An entrepreneurial journey: bridging Indonesia's e-commerce gap
After founding multiple startups, venture capitalist Jefrey Joe now supports budding startups in Indonesia and beyond.
Entrepreneur, management consultant, investor, venture capitalist – Jefrey Joe, 35, has made his mark in all these roles, even featuring on the cover of Forbes Indonesia in 2019.
A former Monash University international student, Joe is co-founder and managing partner of venture capital company Alpha JWC Ventures, which has invested in more than 30 technology startups in Southeast Asia.
Indonesia-born Joe, who graduated with a business systems degree in 2004, is well-placed to offer advice – and mentorship – to budding entrepreneurs. He founded a DVD delivery service while still at Monash and, later, a textile trading company in Shanghai and a car dealership in Indonesia.
His technology company, Alterra, is Indonesia’s leading bill-payment platform, employing more than 500 people.
“Being entrepreneurial is about balancing leadership, business, financial and technical skills. One common pitfall is not learning all those things quickly enough.”
The technology boom is still in its early stages in Southeast Asia, with e-commerce representing less than two per cent of total commerce, compared with 10 per cent in the US and China.
For Joe, the gap represents opportunity. “Impact is very important for me, and I really believe one of the most impactful things I can do is through technology. E-learning, for instance, will have a bigger impact than any other type of learning.”
Alpha JWC, which has expanded into Vietnam and Singapore, manages funds worth US$150 million. The company targets its investments with care. “We look for founders who are visionary and capable of creating a very successful business,” says Joe.
In Southeast Asia, it can be difficult to access loans. Among the companies Alpha JWC has backed are Modalku, which has provided capital to more than 500,000 small to medium-sized businesses in Indonesia, and TaniHub and TaniFund, which have assisted 17,000-plus farmers.
Joe says his university experience gave him the confidence and independence for his entrepreneurial journey. “My transition to Monash was easy; the professors were friendly and the classmates were really helpful. It made for a good learning experience.”
After an MBA at UCLA, Joe completed the Owner/President Management program at Harvard Business School in 2019.
The key to start-up success
He’s been a financial advisor at Ernst & Young, a strategy consultant at Boston Consulting Group, and COO of Groupon Indonesia before founding Alterra. He established Alpha JWC in 2016. Previously, “there weren’t a lot of experienced technology investors in Indonesia”, he explains. Now, he can “help young founders to create successful technology companies”.
One such company, co-working space startup Spacemob, was acquired by US-based WeWork within a year of Alpha investing. Another, DealStreetAsia – a financial news and intelligence platform – was bought by Japanese media corporation Nikkei in April. Forbes dubbed Alpha the “Unicorn Breeder” – because unicorns are startups worth at least US$1 billion.
As a mentor, Joe understands the challenges faced by startups. “Being entrepreneurial is about balancing leadership, business, financial and technical skills. One common pitfall is not learning all those things quickly enough.”
Joe, who featured in a tech entrepreneurship program on Channel News Asia, Start-UP Season 6, attended the 2016 Monash Alumni Global Leaders’ Network reception and the 2017 Monash Alumni Global Leaders’ Summit. He also hopes to help create “a more organised, more active, more engaging alumni chapter” in Jakarta.
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