Indonesia startup Brilio embraces shift in media habits driven by millennials

Joe Wadakethalakal, CEO of

Indonesia is witnessing a new group of hybrid digital media, or platforms, that combine social media and news reporting.

Adrian Li of Convergence Ventures had once predicted that media was going to be one of the sectors to watch. “There are interesting areas in content production, digital and social media. Indonesians consume information like no one else in the region,” Li stated.

In another observation, Shinta Dhanuwardoyo, angel investor and co-founder of digital advertising had said that the sector is inescapable, but also one of the least popular among investors.

“Most of the investors are not too keen on this sector because it’s tough to sell content, not to mention high competition. So you have to work extra hard to differentiate yourself among other news platforms,” she said.

Despite the lack of investor interest, this sector has seen several names pop up: Kumparan, Brilio, Hipwee, IDNtimes,, Baca, and many others. Foreign player Alibaba group’s UCWeb Inc even plans to invest up to Rp 400 billion into content development and distribution in Indonesia for the next two years, after seeing a rise in demand for UCWeb browser in the market.

In January, Kumparan announced its first round of funding from “undisclosed investors in the region”. Kumparan is backed by DetikCom founders and startup veterans Budiono Darsono, Abdul Rahman, and Calvin Lukmantara.

Given this industry backdrop, KapanLagi Network (KLN)-backed Brilio announced that it has doubled its audience to 20 million unique monthly visitors and 100 million monthly page views. Brilio also said, it will soon launch a community writing tool – a content sharing platform for user generated content (UGC) where “young people have the chance to express themselves and earn a bit of cash by generating content on Brilio’s platforms,” a model that has been first implemented by Kumparan and Baca, and will soon be followed by others.

Brilio was established in March 2015 by co-founders Joe Wadakethalakal and Danny Purnomo, with a mission to “entertain, inform, and empower” millennials throughout Indonesia. The company now claims to be the fastest-growing millennial content platform in the country, with readers spread across Medan, Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, and Makassar.

DEALSTREETASIA had a chance to talk to Wadakethalakal about the challenges in the digital media space, expansion strategy, and reflections on the changing media industry, among others.

Edited excerpts:-

We are seeing the emergence of platforms like Brilio, Kumparan, Hipwee, and IDN with unique business models and fascinating growth. Will this change the way people (millennials) consume news in the future?

Millennials have already changed the way they consume news, instead of consuming content on websites (on-site) they now prefer to view content on the apps on which they spend most of their time (off-site), namely social media and chat applications. This shift in media consumption habits among millennials was not caused by us (or our competitors), however, what we’ve done is embrace this new paradigm and built our content distribution strategy around it.

Is it for the better or worse for the industry?

We think the shift from on-site to off-site content consumption is positive for the industry because it allows media companies to reach a far larger audience than they would have previously. This is mainly due to the social sharing features which are in-built in most of the social media and chat applications which can increase the probability of your content going “viral” and reaching a massive audience.

What is the implication of this shift on traditional media (print, radio, TV), even to conventional online news platforms that still rely on banner ads as their revenue?

I think media companies which don’t leverage the power of new and emerging distribution platforms are in trouble over the long term. Our view at Brilio is that the value of content increases as it is exposed to greater distribution, and therefore larger audiences.

The problem is, of course, that most emerging distribution platforms haven’t yet figured out how to monetize their audiences, and so media businesses need to walk a fine line between maximizing their audiences (by releasing content on every platform) and cannibalizing their ad revenue (by releasing content on newer platforms that cannot monetize).

Media is a tough sector from the business point of view, not just in Indonesia but also globally. What made you, and other founders, confident on your bet on this sector?

I think founders generally focus on building businesses in industries that they understand well and where they think they might have a competitive advantage. This is why my partners and I focused on media, because it is a space that we understand extremely well.

That said, financially we’re performing better than expected so far. When you start a business it’s important to think about how you can make money and grow financially but this is not the only consideration which matters. Media companies are in the business of spreading ideas and this is what really excites us at Brilio.

How is Brilio funded? Any institutional investor or are you 100% self-funded? Are you looking to raise more funding this year? If yes, what stage and size?

Brilio raised a seed round from the Kapanlagi network in mid-2015 and that has been our only source of external financing to date. In terms of fundraising again what I can say is that we’re always open to and on the lookout for strategic investors who can contribute both their capital and expertise.

What kind of investors would you want to associate yourself with? How would you convince investors that this is the sector to go? 

Ideally, we would look for investors who have experience in media either through their past investments or as a result of their own experiences. Digital media is still a fairly nascent industry in Indonesia so we think there’s a lot of value in working with investors who really understand the space, because there aren’t many of them. We would also like to partner with someone who has a long-term interest in investing in digital media given that it is a relatively small market today (according to eMarketer it’s pegged at around $300 million in Indonesia).

What sets Brilio apart from other media, or in other words, why should readers trust you? Is credibility important to you?

Of course, credibility is important to us. Our mission at Brilio is to entertain, inform, and empower millennials in Indonesia. So far we’ve done a pretty good job at entertaining millennials, and this is largely how we developed a massive user base.

Now we are focusing on the other two pillars of our mission, which is to inform and empower millennials. We have already started to develop news content in the form of short form videos focusing on topics relevant to Indonesian millennials which have performed extremely well.

We’re quite close to launching our UGC platform which will allow creative millennials across Indonesia to earn a living from their creative work by publishing content on our platform. Outside of this we’re also making a proactive effort on the editorial side to focus on stories that help raise awareness about important social issues in Indonesia. In this way, we hope we can inspire our readers to make a positive impact within their local communities.

We want to know more about your vision for Brilio. You mentioned about expanding to Southeast Asia. How will you achieve this?

Eventually, we’d like to expand throughout Southeast Asia but we will only do this once we have exhausted the market in Indonesia. We’ve seen a lot of smart, well-funded companies, burn a lot of time and money in trying to expand internationally and ultimately fail. We’re keen not to repeat their mistakes and we’ll only expand once we have some sort of competitive edge in doing so.

Also Read:

Indonesia: Media startup Kumparan receives first round of funding

Indonesia: News platform Baca injects $10m into community site Nulis

Indonesia: Kompas Gramedia to acquire Scoop for undisclosed amount

Indonesia’s IDN Media raises funds from North Base, East Ventures, others