you have to go out and get them.