Established in in 2009, and becoming one of the most biggest online marketplace in Indonesia. Founded by William Tanuwijaya and Leontinus Alpha Edison on February 6, 2009. Looking back at where have they started the business, PT. Tokopedia received initial seed funding from PT Indonusa Dwitama in 2009 of IDR 2.5 billion.
Tokopedia has been also able to attract many capital injections such as East Ventures in 2010, CyberAgent Ventures in 2011, NetPrice in 2012, and SoftBank Ventures Kora in 2013. Tokopedia managed to make history as the first technology company in Southeast Asia in October 2014, and receive a US $100 million investment from Sequioa Capital and SoftBank Internet and Media Inc. Not to mention another raised from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, which are $1.1 billion.
Back in 2007, when there was no proper online marketplace in Indonesia. People used social media platforms, online forums as well as blogs to buy and sell products/ services. Those websites were begun to be known as classified ad e-commerce model in Indonesia. However they were not exactly serving the e-commerce purpose.
Moreover, these websites lacked scalability, thus having no potential or long term growth and security, as there were no online payment system that protected both the buyers’ and sellers’ interests. To solve this problem, William Tanuwijaya and Leontinus Alpha Edison started Tokopedia on February 6, 2009.
Tanuwijaya does not belong to a wealthy family providing him with financial support to kickstart his dream of Tokopedia. So he had to wait for a couple of years to raise some capital before he could build Tokopedia. At that time, there were hardly any incubators or supporting networks for Indonesian startups. Tanuwijaya continued giving fundraising pitches to traditional companies who did not actually understand the potential of internet business.
What made the situations tougher was the absolute lack of success stories in the local internet industry. But the tough times proved to be worthwhile when finally Tanuwijaya managed to raise funds from its first funding from PT Indonusa Dwitama, and then there was no more waiting! In the following August, their website was launched, and Tokopedia continued growing and attracting more and more investors.
It’s said that the rough times make the good times better. In its journey of becoming better with each day passing, Tokopedia had to overcome a surge of hurdles other than raising fund. It had to compete with tough competitors with serious backers like Telkom-eBay’s Plasa.com Rakuten, and Naspers’ Multiply and prove themselves of their standard, if not better. Also, when Tokopedia was launched, users were not used to the new system as the market had already absorbed the idea of classified-ads model by then.
Tanuwijaya acknowledges team building as another big obstacle that Tokopedia faced. He still remembers, right after Tokopedia had its first appearance, he opened a booth in his campus’ Job Fair Event. Sadly, no one good was interested to join a start-up.
The Turning Point
For Tokopedia, the turning point must have been the additional funding from East Ventures and also under the mentorship of Batara Eto. Batara’s experience ranges from building start-ups to getting listed on the stock exchange. William believes that Batara has given Tokopedia a lot of pointers and led them to new opportunities.
In October 2014, rocking the entire startup scenario over the world, Sequoia Capital, which has previously backed companies delivering world class products that molded the decade like Apple, Yahoo, Google, Linkedin, Zappos, Airbnb, WhatsApp, and Instagram, made its debut investment in Indonesia through Tokopedia. Tanuwijaya believes that such investments will drive more giant investors to the Indonesian market encouraging the local entrepreneurs and as for Tokopedia, he can now see it growing as big as Alibaba and may be even bigger!
Referring to what helped him bag such a huge fund, Tanuwijaya says that keeping his product consistent was the overall key. He also spoke about the value of not focusing on revenues, but rather creating products that will make people’s lives easier.
The Culture of Tokopedia
Tokopedia has 3 DNAs in its culture:
1. Focus on Customers: At Tokopedia, they believe that to be successful, they need to sincerely wish for every consumer to be successful, and grow together, and by consumer they mean buyers, merchants, and nakama (employee).
2. Growth Mindset: At Tokopedia the founders and employees are trying their best to build a culture of performance, and encourage everyone to have a sincerity to share like a teacher, and humility to learn like a student. Continuously learning is a very key value in Tokopedia.
3. Make it happen, make it better: Whenever a new idea or a new approach that can benefit Tokopedia, everyone there will focus all of their energy to make it happen first. And after that, they take a step back, and think on how they can make it even better.
Every employee is trained to build their character into: (a) staying humble like a tree root to the earth, (b) determination like water, flowing relentlessly, (c) passion like fire, blazing furiously, (d) speed like wind, swift and gusty, (e) courage like bambu runcing, challenge the status quo against all the odds.
For Tokopedia, the measurement of being successful is by helping others be more successful. So, the biggest impact will come from a network effect on the top of Tokopedia platform. Millions of new jobs are created by their merchants. As Tanuwijaya goes ‘I want Tokopedia to be able to achieve in future is producing world-class leader as a legacy to the next-gen company.’
It’s easy to see that Tokopedia is in the trajectory of Alibaba or Amazon but yet it has a long way before it can join their rank. Having India-based Sequoia Capital and Japan-based SoftBank as strategic partners, Tokopedia will surely need to start thinking globally and enter unmarked territories and navigate regulations in neighboring countries.
Hope this inspiring story find you an inspiration!
Author: Fatema Mohammad