Ask any computer science or other IT-related fields students where they want to work after graduation, and you will always get one of two different answers. One is a barrage of top-notch companies and brands, such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Intel, Yahoo, Oracle, and the other Silicon Valley dwellers. The other, though, is an entirely different set of names. More and more people are getting increasingly interested in either forming a new startup company or joining an existing one.
They frequently cite the freedom of developing a business in their own pace and preference as the primary reasoning of turning their backs on the big companies and choosing to go the startup way. Another reason is the challenge offered by starting a company from zero; the fresh graduates often feel bored and dormant in the rigid bureaucracy of formal offices, with their fixed job description and the same routine day in and day out. To these young blood, the roller coaster ride of managing a startup is much more appealing.
This tendency to move towards a startup culture is not missed by the industry, the academia, and the public society. Industries act as both an example and a mentor. Now people look at Apple, a company started inside a small garage, and see a shining success story of a startup. Or they read the stories of Microsoft and Facebook, two companies formed by college drop-outs with pure determination and genius, and they get inspired. Many established names are now offering mentorship and incubator programs for brilliant young people with plenty of ideas, guiding them along the way to turn their ideas into a full-fledged business.
The world of academia gives its support as well. Almost all universities, especially those which offer technology-related majors, have their own incubator programs and regular competitions designed to seek students with ideas and a healthy dose of imagination. They often provide money, technical know-how from the professors, access to the university’s facilities, and most importantly, networking events with potential investors. All these help to change the stigma of startups in society. Especially in Asian countries, many parents still see stable office jobs as the better and safer choice compared to startups. Fortunately, that view has begun to change in the last decade.
In Indonesia, the wave of startups have started as well, and it has enjoyed a warm reception. Telkom, the state-owned national telecommunications company, three years ago pledged to build 20 Digital Valleys around Indonesia. These are incubator spaces meant to foster co-working and build a conducive environment to develop novel ideas. Three DVs are now operating in Jakarta, Bandung and Jogjakarta, the rest are bound to follow in Medan, Pekanbaru, Padang, Palembang, Batam, Semarang, Solo, Malang, Bali, Surabaya, Balikpapan, and Makassar.
The three DVs have produced 47 alumni startups, and is currently guiding 16 more. It holds both regular and special events, such as business workshops every Wednesdays, technical workshops every Thursdays, and ‘Business Bridge’, an event which connects developers and investors. The DV situated in Bandung (bandungdigitalvalley.com) boasts a 1,200 m2 co-working space, a gadget room, meeting rooms, creative desk, lounge, and café, which are enough to support 50 developers. They are also manned with capable staffs, ranging from a management team to a group of mentors.
Hopefully, Telkom’s foray into the startup world will be joined by other companies and the government. With a joint effort, it is possible to establish a strong startup ecosystem in Indonesia. In times of economic slowdown such as now, we need young, energetic people who are able to create job openings instead of looking for jobs. These future entrepreneurs hold great promise, but they do need guidance and support.