Building GDP Venture
Martin Hartono is making big bets on Indonesia’s internet industry.
Under Global Digital Prima Venture (GDP Venture), he has so far invested in companies such as Kaskus, the largest forum site in Indonesia, and Blibli, a fast growing e-commerce site. Under GDP Ventures is Merah Putih, Indonesia’s first tech and digital incubator, which has invested in Lintas.me, Infokost.net, Bolalob, Mindtalk, DailySocial.net, Kincir, and the latest venture it has invested is Opini.co.id.
Martin’s love of technology started with games. He smilingly describes himself as a gamer since he was born, playing anything from Nintendo to PC games. Prior to investing and mentoring internet startups, Martin started his career by working at Djarum’s business technology department as its business technology director. The experience helped him to understand the fundamentals of the internet businesses like programing and online marketing.
Why GDP Venture?
GDP Venture takes that love of tech and focuses it on investing in Indonesia. Martin explains that Indonesia is a huge market with a lot of consumers and a lot of them are still young. He explained further:
It’s not too late [to enter the market] because the internet population is just 30 percent. There will be a huge shift in demographics within five years when young people move to the workforce. [And so the nation’s] GDP – that is why we sort of named our company GDP – will grow. This isn’t only about venture capital but it is about growing the Indonesian economy. If you look at offline companies, we actually have a lot of world-class brands competing with international brands. Why can’t we have international technology companies in Indonesia?
Martin’s observation is supported by a recent BCG report which estimated there will be 141 million middle-class and affluent consumers (MACs) in Indonesia by 2020. And by 2020, the report states that “the island of Java alone will have more MACs than the entire population of Thailand, and Sumatra will have more than the populations of Malaysia and Singapore combined.”
Weighing up startups
When picking companies, Martin looks at the concept and prefers to invest in a company with a great cause that is relevant to Indonesia. He said Infokost, a startup that helps people search for apartments for rent, is a good fit because ‘kost’ (like dormitories in the US) are a part of Indonesian’s daily lives. Besides concept, Martin also prefers a startup team who can execute the concept well. “A good concept run by a team who cannot execute will not turn out well.” He added saying:
GDP Ventures’ purpose is to create a healthy ecosystem that produces great companies. In the end we want Indonesia to have great technopreneurs, engineers, product guys, and marketers. I think the angel network is as important as technopreneurs themselves. We need a lot of different investors because no single institute can invest in all.
For Indonesia, Martin believes the technopreneurs need to take more interest in back-end systems and not only front-end development. “Indonesia has potentially hundreds of millions of users. But I don’t see many people having that kind of expertise to handle thousands of concurrent users,” he said.
Besides running GDP Venture, Martin spends time mentoring at Founders Institute Jakarta and believes that Indonesia needs more of such programs to breed the country’s future leaders and entrepreneurs.