SoGal Ventures Scholarship:
Putri Izzati, Simona Ventures
This year, we teamed up with our friends at SoGal Ventures, the first female-led millennial venture capital fund investing in diverse entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Asia, to offer a spot for an exceptional woman investor. We were impressed with Putri's work at Simona Ventures empowering female entrepreneurs and her track record in the Indonesian tech ecosystem. Learn more about her story in this Q&A.
Program: VC Unlocked: Silicon Valley, August 2019 Cohort
Current role: Managing Partner, Simona Ventures
What drew you to venture capital?
I've been involved in the tech industry in Indonesia for almost a decade, helping first-time entrepreneurs build their ventures, as well as growing the digital ecosystem through a series of capacity building programs. Being in the industry for quite some time made me realize that there's a huge gap between men and women. In spite of all the progress that we’ve made in the industry, one thing that hasn’t been progressing much is the number of women in the leadership position: C-level management, women founders. As a woman in the industry, I know I have to actively contribute to change the system. If I want it to change, I can’t just sit around and wait for things to happen. That’s why I started Simona Ventures as an initiative to advance women leaders and close the gender gap issue.
I think investment is a tool to help boost innovation, especially in a field where not enough people are focusing on it.
Simona Ventures is focused on supporting women-founded startups. Can you talk a bit more about the firm and your mission?
We are a female-focus VC fund that supports women-led businesses that aim to solve the gender gap challenge by giving access to a mentor network, capacity building program, and investment fund for early-stage startups. We aim to support women founders, and in the long run, to close the gender gap by having more women leaders at the decision maker level. We also believe in the power of gender diversity to grow innovation.
To build a funnel to help us identify leads on which startup we’re going to invest, we run an all-women founders accelerator program for startups across APAC. One of the outcomes of the program is to grow the network of women founders so that they can connect and learn from each other. We did our first batch in March, gathering 11 startups from 10 different countries across APAC, and we’re planning to run our second batch in October, targeting more startups from more countries.
You’ve worked with organizations like Kibar and Google Developer Group in Indonesia and have been involved in the tech scene there since 2011 - how do you account for the incredible growth of that ecosystem?
First and foremost, Indonesia is a mobile-first country: 355.5 million mobile subscriptions, 150 million internet users, and 130 million mobile social media users (based on Hootsuite/We Are Social Report 2019). We also have a vast young population (under 30 years old), who are among the world’s most avid users of social media. As the fourth most populous country in the world (268.2 million), and one of the fastest-growing economies in the region, Indonesia has all the right factors to rise as the leading ecosystem player.
Also, as the largest archipelagic country in the world, Indonesia has many challenges that can be solved with digital and tech. From logistics to commerce, healthcare to agriculture, digital has brought the opportunity to create significant business opportunities and new jobs, as well as improved access to services in a way the consumers couldn’t obtain before. These challenges are huge opportunities to be explored by the local startups, through building products and services that serve the local market.
What advice do you have for aspiring VCs?
Develop a specific investment thesis that caters to a niche audience. Don’t play the same game as everyone else. Create your own competitive advantage so that people can recognize and support your mission.
What are you hoping to take away from the VC Unlocked program?
I would like to build my knowledge of VC and the investment industry, as well as get feedback on my investment plan. But I think the biggest value that the program has is the network. I would love to grow and build my network in Silicon Valley and reach out to potential LPs, advisors, mentors, and partners, especially those who have relevant experience in supporting women founders.