Wesley Harjono is the Chief Finance Officer for Gan Capital, an advisory firm that focuses on three industries: renewable energy, infrastructure, and investment. Gan Capital has formed a partnership with Silicon Valley-based start-up accelerator Plug and Play. As a partner, Wesley also sits as the President Director of Plug and Play Indonesia, which has started to build its local portfolio. His many roles give him plenty of knowledge about common mistakes that start-up founders make. He also reminds us about the importance of creative innovation.
What should start-ups focus on when trying to attract funding and what are their common mistakes at this stage?
You must find your differentiation. You do not want to compete head-to-head with Tokopedia because they have become too big for small businesses to compete with.
The most common mistake is that they go too much into detail during their presentations. Do not assume that investor know a lot about coding, so if you base your presentation around coding, your presentation will be too complicated for investors to understand. When presenting, all you need to do is explain the problem faced by society, and then provide the background and solution. That’s it. Investors do not need to know too much about the technical side during presentation.
Five start-ups have received funding from your first round. What was the process like?
Nine start-ups from our first batch went through a three-months programme and by the end of it, we held demo day during which the start-ups gave a presentation in front of stakeholders, including venture capitalists, regulators, and media representatives. Out of those start-ups, five received funding.
Can you share with us some of the solutions offered by the start-ups that have received funding?
One of the start-ups is Karta, which basically provides advertising boards placed behind the passenger seats of motorcycles. This is innovative because a majority of people in Indonesia use motorcycles.
Another start-up is Sayurbox, which partners with farmers in delivering fresh vegetables to customers. When a customer places a pre-order with the Sayurbox, the start-up will inform the farmers, who will immediately harvest the vegetables to be sent to customers. Sayurbox guarantees the freshness of the vegetables, which is different from supermarkets that store vegetables for days, thereby decreasing the freshness.
What are the challenges in mentoring start-ups?
We spend a lot of time mentoring start-ups, but there will be difficulties if founders fight with each other. For example, there was a start-up in which the founders dated each other. We were worried about what would happen if they break up.
Is it safe to say that most of the problems come from the start-up founders?
If we talk about operational problems, we can solve that. But when it comes to problems relating to founders, it can be really hard to solve. This is why from the very beginning, we put emphasis on the founders and their personalities. Are they the temperamental type who will just leave a project suddenly? No matter how good the technology is, it would not matter if the founders do not have good characters.
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