In 2013, Indonesia’s massive online community Kaskus was in trouble. People were increasingly using the forum to buy and sell all kinds of goods and services – including illegal ones.
It was a moment like Jack Barker sweeping in to save Pied Piper.
Kaskus needed “adult supervision” and more experienced leadership.
Sukan Makmuri, an IT industry veteran who’d been working in the US at companies like Bank of America and Symantec, was hired first as COO and soon took over as CEO. Ken Lawadinata and Andrew Darwis, the original co-founders, stepped down from their CEO and CTO roles but remained part of the company.
It was a moment like in the HBO comedy Silicon Valley when Jack Barker sweeps in to save Pied Piper. It was a huge deal in Indonesia. Changes were set in motion at Kaskus. The goal was to grow it into a mature ecommerce marketplace with better content controls.
However, Sukan never got to see the transformation through to the end. He had to return to the US due to a “personal emergency” in 2014, he told Tech in Asia in an interview. Kaskus was left to be managed by Martin Hartono, CEO of GDP Venture, the firm that acquired a majority stake in the online community in 2009.
Jack is back
Kudo tries to bridge the gap between the online and offline world. It’s an app that aggregates products from various ecommerce stores and displays them on a simple interface.
Technically, everyone can download the app and buy things with it, but Kudo has a specific use case in mind: it puts the app into hands of people trained to make online purchases for others.
In smaller cities or rural areas, where residents are less familiar with online tools, these “Kudo agents” make online shopping as simple as going to a convenience store. Of course, agents get compensated for their sales on a commission basis.
Sukan first heard about the concept from Albert Lucius, Kudo’s co-founder, about two years ago. He got curious and began following its progress.
The startup recently reported hitting a milestone of 150,000 agents across Indonesia. It aims to take the figure to one million by 2018.
I’ve been interested in building payment systems like WeChat.
Anticipating a growth phase, Kudo convinced Sukan to come on board to lead the technical team.
“Competition over talent is quite fierce in Indonesia, especially in certain areas like data science and fintech,” Albert says.
With Sukan’s experience and connections in Silicon Valley, he hopes, recruiting talent will be easier. The two are currently on a roadtrip to the US to find engineers who’re interested in joining Kudo.
Sukan agreed to join the company because of the uniqueness of its setup. Through its main investor, Indonesian media conglomerate Emtek, Kudo is part of an ecosystem of other digital platforms, for example ecommerce marketplace Bukalapak, and the Blackberry Messenger.
He’s fascinated by the prospect of building a holistic solution with products being sold the conventional way online or through Kudo agents, and with its own digital payment system.
“I’ve been interested in building payment systems, including a WeChat style payment system,” Sukan says. “How do we build this? A payment system itself won’t work. It’s only after PayPal got acquired by eBay that it flourished. For us, BBM is the answer. Kudo supplies the transactions.”
But it’s not going to be a closed system for Emtek’s products. On the contrary, Sukan’s vision for Kudo is an open platform, where all types of merchants can plug in and make use of its online-to-offline network.
Kudo recently announced an “eight-digit US dollars” funding round led by Emtek.
A peek into Emtek’s latest public financial records reveals that the investment was recorded in December 2015.
According to the statement, Emtek owns 25 percent of Kudo. It doesn’t mention how much Emtek paid for the shares.