Smitty, A Phenomenal Local Clothing Brand You’ll Sneer at and Admire at the Same Time

You may think it’s just a silly, worthless fad in their youthful days. But in their point of view, it’s their valuable kind of thing to celebrate and be highly proud of. Even later when they’re growing older. (Credit: Instagram @smitty_0735)

[Disclaimer: I’m not the brand’s paid promoter, user, customer or digital marketer. I’m just someone beyond the age bracket of its target consumer but honestly observed and found it fascinating, anyway.]

THAT morning was just another calm, majestic, lovely Sunday morning I typically savor every weekend. Passers-by walked to and fro in the park; the sky was quite bright though it looked quite cloudy and sunless; the air was fresh yet humid. I myself was in the relatively somber mood as the first day of labor began the day after. My head was heavy as if it got ready to explode even before the Sunday workload was making its way into my grey cells. The morning indeed was awesome but definitely unspecial. It was technically a day to forget.

Until a small crowd ‎assembled. Bit by bit.

At the onset, they were just about twenty or thirty youths aged, I guess, somewhere between 10 and 17. But as the clock was ticking, the more humans at this age bracket flowed into the heart of the park.

Some friends and I remained still in the park, enjoying our post-yoga bliss as our compulsory morning ritual. This served as an efficacious way of staying sane throughout our life as a flock of urban human beings trapped among concrete and streets without proper pedestrian walks.

As the time was approaching 9 am, there were already around 100 of these teenagers gathering and sitting together, causing such a buzz. Everyone was curious as to what was actually going to happen after they accumulated.

I foolishly thought they were just another group of students having their extracurricular activities. They might be waiting for a teacher or tutor or their principal or any adult who could be held responsible for all this massive congregation in a public place.

But there was no such teacher or tutor in sight. It was just one young man with superfluous amount of pomade on his thick, dark hair. And unlike the other teenagers around him, he seemed a bit more settled financially speaking (I can tell from his watch – I learned from some PR friend that a watch bseides attires is something to boost his own personal branding whenever he makes a public appearance).

I scoured down the internet and found this article saying the distro clothing brand was founded by a young man named Sayogo Sulist (here is his Facebook page if you care to stalk) who I later recall that he was the guy standing among the youths gathering at the park that very moning.

Astonishing they were. Astonished I was.

As time progressed, I saw more and more youths came and gathered as a large crowd, with a team of security officers around to monitor just in case something undesired occured (Heaven knows what teenagers nowadays can do).

When the human flow to the park started to slow down, there might be around 300 people of them. There seemed to be a dresscode. Most of them wore a t-shirt on which was printed some huge numbers: “07:35“.

Foolish of me it was to ignore that.

The design was bland, unattractive, dark, and somber to my own eyes. I have no idea why all these adolescents were so keen to wear these loose t-shirts ( one or two size bigger that the ‘proper’ size) in their twiggy, skinny and scrawny figures.

What a taste of fashion, I mumbled.

At that age, I didn’t remember myself wearing such loose t-shirts and pants proudly and bravely enough to wander around the town. It gave me a shiver. But I need to admit as I am advancing towards the acme of adulthood, youths these days have their own way of expressing their mind and stating their existence and uniqueness. And no matter how I try to judge them based on my set of standards and experiences, it just doesn’t serve right and just. They have their own world, operating in their set of rules which I am clueless about in a major way.

From the same source, I also knew the brand is headquartered in Kompleks TNI AL Jl. Cakrawala II Blok E No. 8 Kec. Koja Jakarta Utara. It’s not even three years old (but by February 7, 2018, it will have been that old).

As my head almost exploded for failing to contain my curiosity, I approached some of these Smitty community members and heard their conversations. “So what is basically the meaning of 07.35?” we – my friends and I – asked these boys aged around 12 to 15 on our way home.

“It’s the hour showing you’re late to arrive at school. That’s what I know,” a boy with an oversized t-shirt, denim jacket and cap answered.

One of his friends was seen squatting on the ground, folding a scarflike garment which according to the brand’s Instagram account can be donned in such a way as head ornament or face mask while riding a motorbike. As we were walking nearer, he seemed restless and suspicious, casting his glance occasionally. A mixture of shyness and insecurity and reluctance. I was sure he was relieved after we – a bunch of overly curious older folks – went away.

I sat on a bench and a few meters away from me, Sayogo – his hair was so neatly combed a fly might’ve slipped perching on it – was enthusiastically commenced the ‘grand congress’ of the community consisting of staunch, die-hard fans of his brand. As they raised banners during the photo session, I came to find out that they came all the way from not only Jakarta but also Bekasi and other areas in the outskirt of the capital.

We also discovered the philosophical concept of the brand, which is SELO (that is what reads when you turn it upside down). Selo [slang] itself is derived from the English word ‘slow’. So it’s basically an Indonesian slang word adapted from English. It’s their way of living, meaning that a life must be lived and accepted as it is. And SELO is also an acronym: Simple, Exclusive, Limited, Original.

The brand has three different categories of articles (goods and merchandises), namely:

  1. Simple: A number of stuff with really simple characteristics but still looks attractive
  2. Exclusive: A group of stuff with unique features and captivating effects and also original
  3. Limited: The brand designs for a certain number of goods are produced in a very few and limited amount

The brand products are actually not as cheap as we think. They cost between 135,000 to 200,000 Rupiahs. And its most pricey merchandise [SLC – Simple Logo Cardinal] costs us 850,000 [black and silver color] and 1,500,000 [red color]. Sayogo deliberately produced these goods in a very very very few quantity. The number was so few they are only ten pieces [black and silver SLCs] and only one piece [red SLC] in the world. Yes, you read it right.

UNBELIEVABLE.

And I’ve researched that the coverage of the brand reaches to other big cities and smaller towns around Java, including Surabaya, Bogor, Serang , Sukoharjo, Tegal, Pekalongan, Bumiayu (Brebes), Sragen and so forth.

I’m no fan of the t-shirt designs or logo of the brand. But I must acknowledge the strong bonds built among the members are admirable. Sayogo knows that he must create a fan base to be staunch consumers of his brand. He knows well that there’re many competitions out there with better designs and materials but he devised his own tricks and tips by building an organic community with loyalty levels that make other people outside the clique drop their jaws. The fanaticism is of course hard to make sense to us but as you’re willing to put yourselves in their shoes, you’ll know why it makes a total sense to them to adore those things which seemed to us ordinary apparel you can get anywhere at an inexpensive price. (*/)

The Art of Keeping Customers Back

It’s never easy to see a customer leaving for good. Sometimes you think it’s normal. Well, who can please every customer? There must be one or two customers leaving, right? Not to mention the Internet these days have provided channels for these unsatisfied customers to burst their angst with less effort than before. While that could be the case, you can’t just maintain such mindset at all times. Otherwise, your business would just crumble sooner or later.

So what are the reasons businesses lose their customers?

First of all, customers may ditch your service/product for various reasons. Many leave because they’re deeply disappointed, unmatched expectation upon using the product/services, going bankrupt, or better options. Let us take the case of two most prominent online taxi services in Asia right now where we’re based. The Uber-versus-Grab Taxi case has been ongoing so far as they operate in Jakarta, Tokyo, Singapore, Hongkong, and other big cities. I sometimes alternately use these two options for the sake of better price and recent ride experiences.

Would a startup company as big as Grab Taxi or Uber care when they lose some customers? Well, maybe losing one or two wouldn’t be an issue since it’s really costless for customers to alternate between different services when they are disappointed with another. But hey, what happens when they keep losing at a growing rate? When would it be a matter of unmatched customer expectation over just a plainly disappointing service/product that keeps even their target audiences away?

It may be true that not all customers leave owing to disappointment but that would apply in most cases. Especially when you are just starting out. You might argue you’ve been doing your best to arm your staff with all possible tools to keep customers happy but wait, who knows there’s discrepancy between your perception of customer satisfaction and your company’s customers satisfaction. Don’t let your assumption haze your approach to the issue. Be objective while you find the root(s) of the problem.

When your startup fails to retain customers, there are some worst likely scenarios you need to consider, such as:

  • You lose the money spent on getting new customers before even making profit.
  • Obviously enough, sales and revenue decline.

  • Customers loss not only means financial loss but also losing potential constructive, positive feedbacks valuable to help you do better. 

  • Losing customers also weakens the morale of startup’s employees. They’ll keep on asking,”What’s wrong with this startup?”

  • Think of your startup’s survival. Paying customers are cash sources. Losing them may mean your company will be doomed due to ‘burning out’ (running out of cash).

 

All these potential threats can be avoided providing that you as an entrepreneur reacquire as many repeat, paying customers as you can. It shows your startup is constantly providing value to customers, and that your customers are happy. Happy customers are the best advocates of your startup. 

According to Sreeram Sreenivasan (the founder of Ubiq), there’re six (6) steps he takes when dealing with customers so they’ll come back and bring more business. He advises that entrepreneurs should:

  • let people know what they do for their customers
  • educate customers on products and services
  • give customers more special and limited offers and rewards
  • generously offer discounts on a regular basis
  • give personalized suggestion of products or services that they usually wanted but your startup couldn’t provide perfectly to fulfill a customer’s unique needs, and
  • create an experience of high quality for them.

Michael Wolfe, a serial entrepreneur, opined that instead of just validating the problem with customers, try to validate solutions. “Sit down with target customers and walk them through the solution. They may tell you I’m wrong.  Or, more likely, they may give you some leads into other ideas,” added Wolfe.

Reach out to your customers, or whenever they come at you to complain for the services, find out what happens, thank them, be open, and ask for feedbacks. You’d be surprised on the results. Sometimes you wouldn’t even know that such problems exist or could hamper customer experiences. By identifying the customer expectations, you can simply build your solution around that, and lastly, make sure that you provide friendly and responsive customer service that lets them know they are always welcome the next time they reach out to you. Make it easy for them to voice their concerns.

The conclusion here is that customer interaction is the key. While many would agree with this, it’s really easier said than done. What about you? Let us know what you think. (*/)

Anna Rehermann: Indonesia is Young and Promising but Risky

cs8lg-6ueaabc6kBesides me, it turns out a lot of people ask what “Growth Hacking Asia” (from now on it’s abbreviated to GHA) is. But Anna Rehermann, its founder, doesn’t want it to be labelled in a certain way.

GHA that she’s currently leading then started training, consultancy, and speaking at events of startups. “At the core of its education, it’s really a training company that does also incubate,”  she defined. They don’t work like an agency but they also become parts of startups’ teams, in the mission of helping them take off.

GHA provides handy knowledge on how to do business effectively for young entrepreneurs and early startups. Sometimes Anna sees mentors give simple, practical and logical advice and tips that work to fix some problems that generally arise after embedding sophisticated yet too complicated features. One of the mentees was told to meet and talk with 20 people about how people want to have their wishlist written or saved for later days. Anna believes that entrepreneurs must go down to the field to really comprehend what consumers, clients or whoever/ whatever they want to target. Because we all know entrepreneurs may get caught up by their own assumption.

I drew a bold conclusion that her establishment focuses more on education of entrepreneurship rather than anything else. She agreed on this. She found the issue that in Indonesia everyone seems to look at the US market as their benchmark without really taking the differences into consideration. She’s certain that 3 months is not enough to provide what it takes to survive the competition. It’s something she sees missing in a lot of  accelerators and incubators.

When asked about stages in GHA program, Anna described it as being dependant on every team of startup, market, viability of ideas, product potential and so on.  Everything else can be fixed later on, she told me.

She found one common problem that Indonesia startups must deal with when building startups. That is having proper products. Every startup seems to focus heavily on user acquisition and forgets to build products that attract users. The reason, in Anna’s view, is because they apply business – instead of user – perspectives while building products.

Another common problem is making sense of data. Indonesian entrepreneurs need to learn more on how to do it right. Obtaining data is one thing, breaking them down and making decisions out of them is another. “Gathering the right data, structuring them the right way and making data-driven decisions are still missing a lot here,” she noted.

GHA will keep the participating startups updated initially every month and then every three month to see how they’re going.
“We chose local mentors because they understand better local markets,” Anna answered my question on the reason why she picked Indonesian mentors to guide incubated applicants. It also helps the local startups if they set target on local markets as well.

Once entrepreneurs finish GHA program, they’re expected to know what to do next after the early stage passes by. She also pointed out some basic skills as the focus before moving further. Some fundamental correction such as focusing first on making, activating and fixing products since usually startups focus first on user acquisition, which is to her quite wrong.

From Corporate to Education

GHA is something Anna had always been longed for in her career. She’s used to working with early-stage startups, taking care of their growth in Australia. She has roamed Singapore and Malaysia, too.

“They have a lot of really good ideas, different from other countries,” said she. Despite having good ideas, after these startups roll out a product, usually they won’t have any support anymore. So the problem is how to grow it in a sustainable way. Therefore, she reckons the significance of educating entrepreneurs first with training and consultancy.

Anna has been in contact with the startup world since six years ago. Before that, she worked as a corporate worker at an ad agency, market research, international marketing. “That was between my bachelor and my master,” she recounted her early days.

When I asked her whether experience as a corporate slave helps someone as s/he navigates through entrepreneurship ocean, she nodded. “I think it helps, to be honest, because you learn how to manage yourself,” she answered. We may learn, let’s say, how to work in teams, task delegation, processes and structures from big companies. These experiences are what one needs to start a young company. Without these experiences, one may take a longer time to start up successfully or make more mistakes.

Indonesia: Young and Risky

Having been familiar with Germany, Singapore and Australia’s startup ecosystem, Anna commented on Indonesian one,”It’s very young. It’s a lot more passionate. Actually, the most (passionate) in the region.”

GHA was founded in Bali, which is why Anna finds Indonesia home. And after that, they began holding events in Jakarta, Bali, Singapore,  and Kuala Lumpur.

She has seen pools of young passionate entrepreneurs with lots of talents in Indonesia. “But I think the supporting structure is not developed enough yet,” she remarked on the flaw of Indonesian startup ecosystem.

To describe the point where Indonesian ecosystem is now at, she took Malaysia as an example. She considers Malaysia’s ecosystem is one of the best in the region. They have government agencies that provide grants. Startups need to fight to get the grants. They also have metrics to educate entrepreneurs, which is why GHA works closely with Malaysia for training, bootcamps and so on.

In Singapore, she added, they just throw money but hardly educate entrepreneurs. “It’s a little bit too easy.” Now they are switching towards equity models rather than staying in giving away funds. It’s a good way to give incentives to people to get into the scene, she opined.

While everyone is crazy about the potential of stellar valuation of ‘unicorn’ startups such as WhatsApp, Instagram or Snapchat, Anna firmly denounced the idea that GHA only operates to hunt such prospects. What matters more is equip entrepreneurs with “what they need to be able to make it” and they scan shape it whatever they want to (including if these entrepreneurs wish to build and eventually sell their startups), Anna made her point.

Anna claims that by the time of the interview I conducted with her in early September 2016 GHA has cooperated with about 4,000 entrepreneurs within 18 months across South East Asia.

Thus far, Anna has seen different motivations in different countries. Singapore, she confessed, is a bit difficult. The reason is no other than the fact that it’s relatively easy to get funding here. “Because there’re so many government grants for everything,” Anna said. The ease is good but in abundance it undermines the spirit of entrepreneurship itself because we all know entrepreneurship needs risks. Without risks, entrepreneurial ventures would merely end up being dull as it feels so easy to overcome all the challenges. Indonesia differs in the way that “if you don’t make it, you’re in a financial trouble.” It is the harsh ecosystem where entrepreneurs seriously have to fight. That’s what entrepreneurship really means.

The danger of being spoiled entrepreneurs is that startups may grow big locally but once they go international, they’re like no more than babies in need of protection. In a country where ecosystem is wild and turbulent, startups and entrepreneurs grow organically and thus gain strength by practice.

Anna said GHA prefers startups that don’t seek fundings without doing their “homework” first, meaning they have to build something first and ask for money later. “Why? Build something and get money for it.”

I wondered whether different countries may bring out different entrepreneurship stories. Anna said no. They’re pretty similar to each other, much to my surprise. The fact that they don’t know each other but they do exactly the same thing, even their business models are quite identical. My hunch is consuming similar media outlets makes it possible. These hopefuls have their minds brainwashed by mainstream entrepreneurship media that on daily basis feed them up with news that convey the more or less same message on what seems to be trending or declining now. With all these coincidences, Anna advised that these similar startups in the region talk with each other to learn from one another’s mistakes or journeys.

It’s always interesting for me to find another fresh perspective towards Indonesia when it comes to entrepreneurship, simply because we need to see ourselves through their glasses. And that’s just one of many ways to check if we’re on the right track or not. Anna’s advice is simple. There ought to be more trainings because Indonesia already have the people coming with the right motivation and mindset. “It’s just how to channel all that, like how to help them structure themselves because everyone seems all over the place.”

Being data-driven and process-driven is important. Without process and structure, there’s too much waste because startups tends to lose focus while at the same time they have limited access to funding. This is why it’s important to pick them (acquiring users, optimizing products, processes, necessary metrics, up at an early stage.

When a startup concentrates more on valuation and sets aside ways to generate income and profit, there’re more problems to get in their way. But Anna somewhat understands the underlying reason of this. She knows well at times entrepreneurs have to obey what these investors.

Anna has a caveat for those who are eager to secure fundings in early days of business, saying,”If you raise money really early, you have to give away a huge chunk your business. If you don’t have to, just don’t.” But because a lot of entrepreneurs keep doing it, raising money early has become a sort of norm though it’s actually not. Despite all this, Anna quite understands why most entrepreneurs want so much to get funding even though they don’t need it that much. Sense of security, she remarked. “It’s scary not to have money.”

Lacking money doesn’t always mean misery. Anna acknowledges that being ‘poor’ at times boosts creativity and success in the long run. It pushes entrepreneurs to think out of the box, she pointed out.

The Hype of Ecommerce

GHA had 17 participants from 11 startups in Indonesia in Jakarta during September 2016. The composition of participanting startups is quite heterogeneous. Marketplace, ecommerce, SaaS are the three areas of business these startups are operating.

“Ecommerce is dominant,” Anna noticed. She knows it’s so hyped though it’s not easy. Ecommerce is not only about setting up an online store and selling without doing anything. Setting up is so easy but the hard question after that is “how do we make people buy?”. And not many people know it can be very expensive to make ecommerce businesses really work and profitable. It takes a lot of efforts like branding and community building. Even those big names like Zalora and Lazada are struggling and buring out a lot of cash to win loyal buyers’ hearts.

Ecommerce indeed is considered the most promising type of business just because Indonesia has a lot of population seen as potential consumers. But it takes a long way to go before these people turn into buying ones.

Internet penetration in the country is going up. But even her friend in Malaysia has made a deadly mistake by  building an online shopping app that eats up smartphone’s memory so much. If we want more people to buy we need to slim down our shopping app simply because only very few people want to uninstall Facebook or Twitter app on their phones only to free up more space for a cumbersome online shopping app that, for worse, may slow down phones as well.

I pointed out the media role in the sugarcoated bitter fact of ecommerce. And Anna agreed with me on this point, saying,”That’s because they read mostly the good stuff.

To be successful, entrepreneurs must be patient. “No one likes to hear it but that’s true.” But when asked about the time frame, she mentioned 1,5 to 2 years. The first six months are only spent for optimizing your products. Here the users are coming in and at the same time entrepreneurs have to collect feedbacks. Based on feedbacks, they still have to fix and optimize products relentlessly until real growth is apparent. When she sees reluctant entrepreneurs rejecting the advice of perfecting products first before focusing on growth, she growls,“(Because) you can’t grow with a bad product.”

The next milestone of GHA, Anna put it, is reach more parts of South East Asia. GHA consists of the academy which concentrates on training. They’re still doing early stage and want to move into a later stage as well. Another is consulting. “Next year we’re going to start investing also,” she elaborated. She understands that startups do need some pre-seed funding in the beginning to test or validate their business ideas. But she is very careful about it because she doesn’t want investors or investment to get in the way of product building process.

Mario Berta: Indonesia’s Infrastructure Makes It More Competitive

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That night I saw some young men in their twenties walking downstairs. I was late and on my way to the venue of #StartupLokal Community Meetup of March 2016.  They left the room not because they were less than interested to see and listen to the keyonte speaker, who happened to be a foreigner. In a frustrated tone, one of them mumbled,”Damn! There’s no chance we can get a seat.”

Really? I went in only to see a medium-sized auditorium packed with dozens of enthusiast entrepreneur hopefuls.

I had better listen to them because they were apparently right. There was not any single seat left in the room. I managed to discover an empty spot on the corner which seemed to be too far from the speaker, making me a bit difficult to fully grasp what he conveyed. Thank God the slides were presented on two screens.

A man with a thick accent was presenting something on sales. He was definitely not American or Briton. And I was right.

Mario Berta calls Manila his home. Although he is not a native, he felt some emotional and psychological relationships with the capital of the Phillipines and himself.

Berta barely knows about the marketplace here. Yet, what he knows for sure is that Indonesia is “gigantic marketplace” having a stable middle class segment that no other countries in Southeast Asian region possess.

“I think challenges are always the same for foreigners coming to different countries. Regulations!” Berta pointed out when asked about some main challenges for foreign entrepreneurs like him to penetrate the Indonesian fat and potential market. He honestly told me he just met with his lawyers familiar with Indonesian notoriously complex regulations. Having set up a business in the Phillipines, Berta said Indonesia’s regulations are equally complex as ones of the neighboring archipelagi country.

Another great challenge to conquer for Berta is the language barrier. “Language! But it’s easily overcome.”

When it comes to infrastructure, Berta praised the infrastructure preparedness currently here. “In South Asia, Indonesia is the best, apart from Singapore and Hong Kong obviously.” I cannot object. He just saw Indonesia has a better position compared to other countries after travelling the country.

Berta’s startup was founded seven months ago to serve a potential market of businesses which badly need decent yet affordable office space. “We aggregate all the short-term inventory in a determined city.”

With eleven employees, Flyspace.com is now in operation in Manila, Cebu Island and Singapore. The interested customers can go to their website and book online.

 Sales is his favorite theme in business. “I love training entrepreneurs on sales,” Berta explained.

Sadly, I had no much time to dig in more as the entrepreneur had to leave for a business dinner.

Tentang Jurang (Sebuah Catatan tentang Entrepreneurship Indonesia)

 

Tanggal 16-17 Februari 2016 lalu Presiden Joko Widodo mengunjungi Silicon Valley. Apalagi agendanya jika tidak untuk menarik investasi sejumlah korporasi. (Sumber foto: laman Facebook Mark Zuckerberg)

Perempuan itu terlambat 17 menit dari waktu yang dijanjikan. Dalam surel, ia meminta maaf. “Maaf Akhlis, saya akan terlambat beberapa menit sepertinya,” ia membalas singkat.

Saya sudah menunggunya di sana. Untung saja saya bisa mengerjakan sesuatu dengan komputer jinjing. Secangkir teh chai panas juga menemani di depan mata. Kalau tidak saya bisa menggerutu kebosanan dan membeku di ruangan luas dan temaram itu.

Ia masuk ke dalam kedai dan nanar mencari orang dengan rupa yang saya deskripsikan dalam surel baru saja. Kami baru pertama bertemu hari itu.

Sementara saya sibuk memandangi layar komputer jinjing, ia bertanya apakah nama saya Akhlis. Saya jawab betul dan kami pun bersalaman untuk pertama kali.

Saya terkejut ia tidak segemuk yang saya lihat di dunia maya. Apakah ia sudah diet ketat? Tubuhnya kini lebih kurus, wajahnya tirus. Namun, jejak Kaukasia dalam gennya tidak bisa dihapus. Tulang hidungnya tinggi khas bangsa Arya.

Ia memandangi sejenak stiker-stiker di punggung komputer jinjing saya. Dan ia tampak tidak tahan melontarkan pertanyaan,”Kau dapat ini dari mana? Pameran kebudayaan Jerman?” Saya ceritakan padanya bahwa saya pernah diundang dan hadir dalam perayaan reunifikasi Jerman tanggal 1 Oktober tahun lalu. Sebuah undangan dalam koridor kedinasan. Saya masih ingat bagaimana malam itu saya harus makan malam sambil berdiri dan berceloteh soal bobroknya sebuah instansi komersial dengan seorang kolega yang lebih senior tetapi berhubungan lebih akrab dari rekan-rekan sepangkat jabatan.

Setelah perempuan itu memesan sajian roti berselai stroberi serta kopi dalam sebuah wadah berukuran tall di kedai waralaba asal negeri Paman Sam itu, ia duduk di depan saya kemudian bertanya sebelum menelan rotinya.

“Artikel apa yang ingin kau tulis jika nanti sedianya ada kesempatan?”

“Hmm…,” saya memilih kata-kata dengan cermat, tidak mau gegabah menyahut. “Tentang jurang.”

“Jurang?” kepalanya mendongak, meninggalkan pandangan dari piringnya.

” Ya, jurang… Jurang antara para entrepreneur di sini dan pemerintah,” tukas saya. Teh chai hangat itu saya teguk lagi. Cairan itu level pahitnya bukan kepalang dan sanggup membangunkan seluruh tubuh saya di tengah terpaan angin pendingin udara di atas kepala kami. Untuk mengetik saja jari jemari jadi kaku. Saya memandang iri ke seberang meja, sekelompok perempuan negeri ginseng bercakap akrab, tanpa menggigil.

“Kenapa jurang itu bisa ada?” ia kembali menggali.

Saya sedikit tersentak, berusaha mengembalikan konsentrasi dari distraksi. Seorang perempuan Korea di situ tertawa dan berbicara lantang benar, seperti di rumah sendiri.

“Karena selama ini keduanya tampak berjalan sendiri-sendiri. Tanpa ada sinkronisasi dan harmoni. Makanya jangan heran dunia entrepreneurship kita seperti ini,” terang saya setengah spontan, setengah tertata.

Banyak yang perlu dibenahi. Dan dari tahun ke tahun belum ada solusi konkret. Dalam suatu diskusi seorang perwakilan entrepreneur muda bahkan berkata tidak peduli dengan apapun yang dilakukan pemerintah. “Asal jangan sampai mengganggu laju kami. Itu saja. Terserah mereka mau apa,” timpalnya saking putus asa.

Hal itu ia lontarkan beberapa tahun lalu. Ia pantas putus asa dan memiliki resistensi pada penguasa sebab kondisi dan birokrasi negeri di sektor ini juga kacau balau. Tidak heran anak-anak muda yang kreatif itu lebih memilih bergerak di bawah tanah. Namun sayangnya, bergerak di bawah tanah juga menghalau mereka menggapai pertumbuhan yang setinggi-tingginya.

Kita masih ingat jejaring sosial Koprol yang diakuisisi Yahoo. Semua bangga dengan pencapaian spektakuler itu. Ada juga ya startup kita yang dilirik Silicon Valley, begitu komentar orang. Tetapi bangga cuma berakhir bangga, tanpa dukungan nyata. Alhasil layu juga akhirnya. Koprol dilepas begitu saja setelah Yahoo tersedot oleh lumpur isap bernama resesi yang membuat mereka sampai harus merekrut CEO cantik Marissa Meyer. Sampai sekarang Yahoo tidak pernah pulih seperti sedia kala di masa kejayaan mereka.

Kemudian ia menyebut soal Jokowi yang sedang melawat ke Silicon Valley. Saya ketinggalan berita rupanya. Dan pagi ini tadi baru mengetahuinya dari laman si pendiri jejaring sosial itu. Masih ada harapan perbaikan dan kemajuan, kira-kira begitu pesan yang hendak kenalan saya ini sampaikan.

Entahlah, saya menghela napas dalam-dalam. Mencoba mengusir kekesalan dan keputusasaan. Indonesia itu rumit, terang saya padanya yang berdarah separuh bumiputra itu. Kadang kepalanya memang yang inkompeten dan korup jadi bawahnya juga bobrok. Namun, kadang juga kepalanya sudah bagus, jajaran di bawahnya yang resisten pada perubahan yang dibawa sang kepala. Saya berdoa semoga saja saya salah.

Pertemuan presiden kali ini dengan pendiri Facebook dikatakan akan mengangkat agenda perkenalan Indonesia sebagai salah satu tujuan investasi yang seksi. Jokowi ingin meyakinkan para petinggi teknologi informasi perusahaan teknologi seperti Google, Facebook dan Twitter bahwa Indonesia bisa membantu mereka menggenjot pertumbuhan perusahaan sekaligus membantu Indonesia menggairahkan sektor ekonomi baru:ecommerce.

What a Yogi can learn from Donald Trump?

No one on media is more talked about than Mr. Trump these days. We know he’s an extraordinarily notorious, racist man with a foul mouth. More widely known as a property tycoon, Trump is actually not that successful. Neither is he a business genius.

Let’s look at the 11 business markets Trump has entered.
Here are his successful businesses:
1) Real Estate transactions
2) The Apprentice television show

And these are his failed businesses:
1) Trump Airlines – After 4 years (1988-1992) of no profits, it was broken apart in bankruptcy court to pay his creditors.
2) Trump Vodka – After 5 years (2006-2011) of lackluster sales, the company was dissolved.
3) Trump Casinos – Three casinos in Atlantic City all filed for bankruptcy in 2014 (fourth time for them).
4) Trump The Game & The Apprentice – Two board games designed by Donald that were discontinued.
5) Trump Magazine – Lasted a year and a half before ceasing publication.
6) Trump Steaks – Closed in 2012 for multiple health code violations.
7) GoTrump.com – A travel website that only lasted a year.
8) Trump University – A non-accredited for-profit ‘university’ accused of defrauding students by the New York Attorney General ($40 million damages).
9) Trump Mortgage – Failed after a year and a half.

Let’s look closer at his two successful businesses.
1) Real Estate: Four of his properties (individually incorporated on the good advice of his legal team) failed because Trump’s “brilliant” strategy was to over-leverage his properties. This worked very well in a bull market, but almost lost him everything in a bear market. His attorneys did a great job in bankruptcy court and his creditors took the fall for his bad decisions. He isn’t a horrible real estate developer, but neither is he a great one.

2) Reality Television: Mr. Trump really shines here. The average viewer is greatly entertained by the drama between the contestants and enjoys watching Trump insult people with over-sized egos.

To conclude,Trump is an excellent entertainer, a mediocre talent at the business he inherited, and a failure in everything else he’s laid a hand to. Business schools don’t do case studies of Donald Trump. They look at people like Jack Welch, Sam Walton, Warren Buffet, Carlos Slim, Herbert Dow, etc. People who are famous because others talk about what they did, not because they talk about themselves.

Maybe, if there’s something we yogis can learn from him, it’s PR (public relations). Very few good yogis are better at getting free press than Donald Trump. And it’s not only about how to use hashtags on social media sites. Of course we can learn his relentlessness of pursuing his goals. Other than that, there’s not much to learn from. (Data source: Quora.com)

Sanggar Anak Akar isn't Going down without a Concert

A FUNDRAISING CONCERT that afternoon was one attempt by Sanggar Anak Akar at reclaiming rights for those in need of a humanistic education. Their existing simple school building in Kalimalang is now occupied with a construction project of new flyover in town hoping to give more space to the ever growing traffic heading in and out of Jakarta. They thus need to move away and grab some new piece of land to hold students consisting of marginalized school-aged children in the megapolitan.

Goodwill is always blessed. Somehow they managed to do it. ‎Various parties poured their supports in any possible form — tangible and intangible — to the social foundation of Anak Akar Indonesia. Several musicians agreed to join the fundraising concert; Bonita and the Hus Band, Ratu Queenous, Marya Genova, Tony Q and Navicula Band were entertaining the entire audience with upbeat, high-spirited songs.
Initiator Susilo Adinegoro, affectionately called “Pakdhe Sus” (pakdhe: ‘big uncle’ in Javanese), ‎extended his gratitude towards Minister of National Education Anis Baswedan, who made it unannounced. An abrupt presence was of course much better than sudden absence, Anis joked. The minister who happened to be wearing a pair of washed-up rather baggy jeans admitted he should have been in Cairo, Egypt, but somehow the arrangement was altered, enabling him to show up to provide support, which he did by taking part actively in the auction of an artwork made by a 10-year-young painter from the school.

Susilo also announced the launch of Sekolah Kampung Urban, a ‎program involving ten social nonprofit communities in Jakarta. “Ten communities in five areas in Jakarta will not build a physical school. Rather, they use what is around them as learning materials. We call it integrative education,” the light-built man argued, redefining education for all of us.

Pakdhe Sus mentioned some social entrepreneurship elements will be involved in the schools. “Today, we’ll begin the program and in December, the participants from 10 communities are to present what they have learned thus far and what to carry out in the upcoming year,” he elaborated.

Being an independent social worker and initiator himself in Indonesia Mengajar (a social and educational movement sending young graduates to teach in the most remote areas in Indonesia)‎, Anis said he was no stranger to what Sanggar Akar Anak did. He emphasized on the importance of being an active doer than a mere dreamer. “Every child is entitled to education access and though the State is constitutionally obliged to provide education for all, morally speaking each and every one of us who is educated is required to educate other Indonesians.”

It could be the first time I saw a public official getting down to earth and speaking out of real experience instead of boring rethorics and cliche mostly because he had been in the shoes of others and identified the similar roots and hence similarity of visions. That indicated some progress in Indonesia’s education‎, at least for me.

The Success Catalyst of Journalism Businesses

At Galeri Nasional

Mark Briggs of Poynter Institute claims his course would tell you – aspiring entrepreneurial journalists – what to do before plunging to the business world. After the huge success of BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post, every journalist seems enchanted to give this a try. Who knows it’ll be a fruitful business undertaking that’ll lead you to a life full of fortune?

But if you’re like me, you know it takes more than writing and reporting skills to do great in journalism industry. There’re so many factors we need to take into account to be successful. And yet, the meaning of success itself is blurred. What I mean by success may be entirely different from what you mean, and what any other journalists mean.

Briggs couldn’t be as popular and wealthy as Kara Swisher, Sarah Lacy, Jakoeb Oetama or Jonah Peretti but he is for sure quite experienced in his own way. He stated his course “aims to give participants the knowledge and tools needed to launch content-driven news/information websites. We’ll take you from idea to implementation and, when necessary, help you retool or replace ideas with better versions.” In complete, he writes:

If you’re considering starting a news or information-oriented website, this course will help you decide whether an entrepreneurial path is the right one for you. And if you’re looking for a crash course on starting a business, it will show you the ropes, point you to the right resources and help you formulate the questions you most need answers to.

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN:

After completing this course, you’ll have newfound knowledge about creating a business and bringing your specific idea to fruition.

You’ll be able to:

  • Explain the difference between an idea and a product.
  • List the basic elements of a business plan.
  • Define basic business and marketing terms, including ROI and CPC.
  • List and summarize the legal structures available when establishing a business, and identify their strengths and weaknesses.
  • List popular technological platforms and cite strengths and weaknesses of each.
  • List available analytics tools and identify what to track and how to analyze the numbers.
  • Summarize the primary options when forming a business as a legal entity, getting legal and accounting help and finding software to help run the business.
  • List and describe major ad networks (e.g., BlogHer, Federated Media)

For your specific business, you’ll be able to:

  • Define your market, approximate its size and identify your audience
  • Write an executive summary.
  • Define the current work that needs to be done and identify the people who can do it.
  • Determine whether funding is needed and, if so, how much.
  • Decide whether the business can be bootstrapped and, if not, identify options for securing funding.
  • Estimate how many users/customers/viewers/readers will be “enough” to make the business work.
  • Identify qualities that distinguish your business from your competitors.
  • Perform a basic assessment of potential adjacent markets.
  • List questions that need to be answered about your product, market and/or business.
WHO SHOULD TAKE THIS COURSE:
  • Journalists working at legacy operations interested in founding a start-up venture
  • Recent journalism graduates interested in working in journalism, but not for a “traditional” journalistic business
  • Anyone passionate about a community, topic or cause who has a desire to start a publication-based business with journalistic values

For a moment, I let the words seep into my mind. Is it going to work? Can all these topics cover what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in journalism industry?

It doesn’t seem that easy. Mastering all these things might be leading us closer to the goal but definitely not instantly.

We need a CATALYST.

What could that be? The mysterious catalyst that we’re searching for…

I remember several juniors asking me if they could just stay in the comfort of their hometowns while doing their journalism gigs. I told them, if they can be in Jakarta, it’d be much better.

The reason is because they need NETWORKS, people. They must see and talk to people, not only sitting and typing at home. Journalism businesses do NOT work that way. You have to go out, see more and more people, talk to them, dig tons of information from these folks you may not find at the smaller social circle in hometown.

Zero to One: Catatan Kampus yang Berisi Pemikiran Seorang Jenius

‎Blake Masters mungkin tak pernah menyangka catatan kuliahnya akan dibaca jutaan orang di dunia. Masters duduk di bangku kuliah Stanford Law School di tahun 2012, saat entrepreneur super sukses Peter Thiel menyambangi kampusnya untuk berbagi ilmu dan wawasan. Dengan tekun sekali, Masters mencatat pemikiran-pemikiran sang guru dalam catatan kuliahnya yang bertajuk “Computer Science 183: Startup”. Catatannya itu ia unggah ke dunia maya dan abrakadabra! Begitu banyak orang membacanya. Thiel pun turun tangan. Ia mengajak Masters merevisi catatan kuliah yang begitu bermanfaat itu bagi audiens global. Tahun 2014, buku ini pun lahir dan siap dikonsumsi pasar.

Dalam sebuah kesempatan, Thiel pernah mengatakan bahwa ia TIDAK menganggap kemajuan teknologi seperti iPhone sebagai suatu inovasi. ‎Tidak ada sesuatu yang benar-benar baru dan segar serta aneh dari iPhone yang telah sampai ke seri keenam itu. Bukan berarti ia benci terhadap semua perkembangan teknologi informasi yang terjadi dengan pesat ini, tetapi Thiel yakin bahwa semua itu cuma kemajuan horisontal. Thiel mau kemajuan vertikal yang lebih banyak terjadi dalam kehidupan kita sekarang. Dan buku ini tampaknya memiliki misi untuk menanamkan pemikiran itu dalam benak para pembacanya, yaitu agar mereka terdorong membuat sesuatu yang baru dan aneh. Bukan cuma mengekor dan memperbanyak sesuatu yang sudah ada dan sudah terbukti sukses.

Sebagai sebuah himpunan informasi , buku ini memang berbeda. Bagi penyuka buku dengan judul yang berpola bombastis seperti “kiat sukses (masukkan ambisi apapun yang Anda mau)”, atau “rahasia menuju (ketikkan cita-cita paling muluk-muluk yang Anda pernah bayangkan), saya sarankan jangan membeli buku ini. Pasti Anda akan kecewa. Anda juga tidak akan menemukan formula-formula sukses dari Thiel atau kumpulan kisah keberhasilan yang standar, monoton dan bisa ditebak yang digemari kebanyakan orang. Itu karena buku ini menyasar mereka yang mau diajak berpikir berat, sangat berat.

Yang menarik, Thiel berpendapat entrepreneurship tidak dapat diajarkan hanya dengan menyuguhkan formula, akronim, rumus atau jargon ‎penjamin sukses. Dalam sekapur sirih di awal buku, Thiel menjelaskan:”Paradoks dalam mengajarkan entrepreneurship ialah bahwa formula (untuk sukses -pen) tidak ada; karena tiap inovasi itu baru dan unik, tidak ada pihak yang bisa merumuskan dalam istilah nyata cara untuk berinovasi. Sungguh, satu-satunya pola yang paling menonjol yang saya ketahui ialah bahwa orang-orang sukses menemukan nilai di tempat-tempat yang tidak terduga, dan mereka melakukan itu dengan memikirkan mengenai bisnisnya dari prinsip-prinsip pertama daripada (mengandalkan -pen) formula-formula” (Zero to One, hal 2-3).

Zero to One yang terdiri dari 14 bab itu membuat kita berpikir keras untuk memahami hakikat teknologi, perkembangannya, kegunaan sejatinya bagi kemaslahatan manusia, dan lain-lain. Thiel mungkin dapat dikatakan sebagai filsuf teknologi abad modern karena ia menggunakan sejumlah sudut pandang keilmuan di dalam penjelasannya. Dalam bab “You Are Not a Lottery Ticket” misalnya Thiel memakai tinjauan sejarah, budaya, psikologi dan ekonomi dalam menjelaskan 4 kelompok besar berdasarkan perspektif terhadap masa depan. Di sini ia mencomot sejarah bangsa-bangsa dan masyarakat besar dunia untuk memberikan gambaran lengkap mengenai pemikiran dan sikap yang berbeda-beda dalam memandang masa depan. Anda bisa menemukan penjelasannya di halaman 62.

Dalam bab pamungkas “Stagnation or Singularity?”, Thiel mencoba mengajak kita kembali berpikir dan mengambil simpulan besar. Dari sana, ia mendorong kita yang membaca untuk bertindak dengan memberikan tugas agung. Berikut kalimatnya di halaman terakhir buku itu:

“Tugas kita saat ini ialah menemukan cara-cara tunggal dalam membuat hal-hal baru yang akan membuat masa depan tidak cuma berbeda tetapi juga lebih baik – naik dari nol menjadi satu. Langkah pertama dan utamanya yaitu berpikir untuk diri Anda. Hanya dengan memandang dunia kita dengan cara baru, sesegar dan seaneh para leluhur memandangnya pertama kali dahulu kala, baru kita bisa menciptakannya kembali dan melestarikannya untuk masa depan”. (Zero to One, hal 195)

‎Setelah membaca buku ini, perspektif kita mengenai entrepreneurship tak akan pernah sama lagi. Tiba-tiba kita menjadi lebih kritis untuk bertanya,”Benarkah mereka yang dilabeli atau mengklaim diri sebagai entrepreneur itu betul-betul entrepreneur? Atau cuma hebat dalam menjual dan mengemas lalu mengeruk untung untuk ditimbun? Apakah inovasi yang selama ini dibangga-banggakan itu sungguh suatu inovasi sejati yang mengarah ke atas (vertikal)? Atau jangan jangan cuma ilusi yang Thiel sebut sebagai kemajuan horisontal?”

Promotion Out of Desperation

‎You know when people promote their products or services owing to desperation plus ignorance of effective, ethical and brainy strategies. They simply bombard your neews feeds with self promotional updates. It’s all right there to see and dislike.

And guess what, how many people really want to buy from merchants like this immediately? I don’t. Maybe you don’t. I don’t know‎ but still it’s sickening and foolish to see.

So these so-called entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs‎, or whatever titles we can find to attach to them, are B.S. (Bachelor of Suckers, for sure).

I liken these pseudo marketing strategy to the marketing and sales strategy of street vendors. Yes, I am being mean and rude right now because I cannot take it any longer. I can NOT. They are pretty much like street vendors, who desperately knock everyone’s window of cars at a super hectic Jakartan intersection and offer what they ‎have by shouting and being very pushy and annoying.

So please, please, don’t be such a jerk to your potential customers. Be kind to them to present the best of you. The best and most ethical, to be frank.

Dikirim dari ponsel cerdas BlackBerry 10 saya dengan jaringan 3 Indonesia.