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‘More startups will offer financial services:’ Q&A with BRI Ventures’ CEO Nicko Widjaja

Written by Ursula Florene Published on     2 mins read

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IPOs of Indonesian startups would produce a positive impact for the local ecosystem, says Widjaja.

Indonesian VC BRI Ventures on Tuesday launched its first accelerator program, Sembrani Wira, with a focus on integration of financial services into non-financial products, or “embedded finance.”

CEO Nicko Widjaja said that nine local companies are participating in the first batch, namely GajiGesa, Biteship, MYCL, CookLab, Gredu, Restock.id, Minapoli, Tumbasin, and Brick.io. The firms operate in sectors such as agriculture and aquaculture, financial wellness, and logistics.

“Over the last decade, Indonesia’s startup ecosystem has been growing even bigger, better, and in a more sustainable way, despite the crisis of 2020. If anything, the tech sector is the clear winner,” Widjaja said.

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Participants will receive mentorship from the network of investors in BRI Ventures’ new fund Sembrani Nusantara, which include Celebes Capital, Fazz Financials, Indonesian business mogul Pandu Sjahrir, and Grab. Fazz Financials and VC firm Prasetia Dwidharma has been appointed as operating partners for this batch.

Widjaja shared more details in a recent interview with KrASIA.

KrASIA (Kr): This is BRI Ventures’ first accelerator program. Your goal is to diversify from fintech, which is the firm’s main focus?

Nicko Widjaja (NW): Yes, in this program we strive beyond the fintech sector. The Sembrani Wira accelerator program is part of the Sembrani Nusantara Venture Fund, which includes five sectors that we called EARTH (education, agriculture, retail, transportation and logistics, as well as healthcare). We expect it to help early-stage startups to grow and become a relevant initiative for today’s startup ecosystem.

Kr: Can you talk more about the “embedded finance” concept? And why Sembrani Wira is looking at companies in this area?

NW: Embedded-finance startups are non-fintech companies with value propositions that are significantly enhanced through the associated financial products and services embedded within. We believe that startups of almost every vertical can and may move into financial services.

Kr: Fintech adoption is accelerating in Indonesia. Among the available services which are the promising ones?

NW: Based on the macro-economical and historical pattern, fintech adoption starts with payments, lending, then wealth management. All of those services are promising, but they have different timelines. Today in Indonesia, payments and lending are beginning to be concentrated on few prominent players. Meanwhile, the process in wealth management is still ongoing and insurtech will be next.

Kr: BRI Ventures recently invested in retail startups such as Brodo and Haus! Will this sector be a main focus this year and why?

NW: Our main fund invests in growth-stage startups in fintech and fintech enablers. Meanwhile our Dana Ventura Sembrani Nusantara, the first Indonesian venture fund with OJK license, is more industry-agnostic, looking at the EARTH sector. Brodo and Haus! are part of the Sembrani Nusantara fund, that’s why we are now also investing in retail.

Kr: Right now, many mature Indonesian startups are seeking IPOs, such as Traveloka, along with Gojek and Tokopedia. What do you think about this and how will it impact Indonesia’s startup ecosystem?

NW:  I think it’s time to offer an exit to early investors and an IPO is one of the available methods. It will be very interesting and make a positive impact on Indonesia’s startup ecosystem.

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