Jokowi on a ‘startup mission’ in first official US visit
By Masyitha Baziad October 22, 2015
- Accompanied by technopreneurs, to meet Obama, Silicon Valley giants
- Expected to meet with Tim Cook to discuss Apple investments in Indonesia
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UPDATE: President Jokowi has cancelled his trip to Silicon Valley. Click here for more.
A YEAR after having come into power, Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo will make his first official state visit to the United States where he hopes to promote greater awareness of the republic’s digital and startup ecosystem.
His delegation on the Oct 25-28 trip will include some of Indonesia’s most successful technology entrepreneurs.
Jokowi is visiting the United States at the invitation of US President Barack Obama, an invitation that was conveyed by US State Secretary John Kerry to Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi at a meeting in Washington on Sept 22.
According to an official statement by the Ministry, besides bilateral meetings with Obama as well as Congressional, government and business leaders, Jokowi is also scheduled to visit Silicon Valley on the last day of his trip.
“Yes, the President will meet technology giants in Silicon Valley,” Indonesia’s Communication and Information Technology Minister Rudiantara told the media in Jakarta on Oct 20.
Indonesia has the potential to become the largest digital community in the world, “but we have to show them what we have. That’s why I asked technology entrepreneurs to accompany us to Silicon Valley,” Rudiantara said.
These entrepreneurs include transportation app startup Go-Jek founder Nadiem Makarim; e-commerce startup Tokopedia cofounder and chief executive officer William Tanuwijaya; Kaskus founder Andrew Darwis; and Traveloka founder Ferry Unardi.
These entrepreneurs would be there to create an opportunity for business-to-business dialogues between the two countries, according to Rudiantara, as well as to create greater awareness of Indonesia’s startup scene amongst Silicon Valley giants.
Also part of the Silicon Valley delegation is Yansen Kamto, founder of startup consultancy Kibar, who said he is hoping for an exchange of information between the startup ecosystems of both countries, in areas like mentorship, coaching modules, and incubation and accelerator models.
Yansen is confident that Indonesia can play a big role on the world’s technology stage, and not only because of its potential market size with its 250 million population.
“If we show them what we have, if our visions are aligned, I think cooperation between Indonesian entrepreneurs and technology giants in Silicon Valley can be explored,” he said.
President Jokowi’s decision to take technology players shows his support of the ecosystem, and this is much appreciated, said Donald Wihardja, partner at venture capital (VC) firm Convergence Ventures.
“It is a pleasure to know that the Government is supporting the creation of a digital ecosystem,” he said, adding that the potential of Indonesia’s startup ecosystem was recognised as far back as five years ago.
“Startups are thriving in Indonesia, and within a year the country will have its first unicorns,” he predicted, referring to startups with US$1-billion or higher valuations.
Donald, who has been in the VC business for more than 20 years, said having entrepreneurs as part of the delegation to the United States would not only show Silicon Valley the country’s potential, but also motivate more Indonesians to embark on a career in entrepreneurship.
Meanwhile, Rudiantara said the Indonesian Government is not setting any business targets for the Silicon Valley visit.
However, he said he was confident that the Indonesian entrepreneurs would be able to provide valuable insights on Indonesia’s markets and regulations to Silicon Valley technology giants.
If some of these US tech companies then desired to come to Indonesia to take advantage of the opportunities there, they would be able to cooperate with domestic tech companies which have a better understanding of the local market, Rudiantara added.
Apple R&D facility in Indonesia?
Although it was not included in the official agenda released to the public, apparently Jokowi will also visit Apple Inc’s headquarters, to be followed by dinner with its chief executive officer Tim Cook, according to an Oct 15 Reuters report.
Indonesian Chief Security Minister Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, who will accompany Jokowi on the visit, said Jokowi and Cook will discuss Apple’s investments in Indonesia’s tin-mining industry.
“Apple has conveyed its interest in investing in the tin industry, particularly in Bangka-Belitung,” he said. “It wants to get tin directly from the source.”
The US consumer tech giant is apparently exploring alternatives after allegations surfaced that its current suppliers were using child workers and violating environmental laws, as reported in the Apple’s Broken Promises documentary on BBC Panorama (UK viewers only) on Dec 18, 2014.
When asked whether this was the case, Rudiantara (pic above) said he did not know, but he admitted that Apple representatives from Singapore and the United States had met him last week to discuss the possibility of some sort of investment in Indonesia.
This could be in the form of a research and development facility to be based in the republic, but the details are unclear at the moment.
However, if that were the case, Rudiantara said that the Indonesian Government would welcome such a plan because it supports the new TKDN (‘local content requirements’ in Bahasa Indonesia) regulations.
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