Like many foreigners arriving for the first time in Jakarta, veteran investor Tim Draper was so baffled by the traffic jam that he got off his bus and took a Go-Jek ride to the venue where he would be speaking on Thursday afternoon.
“I had all sort of people looking at me, ‘who the hell is that’?” he told the audience.
Draper was in Jakarta as reports began circulating about his growing interest in the Indonesian market and his shift from China.
In fact, on the same day of his speech in South Jakarta, Wavemaker Partners (the Southeast Asian representative of his Draper Venture Network) announced that it is closing a US$50 million new fund that will be greatly focussed on Indonesia.
Learning from his past experience investing in China, he expressed concerns about how the country will “close itself up again” with its restrictions of capital outflow.
At the other hand, he sees reasons how Indonesia is going to go through the similar stage of tech progress that China has gone through.
“[By the time the rural Chinese communities] had no infrastructure, so they didn’t have to lay landlines for telephones. They could just jump straight into smartphones. They had all sort of advantages just because they were starting completely fresh; you have the same advantage now,” Draper said.
“You can jump right off the banks and go straight to bitcoin, and you don’t have to worry about having bricks-and-mortar banks in your system. You can have drones because nobody knows how to regulate drones. In the US, if there is a drone in my backyard I’m afraid [someone is going to see that] I’m sunbathing naked, or it’s getting too near an airport,” he continued.
“But you guys can have drones all over the place and nobody’s going to notice. It’s going be awesome and you can test drones,” he stressed.
The past and the future
Draper has been in the venture capital world for 30 years; he sees his job as an adventure that allows him to see “what the world might look like in 15 years.”
He was known as investors in tech big names such as Hotmail, Skype, Twitch, Baidu, Cruise Automation, and Tesla.
(He is also an investor in, ahem, Theranos)
“Skype and Hotmail gave me a window on how the world is going to be like: A world that is going to be together,” Draper said.
So how can he tell if a company is going to be the one who changes the world?
“You can always say that, ‘Oh, it was a charismatic leader’ or ‘they had a great vision’ … Those are less likely because all of these companies could have gone any number of different ways,” he began.
“If you got a vision and you know that the world is going to come at your door … it takes so much longer than you think. So when an entrepreneur says something like ‘I think I’m going to raise money from these guys’, I’d say raise as much as you possibly can, and spend as little as you possibly can so that you’ll last. Because the only thing that is driving you out of business is when you’re running out of cash,” he elaborated.
So does Draper has any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs/change-makers?
“As you all should know, it takes about 15 years to become an overnight success. So if your vision is not 15 years out … then you need to abstract farther,” he said.
“When Elon Musk said, ‘let’s go to Mars,’ 95 per cent of the population said that guy is crazy. But the five per cent, the best engineers in the world said ‘I’m working for that guy.’ I don’t watch the news, as the news spread fear. But I have a really good sense on what’s happening in the next 10-15 years, and that’s my news report,” he continued.
“And my news report … is spreading hope, opportunity, and excitement,” he stressed.
When asked by an audience member about the book he is currently reading, Draper also revealed to the audience that at the moment he is writing a book, though he did not disclose what the book will be about and when it is going to come out
“Most of my readings now is re-reading my new book,” he closed.