Joshua Agusta talks about his career journey as a venture capitalist since 2012, when venture capital (VC) was still new in Indonesia. He served as vice president of investments at MDI Ventures of Telkom Indonesia, where he managed to achieve a track record of seven exits (two IPOs and five M&A) in four years. Agusta currently serves as the director of Venture Funds at Mandiri Capital Indonesia – a corporate VC from one of the largest banks in Indonesia, which focuses on financial verticals.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity
KrASIA (Kr): How did your professional journey lead you to the venture capital industry?
Joshua Agusta (JA): My journey started in 2012, almost nine years ago. I didn’t even know what venture capital or startups were. I just knew that companies like Facebook and Airbnb were out there, and they were changing the world. Back then, I was working in one of the largest fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies in Indonesia. I hated my job, and I shifted tracks by becoming a venture capitalist after talking to Nicko Widjaja, who currently serves as the CEO of BRI Ventures.
My first venture capital company was called Systec group, one of the first venture capital companies in Indonesia. We didn’t have much information then, and we had never made any venture investments before. Everyone in the company and industry were newbies. Networks were limited, so you only knew what you knew. We made some bad decisions and investments, losing around USD 5 million. We learned from that experience.
Telkom came in after, asking Nicko to manage USD 100 million for them so that they could build a corporate VC. We warned Telkom of all the risks, that VC is not a profit-making business, at least not immediately. Telkom liked that honesty, and MDI was born.
We managed the initial USD 100 billion and the Indigo incubator, which is one of the largest and oldest accelerator programs in the country. We made several investments globally. When I left in 2019, there were almost 40 companies in 11 countries.
Kr: What is your view of Indonesia’s fintech industry, and where it stands in the Asian region?
JA: The trend now is embedded finance. If you break down our portfolio until today, it’s either on payments, lending, or small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) empowerment. It’s purely fintech. However, what we believe is that for Southeast Asia, and Indonesia specifically, financial services and technology are going to be everywhere, not just in fintech companies.
Other startups, not just fintech players, are providing financial services.
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