‘Alpha Leader Series’ Shares Insider Story of the Rise and Fall in Building Startups for Engineers

Speakers at Alpha Leader Series, May 2018: Lingga Madu of Sale Stock, Aditya Lesmana of Carro, Donny Prakoso of Amazon Web Services, and Ananto Wibisono of Sepulsa.

 

Alpha JWC Ventures held the latest round of Alpha Leader Series, a quarterly event where tech enthusiasts and professionals discuss the latest development or exciting topics surrounding the industry,on May 5, 2018. This time, we engaged with the ones who are responsible for the rising tech industry, the faces behind the codes: the engineers!

The event featured four of the brightest resident chief-slash-engineers — Ananto Wibisono (Co-Founder of Sepulsa), Lingga Madu (Co-Founder of Sale Stock), Aditya Lesmana (Co-Founder of Carro), and Donnie Prakoso (Tech Evangelist at Amazon Web Services) to discuss about discovering next opportunities in tech; getting the right partner; starting and building a tech company; and excelling as a tech person in the startup land.

“In Indonesia, startup founders mostly come from business background, unlike in the US. Because in Indonesia, investors need to speak the same language and unfortunately they don’t understand the tech-people’s language, they only understand business language,” said Alpha JWC Co-Founder and Managing Director Jefrey Joe to open the event. “This will change soon in Indonesia. I believe in the next five years, people in tech will take more influential and various roles.”

Amongst the four speakers, three are co-founders of some of Indonesia and Singapore’s leading startups, and they shared their journey on how they got into the startup scene.

“As a tech person, I’ve always wanted to create the best tech company — not in terms of scale or revenue, but as a company that uses the best tech as a main weapon, not only a tool,” Ananto Wibisono, Co-Founder of Sepulsa, Indonesia’s leading bill payment aggregator provider.

As for Lingga Madu, Co-Founder of Sale Stock, it started from a personal itch: a desire to answer why clothes are so expensive in Indonesia.

“It really bugged me that a dress can be discounted 60% and the brand still make money from the sales. It could only mean that the initial cost must be much lower than the discounted price, right? So, my wife and I did some research and found that the biggest cost driver of clothes is risk buffer,” Lingga said. “We asked ourselves, how can we make clothes more affordable? By reducing risk buffer. How? By knowing which ones sell best using Artificial Intelligence.  As engineers, we always think how we can use tech to solve our itch, and that’s how Sale Stock was created.”

Audience of Alpha Leader Series, May 2018.

But being a founder or CTO is not the only options out there for engineers. Donnie Prakoso, Amazon Web Services’ Tech Evangelist, said that while there are many options out there, one should not limit himself on one definition.

“In IT, there are many career paths: WordPress developer, full-stack developer, machine learning expert, and many more,” he said. “Don’t let your role define you. If you’re a developer now, you can always be a business person next year, vice versa. We define ourselves, the tech is only supporting you.”

However, no matter what the role we take is, there’s one thing as important as finding our call and having the right skill set: getting the right partner — and finding one is not always easy.

Aditya Lesmana, Co-Founder of Carro, advised future founders to find partners you can rely on, and a good place to start is your closest surrounding.

“My co-founder is my classmate and housemate in university. I’ve known him for ten years; I know his work ethics and characters. I know how he thinks and I can trust that whatever he’s doing, even if I don’t understand, I know it’s for our common good. But the most important thing is that both of us are willing to take a plunge,” he said.

But it doesn’t stop with finding the right partner.The journey of building a great startup is one full of struggle and failure, as a company and an individual.

“We’ve all heard about the success story, but we rarely hear about the many failures behind that. It’s okay if you make mistake, if you created a bug, if your platform is left unused, or if you couldn’t anticipate a security breach. What matters is that you learn from that experience,” Ananto Wibisono said. “In Sepulsa, we have a ‘failure documentation’ so we all can learn from failures. We also make the company as a safe place to fail — that if one fails to do something he shouldn’t be berated, but made into a common learning.”

“We all should be more proactive and embrace failure. Keep learning, be curious, and dive deep. Don’t stop experimenting. Leaders never stop — they don’t stop when others belittle them, when they face financial problem. Don’t stop building, because you’re building for tomorrow,” adds Donnie Prakoso. 

The speakers also shared the one thing to do if you want to build your own company. 

“Be humble and don’t stop learning. Our Day 1 is different with Day 100 or Day 300. What you think you might be in the future might change and you should stay humble to keep learning,” Aditya Lesmana said.

“Keep innovating. We’ll always find a way to do new things differently, better, and more efficiently,” Ananto Wibisono said.

“Avoid premature scaling, growing the company when the business isn’t even there. Be prudent to see if the team and business are the right size. Don’t be over optimistic in forecasting growth,” Lingga Madu said.

“Don’t forget your customers. Startups move to new innovations quickly, but they often get lost in the way if they forget to put their customers’ interest first,” Donnie said. “They’re the one that brought you there, don’t forget them.”