With its growing digital economy, venture capitalist (VC) funds are essential in the Indonesian startup ecosystem. A number of VC firms have generated investment momentum in the country in the past years, with corporate VCs have also started to tap into this sector.
One of the most active VC firms in the country is Alpha JWC. Founded in early 2015 by Jeffrey Joe, Will Ongkowidjaja, and Chandra Tjan, Alpha is an Indonesia-focused early stage investment firm. Its portfolio includes 23 companies so far, including fintech platform Kredivo, fashion e-commerce platform Sorabel, and agritech startup Tani Group. The company has raised a second fund of USD 100 million and is looking for more opportunities for collaboration with digital startups in the country.
Although its founders are all men, Alpha has many women in leadership roles within the organization, including principal Erika Dianasari, a venture capitalist with deep expertise in human capital and business transformation. Before Alpha, Dianasari spent seven years at global executive recruitment firm Egon Zehnder, where she advised leading companies across many sectors on their talent acquisition and retention strategies.
KrASIA recently sat down with Dianasari to learn more about how venture capitalists support the Indonesian digital ecosystem.
KrASIA (Kr): Please tell us about your role as a principal in an investment firm.
Dianasari (D): In the first two years, I was focusing more on building Alpha’s best practice as a VC firm, starting from setting up and managing the team to oversee the daily operations. After we became more established, I now can focus more on portfolio management and supporting the companies’ founders so they can scale up their business quickly.
And since we usually work with early stage startups, we often help them with setting up a company’s structure and objectives, and hiring the best talent that shares the company’s vision. In addition to the founders or key teams of companies in our portfolio, I also regularly meet with many other industry players like analysts or business leaders in various institutions, in order to be at the forefront and see opportunities in Indonesia’s digital industry.
Kr: What is Alpha’s portfolio profile?
D: We’re an industry agnostic firm that does not specialize in a specific sector. However, we invest more in fintech and consumer technology startups. We believe that these two sectors form the backbone of the digital economy.
Kr: What factors do you take into account when selecting startups to invest in?
D: After receiving a pitch, we assess the startup’s potential as a whole. However, the most important factor for us is how solid the founders or key team are. We’d definitely find out about the expertise of each member of the key team, and whether it is in accordance with the field they are engaged in. Their experience and level of knowledge about the industry and its ins and outs are also crucial. The leadership quality of the founding members is also very important to make sure that they can manage the organization and implement the skills of team members to scale up a business.
If the startup is founded by several people, we need to ensure that they can complement each other. I think no matter how good the idea is, if people behind the company aren’t able to manage the organization, that idea would go to waste. There are startups whose ideas are pretty common but since they have a solid team, they can execute that idea well and the company is able to grow consistently.
Kr: As a human capital expert, what do you think is the most important hiring practice for young startups?
D: Since most young startups have limited funds and resources, they need to have a clear hiring discipline. There are three important things that must be kept in mind when hiring new talent: What are their roles and objectives? How do we measure their performance? And how will we address their feedback? Leaders need to review their employees regularly, so if there are any underperforming team members, they can find out what the problem is and find a way to resolve it. Efficiency is essential in running a startup, and you wouldn’t be able to achieve that without a solid team.
Kr: To what extent do VC firms support startups after they make an investment?
D: For new startups, we guide them in almost all aspects, from human capital, commercial, branding, communication, marketing, and so forth. After we make the investment, we generate our “first 100 days projection,” which includes product development, the revenue stream, and business growth. After 100 days, we’ll review the development of the company, and look at what challenges and obstacles they encountered and how to resolve them. After that, we plan the next milestones and the strategy to achieve them. We act as a sparring partner to startups, so we accompany them from time to time, including when they are going through a rough patch.
We believe there are two factors that determine the quality of a venture capitalist. First, from the investor’s perspective, we must be able to generate good returns. The second factor, from the startup’s perspective, is how we support them to be the winner in their respective field.
Kr: What do you think are the challenges for women in the tech industry, and how can we address them?
D: It is undeniable that the digital industry is still dominated by men. However, I think the opportunity for women to be the key leaders in this sector is already wide open. In Alpha, 11% of founders under our portfolio are women, which is a good sign. Being an entrepreneur and building a new startup is a tough journey and it requires long work hours, even up to 90 hours per week. As it can be very stressful, sometimes it is less attractive for women to engage in this industry because women usually have more complicated life roles than men. However, women also have their own advantages. We are naturally more sensitive and more prudent, which will come in handy when dealing with other team members and when making big decisions.
My advice for startup founders—regardless of their gender—is that you need to be smart and fast in order to be successful. Smart enough to create the right strategy to grow a company and fast enough to identify the gap and address the problems within the organization.
This article is part of “Women in Tech,” a series by KrASIA that highlights the achievements of women who are a driving force behind Southeast Asia’s tech startups.