The founders behind startups that make it to the major leagues were often critical in shaping the vision of their companies, setting the pace for their staff, and steering the ship as it heads toward the promised land.
Typically, founders stay with their company to see it through the long haul. Not so for Bukalapak.
All three of Bukalapak’s co-founders have left their positions within the company, making it the only unicorn in Southeast Asia to lose all of its leaders that have been present since day one.
Achmad Zaky posted a note on LinkedIn in December 2019 to explain his resignation. He said that the company needed a new generation of leadership as its operations matured. Then, on January 6 this year, Zaky handed the reins to Rachmat Kaumuddin, a former banker at PT Bank Bukopin Tbk. Zaky stayed on as an advisor for Bukalapak.
His fellow co-founders departed one after the other. Nugroho Herucahyono left his position as chief technology officer to join Zaky in a new venture—together, they founded Init6, a venture fund that focuses on early-stage startups, in April. The idea, the pair said, was to place themselves in a position where they could breed more Indonesian unicorns. The target they set was to fund at least one company that hits a billion-dollar valuation within the next ten years.
Then, in June, Fajrin Rasjid stepped down as president of Bukalapak to take on the mantle of digital business director in the state-run Telkom Indonesia, the country’s largest telco operator. In an interview with KrASIA, Zaky denied that he was under pressure from shareholders to resign because, after a decade, Bukalapak was still nowhere close to being profitable.
“Startups should not always be profitable from the beginning. Investors love to see fast growth [in terms of GMV]. We could make Bukalapak profitable but the growth would be slowed. We should become profitable, and then there will be a time for the company to plan for an IPO,” Zaky said.
No matter what the reasons were behind the departures of Zaky, Herucahyono, and Rasjid, the fact remains that shareholders and management of tech companies often have different short-term goals, and that friction is a common reason for founders to give up on what they built, said Joshua Agusta, a director at Mandiri Capital Indonesia.
In Bukalapak’s case, a change in leadership—with Kaimuddin at the helm as CEO—might just be the shake-up that’s needed.
“Bukalapak has been professionally run. We have transformed many things years ago, so this year we plan to be a sustainable company. We’re continuing the business strategy, model, and culture that is inherited from the founders,” the CEO said.
Those transformations include the appointment of new C-suite executives, like Teddy Oetomo, who became Bukalapak’s chief strategy officer and then president after building a career at Credit Suisse and Schroders, coming on board to shape the company’s M&A and IPO strategies.
Kaimuddin might be tapping the breaks just a bit to reflect on Bukalapak’s maturation. “As a ten-year-old-company, we can’t be thinking of chasing growth all the time. At Bukalapak, we’ll continue to grow, but we also want to be a sustainable company, standing on our own feet. An IPO is the long-term plan,” Kaimuddin said. However, the ex-banker didn’t share a timeline for Bukalapak’s path to going public.
For now, Bukalapak is optimizing its revenue, channeling profits from ads, premium merchants, and logistics partners. Mitra Bukalapak, which lands its services in kiosks across the nation, is also humming along. All of this builds upon the original co-founders’ vision to run an e-commerce company that, for once, might just be sustainable.