When Jaka Wiradisuria had to shut down Valadoo in 2015, he was lost.
The online Indonesian marketplace for travel tour packages was one of the earliest startups in this sector, but couldn’t get off the ground. “I thought that I understood a lot about startups, but apparently I did not. Far from it. And I only realised that afterwards,” he said.
“When the company needed to shut down, it became a defining moment for me to really think whether what I thought was best is actually the best.”
This became a turning point in his career as he gained new perspective and clarity about himself and scaling businesses as a whole. Through humility and grit, Jaka is now the Chief Product Officer and (acting) Chief Human Capital Officer at Sahabat Bisnis (Investree).
In this edition of Middle Matters, he shares the mindset transformation that helped him find his way.
Being Open to Change
In the lead-up to Valadoo closing, Jaka had time to reflect. “There [was] a lot of enlightenment that came from my personal learning process that I did not know back then,” he shared. “The words that I got as feedback, not only coming from my colleague, [but] from my wife about having humility, about being a good listener.”
Mapan (Ruma) came calling soon after. The social enterprise was helmed by his mentor, Aldi Haryopratomo and he joined as their Head of Product. It was a chance to make a positive change and learn from someone he looked up to.
“I got a chance to build something up again, despite it not me being the co-founder. I would say I got the chance to really unlearn what I thought was right.”
Listening and Getting Feedback
To make Mapan’s vision of helping millions of Indonesian families out of poverty a reality, Jaka had to learn the maturity and humility of a leader.
“As a founder, I should [have] put more focus on, rather than myself, but more to the people that I try to touch through my start-ups,” he explains. “This it’s not only about us, but this is also about our users - about how we focus what we are working on at the end of the day to help them.”
With a mission that was bigger than himself, he realised: “Whatever we think is right, if it's not being validated, if it's not answering their problems, it doesn't mean anything.”
“Being a leader with humility and being a good listener is something that really matters as one major learning, especially for growing [companies] in Indonesia and to some extent in the region as well.”
Building Culture from the Ground Up
Scaling a company was a challenge that Jaka learned the hard way because it wasn’t enough to have a vision and the ability to carry out tasks himself. If he wanted to grow beyond the initial founders, it had to be sustainable as well.
He shared that the glue that holds specialists in a team together is a shared purpose - a culture that reflects that of its leaders. Even when an organisation becomes too big for its founders to manage every single person, the leadership structure can rely on the foundations they have built.
“Now I'm still managing a team of 20 to 30, but reflecting on my base at Kitabisa and Gojek, the first 20, 30, and 50 people eventually define how the organisation will grow and how the culture will grow,” Jaka says. “Eventually, the growing number of people [will] have to be managed through culture by allowing them to contribute to the culture itself.”
This is important for a hypergrowth company that can’t afford to be too strict with playbooks which can limit their ability to be agile.
Finding a North Star
Looking back on his time at Valadoo, Jaka admits: “If I [stuck] to my mindset previously and just try to make another startup without being thoughtful about what I want to build, what products I want to focus on, what solutions that we can build based on the problems that we understand from our users, it will never happen.”
“It’s not about you” - a core value of Gojek sums up his journey of growth. From exhibiting grit and tenacity in times of adversity to exercising curiosity and humility, Jaka has found a purpose and meaning by looking beyond himself.
“If you're focused on your customer, your users, your merchant, and your SME users, eventually you will find the right solution and it will help the company grow. And in this case, the economic upside will follow. That angle becomes my north star when building the organisation and setting up scalable human capital.”
Jaka’s journey shows that scaling a business requires having an open mind to hear what people around us are saying.
- When was the last time you changed your mind based on the feedback you received?
- What did you learn about yourself from the last time a team member gave you feedback?
- When was the last time you felt reluctant to delegate? What are some of the reasons that made you feel that way?