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Ryan Gondokusumo is the founder of Sribu and Sribulancer, Indonesia’s largest freelance platform that helps companies find and hire the right qualified freelancers in minutes, not months.

Before founding Sribu in 2011, Ryan worked for several multinational companies in the US and Indonesia, specializing in business development and marketing. Ryan graduated cum laude from Purdue University in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.

Ryan has worked as an online consultant with many companies looking to go online, as well as start-ups. His areas of expertise are product development, customer development, growth and transformation.

In an exclusive interview, Ryan said:

I want to be remembered as an Indonesian entrepreneur who revolutionized the HR industry with a freelance platform.

  • Not everyone has to be an entrepreneur, you can also grow as a professional. Be yourself, don’t be something you won’t be.
  • If you choose the entrepreneurial path, be persistent. Don’t give up after 6 months, give it more time. It’s an incredibly difficult road. Be prepared.
  • Time is one of those things that cannot be redeemed. Make sure you plan for the future. Ask around. Don’t make any hasty decisions.

Read on to learn more about Ryan Gondokusumo and his background.

Tell me about your personal experience and what motivated you to start your business.

Ryan Gondokusumo: My name is Ryan Gondokusumo. I founded two startups, Sribu in 2012 and Sribulancer in 2014, one of the largest freelancing platforms in Indonesia that helps companies find and hire the right qualified freelancers in minutes instead of months. Before founding my startup, I worked for several multinational companies in the US and Indonesia. I graduated from Purdue University in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. In addition to running my startups, I have advised many startups on product development, building a customer base, digital marketing and growth.

The idea was born when I was still working in my former company, a travel agency. We needed a poster for the campaign. I waited 3 days and got 3 posters from our designer. Dissatisfied with the work of our designer, I announced a contest on one of the largest Indonesian forum sites Kaskus. We received more than 300 posters in 2 days! I was fascinated by the quantity and quality of the designs we received. That’s what made me think of Sriba. The concept of Sribu was a competitive platform; over time, we created Sribulancer, a freelance platform focused on the Indonesian market.

What is your current main product and can you tell a previous story about the pivot from the product to your current product?

Ryan Gondokusumo: Currently, our main product is Sribulancer. We offer businesses the opportunity to find the help they need from a variety of talented freelancers. You’ll find services ranging from programming to web design, graphic design, voiceover, video creation, article and email writing, and much more. Our Sribulancer system uses performance data to make the freelance selection process simple and reliable – every time. Once connected, clients can collaborate with freelancers using our workspace tool. Sribulancer has helped over 12,000 B2B clients and a community of 23,000 selected freelancers.

In 2014, we switched from Sribu to Sribulancer. Although Sribu is still in business, our team is primarily focused on growing Sribulancer. One of the reasons for this axis movement was the smaller size of the market for the sribu companies. The sales department only deals with design services. Take logo design for example. The company only changes its logo once every ten years. It is difficult to generate the recurring revenue needed to accelerate the growth of the business.

In 2021, we plan to merge Sribu and Sribulancer under the Sribu.com domain and brand.

How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the last funding round?

Ryan Gondokusumo: We attracted three rounds of investment. The latest is from January 2018 and comes from Crowdworks Japan. Unfortunately, we cannot disclose the number of investments.

What are the internal decision-making processes that determine when to begin fundraising and what are the logistics? And how many investors did you meet and what channels worked best for you?

Ryan Gondokusumo: We have prepared a five-year projection plan, and based on that we can know when to increase the plan. As we began to implement the plan, we began to compare our plan to our actual data and adjust it accordingly. We also closely monitor our cash flows. We expect to need funds by December, and we usually start looking for investors 10 to 12 months in advance.

Dealing with investors is never easy. We had a situation where we negotiated for almost 9 months, signed protocols and the investor pulled out at the last minute. That’s why I always have an extra maturity buffer built in when I raise money.

I have met over 100 investors in the last 9 years. I usually look for investors who are entrepreneurs because they understand what it’s like to run a business.

What are the biggest challenges and obstacles you have encountered in fundraising? If you had to do it over, what would you do differently?

Ryan Gondokusumo: Time is extremely precious. I’m going to pay more attention to the development of the business and make sure I have a solid track record before I raise money. If your business is doing well, every investor will want to seek you out and invest. This way we don’t waste time looking for investors. Secondly, the accounts must be neat and clean from day one. This will speed up the fundraising process.

What are your milestones for the next round? And what are your goals for the future?

Ryan Gondokusumo: Our next step is to acquire 100,000 B2B clients in Indonesia and become the largest freelance platform in Indonesia for Sribu.com. We believe that the future of work is not limited by space and time. So freelancing is the way of the future, and we want to be part of this formation to revolutionize the way people work in Indonesia.

How have you involved users and what strategy have you used to develop your business from the beginning to now?

Ryan Gondokusumo:

  1. Focused on referrals. We started selling keywords and created landing pages for each keyword and category we sold. Click on the Indonesian and English keywords.
  2. Google Ads. We focus on long-tail keywords. 4-5 keyword phrases to sell keywords. We optimize ad performance to improve value/acquisition.
  3. Content marketing. We focus on each of our service categories (design, website, video, digital marketing and others), as well as the keywords of education and information. Based on these keywords, we created and published quality articles on our blog (blog.sribu.com).
  4. Build a portfolio and reputation of each new client to build brand credibility. We then put our clients on our website (https://www.sribulancer.com/en/statics/customers/stories) and share them with registered clients and blog subscribers through our email marketing plan.

Which software was the best marketing tool to develop your start-up and why?

Ryan Gondokusumo:

Unbounce To create landing pages quickly. This allows us to test a little faster without the technical team. It can be used for faster collaboration efforts, new features, new campaigns, etc.

What are most startups doing wrong with marketing in general?

Ryan Gondokusumo: They don’t keep marketing records. Without data, we cannot make accurate decisions. Before we launch a marketing initiative, we need to make sure that follow-up is in place.

How do you plan to expand globally?

Ryan Gondokusumo: For now, we are still focusing on the Indonesian market, because there is still a huge untapped market there. In the future, we want to start covering English-speaking countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, one country at a time.

What are the most common mistakes companies make in global expansion?

Ryan Gondokusumo: Expansion into too many areas at once. This can lead to new problems. Each region or country has different market characteristics. We have to appoint different people to manage each country (which increases overhead) and test the market in each country. It is best to expand one country at a time.

How do you deal with the COWID 19 outbreak situation to ensure the survival of your business?

Ryan Gondokusumo: When Covid arrived in March 2020, we immediately held an emergency meeting. There are a few things we’ve shared with the team:

  • Number 20. In March 2020, management decided to switch to working from home.
  • Since this is a WFH, it’s all largely based on KPIs; we won’t control whether people work or not. We will only look at the key performance indicators. If you are not achieving your KPIs, it means that you are not
  • Management has decided to reduce wages from April 2020 to an undetermined date, followed by management.
  • The April-August 2020 period was difficult, with sales down by at least 40-50%, but we got through it. By November 2020, we’ll be back to our old numbers.

Currently we still work from home and that works very well for us – more productivity (less travel), health and better productivity. We are in the process of preparing a work plan for the next 5 years.

What are the most common mistakes founders make when starting a business?

Ryan Gondokusumo:

  • Being too idealistic
  • Focus on the less important things, like the office, website design, conferences and meetings, and the more important things, like the business model, data, profitability and scaling. Our time as CEO is valuable and should be used for what is important to the company.

What is the best advice you have ever received? And what advice can you give to someone who wants to do similar things to you, or go in a similar direction?

Ryan Gondokusumo: Not everyone has to be an entrepreneur, you can also grow as a professional. Be yourself, don’t be something you won’t be.

If you choose the entrepreneurial path, be persistent. Don’t give up after 6 months. Give him more. It’s an incredibly difficult road. Be prepared.

Ryan Gondokusumo:

Books:

  1. The Hard Stuff by Ben Horowitz. It tells the story of the life of a serial entrepreneur with many ups and downs and situations that require crucial last-minute decisions that will turn Ben Horowitz’s life upside down. Eventually Ben founded the famous venture capital firm Anderssen Horowitz.
  2. The Runaways by Malcolm Gladwell. I learned that success is not guaranteed at birth, that you have to work hard to succeed.
  3.  Double your profits in 6 months with Bob Phifer. It helps me understand what is important and what is not important when running a business. Our time and energy as CEOs are extremely valuable, and we should use them to do what’s best for the company.
  4. I am Zlatan by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This book tells the story of Zlatan, an unknown who through hard work and determination eventually becomes a global football superstar.

All of these resources have a common recipe for success: Hard work, resourcefulness, perseverance and punctuality.

How do you stay motivated every day?

Ryan Gondokusumo: I like to learn new things and absorb as much knowledge as possible. I listen to Reed Hoffman’s podcast Master of Scales: https://open.spotify.com/show/1bJRgaFZHuzifad4IAApFR a lot about startups and digital marketing via http://scalable.co/ by Ryan Deiss and https://cxl.com/blog/ for technical details by Pip Laya.

What are the three most important life lessons you would like to teach your (future) sons and daughters?

Ryan Gondokusumo:

  • Not everyone has to be an entrepreneur, you can also grow as a professional. Be yourself, don’t be something you won’t be.
  • If you choose the entrepreneurial path, be persistent. Don’t give up after 6 months, give it more time. It’s an incredibly difficult road. Be prepared.
  • Time is one of those things that cannot be redeemed. Make sure you plan for the future. Ask around. Don’t make any hasty decisions.

What do you want to be remembered for?

Ryan Gondokusumo: I want to be remembered as an Indonesian entrepreneur who revolutionized the HR industry with a freelance platform.

You can follow Ryan Gondokusumo.

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