Tokopedia CEO defied critics to construct a multibillion-dollar enterprise

At present, William Tanuwijaya is a formidable power.

As CEO of e-commerce web site Tokopedia, the 39-year-old is one-quarter of the management of the newly- merged GoTo Group — Indonesia’s most useful know-how firm.

However his enterprise might by no means have come to be if it weren’t for his dedication within the face of critics.

“Tokopedia’s story nearly ended earlier than we even began,” Tanuwijaya instructed CNBC Make It.

Impressed by U.S. icons

Tanuwijaya was simply in his early 20s when he set out on a mission to “democratize e-commerce” by creating a web site for Indonesia’s hundreds of thousands of small enterprise house owners to promote their items on-line.

It was then the mid-2000s and the web was taking off within the nation. However with no established tech trade or native position fashions to be taught from, Tanuwijaya needed to look to the greats.

I don’t come from the Ivy League … I at all times think about myself a graduate from web cafe.

William Tanuwijaya

co-founder and CEO, Tokopedia

“We do not have a hit story like Mark Zuckerberg or Sergey Brin, Steve Jobs or Jack Ma. There was no such story of entrepreneurs from Indonesia constructing know-how firms throughout that point,” he stated.

Impressed by their tales, Tanuwijaya knew he — like them — must elevate non-public funding to get his thought off the bottom. However as a younger Indonesian from a rural background and humble beginnings, he quickly realized he did not match the mould.

William Tanuwijaya, co-founder and CEO of Tokopedia, a part of Indonesian tech large GoTo.


“They’d ask about my private background … which college I studied at,” Tanuwijaya stated, recalling his conversations with traders.

“I don’t come from the Ivy League,” stated Tanuwijaya, who studied at Binus College in Jakarta whereas working evening shifts in an web cafe to assist his household. “I at all times think about myself a graduate from web cafe.”

Then they’d ask him concerning the wider market alternative.

“They’d ask me, William, are you able to title one one who has been profitable in Indonesia as a result of they’re constructing a know-how firm or web enterprise?” he stated.

‘All your position fashions, these Silicon Valley founders, they’re born particular, you aren’t.’

William Tanuwijaya

co-founder and CEO, Tokopedia

Regardless of being dwelling to the world’s fourth-largest inhabitants and a quickly rising center class, traders had been not sure of Indonesia’s potential or if he was the person to comprehend it.

“Your thought may be very easy,” he recalled them saying. “You need to construct the Amazon of Indonesia or the Alibaba of Indonesia. What about when all these world giants come to the market? They’ve the know-how, they’ve the capital, they’ve the know-how, they’ve the assets that you just do not need. How will you compete?”

Adopting the American dream

Then got here the day when he met with one non-public investor who modified his life endlessly.

“He stated: William, all your position fashions, these Silicon Valley founders, they’re born particular, you aren’t,” Tanuwijaya recalled. “Please cease daydreaming; discover one thing extra lifelike to do.”

For Tanuwijaya, it was the catalyst he wanted.

“That’s the day when I discovered the aim of my life as a result of I noticed the explanation I needed to construct Tokopedia is to construct belief amongst strangers to have the ability to begin enterprise wherever,” he stated.

Indonesia really has an Indonesian dream idea … ‘Dream as excessive because the sky. Should you fall, you fall amongst the celebrities.’

William Tanuwijaya

co-founder and CEO, Tokopedia

Like his U.S. idols, whom he stated to embody the American dream of self-determination, Tanuwijaya stated he found a drive to be undiscouraged and assist different Indonesian enterprise house owners.

“That day I remembered that Indonesia really has an Indonesian dream idea,” stated Tanuwijaya. “Our founding father, the primary president of the nation, as soon as stated … ‘Dream as excessive because the sky. Should you fall, you fall amongst the celebrities.'”

“I discover that is stunning and that is the Indonesian dream,” he stated. “So I made a decision that it doesn’t matter what occurs, I’ll attempt to construct Tokopedia.”

After launching Tokopedia in 2009, Tanuwijaya and his co-founder Leontinus Alpha Edison quickly secured seed funding from the Indonesian funding agency PT Indonusa Dwitama. It has since acquired buy-in from SoftBank, Sequoia Capital and Alibaba Group.

Greater than a decade on, below the GoTo Group, Tokopedia counts a community of greater than 11 million retailers and 100 million lively customers, who final 12 months contributed 1% to Indonesia’s $1.1 trillion gross home product.

Do not miss: How these millennial tech founders pulled off Indonesia’s biggest-ever enterprise deal

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