Steven Wongsoredjo chose a path and market that everyone else has been overlooking. A $200B TAM that he has already been making great headway in. His app, Super, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like TNB AURA, DN Capital, Dorsal Capital, and Softbank Ventures Asia.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Connecting with your investors two years before you pitch them for money
- Fundraising as a stepping stone, not a milestone
- The fundraising ladder
- How Super is helping people in Indonesia
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The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
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About Steven Wongsoredjo:
Steven Wongsoredjo is the CEO at Aplikasi Super. Steven was previously with Y Combinator as part of their Batch Winter 2018. From June 2013 to June 2014, Steven was the President of Permias Washington DC, where they organized activities to promote Indonesian culture and managed fundraising events.
From December 2010 to March 2012, Steven was the President of UNICEF, leading the fundraising activity by organizing sports charity competitions in basketball and soccer, and through the trick-or-treat UNICEF fundraising program.
Steven Wongsoredjo has a Master of Science from Columbia University in the City of New York with a 3.98/4.00 GPA in their field. Steven also has a Bachelor of Science from Johns Hopkins University with Magna Cum Laude honors in their field.
Steven Wongsoredjo also has an Associate of Arts from De Anza College and is certified by the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society International and the Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Fraternity.
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Connect with Steven Wongsoredjo:
Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: All alright hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So today. We have a really amazing founder. We’re gonna be talking about building scaling financing and all of that good stuff that we like to hear you know a founder that you know has been really building a rocket ship you know in the indonesia area. And you know something that was born out of yc you know they raised you know a bunch of money and a remarkable journey so without further ado. Let’s welcome our guest today Steven Wong soreio welcome to the show.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Hi everyone. Thank you for having me today.
Alejandro Cremades: So quite quite the international background that you have Steven you know obviously born in Frankfurt you know in Germany but then you know, raised in Jakarta bay area. You know a little bit of everything. Why not so give us a walk through memory lane. How is life growing up Steven.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Well I do have a multicultural background as you can see where I was born where I was raised and what I used to study to receive my bachelor’s and master degree but a bit of a background. My dad is an engineer. Ah, was an engineer actually now he’s a businessman but was an engineer so back in the days. Um german school with engineering is quite huge in Indonesia because our um second precedent was actually graduated having an engineering degree from Germany. So. That’s why back then my dad came to Germany and she’s been dating my man. My mom for I would say from high school till he graduated then after both graduated they got married and that’s how I was born there and I used to. Raised. Well they sent me over to my Grandma house first in samara one of the smaller city in Indonesia and I used to leave there for 2 years before my parents came back to Indonesia for good and they phrased me until I was 17 in Jakarta. So some of my aunties. Married german so I do have german indos cousin and I’m indonesians and I used to study in the Us. So I would say somewhere in my blood there is part of me being like german indonesians and american as well because I used to live in the us for 6 years
Alejandro Cremades: So how old were you when when when your parents were living abroad for 2 years
Steven Wongsoredjo: Um, well I was from zero years old till two years old as and they came back to Indonesia for good and took me to Jakarta and I was raised that till I was seventeen years old
Alejandro Cremades: Um, okay.
Alejandro Cremades: So so tell us about the experience also of coming to study to the Us.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Um, it’s quite exciting. My patterns are kind of like adventurous like patterns. So since I was kid they always took me to have a break and just exporting the world came to the new places that. Haven’t been so the us actually I’ve been there before I actually came there for for like pursuing my bachelors and masters a couple times and I would say class 10 my dad um ask me. Of course he wanted me to go to Germany because he is to study there. And it’s actually cheaper because I was born there. So I do have some pricky just to probably get the subsidy from the government to had a school there but then um, he’s fairly open mindded and he asked me which are the city or like the country that you would like to. Go and you’re in un a city and the kind of the countries that strucks me the most is the us and that’s how I decided in class 10 and since then I started to take thoughtful tests as you know international student need to take that test. So I took some preparations as a and and so on before I applied to. Ah, the us education so that was the story.
Alejandro Cremades: That’s amazing and I do remember those tofel tests I mean it was kind of weird talking to a computer I mean that was like something else but then but anyhow in your case, something that that was interesting is that what ended up becoming the concept of of what you guys are doing now with super. It. It was something that has incubated over time because when you were you know a little younger you know you go you went to you know little towns. You saw the the disparity when it came to prices and and things like that when he came on to the retail side of things. So So what happened really there. What were you seeing. Ah, it was the family you know, Also the retail you know, um, a business and that segment So What were you seeing and how would you say that that incubated over time.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Myfictions of building super came when I was a kid I grew up in a retail family business which they mainly serve after a second ti series up to indonesia rural areas when I was a little boy I used to travel with my dad. Visited this small town and one of my greatest findings is that life is just so unfair in those area whereas the gdp per capita could be lower than our capital city by three x up to 5 x but the cost of the goods. It. More expensive in the range of 20 up to 200 this actually are the calling when I was a kid and when I was a teenager that someday I would like to go back to help these folks and finally I’m fatty fortunate to do it with super and. Four years ago actually before we started of course. Um, we’re helping people but we’re going to have to make sure that the business is going to be sustainable in future. We’ve seen we’ve we have seen a huge opportunity down here whereas there are the first generations of e-commerce aggernauts that they have been around in the market. For a decay plus and billions of us dollars being forwarded to their valueship. However, they can only capture 5 to 10 percent out of Indonesia’s offline retail market second of all we’ve seen that.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Is a fun phenomenon based on the worldlang data is that the propensity of indonesian middle-class income is immense marrying this like 2 biggest opportunity that is so humanless we started super with a huge total addresssible market that is two hundred billion usd and since then we’ve been. Um, of course there is up and downs in the company. It’s never been smooth but we’ve been able to progress in for the past five years
Alejandro Cremades: And we’ll go into detail just in a little bit but I know that 1 thing that was pivotal you know, especially for this company to come to life was becoming the third company you know from Indonesia that will be accepted into ycombinator so how do you guys land in into y com in era how was that you know journey of you know submitting the application putting together. You know like the idea and and and and landing there.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Why see back in the days was like gunning for a moon. That’s how it feels when you’re in building an indonesian startup I was the third company and the first Indonesian Consumer Tech company that made it there. But I knew I see since I was in college because I used to hear all of that podcast. So um, back then there is this 1 partner. Um his name is guav and and his big is basically the one who lead the Souths Asia we were becoming a close friend. He came to. Made a tour in Indonesia and I didn’t know the that line and I was late for 2 months and I pitched the idea to him when he was in Indonesia and he was excited and he said that hey ah I know the chance to getting in. It is very small because it’s going to be late applications. But. Why don’t you just try and nothing to lose right? just build out the applications. It’s like ah you’re you’re building and you’re composing a personal statement like you want to go to university city but now your personal statement. It belongs to your life and your startup and it has to be intertlined. So once you submit it. Those applications I think they came back in the next 2 to three weeks to send me an email with bunch of questions and I answered those and t weeks after that email I got the invitations to fly to month and view and then as you know I see is only 10 minutes interview
Steven Wongsoredjo: And it took me like 30 hours to fly there with 12 hours back of Jetlak and on the second day I got the interviewed and yeah, fortunately we we got in and we’re veryty blessed to to be in in in those program and because it’s probably 1 of the. Most bifaal moment that I’ve learned a lot how to build the product how to reach the product. The market fit how to build a proper company that can sustain and lasting for ah years and years.
Alejandro Cremades: So what was the um, the concept of super or the idea you know prior to um y communator and then once you guys you know had graduated from Y Community how do you think that the the idea or the company shaped up. Um, you know. Like the before and after what was that like.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Sure when we before we came in. Um, we already knew why see it’s always been the best coach to help the startup find the product or market fit. But 1 thing that we forget once we are in the cohort is that. The market has their own behavior and you got to adapt your product and app based on the market and subber was born in yc whereas my peers trying to preserve brain you know and some of others do trying to build an Ai a very fancy one. So. Ah, we don’t have a tendency. Oh this is just a agers app. Let’s try to make it cool right? We’re trying to build a salesforce like feature in the app and ah leap like trackers spot all of these agents down there and we launch it in Indonesia and. Was not a surprise. We didn’t grow at all on the first twelve months which the sales at at the highest would only hit a thousand usd right to give you some um concept about what we are doing. We’re building social commerce for tier 2 the 3 series and rural. It’s a bit different in Indonesia. Compared to the us in the us most people probably have known and are able to use Amazon but then in Indonesia despite the internet penetrations that is so high up to 80% but the ecommerce transactions only 5%. Why is that because the.
Steven Wongsoredjo: First gen e-commerce market 80% of them or majorp of their market is just only in Jakarta which is our capital city. But then once you’re going to the second biggest cities in Indonesia the gdp per capita is already much lower and imagine if you’re going to the mall and having someone bring fanbox. And two bucks they’ll behave differently right when you’re shopping like in the mall same thing in rural that these folks are not used to transact via app and website then it a people that can stimulate them to purchase so what we do, we empower the most a advanced folks in the rural. Like the one who owned guaru we call it guru or small sm e like ah people who own like a Com leader who own small stores or individual realers that will aggregate the demand of their community and mainly we are selling fast-moving consumer goods or fmcg. And cosmetics right now.
Alejandro Cremades: So I guess say for the people that are listening to really get it. What ended up being the business model on how you guys make money here.
Steven Wongsoredjo: So sure just imagine that we are the Walmart of Indonesia we are out having a presence of retail store. That’s the best way to put it. So imagine that there is this like 1 guy in the field age act like a Walmart to aggregate the demands of their community because. These are the most ad funds individuals that will be able to use a smartphone and trusting that the apps will bring them more benefit rather than they’re doing the offline activity to purchase the goods right? So how are making money it comes out into 3 things 1 is we do charts marketplace fee. For sellers when they are selling it to our buyers second if the gross margin is high enough sometimes we gotc exclusively so we run a one p model whereas we take infantory and then we crop profit from the gross margin that we. But case as the co o js and from sales to Co O Js will get our gros margin. Thirdly we have been having in initiativei to improve the margin for the past two years in 4 channel one is launching our own private label and second is actually we are acquiring. Another company private label company and this private label running in fast moving consumer goods or fmug. So. That’s how we’re making money.
Alejandro Cremades: So I guess say in your guys’ case he was not Easy. You know to achieve product Market Fit. You know it took a it took a little bit of time and you needed to really tackle and get it right on the offline side of things before you would even. You know tackle the online side of things. So How is that possible walk us through that.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Well, it was like an airplane runway kind of tractions when we came back from yc and for the next twelve months it feels like we’ve been trying a lot of things re scratch our code and record everything. But 1 thing that we didn’t kind of like digest. When y c taught us is that your market has their own behavior. You really need to understand your users which we didn’t kind of like take that into our considerations. We’re just thinking that hey if we are building a great product of fairly high tech people would would get in and would. Would use it but that’s not the case. Um in Indonesia most of people in the rural and Phil ages they are willing to purchase if their friend is purchasing or they’re willing to do something if their friend’s stimulating to do something so the. Effect of the social capital is very massive over there. That’s the thing that we realized after twelve months we’ve been running the way we did the way that we run so since then we moved the backward. We moved backward to connecting the dots means that we launched the offline activities. Make sure that these folks understand why? How and these folks are transacting on our platform. It can be just proof of like whatsapp pdf or something like that. But then they understand that super is going to provide you with Fmc Goods you can actually transact to us and.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Once they’re be able to transact we migrate them to use the app. So that’s the best way. Um to put it or the metaphor aandro is that ah we know that I would say organic fried rice is going to be healthier than the normal frat rice. But then if you’re trying to force people to eat organic fri rice probably they would persist that so what we’re trying to do on that of month’s onward ti date is that how to make a healthier fri price first before you’re actually slowly giving them the organic. Um, flat price. So that’s probably the best way to put it and and since then we have rich product to market fit. The retention rate is being very veryty healthy I think over twelve months the cohort retentions can hit around 60 plus 70% and the cac is very low I think we. Manage around like 1 buck or sometime below $1 and the payback period is below one month so that’s when we have started to change and moving the backward how to build? um the the app activity is starting from the offline to the online. It has given us a lot of um I would say light. To grow the business instead.
Alejandro Cremades: So when when you say light to grow the business at what point do you see the light coming through because I mean you were for 2 to 3 years you know in the desert. So at what point do you finally turn the corner.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Yeah, well, the first year is is just like we’re building a leaky a leaky bucket business is just you pour water. It keeps coming up right? you pour water users up the tensions on like 5% on like thirty days and then you realize that hey like what’s going on. People are joining but they didn’t want to stay they they kept like churning and then we’ve realized the offline needs to work first before the online once we have a good retentions on the offline and slowly migrating them to the online. The online will be solid as well because they already understand with us. And we already got trust there are differences of people using social media in Indonesia as you know we are very outspoken in all of the social media channel. But then it doesn’t not require any money transactions. But once it goes with e-commerce there is trust over there. And in Indonesia the best way to penetrate after the Phil ages and rural to build a trust is through the offline channel and that’s what we did and to give you more in-depth what we did on the offline aleandro is that despite we are using social media the way we are trying to acquire the users. We are doing more offline activities such as we do offerline mini rosio we met with the local leaders to make like a so like a small seminar in the ph ages to introia super and getting into some of the whatsapp group in where they are in trying to circulate the Pdf of whatsup.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Is going to benefit your life here and there and slowly the words of my been growing till today and it has given us a better retention rate and that’s what I was seeing like when the detentions suddenly goes from like thirty days from 5% up to like 80% right? and then um. The retangents on the third month back in the base probably like 3% and then now it’s like can be like 75% or like 70% then that’s when I know that is a light here. This is like the the way to crack the market and then we just have to replicate the way that we did over there even though it’s of course. Gonna be like slower then you’re doing it is just all online if online would work but now the online does not work so we’re gonna have to move the other way in hindsight I would say um, cracking the rural area requires a lot of effort and I would say um. It has to be step by step. It cannot be like a hocky stick road. But then it’s also giving some resiliences on the business because that’s actually the barrier to entry as well.
Alejandro Cremades: Now you guys started as the underdog because most of the companies that they that you were going up against you know had race you know 10 times you know where where you guys were at so why? Just for the people that are listening how much couple have you guys raised to date.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Ah, we have phrased one hundred and six million usd today
Alejandro Cremades: So so starting as the underdog you know and getting in front of investors. You know I’m sure that they were a little worried hey you know these guys are now looking to raise money and they’re going to go up against all these players. So how were you able to first and foremost you know silence you know those types of concerns or address those types of concerns even better. And then how was that experience of going you know from 1 you know, financing round to the next.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Sure, um, the hardest part on my journey was during the sit round and series a because c and series a um in startup was like in the combinations whereas the story. The team. And huly fractions and you couldn’t really show them like a lot of like number yet because the company is not as big yet to go to the csbnc where the Bnc are going to talk about numbers right? Profitability efficiencies and more. And they start not relying on the team. They want to see like the team that can execute. Well so back in the days. The competitions was in Indonesia startup. There are 4 typical like founders. The first is the us attorneys like me the second is like local founders who grown up here and built a startup. And the the third and the fort is basically whether they have been. They were like an expat working in unicorns or a big company and they started the company and the fort is their um foreignerss and trying their luck to build a company in Indonesia. And my competitions are with the third which is more competitive than the first because the first usually like me they came back and they built a startup but people in the third they have a credible background. They went to good school. They went to some unicorns ecommerce in the region and.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Been able to pull like global investment to back dev startup and back in the days I’m the only one who launched outside of double public area or Jakarta capital city whereas the rest of the competitions are launching it in Jakarta. So. All the and fasters that I’ve met. They actually um, declined and basically they didn’t really look at us like seriously because um, the the message was just like hey heard like an I feelly regret or you make your life like hard to launch this thing. Outside of Jakarta right? and you don’t have that Dna little that they knew I’ve spent some of my part of my life probably half of it in the rural because I used to grow up in um, in my family business and I used to live in samaran so I kind of like know how does this dynamic going on that is part of me like being there. And my cofounder is also a cook so it was quite hard. It was quite hard but um, those hard days has built the business since the beginning to become more resilient than the rest of the players what we did is that aandro the product that we sold is slightly different from the. Ah, first gennnycommerce that usually that they are selling while the first gen or our biggest was biggest competitors back then tried to sell a multinational or international famous fmg product. We are trying to partner with their contenders or or local provincial players.
Steven Wongsoredjo: That they could give us a better cross marginin as well as term of payment so we don’t requires a lot of capital to actually actually gain a market. Yes, during the first two years and 3 years and second of all while they are relying more on the multinational supply chain finders. We relying on the local freelance of. Drivers and the local founders that would make our supply chain costs 70% cheaper compared to using the multinational or the national I would say supply chain that is quite famous and lastly slowly we’ve been acquiring this profitial players. They’ll be partnering with them like much closer. The ip from the private label that we acquired from the sellers or the principles that we’ve been working. It’s going to become a barrier to entry to enter the business. So um, it was a hard start but looking back I would say it was there for us to be here today.
Alejandro Cremades: And then being also a foreign company right? because you guys are in Indonesia how were you able to also get because I’m sure that there’s a lot of founders that are outside of the us you know, also wondering this this front and that is how were you able to get um us based firm. Like new enterprise associates any a to jump in and and and and and get on board here with you guys.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Sure, um, it was a long journey though we’ve been knowing them people who let our cdsb softbank we’ve known them for 2 years before they lap out around. We’ve known any e a for 2 years to 3 years I guess before um they actually um, made an investment to super so it takes a while but looking back what we did was number one that all of the founder needs to do is that when you’re building a startup you’re building a product and try to reach the product or market fit. You don’t build a startup. Race then this is like 2 different things. So first build your business and ask whether this is something that you’re going to love in the next like 30 to 50 years because the day is going to be like very very very hard and um I mean if you’re sane then. Probably you wouldn’t do this right? because you’re insane and you love what you do, then you do this and those the only individuals that can I would say persevere drove throughout those like heart state. That’s like number 1 and second you got a thing a bit smarter when you have an option when the business starts growing. To find a good angel some of this good angel can become a good partner from the big pc that’s what I’ve got during my first journey and probably the fun wouldn’t chip in because you’re too small anyways. But if the partner chipped in to you. He would have like friends right in within like.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Um, that ecosystem that probably a partner from like a bigger firms and here and there and that’s how I got the second one. That’s also an ex partner of a big firm in globally and then he sparked a new fund in regional called insignia and. I know I see from him. Ah well not knowing I knew I see before but he’s the one who encourages me to go to yc and then I went to yc and then once you go to? Yc you have a lot of like network after yc basically and as indonesian startup and out there by. Being a wisec startup. You got a stem right? Oh y cs in it’s like us in fasters and since then we pulled a lot of like us in faster such as jaz is the and with the Ari firm. We got b capital um, as also. You if you can consider softbank as like a us slash like globally investors as well as any as well. So it’s going to snowball like in the end but again in within those round you got to understand that fundraising success is not a business success. So. In after year round you will present like your projections. You also need to tackle and fulfill. Whatever you promised to investors in your b therefore they can tell a good story for people who are going to let the c and.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Snowballing feel. You’re going to ipo So that’s there was the long story shot about my journey and raising capital.
Alejandro Cremades: Yeah I always say that the racing money is not a milestone. It’s a steppingstone because then the hard work you know comes right after now in your case you know like to to raise money. Obviously you you need to share a vision right? So when we’re talking about the vision imagine if you were to go to sleep tonight. Steven.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Yep.
Alejandro Cremades: And you wake up in a world where the vision of super is fully realized what does that world look like.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Well, it’s just as simple at the beginning of the day of super when we did a survey how we are going to build the business model and the app I met this young mom in the rural and she told me with a you. One us dollars in her hand she could only purchase a cup of milk for their kidss per day and our dream and fissions of super is fairly simple. We would like to democratize the price in Indonesia rural areas therefore the price. Could be cheaper or probably someday would be same like people who are actually in the capital city therefore the same mom with the same amount of money she would be able to purchase pow milks for their kids and save some money to educate that kids to go to collegeate someday. So that’s probably the the broad fish and off. Ah, the company in the next few years they had.
Alejandro Cremades: Now when we’re thinking about the the I mean we’re talking about the future here but I want to talk about the past and do it with a length of reflection if I was to put you into a time machine and I bring you back in time I bring you back in time to that moment where you know you were thinking about what to do. You know what what? What company you wanted to ah to bring to live you know like you were in the process of figuring out. You know what? super you know could be or what it would look like if you could have a sit down with that younger self. And give that younger Steven 1 piece of a device before launching a business. What would that be and why given why you don’t now.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Um, first talk to you talk to your users and do not make an assumption that’s number 1 number 2 if I would probably want to comment for folks who are. Building the business in developing nations outside of the us is that if you used to study in the us don’t ever set the bar that these people in your country would behave like americans right? because the gdp in. Ah, nations will reflect sickations of the people. It doesn’t mean that it’s good and it’s bad. It’s just you need to make sure that the product would reach to the product. The market fit before you be able to creating more values down the line to be able to build a great business that can be very impactful. So try to make the simplest product First don’t waste time to make ah crazy features like a b c d and then you launch and it didn’t work and trying to make your product is too at funds in in terms of the technology plans like putting in ai machine learning. Whereas the users might not understand it and I would say thirdly is that um, before you start, you really got to ask yourself whether these things are the thing that you would do for the next thirty to 50 years as I say during the podcast is that.
Steven Wongsoredjo: I never knew a Android that this would be like this heart I mean it’s hard and rewarding but it’s super hard right? And the only people who can persevere again is the one who really love like what they are doing so I would say those are the 3 things that I would fall probably um, I’m still gonna reask the third things. But yeah I’m here now and I really love what I’m doing even though it’s hard and why keep thriving because I love what I’m doing.
Alejandro Cremades: There you go there, you go so Steven for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.
Alejandro Cremades: So Steven for the people that are listening. You know that will love to reach out and say hello you know to you and get money information on super what is the way the best way for them to do so.
Alejandro Cremades: Like the website or are you you know on Linkedin or any of that.
Steven Wongsoredjo: Okay, so if you do want to hear more about super please visit our website at Wwww.superapp.id and you can also search applicas and super in our linkin to see like our daily life in the office. As well as our social media and Instagram as well as Youtube and you can always teach me back at [email protected]. Thank you for watching.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing. Thank you so much Steven really appreciate having you on the show. It has been an honor to have you with us.
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