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News  18, Jun 2010

The Journey of Koprol – How it all Began

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Koprol YahooThere always comes a turning point in everyone’s life, when a serendipitous happening alters the course we set for ourselves and sometime for the products we build. The Indonesian National TV channel wanted to interview the Koprol team on a banal topic like ‘growth of Facebook and other social networks’, but instead they happened to see a fancy location based application in its alpha stage, and they got hooked.  The interview changed directions and instead it became a media feature on Koprol.

After this, there was no looking back for Koprol. Koprol, a location based social networking application focused on Indonesia, made headlines last month when Yahoo! decided to acquire them. Being one of the first Indonesian startups to get acquired by a technology behemoth, they’ve now become the startup rock-stars of SouthEast Asia. I chatted up with Fajar Budiprasetyo, founder of Koprol to talk more on his journey with this startup.

From Software Development House to Product Startup

Daniel Armanto, Leo and Fajar Budiprasetyo founded Skyeight, the company that built Koprol, in 2004. Skyeight started off as mainly a software development house, taking up external projects from clients. They were doing client work for 5 years before the itch to create a product consumed them.

When asked about, why specifically did he want to build a mobile application rather than a piece of software, which is where their expertise lies, Fajar mentions that  – Indonesia has higher mobile penetration than internet. With 60% mobile penetration rate in Indonesia, combined with the explosive growth of social networks – they saw an opportunity to create a compelling mobile social networking application.

This is when Fajar approached Satya Witoelar, the other co-founder of Koprol and his high school buddy to help them build this application. Satya’s expertise was in creating mobile applications and was purportedly a social-media expert.

Skyeight’s internal team structure then changed, with one team consisting of 5 people focusing on external client projects and a team of 6 focusing on building Koprol. Due to the lack of funding landscape in Indonesia, Koprol funded its product development from the money they made through client projects.

After which, they went ahead to launch what the western technology media calls –“The Asian Foursquare”. With regards to this, Fajar is quick to respond, that Foursquare launched two months after Koprol and that their idea did not evolve from Foursquare. After Koprol launched and showed off their initial prototype on National TV, they received 100+ sign ups. And are now well on their way to acquire more users after receiving publicity through various global media channels after the news of Yahoo acquiring them broke out.

Meeting with Yahoo.

It all began in November 2009,  with Yahoo holding their first ever Southeast Asia open-hack day in Jakarta. Yahoo was actively looking for local players to team up with, to promote this event and with Koprol increasingly getting popular especially among the early adopter crowd in Indonesia; it set off a good partnership.  It also helped that Koprol used various Yahoo API’s and development tools to increase user adoption and drive traffic to their site. Yahoo then started to play around with the system and the talks of acquisition started in January 2010. Fajar mentions, he was shocked when Yahoo started talking about acquisition, as this was previously unheard of in Indonesian startup eco-system. “People who start their company here have no expectation of being funded, forget about acquisition then!”. And on May 25, 2010 – Yahoo officially announced their acquisition of Koprol for an undisclosed amount.

Road ahead for Koprol

When asked about the future plans for Koprol, Fajar mentions that Koprol still has a long way to go. Having acquired 100,000 users so far, which amounts to a small share of Indonesian mobile web users, Koprol’s primary focus is still on the Indonesia market. They are currently building native applications on J2ME, Android and iPhone platforms. After which, they will focus on expanding regionally into markets such as Vietnam and Philippines.

It’s not often, one hears acquisitions stories from this part of the world, but Fajar is optimistic and observes that the “Climate for the startup industry in Asia is changing. Previously there was hardly any VC presence in Indonesia, but now VC’s are here.” Fajar and the entire Koprol team is definitely a beacon of hope for struggling startups in South East Asia and when asked about what advice he would give such entrepreneurs, Fajar says, “As long as you have a really good product, plenty of opportunities will be available.” I don’t know if that’s true, but what we can in fact hope is for more entrepreneurs to continue building great products.

[Image Source: Koprol.com]

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