Three Indonesian startup founders explain how they weathered the pandemic storm

Three Indonesian startup founders explain how they weathered the pandemic storm

(Clockwise from top left): Rachel Phua, writer at DealStreetAsia; Tiger Fang, co-founder and chief executive of Kargo Technologies; Brian Marshal, founder and chief executive of Sirclo; Philip Thomas, co-founder and chief data and product officer of Bonza.

What was the toughest part about running a business during the COVID-19 pandemic? How do you address employees’ mental health concerns? Is there such a thing as raising too much money, given the current environment of ample liquidity?

These were some of the questions addressed by founders of some of the fastest-growing startups in Indonesia during a session titled ‘AMA Founder Edition: Staying agile and chartering high-growth markets’ on Oct.1 at the Asia PE-VC Summit organised by DealStreetAsia.

The speakers included Philip Thomas, the co-founder & chief product and data officer of Bonza, a big data analytics platform that most recently raised seed funding in May. Thomas led the development of Bonza’s Rt modelling that is being used extensively by many organisations to track the spread of COVID-19 in Indonesia. Before co-founding Bonza, Philip was a data scientist lead in several technology companies in SE Asia.

The second panelist was Tiger Fang, the co-founder and CEO of logistics provider Kargo Technologies, which raised $31 million last year in a Series A funding round led by Silicon Valley-based Tenaya Capital. Tiger Fang describes Kargo Technologies as the “Uber for logistics”. Prior to Kargo, Tiger Fang had served at various technology companies including as general manager at Uber Indonesia and China, and managing director at Lazada Thailand. Fang is also known to be an active angel investor. The Indonesia-based freight logistics marketplace also counts Sequoia India and SE Asia, Intudo Ventures, and Mirae Asset Venture Investment among its investors.

Brian Marshal, who was the third panelist, is the founder and chief executive of e-commerce enabler Sirclo that helps brands sell online. Sirclo had raised $36 million in September led by East Ventures (Growth Fund) and PT Saratoga Investama.

The founders described how they navigated the myriad challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis, ensuring, among other things, the mental well-being of their employees and the expectations of their investors.

They also touched upon the growing interest of global investors in SE Asia. “It’s about damn time [foreign investors take interest in the region]. Where were they five, or 10 years ago? I would say their returns would have been much better had they looked earlier,” said Fang.

Edited excerpts from the chat with the three founders:

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