Rob Davies, the CEO of Appsolute Digital and Arm Enterprises, shares his views on Indonesia’s technology market and his formula for success.
Arm Enterprises and Appsolute Digitial seem like two very different companies; what are the differences and similarities, and what was the motivation for companies in such disparate sectors?
Yes, they are, but they have a common theme in both software and the Indonesian market.
Actually, Arm was the first company set up in Singapore around six years ago with a couple of great Indonesian friends to develop software around the English Premier League. And after some success, it has moved into Telco solutions for the region with different partners.
Appsolute Digital was established two years ago to focus on software and mobile applications for the region and is funded by private investors from mainly Australia. The hope is that our initial projects, such as ROBS Jobs, could lead to a tech fund in Australia to essentially invest in startups around Southeast Asia that need funding or resources.
ROBS Jobs, one of the apps created by Appsolute Digital, seems like a type of “Tinder” for job applicants and employers. Can you tell us how it works? How do the filters work and what benefits does it have for employers and candidates?
It is exactly the same approach as Tinder for jobs with the difference being that only the company can match with a job seeker. The candidates fill in their details via a simple drop-down menu and this creates a virtual CV, which is then matched with the employers’ requirements. From there, some magical algorithm scores the applicant to those requirements and shows in real time those best suited for the job.
The benefits for the employers are that they can review only the best applicants ranked in order of matched requirements digitally, and do not have to look through lots of CV’s that are not suited to the position.
This process is instant and paperless so is time efficient and good for the environment too.
The benefits for the candidates are they do not have to send CV’s to apply for vacancies as these are digitally compiled in the app. They merely swipe right for jobs they are interested in and left for ones they are not. With huge competition from other job seekers, this means they can apply for more jobs in a shorter space of time and have a better chance of finding work that suits their skills.
In either case, once an employer has matched the applicant, a live chat opens in the app which allows them to arrange interviews, start times or discuss any other issues easily in real time, so the process to hire someone can be really fast.
What were some of the biggest hurdles you faced when starting your companies? How did you manage them?
The process here in Indonesia for starting up a company has still not improved despite efforts from the government, so you face a long journey between departments which are not connected with endless delays. Luckily (and most importantly) for me, I have a fantastic business partner, Ika Novi, who seems to handle everything in her stride.
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
All I can say at this point is don’t give up.
As an entrepreneur and expat, how do you find conducting business in Indonesia?
As an entrepreneur, it’s challenging mainly from the endless amount of holidays there seem to be these days; I think a four-day work week seems to be the best you can hope for most of the year. As an expat, I love the holidays as it gives me a chance to travel around the awesome places that make up this wonderful country. I suppose I am a bit conflicted.
What are the pros and cons of creating a tech startup in Indonesia?
The size of the population in Indonesia is a great reason to launch tech businesses here if you can solve real problems that affect people in some way. Finding solutions to these problems can propel rapid growth and in the process make excellent returns whilst doing some good. I think if there is a downside to creating tech here is that it’s likely your ideas will be copied quickly and competition will spring up all around in a very short time; still, it’s a massive market and room for lots more players.
From your vantage point, do you agree with the forecasts for steady growth in the tech sector in Indonesia? Why or why not?
Yes, I think there are many areas where tech can provide solutions to problems the average Indonesian faces, which will improve their lives with the right solutions. Companies such as GO-JEK for transport, Supersoccer for online football streaming, Blibli for e-commerce, and many others show there is still huge potential here for growth. With more and more companies looking to Indonesia, it’s going to be that way for a long time to come.
What is on your top three words of wisdom for foreign investors or expats who want to start a tech business here?
Be very patient.