Juli 29, 2019

Episode 11: How 3 Founders Met In Business School And Joined Forces

Episode 11: How 3 Founders Met In Business School And Joined Forces

Intro: Welcome to GO FIGURE. My name is Nadiem Makarim, CEO and founder of GOJEK Southeast Asia's first Super App. GOJEK does ride hailing, food delivery, payments, even on demand massage. You name it. We do it. GO FIGURE is a podcast dedicated to expose the inner workings of ambitious tech companies in the emerging world. We like to talk about things we like and talk about things we don't like. There's a lot of myths out there that we want to dispel. So keeping it real is kind of our mantra. Hope you enjoy.

Nadiem: Hey guys, welcome to Go Figure. Today we have very, very special session. We have a very special episode because we've got my two former mentors two entrepreneurs, two founders, uh, overall from Indonesia. We all met in Harvard Business School.

Aldi: Yep.

Nadiem: And somewhere along the journey we decided to merge all three of our companies together and a, and now we're all here. Um, so I've got my friend Ryu here.

Ryu: Hey guys,

Nadiem: What's up Ryu and Aldi, over here. Um, just to give some context about where they are now in Gojek and then I'll let them explain a little bit about their background. Um, Aldi right now is the CEO of GoPay, uh, and leads our, all of our payments and financial services arms and review is the head of all things merchants in our organization dealing with our, uh, merchant super app. Uh, people tend to forget that Gojek is not just a consumer super app. We also have a small business, small to medium business super app, uh, and the platform here is run by Ryu. Uh, what's up guys? How the hell did we get here? How do we get there?

Aldi: It's been a long journey guys. 2012 was when it all started.

Nadiem: Was that when we first met?

Aldi: No, we met in two thousand and.. no, we actually started earlier. We met in 2008.

Nadiem: Oh yeah. Briefly.

Ryu: Huh? I met you guys in 2011. Sorry 2010, 2010. I met you guys in 2010 when I got into school.

Aldi: Yeah, I met him at and we met in 2008. The first year of school. Like I said, only two Indonesians in the class.

Nadiem: That's right. That's why I found you.

Aldi: Yes.

Nadiem: Being the other Indonesian.

Ryu: Huh. 2008 or 2009 dude? 2009 man.

Nadiem: Sorry, 2009, 2009.

Ryu: Aldi can't do math. That's very important. As the CEO of GoPay.

Nadiem: Hey man, you're the self proclaimed best Excel guy of the company. I mean your private equity background. What, did you talk a little bit about your background? Like tell us the elevator pitch of your background.

Ryu: So I'm a half Japanese, half Indonesian. My mother is Japanese. I speak fluent Japanese because of that. Uh, I grew up in Indonesia, went to Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS) and then went to school in the US, did banking, did private equity for awhile. Uh, that's actually, you know, uh, that's my affiliation with Northstar cause I went to work for a company called TPG capital.

Nadiem: Okay. Northstar is our first, our first investor, one of their arms was our first investor.

Ryu: Right. So I saw, you know, so I met Patrick Waluyo, like in back in 2007. Yeah. So way back. And then I went to a school, B school in the US, HBS. And then while at HBS I started my company Midtrans and here I am.

Nadiem: And just to explain what Midtrans was, what's, what's Midtrans?

Ryu: Midtrans was a online payments company. Uh, so think of us as like the, you know, the, the Braintree, Stripe, Adyen of Indonesia. We helped a bunch of companies, e-commerce companies accept payments online. Uh, I think today we are one of the largest players in the market. Um, roughly about 70% of all e-commerce companies in Indonesia work with us one way or another. Either as their main gateway or as their backup gateway.

Nadiem: And now it's the engine that is fueling the payment gateway that is GoPay, which is allowing all kinds of payment options to come in, right? Not just the GoPay wallet. And a bunch of different merchants online and offline all flowing through your engine today.

Ryu: That's right. So think of basically what we brought to the overall Gojek ecosystem was an acquiring system. Uh, because a, a merchant is very different from Gojek user or Gojek driver. A Gojek driver or a Gojek user is a one individual, a merchant is an entity and within an entity there's multiple users and entities can be fully with other entities through bank hierarchies or what not. So basically we were trying to bring all that to the GoPay ecosystem to the Gojek ecosystem.

Nadiem: And that, that's exactly what I, what I kind of told you in the beginning, it's like, you know, Ryu when I was trying to coax sita to come in, uh, and maybe consider joining forces as like Ryu we are in our blood, a B to C business, we really, you know, we, we know the consumer very well. That's all in our, in our blood, but we are very poor at understanding businesses, right? We are nowhere near as good as you. And that was part of my, my charm to get you to convince, you know,

Ryu: You did a lot of different things, somethings worked, somethings didn't. Like some something that, you know, yeah, coercion, you know,

Nadiem: Coercion? Oh my God, let's not talk about that. What is this, what is this? Let's not be too authentic. Okay. Aldi, tell us a little bit about your background.

Aldi: So Indonesian grew up just outside of Jakarta. Uh, went to school in Purdue, studying computer engineering, left that, worked for EY for a bit, then really started my career in financial services with Kiva. Like it was like really small company, six people at the time. Uh, it was peer to peer lending. I was, uh, helping Kiva find partners in Southeast Asia, did a bunch of uh, motorcycle rides around Southeast Asia, looking for microfinance banks. And then after that, needed money to get married, work to BCG and

Nadiem: As we all must.

Aldi: Yes, very practical reason. And then at BCG I did a lot of projects on financial services again. And uh, that's when I started my company actually right before business school, Mapan. And it was called Ruma at the time and we were just helping a small community influencers give access to services like at the time payments and top ups to their local neighbours. Right. And then, uh, basically ran out of money for the company and needed a place to find people who has money and went to business school to hopefully raise money.

Nadiem: So that was, that was your big motivation there was to, in order to raise money and team members for Mapan.

Aldi: Yeah, because I think at the time, yeah. I mean, there was no VC in Indonesia. You guys remember her as like, it was really hard to raise money. I don't know anybody with a, with a lot of, uh, investment capital. And so I thought that Harvard and business school was a place where you can get that. And it worked out. Actually, I, you know,

Nadiem: I remember this one moment where I saw you enter the social enterprise competition. Business Competition. And you actually won it, right?

Aldi: I won that. Yeah. So that was like, oh yeah.

Nadiem: And I remembered being green with jealousy at how the other Indonesian of our grade one, the social enterprise award. And I didn't even have a startup.

Ryu: There's only I think in HBS. Like there was only two Indonesian your year. And there's two Indonesian my year.

Nadiem: That's right. Right.

Ryu: So it was me and this other guy called Salomo. Who's our regulator now in the central bank. And then there was a Rika Krusanto, uh, who's a, you know, she has a very, very deep roots with Indonesia, but I think she's, she was there also all we had, maybe you could say we had three Indonesians my year.

Nadiem: Why? Why are we so underrepresented in HBS given our population?

Ryu: I don't know, man. You know, how to, how do you bullshit your way through getting into HBS, man?

Nadiem: Well, very creatively, very creatively. Um, so, you know, I guess there weren't, there was a big gang of South East Asians as well when we were there. It was a pretty small gang. Right.

Ryu: I think when I think about like Southeast Asia and where I struggled when I was applying for business school is the fact that I didn't have really have, I was very fortunate, I worked for a private equity firm that went to business school that were able to mentor me to essentially write the right application, you know, say the right things during the interviews. And I'm not sure if, uh, most people have that, you know, that access, you know,

Aldi: I mean also a lot of it is just financial, right? I mean, like not many people here know that, um, business school actually has financial aid. If you do, you know, if you do well and, uh, you know, you, that you can actually afford to go there and the application process, a lot of people find daunting. Right?

Ryu: Oh, how'd you, how'd you end up in business school Nadiem?

Nadiem: For me, my reasons were, were very, very simple. Um, I was getting a little bit tired of consulting, um, and I relish the idea of a two year vacation, which I could figure out what to do. I mean, I wish I had a better answer, but that was really..

Ryu: I agree man, really the first things I bought when I went to got in was a 42 inch TV in a Sony PlayStation four and the latest, latest, Final Fantasy.

Nadiem: But wait a minute, what's up weight? You Start Your company right before HBS or during HBS,

Ryu: During HBS, Aldi when did you do you start your company?

Aldi: Right before.

Ryu: And then what about you Nadiem?

Nadiem: But you actually took a big, you took the biggest risk, Aldi out of all of us. You actually had a company set up and then left for two years, whereas we at least just came from the professional world and just, just wanted to see what was up.

Aldi: Yeah. I mean, I had to find a temporary placement, you know, you remember Budiman? Right? And uh, yeah, so it was tough. Right. But you know, at the same time, I, I, my company was kind of getting stuck because I wasn't able to get capital to grow. Right. And, uh, I felt, you know, honestly struggling balancing between the company that I was founding. And BCG was tough. Right? And so I thought that, you know, business school was a vacation as well. I played soccer constantly, basically the whole time.

Nadiem: And so like, how do we feel about our experience in business school? Like a lot of people always ask me like, how pivotal was it in your entrepreneurship journey? Um, and honestly I think the question, you know, the answer to that is for me always slightly 50, 50, right? There are elements in it that I felt were helpful and some that I think played no part in my entrepreneurial journey. But I don't know if you've, if you guys felt differently, was it transformative for you?

Aldi: What was, what was useful about it for you?

Nadiem: I think what was useful was seeing you guys in action, start stuff. I think seeing you guys and a bunch of my other friends like doing pitch-athons, doing, uh, fundraising, uh, for a bunch of different, not tech and non tech startups. And there was this inherent FOMO, um, I think building in me and seems like, Yo, they can do it. So can I, right. I can do this. I'm another, I'm another student and I'm just another HBS-er here, I, I believe I can do this. So that motivation definitely spurned me forward. Whether or not the classes or the curriculum actually helped me become a better founder is a question mark. I don't know, I'm still 50, 50 on that.

Ryu: I agree. I think, uh, you know, seeing other people create companies, it makes you think that you could do it also. Right. So I guess that's that environment in that friends, uh, is actually, I think the what, what I think was really transformative for me in HBS. Yeah,

Nadiem: Right. It was those side discussions. The lunches, the dinners, you know, the going out and stuff like that. And you really, I mean, initially though, I have to admit it was a little bit jarring. It felt like a little bit of a show off contest. Oh, this is what I did before and here's what I'm doing here. And a bunch of people or there were a lot of braggers I have to, I have to be honest there.

Aldi: It was a measuring contest at some point.

Nadiem: It was a little bit, it was a little bit, but over time you found the authentic kind of people and the authentic crowds, uh, in the business school that were just out there to solve problems. And those were, I found to be the most productive and useful conversations. Yeah. I don't know. Did you have like a watershed moment or like a, a particular inspiring moment or inspiring friend?

Ryu: No, not really to be. And you know, uh, I think I was, you know, I was very lucky. I had a lot of great friends. But you know, if you want to pinpoint to like one person, one group, I don't think I had that. Frankly speaking, you know, talking about the value of business goal to starting companies. Um, you know, had I taken a two year vacation, had I basically did the um, you know, met with a lot of people over that two year period. Most probably I would create a company also. Right. Will be a different type of company. Uh, I don't know which one would have been more successful, but it would, I would create a company also.

Nadiem: Why different, what was it about HBS that you think made you choose a payment gateway?

Ryu: I don't think, I don't know. Right. I don't know if it's going to be different or not. Hmm. But I know that basically, you know, my, my years at HBS was transformative. It did help me. Um, but I just don't know. I cannot compare it with something, a route that I did not take. Right. Hmm. So, so that's actually something that's not so clear to me. Right. Uh, so, so you know, a little bit more about my background is like my, my, you know, my family owns their, um, you know, they're in the business world also, they're entrepreneurs. So basically that, so there was a always a family pressure to, for me to start my own company also. So that's always been

Nadiem: To continue the legacy and be on your own feet, like stand on your own feet as well.

Ryu: Yeah. So basically that's why I would have created a company anyways. Right.

Nadiem: Hmm. Interesting. So how did it help you?

Aldi: I mean, yeah, you're right. I think it would say that it's the people that you meet that you are, that you hang out with and actually build bonds with over time. But honestly, mine was pretty practical. Right? I needed money and my company would have shut down if I didn't raise money. So probably the pivotal moment was winning that social enterprise competition

Nadiem: And everybody knew who Aldi was after that.

Aldi: Then we found investors. Right. You know, we got Patrick to invest, we got another star in Northstar. Yeah, Grameen. And we also had the founder of Ebay, Omidyar invest and that gave me some breathing room. And a, to be honest with you, I don't know if I would recommend starting a company while in business school because it involved, especially in a different time zone because it involved a lot of like time that you had to spend, I think Ryu have the same experience.

Ryu: Terrible. I would not.

Aldi: I would not recommend it. Right. I would say that you should think about the idea and enjoy, but I don't know if you should run it, but at the time I had dependence, right. People there was like employees with 30 or 40 employees at the time. There was all these communities that depended on us for income. So for me it was a responsibility that I had to uphold and I think that it did help in that way. Um, it also got me access to, uh, a bunch of people that I met through these events and these networks. Right. So not just the people in your classmates, but alumni and also just other startups and investors that were hanging out, uh, throughout the time period. And I think that it's nice to actually be surrounded by a bunch of people you can bounce ideas off. But to be honest with you today, if you were to start a company, given the amount of venture capital that already exists in the region, right. And the amount of mentorship networks with like Endeavor and uh, you know, Sequoia and all these guys, I'm not sure if an MBA is as necessary as it was before.

Nadiem: I think so too. And it always surprises me, people who are in say, like very established technology companies who are still considering an MBA. And, and you know, I, I mentor a lot of, you know, young people who are very, very talented in their scope, but I always tell them, look, an MBA I think is a wonderful and great place, uh, for looking for new ideas, getting inspired by your peers more than anything else. And also building friendships for life, which I think for me was the most important part of business school. I built friendships for life. Um, uh, school period is like that for me. Uh, I feel, um, but if you're in tech, I feel like the two years opportunity cost of getting that much better at your craft within a technology firm is still of greater value on an objective basis. Now having said that, being in Asia, I have to admit, the pull our power of the brand of HBS was, was very, very powerful. It opened a lot of doors. You know, I could go into a meeting with any C level, uh, and, and, and be credibly received, um, at least at the opening of that discussion.

Ryu: Not now, no? Still now? still know

Nadiem: What you mean in general?

Aldi: Well Ryu, I mean, if your company is worth of, you know, if you're a Unicorn company then you don't need the MBA. But I think that if you're just starting out, I do think that in Asia in particular, the brand does matter.

Nadiem: I think more in Asia. Yeah, more in Asia and for the wrong reasons. For the wrong reasons.

Ryu: I don't know man. I feel like people that, you know, keep on relying on the, on that brand is most probably not doing the right things. You know? I think you should be more independent.

Nadiem: I agree. But if you haven't milk it all you want, right. To get what you want to achieve. And I think people do that, but I think a lot of young people are mistaking the desire for that brand with the actual impact they can have on your career in tech.

Ryu: I agree.

Nadiem: This is, this is the big mistake. When I, when I drill down and a lot of these young people who say, I want to go an MBA and I want to go to a top MBA program, the root cause of that desire very often comes out to a reflection that on paper I feel like I'm not good enough on paper. I need some bells and whistles. I need garnish, I need, um, what do you call, I need badges of validation. So, you know, tech is littered with, uh, all kinds of very successful, insecure people. Um, you know, uh, I was one of them. Um, and I think that, that you, it's okay to have that, but you have to be honest about it. You have to be honest that that's what I want. I want the badge because if you go there lying to yourself thinking that it's gonna make me a much better tech entrepreneur, that's not true. That is not true. The best way to actually learn how to be an entrepreneur is by either jumping in or learning, uh, in another technology company, specifically about tech startups.

Ryu: Let's talk about our journeys. Let's talk, uh, next thing about like, you know what you did?

Aldi: Wait can i add one more thing on this MBA thing.

Ryu: For sure.

Aldi: I think, I actually think that we skipped one thing, which actually think that taking a two year vacation or sabbatical is actually not a bad reason.

Nadiem: It's not.

Aldi: Like there's many times in your life like, okay, I, I've been, this is my third kind of tech startup, right? Kiva I saw scale and then Mapan, I saw scale and then now Go Pay and Gojek is scaling. I feel like yes, you do learn a lot more in those two years or those two or three years in those roles in those tech companies. But taking a two year break is not necessarily something that is bad, right? You do need that in your life and being able to meet people from not just your region but all over the world. It is useful. So yeah, I don't, I wouldn't discount that. But if you were, your goal is to learn and actually how to build a company. I would say that joining a high growth company is probably the fastest and most effective way because you see all the problems, right? Even though you're not in the driving seat yet. Right. But..

Nadiem: It is. It's a very specific domain too. But I want to go to Ryu's point. How we all kind of got together and met and you know, halfway through, you know, the first year, you know, I could see you guys are already well into starting your, you've already started your own company Aldi. Ryu, you were just about to, but you had a really strong idea of what you wanted to build. And I was kind of, you know, I felt a little left behind, but I want to say that, you know, watching you guys in action truly inspired me to not want to fall behind once. So there was a slight competitive element to it. But at the same time, uh, when I did decide to go for it, you guys were also the guys that told me like, what the hell are you doing working in these other companies? You know, even though no one was funding Gojek, you should do this full time because that's how you get funding for Gojek by doing something full time.

Ryu: You, you remember, um, that drinks that we had in 2014? Uh, it was, it was the early part of 2014. Yeah. It was at where was that uh, SCBD, Beer Hall.

Nadiem: Yeah I remember that.

Aldi: Yeah.

Ryu: And then it was us three we were drinking. Um, and then, uh, we asked, uh, I think I said a both of us said to you Nadiem it's like, what are you doing?

Aldi: Yeah.

Nadiem: And I was really upset about it.

Aldi: You were at Kartuku at the time.

Nadiem: Yeah. Right. Another company that we also ended up acquiring.

Ryu: Yeah. And then I think the, what you said to us as like, well, would you fund me? And we said, yes, we'll fund you if you do Gojek full time.

Aldi: Full time. Yeah.

Ryu: Then you're like, no, no, no, no, no. Will you fund me now? And then I'll go full time.

Aldi: We always believed in you, man. Like, I think like at that time we were just trying to push you, but I think at the time you were still unsure about making the jump.

Ryu: But thank God you didn't take in a lot of our advices dude. Uh, like for example, I gave you advice that you know, you shouldn't, um, you know, have, you should have a full time driver instead of, you know, outsourcing it.

Nadiem: That's right. I remember that.

Ryu: I was so glad you didn't take that advice. Now I feel like...

Nadiem: "Nadiem your drivers should be all full time" - salary.

Ryu: Yea I know, remember I said that, oh my God. Yeah.

Aldi: Yeah. I think that's for me like one memorable moment was actually when you helped me raise money that summer.

Nadiem: Yes. I remember that.

Aldi: 2010 the internship right. He was looking for an internship and I was,

Nadiem: Yes, I was your intern. For those of you who don't know, my summer of internship where I actually started Gojek I was interning at Aldi's startup.

Aldi: He was my best performing alumni basically.

Nadiem: I certainly hope so.

Aldi: But you helped me right and that summer we were pitching together. Right. And we met a lot of people. And I think that's when you started to look at motorcycles and I remember you coming to the office and having this pictures of motorcycles and you'd guys and motorcycles and uniforms and say, hey, how about this? Right.

Nadiem: Which, which is actually distracting me because that's not why you hired me as an intern to do.

Aldi: But yeah, you helped, you'd raise the money. So we did raise the money.

Nadiem: We did. We did. And that's, I fulfilled my, my KPI for the summer,

Aldi: And the best paying internship as well.

Speaker 2: But you know, being in Ruma at the time it was called Ruma, you know what it impressed upon me is that, hold on a second. So the one realization I learned from you and from your organization was this moment of clarity when, oh, actually the bottom of the pyramid can be deeply productive. A deeply productive sector. And they are also at the same time, the most under-looked sector, um, in, in Indonesia. And I think in a lot of different countries. And that's what got me digging. Like, Whoa, you know, you know, there was this Peter Thiel's book; 'Zero To One' and saying like, there's this term about, um, all great companies began with a secret, right? And I always felt that the secret that we had in Gojek was the belief in the productivity of these, of these drivers in the informal sector. And no one else believed that. Right? And so working for Aldi, and you've been always a very charismatic person and telling me how all these a mothers is in the villages and the rural parts of Indonesia where became the kind of the financial backbone of the entire economy. That's what got me thinking. It's like, well, what about Ojeks? Right? What about Ojeks? And so I thought what was really unique about that was you guys were not just my, you know, kind of role models, my competition and my business partners, you were also my friends. Um, and, and that friendship I think is something that a lot of founding stories, um, don't talk about as much, right? Trusted friends that actually push you and tell you sometimes what you need to hear instead of what you'd like to hear. Um, and I just want to say thank you to you guys for always doing that and look at where we are now.

Aldi: Thank you man as well. I mean you remember when we had that office together in Ci Asem?

Nadiem: Yes. So you were upstairs,

Aldi: You were downstairs? No, no we've no, I was upstairs. You were downstairs?

Nadiem: Yes, we were downstairs first

Aldi: and then I think so we were looking at was uh, initially it was a kindergarten that we renovated.

Nadiem: Yes.

Aldi: And it was very clear that I was very frugal or cheap and you had decorated your office and you know with like

Nadiem: Cheap is the right word. I don't think frugal correctly describes you.

Aldi: Sorry. I bought like uh, desks from uh,

Ryu: I felt so sorry for everyone that was working. I've been there dude. Yeah.

Nadiem: It was horrible Aldi.

Aldi: I know.

Nadiem: But listen to your friends.

Aldi: No, I know and you gave me a feedback and like; "Aldi, like this place is shit. You got to buy actual chair cause I bought a elementary school chairs because it was cheap on sale and a, yeah, so the, you know, little things like that actually mattered. Right?

Nadiem: Yeah. That was, that's really interesting. I like, I know I said it's subtly too. I was like maybe you want to consider upgrading your office furniture. We've got some really great talent there. I think they deserve to be a little bit more comfortable.

Aldi: Yeah. I mean you have to remember that I came from a place where we were just struggling to meet and then we just had the capital. So it was a mind shift, right?

Nadiem: Yeah. We were both the kind of the social enterprise people right back then the founders back in the day. But Ryu's office is always shiny.

Aldi: Oh my God.

Nadiem: Ryu's office is like, oh he's like a, he's all about merchants and B to B sales.

Aldi: It was decked out, it was like the middle of Sudirman.

Nadiem: Coming into Ryu's office is like, Oh man, I picked the wrong sector.

Aldi: Yeah. And the desk like,

Ryu: Yep, I have standards you know.

Aldi: That's okay. Now I think we learn. And that's what you taught us Ryu as well. People need space. People need a quite time

Ryu: To be productive. Yeah.

Aldi: Yeah. I remember that.

Ryu: I got you to buy a Jabra.

Aldi: Yes, that's right.

Nadiem: So it's incredible how different we are in terms of personality and styles and yet we're still able to collaborate. We know for the most part effectively, right. And still be, you know, the greatest of friends. But like you know Ryu your impact to the organization and your impacting me personally. You know, if, if Aldi is the accelerator, like you are the break, right? You are the break. You are the person who says, wait a minute. You know, that's all fun and great. We should, we can do that. But have you thought about the down sides, right?

Ryu: Yeah.

Nadiem: What's it like being an entrepreneur, um, leading the show and having that very strong risk averseness uh, has it, has it been a strength? Has it been a weakness at all? Has it. What's that like?

Ryu: I think in the B2B space, I think it's a strength. In the B2C space, I think it is a weakness because I think I'm in a consumer as well as businesses. They have different SLA standards. As a consumer company, if you make some mistake, you just say, sorry, uh, give them some vouchers and tomorrow they'll forget.

Nadiem: Are you, are you trying to say something about, Gojek..

Ryu: I'm talking about in general. These are things like,

Nadiem: Are you giving me feedback right now?

Ryu: Basically as a B2B company, right? You make a mistake, right? You go down, uh, for some time, um, and you say, sorry, it's not enough. Right. They remember right. Uh, you know,

Nadiem: because it's their business,

Ryu: It impacts their business right and impacts their, as a business. If you're a B2B, you serve a business. You don't serve individual. You serve a collective member of a team, right? You serve like, let's say 20 person team. You serve 100 person team. Uh, you know, when you deal with like the largest e-commerces in Indonesia, you serve like a thousands of tens of thousands of people, right. That rely on you. So, so they don't forget. So in that sense, basically, um, because you have to have a high SLA standard, I think that risk averseness helps because it allows you to retain these businesses to continue to work with you.

Nadiem: And was that a tough transition process when, you know, we all, by the way, for the audience that doesn't know, we all ended up merging our companies to a single one. Right? So was that really difficult for you to come in into a very high risk, uh, DNA of a company like Gojek?

Ryu: It was definitely difficult, right? Yeah. Um, I learned a lot. I learned that basically areas where I didn't have to take risks. I mean, I what I was risk averse and I learned that I could take risks. Right. And I think that was some of the greatest things, I think, um, that I learned from joining Gojek. But at the same time, I thought that, you know, sometimes you feel lonely because you're the only one saying, "oh, you know, this is bad, this is bad, this bad. Right. Let's, let's slow down" when everyone else wants to kind of go and become a striker. So you're the, like the lone defender in the soccer match because everyone else is a striker.

Nadiem: Yeah. And everyone's moved up to score a goal.

Ryu: You're the only one behind. Right. And, um, but it's okay. I think, I think, um, you know, like using that example as in the, in the soccer soccer match, right. Or a soccer team. Everyone, defender has a role, right. A has a role. Right. You as a, I feel that I'm, in some ways, I'm the goalkeeper of the overall, um, you know, a merchant org in the sense that, um, you know, I don't do much, uh, people don't know what I'm doing, but I do contribute. Right.

Ryu: Wow. You're under underplaying the valley of the entire merchant ecosystem, which is in many ways the future of the entire business.

Aldi: Yeah. You're holding you're keeping us afloat man. Yeah. It's like no joke here.

Nadiem: But I think that, you know, this, this thing about the lonely defender, I really love this analogy because at the same time it is lonely and you're not alone though. There are other people who have natural inclination to uh, be calculative and to assess risks.

Aldi: It's not us,

Nadiem: but you know, at our, at our level, I think you're, you're, you are the bastion. You're the sweeper. If anything, but you know, how then your role in our organization, especially with me, you become my go-to expert on all things. Like how can I be wrong on this? What could go wrong on this? Right. Which is a, also a incredibly important, you know, position to be in an incredibly valuable part because you're right, everyone's trying to strike a goal. Especially Aldi over there just constantly trying to score, that scores goals all the time. Aldi is actually a pretty good football player too. He used to score goals on me all the time in the HBS soccer pitches.

Ryu: But I think, you know, in overall Gojek, I had to agree with you in the sense that there are other defenders, other goalkeepers, right. I think Tom plays that role.

Nadiem: Yeah.

Ryu: Shinto plays that role. Nila, you know, plays that role, right?

Nadiem: Yes. We should have all the defenders on the next podcast.

Aldi: Oh yea, that'd be awesome.

Ryu: The defenders, right.

Nadiem: The guardians.

Ryu: The people that are a little bit more paranoid. Right. Uh, so you know, but yes, I think we have to become like the brakes, uh, to uh, everything going on in Gojek because you know, we need to make sure that the platform and our company grows right. To grow, we need to defend.

Aldi: So Nadiem I think that's interesting. Right? So he was a defender, but when you are trying to decide to move to Gojek the defender was telling you to score.

Nadiem: Yes.

Aldi: So like what, what, what made that decision difficult? Because when Ryu were saying it for me it was like oh even Ryu was telling him to jump.

Nadiem: Because Ryu is a do as I say, not as I do kind of guy.

Ryu: What do you mean?

Nadiem: I mean like that's why he was just telling me to go do it. What compelled you to give me that advice? Like to gun for it.

Ryu: I thought that logistics, I mean back then you know it, you know the the where I saw Gojek was as a logistics player. Right. And that's how I think you thought initially on how to make money. Um, and we had a lot of discussions on the logistics side, so you know, even back then, I mean, you know, logistics goes, there's tremendous opportunities and I still see tremendous opportunities for logistics. So that's what I saw. Right. Again, that's my weakness. I don't see the B2C play. I did not see Go Food. I did not see Go Ride. I saw the B2B Go Send.

Aldi: I actually saw the opposite, which is it just cause I was in the same building and you weren't there because you are like working in another building. Right. So I would go to the call center and like somebody would tell me all sorts of weird orders. Like somebody will bring their laptop or bring their dog food or actually take them, go grocery shopping. Things that, because when you had a call center, you can actually restrict what people ordered. Right. And when I saw that and I saw that we had this Ojek corner near our office, right. And the drivers were just constantly gone. And it annoyed me that I couldn't get them. Yeah. But at the same time it was cool because you could see that it was picking up and for me, I actually saw it really, wow, this is a, there's a real consumer pull for, for this. And the drivers are actually doing really well and are able to do more things than I ever imagined. So that was, I thought it was cool and being there. Yeah.

Ryu: That's interesting. So basically I think, you know, the power of the Gojek platform is that it could be super useful for B2B. It's like there's tremendous opportunities in to B2C, you know? So basically it could be both. And that's why we were this size and we've been this successful. Right?

Aldi: Yeah. And I actually met those drivers yesterday, by the way, that she has some drivers. They were the ones in the convoy.

Nadiem: They were.

Aldi: The guy next to me was the guy that used to like be in this, you know, we would wait for the bathrooms together. And I still remember it was

New Speaker: Yeah, Muliano was our first driver. Ever. Which I recruited myself. For those of you who don't know. We just did our rebrand. This is our new logo symbol called Solv. Right. Kind of looks like a Gojek driver from top. It's also part of a wheel. I'm pretty successful. But you're, you're absolutely right. But how did this change, how did working together and merging our companies? I mean, we went through so many challenges trying to merge the companies together. There were cultural shocks, there were all kinds of organizational issues that we all face. Um, but how did it affect our relationship? How did you think it affected our friendship?

Aldi: I mean,

Ryu: Not much, right? Because basically when we got together, right? For example, me and Aldi right when we got, we got together pretty often right before, before

Aldi: I think at the end of day it was really lonely as a founder.

Ryu: Yeah. And all we did when we got together was talking about work, but then it was as two separate companies.

Aldi: We sound really boring dude.

New Speaker: Ruma and Midtrans and we talked about how, you know, challenges we were having, just were having, right. And today basically when we meet together casually, we talk about work, our discussions when we got together, right. When we're at that Beer Hall and three of us in 2014 we talked about work.

Nadiem: Work.

Ryu: Yeah. Right.

Nadiem: It was basically our passion.

Ryu: Today, we talk about work, right?

Aldi: I mean, and the thing is like when you're,

Nadiem: But does it change when we're all in the same boat now?

Aldi: I think the thing is Gojek is big enough that everybody has their own different problems to solve. And it was kind of similar to when we had different companies, right, when you are solving a complete different problem with the drivers Ryu was solving complete different problems with online merchants. But we all had similar problems with culture for example. Like how do we recruit people how to recruit talent. We've talked about how should we just started an academy for engineers because it's really hard to find, you know, really great talent and the price that we could afford at the time. Right? And we talked about how we could scale up. We talked about finding office buildings and issues with uh, you know, potential, uh, regulators and partners. So we had a lot of different problems that we are having today. Just we just have a different platform that we're in it together. So I thought that was,

Ryu: and I think the other thing that changed me maybe if you're talking about change, is that we are willing to help each other more.

Aldi: Yes.

Ryu: Right. For example, meaning before, because it was separate organizations, the I would love to help out. Right? But there was a limit to how much I could help out. Right? Because there were three separate orgs. Right. But now as as we are together as one, the willingness to help out is significantly more. Yeah. So I think we work as a team.

Aldi: We should talk about how we, this, how the process of how this happened. Right. Cause that I think it was a really interesting process of how we ended up,

Nadiem: We were talking separately, right? I was talking to you and then I was talking to you separately and then some way along the line you guys started talking to each other and conspiring against me.

Aldi: So yeah.

Nadiem: Well, how did that happen?

Ryu: Who'd you, who'd you talk with first? Is it me or is it

Nadiem: I think you first.

Aldi: Yeah, him first because I remember we were already working together.

Ryu: I remember this, and then I think about

Aldi: Tell us the story Ryu

Ryu: Back then basically I think you're thinking about growing pay. And you approached me about basically running Pay and then I had a lot of doubts because I knew Pay was a B2C.

Nadiem: Yes.

Ryu: You know, it's a payment method, right?

Nadiem: And you were B2B.

Ryu: I was B2B, I said, Nadiem, there's a better person out there that could potentially be the CEO.

Nadiem: That's right. It was you that put the idea of Aldi in my head.

Ryu: No, no, no. You said that. Don't worry. No. What you said to me was like Ryu, don't worry. I'm already thinking about something to do with Aldi.

Aldi: Yes, that's right. And then you came to me and start talking about this super app or everything together. It could be one in Indonesia. And I thought, okay, that's an interesting idea. And uh, you want,

Nadiem: I was just selling back then. I never thought it would actually become a reality.

Aldi: And I was a, I remember that you guys just got the license and okay. Just at the time Ruma was already starting to get to get into financial services.

Nadiem: That's right.

Aldi: Right. We actually had a license to do a branches banking pilot to actually help people get savings for the villages. So 10 cents a day gets your kid to college. Right. And I remember, I think one of the things, the first moment where it hit me was when we had that. So when we, when there's one of the ladies came to one of our gatherings for the savings and she said she couldn't save anymore. And I thought about, and she said she wanted to be a Gojek driver.

Nadiem: Yeah.

Aldi: And at the time it was really hard for people to get in because there was such demand to become a driver.

Nadiem: Yeah.

Aldi: And we were meeting at an event in Sahid Jaya hotel for an MOE event.

Nadiem: Oh yeah, yeah.

Aldi: And we made a video and say "hey, Ms Ipiah welcome to Gojek congratulations."

Nadiem: We let her into Gojek. Oh yes. She could compound her income. That was amazing.

Aldi: Exactly. And because she, I think she didn't have, she didn't have a husband or lost her husband at the time and she didn't have any income. And she said that she could only make money by driving a motorbike.

Ryu: When was that? Was it like November, 2016?

Aldi: Yeah,

Ryu: Yeah. Around there right November 2016.

Aldi: And then I think we, and then we decided, because I saw what happened was she because Mapan was solving a, the other side of the problem with just savings. Like how do you reduce spending? Right. But I didn't help so much with how do you earn income.

Nadiem: Yeah.

Aldi: And all of the Arisan leaders in Mapan were all women. And so how do we help them earn income? And we've, we did a pilot in Jogja where the husbands were Gojek drivers and the wives were Arisan leaders, right?

Nadiem: Yes.

Aldi: And I remember it, cause you didn't even go to that one. You sent Andre as usual

Nadiem: The household income just like blew up, blew up. They almost instantly joined the middle class. I remember that. That was, that was the point where I realized like this is a powerful combination. And, and I also remember I want to, I want to save, you know, very honestly and openly that, you know, there was that moment where given all of our aspirations, we were having honest discussions with each other about where we might bump into each other in the future. You guys remember this, right?

Aldi: Yeah.

Nadiem: There were open and honest discussions. And I think this is a really important thing, um, among founder to founder relationships like that openness and honesty about where our vision was and where we make clash and compete in the future led to the first discussions about, hey, what are we going to do? We're all friends. We're all have a very similar vision about empowering Indonesia through technology and empowering the bottom of the pyramid as well as small businesses. Um, what are we doing? Should we go and grow our own and end up bumping into each other and competing with each other? Or should we just form an alliance, uh, and you know, fight this battle against the old way of doing things together?

Ryu: Well I think, look, I'd like to caveat that there's nothing wrong with competition, right? Competition in a certain level is healthy. Right. But I think, I think where we basically kind of agreed is that, hey, look, if we cooperate together, we could achieve our goals, our respective goals faster.

Nadiem: Yeah.

Ryu: Right. It was a more about, you know, that that collaboration will make our, uh, we'll, we'll allow our constituents, whether it be the merchants, consumers, the dribers achieve their goals faster. As we work together as a team.

Nadiem: Right.

Ryu: So I think that was, I think the thing that made me excited about joining Gojek.

Aldi: Yeah. Honestly, it was just, we all have at some point in our lives work together. Right. I worked with you on a tech conference.

Ryu: Yup. Boost Asia 2012

Aldi: 2012. Right. That was the first tech conference in Indonesia. And so, okay, I knew I can work with this guy and we've talked about starting you. We worked together, obviously. Right. And so I knew that we could work together and I, we always try to figure out a way to work together but couldn't figure it out. And I think when you are able to raise a bunch of money and

Nadiem: You're welcome.

Aldi: Okay, yeah, thank you. And grow, we had this opportunity so, but to be honest with you, I don't think it was an easy decision. I think Ryu kind of as the most risk averse guy held on for a long time?

Ryu: Yeah.

Nadiem: And then you guys had had a discussion. Tell me about that discussion.

Aldi: Yeah, so I remember, I'll never forget this, right? So I was in, I was in Bali, I was like trying to figure this out, taking a holiday. I was surfing and I just got out of the water and I think you called me and we were talking about, hey, did you hear I just got the offer to join together and apparently you have the same offer. Yeah, I don't think I knew at the time. And it was one of my first moments and we had discussed this for awhile and then at some point in the conversation that we were talking about, yeah. But it's like high risk. It's like really fast. It's like we were much more kind of conservative and and raising money. And uh, at some point I said, I think was it me or you, you jump, I jump.

Ryu: You said that.

Aldi: I said that right? I said you jump by jump.

Nadiem: It was a titanic moment.

Aldi: Yeah. It was a Titanic moment between the two of us.

Nadiem: Wait, who is, who is the? Who said it to who you said it's Aldi?

Ryu: No, Aldi said it to me.

Nadiem: Aldi said you jump I jump?

Aldi: Yeah, I think so. I think, hey Ryu look man, if you're going to do this, cause it was about payments. Right. And we both actually came from different sides of payments. Like Ryu really understood the merchant side and how to make sure that businesses that are served are really taken care of. And I was about the consumer side. I've been doing the same kind of base of the payment financing for awhile and I didn't, I didn't think I could do it with, with, with, you know, without Ryu. So I thought, okay, if we're going to do this, at least if we're going to be able to convince Nadiem that needs to be two of us. And so I said, you jump I jump.

Ryu: Yeah.

Nadiem: That's so sweet guys. Thank you. Thank you for reinforcing each other. And honestly, all jokes aside, I don't think we would be here in any shape or form where Gojek is today without your organizations coming in and just taking over some of the most important chunks of, of the organization. I think we would've been still struggling today to find different, you know, both the organizational capabilities and especially you guys as leaders to be able to, you know, stop me from making the dumbest mistakes I would have made.

Ryu: You think so, dude? I think that the Gojek platform is strong enough that it would have gotten to where it is today without us, but it was just taken a little bit longer.

Nadiem: A lot longer. And you know, that was, you know, that that took a lot of thinking. You know, because at that time I had by far like by far the most number of high qualified engineers because I had the most funding right at the time. And so, you know, I could've very easily had the Hubris of thinking, oh, why don't I just build this myself. Right? Why don't I build these? But you know, that's where the trust and the friendship kicks in and understanding that, hold on a second, just cause you can do it, does it mean that you will be successful to do it and Gojek at that time, kept on succeeding at doing things on its own. So we could've very easily run into that pattern of like, oh, I'll just go do everything myself. But you know, we kind of stopped ourselves and said, hold on a second. Payments is a totally different ball game, right? Merchants and payments is a totally different ballgame. This is a ballgame where the, the, uh, margin of error is very, very thin. Um, this is where the regulatory structure and the thought process of rollout and MVP is completely different to your, to ride hailing or food delivery. Um, and when I began to realize that there was also this other element that came on, um, which was at that stage, you know, uh, you know, I had a couple of Co founders in Gojek, but as you all know, being a founder and in many ways starting a company from zero is one of the most lonely jobs in the world. And I don't exactly know why, but that cliche is very, very true. You get, you get, you get really lonely because it seems like the buck always has to end with you. And so the ability to have two other superstar founders come on board and be able to spar and just get emotional support, even not the sparring part, but just to be able to empathize and say, Hey, I got you man. I got your back. I know what you feeling. It was massive for me. It was massive. I instantly felt that I wasn't alone when you guys came on board and I felt like I was not, you know, uh, you know, even though I had an amazing team, but you know, having other people who built something from scratch was really transformational for me. And a lot of people do not factor that in, in the whole, you know, start up and founding story enough. The amount of emotional support that you have through this is one of the highest variables that will lead to either success or failure. Right. Uh, I dunno if you guys felt the same, but I felt like I felt like I wasn't alone anymore and I could, I could spar.

Aldi: I agree. Ryu what was your hardest moment before Gojek? When did you feel you had just a really shitty year or month?

Ryu: September 17, 2016.

Aldi: What happened?

Ryu: I went down for 24 hours.

Aldi: I remember that. I remember we immediately met after that actually.

Ryu: Yeah. That was the worst day of my life. Yeah. That was very difficult.

Nadiem: Even now when you talk about it I can your face changing.

Ryu: Because it sorts of reminds me, you know, but, and you know, I thought that was going to go bankrupt as a gateway, as a payment gateway. You know, you, you just cannot go down, right. You have to have high SLAs. And that's when I remembered that I think I was building new, too many new features I was not focused enough on reliability. Um, you know, that thing really changed the way I look. And um, I remember that day because, um, the after, you know, I was at home and I was discussing my dad and I, you know, as my, as you know, my father is one of the biggest investor in Midtrans and I said; "Dad I'm really, really sorry, but I might go down" and he was like, Ryu like, do you have money to pay your employee's salary this month? And I said, yes, I do. What about next month? I do, thank you so much. Oh, it's because of your funding as well. And then he said, what about the next one after that? And say, I do that. What's your point? You know? And he said in the end, he said very, very quickly that, look, there's only two ways you could go bankrupt. You either run out of money or you stopped trying. So, so as long as you have money and you have, you don't stop trying, you keep on going at it, you would stay alive.

Aldi: Yeah. But you were paranoid of, I think. Well, I remember when you were talking to me after that you were paranoid about how your partners would feel. You were just talking about, you know, and you weren't sure whether you could ever earn their trust again, but

Ryu: Exactly.

Aldi: So that was your concern. Right.

Ryu: That was my concern. That's why, you know, that's why I basically, you know, I thought it was gonna go bankrupt, but when my dad said, is that essentially if you stop trying, they will not believe you anymore. Right. So I think, uh, you know, I tried harder, I tried how everyone went, you know, went on.

Aldi: So yeah, everyone always has to have those moments.

Ryu: So I think, I think I like your point about like having like other founders, like, you know, mentor you or what not. Because in my case, you know, other than other than you know, you and Aldi, uh, you know, my dad was a mentor, right? And he's been through the '98 financial crisis. He's gone through a lot. So having that network of mentors, you know, that's gone through starting companies and what not is highly valuable.

Nadiem: It is. And I really, you know, it kind of, I get this question every time I go on a speaking event and young kids always ask me this question, like, who's your role model? Who's your role model? And they're expecting, you know, answers like, like, you know, Elon Musk and stuff of which I am a huge fan and stuff like that. But honestly, who are your mentors and role models? Like it's really hard for someone to become a proper role model if they're not your actual mentor. And it's really hard for someone to be your mentor if you are not actually interacting with them, uh, on a frequent enough basis with which to capture those pearls of insight and wisdom. So I always say, and I suspect people think I'm being like just politically correct and trying to give props to my team, but I consistently say that my mentors are my team members and I really, really do mean that. And those are the people that I learned from the most. And I'm just being honest about that. Like, I don't think it's very helpful to have a mentor that you've never ever spoken to or a role model that you've never spoken to. And so, you know, those interactions, hearing your crazy stories and hearing your, um, you know, stories of crisis, you know, they helped me get through mine. For me that day was dooms day, uh, in I think around 2016, um, was when, uh, you know, uh, we got shut down.

Aldi: Yeah. I remember.

Nadiem: Gojek got shut down by the Ministry of Transportation. It made it illegal. Um, at that time, and he got overturned in 24 hours by the president.

Ryu: That was amazing.

Nadiem: That was amazing. But it was like the worst and best day of my life, uh, all in 24 hours. And I thought that's it. It was gone. And the thing that stuck to my head was not, you know, it wasn't, it's like, oh my God. I think at that time we had, I don't know, 200,000 drivers on the platform. I'm not exactly sure, but I'm like, what are they going to do? What are they going to do? This is their job. This is their income like, oh my God. Like what do we do? And, and, and, yeah.

Ryu: So, so who, who gave you that? You know, who gave you the advice? Like in my case, the 24 hours is my worst, 24 hours. You know, I think my dad gave me a lot of advice. Who was the one that gave you advice during that? The worst 24 hours of your life?

Nadiem: Well, we opened a war room in my house. I couldn't even go to the office. It was just like I was, I was too stressed. I had to be in my comfort zone. So I invited everyone into my house and we opened a war room and then I just said, okay, everyone, let's find out what the solution could be. Call up everyone you think matters and find out what we should do right now. So everyone was just like digging calls and everyone was calling important people in government, our investors, et Cetera, and asking everything. And then it turns out nothing. We did actually did anything. The president was the one that overturned it because "Save Gojek" became the highest trending topic I think on Twitter. Uh, I'm pretty sure it was not just Twitter in South East Asia. I'm pretty sure it went like a little global because we were one of the biggest Twitter users in the world. Um and serendipitously just like that we recovered. But if you stop trying, like people tend to forget about that. Startups fail. I mean, we learned this in HBS. Remember, like two thirds of startups fail. Um, the reason is because of the founders decided to bail. Right. And decided this is not working out.

Ryu: So stop trying.

Aldi: Stop trying. Yeah.

Ryu: It's not about money. It's about stop trying.

Nadiem: Stop trying even more so than money is the stop trying because if you keep trying, even money can be solved, right?

Aldi: Yeah. Eventually I think you guys had a more, a shorter downtime. For me, the hardest moment was 2013, um, when, uh, we were just doing a pilot for branchless banking the savings product where we were partnering with a bank to offer this educational savings and it was working, right? We actually have tens of thousands of people saving up for the first time in their life because they never had access to financial services before. They were saving for their kids' education for college. And I remember I was in the middle of a training where I had used all the money I had to get all my sales people from all over to Bogor in Kebun Raya, Bogor and to explain how we were going to go nationwide. I just signed a series B term sheet and we were about to scale nationwide and I got a phone call from head office saying that I got a letter that, because it was December and my licensed per pilot ended in December. I just assume because we were doing so well we would get extended. We didn't, they said hey you got to close down and return all the savings and the money. So my business model went from getting ready to scale nationwide to not having anything.

Ryu: Yeah. And I think you'd never give up dude. I mean cause the good, you know the crazy thing about all these and every time I talked to him like his business model or the way that he explains his business changes, you know

Nadiem: I think you had the most, the record for most number pivots.

Aldi: I did, I did.

Ryu: But you never gave up. Right.

Aldi: Because I kept failing. And I was like, oh my God I just got shut down. And that's when I got the, I spend like months and unlike you guys actually have to spend two or three months trying to figure out what to do. Thank God my investor was okay giving me time. And he said, look, don't worry about it. You'll figure something out. So as I was returning these money to these women, they all ask me hey, why aren't you, you know, what happened? Why did you stop this? But then one of the ladies actually gave me the idea to start Arisan. She said that, you know, hey, you know, why don't you help us find goods? Because when we save money, we save it to buy something anyways. So why don't you help us save up to buy some goods using the rotating savings account? And that's ended up being the winning model. So from this failure, after three months of just wandering around and feeling helpless, to be honest with you, trying to, but trying to figure out what to do next. I got the idea from one of our leaders. So she was my emotional support. She said that if you just keep trying, and we did and that now

Ryu: Pasti Ada Jalan.

Nadiem: Pasti Ada Jalan. That's our new, our new tagline.

Ryu: For Gojek?

Nadiem: Yeah.

Ryu: I think that's why it resonates so well with a lot of people within Gojek, Right? Cause I think it's not only us that went through significant pains where we thought we were going to give up or not, but we never did.

Nadiem: Just to let the audience knows what, what if in case you don't speak Indonesian "Pasti Ada Jalan" means there's always a way.

Ryu: There's always a way. And that's the tagline for the new project.

Nadiem: That's perfect, I didn't realize that. Yeah. The rebranding is, their tagline is our tagline. That's who we are and that's it. Wow. What an amazing place to stop the discussion. So for those of you going through dark, dark times as a founder or part of a team, et Cetera, you know, rest assured there will always be a way.

Aldi: Yeah.

Nadiem: Thanks guys for being on the podcast.

Ryu: Thank you so much.

Aldi: Thank you so much.

Nadiem: Hope to have you guys here soon?

Aldi: Okay. All right.

Nadiem: Bye.

Outro: Hey guys, hope you enjoyed the podcast. If you liked it, please hit like, subscribe and follow us on social media. Thanks so much for tuning in.

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