Indonesia has been known to the world for its rain forest, large archipelago, richness in spice, Indomie, coffee, exotic tropical destination for traveling, and of course Bali. Those are a few of Indonesia’s specialties which has been well known to the world. Bu I think in the next few years, Indonesia will add one specialty and that is unicorn startup!

What is unicorn startup? This term is firstly introduced by venture capitalist, Ailen Lee, to represent statistical rarity of successful startup companies. A startup company could be labelled as unicorn when its valuation hits more than 1 billion US dollars.

According to CB Insight, there are 309 unicorn startups spread around the world, including Indonesia. Reported from Tirto, in 2018 four startups from Indonesia had been officially labelled as a Unicorn. The number seems relatively small compared to China and USA with 98 and 105 unicorn startups respectively. But four unicorn startups is a good start for Indonesia. Every big achievement starts with a small step, right?

So here are four unicorn startups from Indonesia:


gojek logo

Go-Jek was founded by Harvard Business School alumni, Nadiem Makarim, in 2010. The idea of Go-Jek initially came up from his daily experience using the service of ojek. Ojek is motorcycle taxi that widely used by Indonesian people. He realized that ojek drivers mostly spent their time for waiting passenger and he thought it was a waste of time. Then he came up with the idea of the call center for ojek drivers to connect with passengers. Back then people who wanted to use Go-Jek needed to call or send messages to designated phone number and Go-Jek would forward the order to Go-Jek drivers.

Pretty complicated, right? It was not until 2015 that Go-Jek released application to simplify the order process. After that Go-Jek started to grow rapidly. Initially Go-Jek only offered Go-Ride (motorcycle), Go-Car (car), Go-Send (goods delivery service), and Go-Food (food delivery service). Now Go-Jek has various services from online payment service (Go-Pay) to online ticketing service (Go-Tix).

After establishing a massive hailing ride application which has been used by more than 10 million people around the country (and still counting), Go-Jek started its expansion to Vietnam and Thailand in late 2018. Go-Jek came with different name in both countries. Go-Jek localized its brand in Vietnam as Goo-Viet and in Thailand as Get.

2. Traveloka

traveloka logo

Ordering flight and train ticket before 2010 in Indonesia was a nightmare. I could say that because I had experienced how awful the ticketing system in Indonesia back then. I had to come to the train station and stood in a long line before I got my ticket. Sometimes I needed to deal with illegal ticket touts as we called them calo who sell the train tickets much more expensive during peak seasons.

Traveloka is one of travel tech applications which contributes in making the flight and train ticketing system in Indonesia easier and more comfortable. Traveloka was founded by Derianto Kusuma and Ferry Unardi in November 2012. At the beginning, Derianto and Ferry created search engine focused on comparing flight ticket. Later in 2013, Traveloka changed its concept into flight ticket reservation.

During its journey, Traveloka has provided more services to its application such as train ticket reservation, hotel reservation, events and movies ticket reservation, and car rental reservation.

3. Tokopedia

tokopedia logo

It’s no secret that small and medium business hold important roles in every country’s economy. Indonesia has more than 60 million units of small businesses across the country, but only a few per cents of SMB who are able to go online. That’s where Tokopedia came in between. Tokopedia aims to empower small and medium businesses to go online marketing because everyone can sell anything easily.

William Tanuwijaya and Leontinus Alpha Edison started their journey to empower small and medium companies in Indonesia with Tokopedia in 2009. Not only providing platform for SMB to have online selling platform, Tokopedia also provide training sessions to develop the skills of their sellers and initiate annual festivals to improve the creative industry in the country.

4. Bukalapak

bukalapak logo

Tokopedia is not the only marketplace in Indonesia. The large population and constantly-increasing internet penetration in Indonesia turned the country into promising digital market. In 2018, Indonesia has the highest transaction of e-commerce worth 12,2 billion US dollars and it is forecasted to grow even higher by 2025 with estimated value reaching 53 billion US dollars. And Bukalapak is one of the original players from Indonesia that contributed to that e-commerce transaction.

Bukalapak was founded based on the observation made by Ahmad Zaky about the behavioral activity of netizen of Indonesia back in 2009. He concluded that most of Indonesian people only used internet for hanging out online on social media. He also found that most of small and medium business owners did not have knowledge of how to sell online. Therefore he was inspired to start e-commerce business with his colleagues Nugroho Herucahyono and Fajrin Rasyid in early 2010. Bukalapak successfully gathered 10,000 SMB owners in the first year of the launch. Bukalapak seller community grew to 2.2 millions partners in 2017 and it is still counting.

Indonesia Aims to Create More Unicorn Startups in The Future

Go-Jek, Traveloka, Tokopedia, and Bukalapak are not the end of Indonesia’s unicorn startups’ journey. Those unicorn startups motivate other startup companies in Indonesia to achieve higher. Reported from KataData, Indonesia has more than 900 startups until 2018. Minister of Communication and Information Technology of Indonesia, Rudiantara, is optimistic that Indonesia will have another unicorn startup in 2019.

By Ilham Mubarok, ASEAN Correspondent from Indonesia