Last week, Indonesia held its largest entrepreneurship conference, Pesta Wirausahan, in Jakarta and I was privileged enough to be one of the speakers.
What’s a Filipino-American doing at an Indonesian entrepreneurship festival? That’s what I wondered myself when I was first invited to speak by one of the organizers, Wempy Dyocta Koto. He wanted me to talk about my journey from Asia to Silicon Valley and back.
Startup fever has spread globally and in Southeast Asia. Many people are saying that it feels like China did in 1999.
1999 was the year Alibaba was founded and since then, China’s internet economy has been massive in its own right, creating companies like Sina, Baidu, JD.com and most recently, Xiaomi. China is not only competing on software, but in hardware and has become a fierce local and regional competitor to Silicon Valley’s best.
Last year’s landmark \$100M funding round of Tokopedia by Sequoia Capital is the first of what will be many milestones for Indonesia and the region.
But before you can get big, you often start out very small. Unknown. Fighting for your right to be on stage. That’s what Pesta Wirausahan was all about - a place for entrepreneurs who have built products to showcase them to other Indonesians and for all of these entrepreneurs to hear each other's stories, often fraught with failure, difficult decisions, and painful memories, of successful entrepreneurs to inspire them with the grit to keep building their dreams.
I had 3 takeaways from the event:
1. ASEAN economic integration was a theme throughout the conference - It seemed that Indonesians were actively preparing to not just defend their market but penetrate regional markets with their products.
2. The Islamic market is huge - by 2050, it will comprise the largest religious population group in the world - Who is building products for them? Seems like a massive blue market in areas such as fashion, finance, and food.
3. Indonesians have great national pride - From the entrepreneurs I met, there was a strong sense that this was an opportune time to start a business in Indonesia. Their demographic bonus does not occur until 2030 and there is a lot of optimism in the country.
Thank you, Pesta Wirausahan for having me and Kalibrr at this event. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about Indonesia’s people, culture, and entrepreneurial dynamism, but I know I’ve only scratched the surface. Looking forward to my next trip back!