Putri Izzati got her start in Indonesia’s digital industry in 2011, when she was a business manager for Indonesian startup ecosystem builder, Kibar. She also engaged in Google Developer Group and FemaleDev back in 2013 to help to build communities in Indonesian digital industry.
Fast forward to 2019, Putri—as she fondly called—is now at the helm of Simona Ventures, a platform that provides access and opportunities to empower women-led businesses to help solve the gender gap.
Simona Ventures recently completed the first batch of the APAC Women Founders Accelerator.
For KrASIA’s “Women in Tech” series, we spoke to Putri about the importance of investing in women to boost gender diversity in Southeast Asia’s digital industry.
KrASIA (K): Why did Simona Ventures choose to focus on women-led startups?
Putri Izzati (P): I have been involved in the tech industry in Indonesia since 2011, helping first-time entrepreneurs to build their ventures, as well as growing the digital ecosystem through a series of capacity building programs. I was there back when the ecosystem was small and not a lot of people even understand what a startup was.
I see that the startup scene in Indonesia is developing very rapidly. We now have the most unicorn companies in Southeast Asia and our digital economy is poised to become the largest in the region, according to the Google and Temasek report last year. However, despite this progress, one thing that hasn’t changed is that the number of female representation in the tech company’s C-level ranks is still very low.
Many factors contribute to this situation, one is that there aren’t enough role models or women mentors in the tech sector. To me, this is an urgent problem that needs to be fixed as soon as possible. That is the idea of Simona Ventures; to give access and create a supportive environment for women-led business to grow in the tech industry.
K: What does Simona Ventures do?
P: Since our mission is to close the gender gap in Southeast Asia’s digital sector, we focus on supporting women-led startups. We also support businesses that are not led by women but share our mission to empower women in the long run. This year, we’re working with our strategic partner, Digitaraya, to launch the APAC Women Founders Accelerator program. Batch one just finished and we’ll have the next program in August. We’re also in the process of fundraising at the moment and will provide capital for early-stage startup this year. We target to channel funding of USD 5 to 10 million this year with an average ticket size of USD 200,000 for each startup.
K: What are the unique challenges that women founders have to face?
P: Women founders or executives have to face social pressure to prioritize domestic affairs over careers as society expects women to take more responsibility in the domestic sector than men. As a leader in a male-dominated industry, sometimes I feel that I need to have masculine traits to be taken seriously although everyone has a different leadership style. Moreover, sometimes investors would question women founders’ commitment to her business, especially if she has a family of her own. This kind of question might not be asked to male founders. So in my opinion, the current environment is not very supportive of women leaders.
K: How do you evaluate whether someone’s ideas are strong enough to invest in?
P: There are a number of key metrics to consider, such as market size, business model, how impactful their solution is, and if it can really solve the problem in the long run. Another important factor for us is how the startup utilizes its innovative ideas and business model to make an impact on society.
K: What advice would you give to other young women who try to get into the tech industry?
P: First, try to find mentors or advisors. For instance, if you are a programmer, don’t be shy about finding a community where you can meet with more experienced people in order to expand your network and to learn about current trends and challenges.
Second, make sure that you have a good support system from your closest people like family or friends, especially if you’re an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship isn’t nine-to-five work, it is a big part of your life that requires time and commitment. Support from home is crucial to help you succeed in your career.
This article is part of “Women in Tech”, a series by KrASIA that highlights the achievements of women who are a driving force behind Southeast Asia’s tech startups.