On the second day of the Tech in Asia Jakarta 2015 conference, investors Steven Vanada, VP of Cyber Agent Ventures, Teruhide Sato, Founder of Beenext and Teddy Himler, VP of SoftBank China and India Holdings, discuss the recent rise of Japanese investment in Indonesian tech startups.
“Japan’s largest FDI has always been in Indonesia, so it’s only natural that it is also investing in tech startups,” Sato opens the discussion.
When it comes to Indonesia’s appeal to investors, market size has always been the top of mind, being the fourth-largest population in the world and with a strong mobile penetration.
But, certainly, there is more than just that.
“Japanese companies are growing slowly with an aging population … This encourages them to allocate their focus to a larger market,” Sato answers, highlighting that more than 26 per cent of the Japanese population is beyond 60 years old.
Japan’s startup culture is also not as robust as Indonesia, with university students more inclined to join big corporations after graduation, Sato says, although noting that the trend has begun to shift.
“They learn that even big companies can go bankrupt,” he says.
Apart from that, Indonesia also provides unique challenge to entrepreneurs.
“There are still many white spaces, a lot of unique problems to be solved,” says Vanada.
All eyes on Tokopedia
What is interesting about today’s panel is that they have all invested in online marketplace Tokopedia. What has the startup done right?
“Since [the] beginning, we have decided [to invest] on [the] e-commerce model. We found a good team [and] good traction in Tokopedia,” answers Vanada, to which the other investors agree.
When asked about their advice for aspiring entrepreneurs looking for their big break, Vanada only has one answer: “Think in the long term. See how this business can grow.”
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But why Japan?
At the end of the discussion, one question remains: Why should Indonesian startups aim to get foreign investment, especially from Japan?
“There are many things [that] they can learn from our case studies. We can also give [them] outside perspectives, and key openers to network outside of Indonesia if they want to expand,” says Vanada.
With its robust growth, Indonesian startups are giving Japanese investors a lot to hope for. What is the one thing that keeps them optimistic about the country?
“More exponential curves!” says Himler.