Melisa Irene, Brian Marshal, Mulyono Xu at Kompasfest Navigate 2021

3 ways of becoming exceptional founders and quality startups

October 14, 2021

The birth of many innovative startups in Indonesia was pioneered over a decade ago. The startup scene was set ablaze, lighting up the fire within many driven individuals to realize their aspirations. However, building a successful startup is not as simple as ABC. Ultimately, it all comes down to the founders themselves. So, what exactly constitutes quality startups and shape exceptional founders? In a valuable session of the KOMPASFEST NAVIGATE event on 20 August 2021, Melisa Irene, partner of East Ventures, Brian Marshal, CEO and Founder of SIRCLO, and Mulyono Xu, CEO and Co-Founder of Desty, shared the three things they find pivotal.

  1. Research and plan to innovate

Great startups are built to last, and materializing one is a laborious process that includes meticulous planning. Wise founders will have done research consistently on the industry they wish to tackle and the upcoming industry-level transformations that are supposed to take place. That being said, founders should be astute in determining what trends to pioneer. Having a profound knowledge of and an emotional attachment to the industry helps kick you off to a good start. Once we select the industry, we should think of the technology-aided innovations that can propel the business and make the company thrive in the coming 5 or 10 years. Rather than an industry, we believe that technology is an enabler: it allows a company to monopolize the market to become the largest fish in the pond. Selecting the right industry to conquer also means deciphering the correct business model for the product to gain traction.

Speaking of startups is incomplete without a discussion on investors. Having been in the game for longer than a decade, we agree that investors are more likely to support companies with clear milestones to achieve, a detailed plan on how they are going to use the fund, and the ways they harness technology to solve problems. Some investors may invest in a company from the very beginning, but others may support a company when the business model is complete.

  1. Trials-and-errors are mandatory

After figuring out what innovations to bring to the table, another important thing to note is that establishing a company means continuous reiterations: going through a series of trials and errors is inevitable. The fitting actions to take can only be done after receiving users’ feedback, be it fixing the business model or trying to reach more audience by expanding the target demography, cities or income levels.

  1. Resilient mentality of an entrepreneur

Since the road to materializing a startup is no walk in the park, we must ask ourselves if we are ready to leave the securities that a regular office job offers. Having a support system of a few selected and trusted people who can provide objective views does help, but building a company based on a firmly-held vision and willing to suffer doing what we love are the mentalities that gets us where we want.

East Ventures has met countless founders for the past 12 years in which all throughout, we have always used the same framework to assess them. East Ventures has been supporting startups from the earliest stage, so it is only natural that founders are the only ones we can hold on to. The three main traits of a good startup founder are integrity, self-awareness, and a paradoxical state of mind.

The first quality is integrity; a person can be held accountable for every information they receive. Integrity also means doing the right thing when nobody’s watching. However, the term ‘integrity’ has a broad context as there are many derivatives of the word, three of the significant ones include accountability, honesty and respect.

Self-awareness, on the other hand, means to be aware of one’s weaknesses, admit them and try to improve in areas where they are lacking. Oftentimes, it also means adapting based on certain circumstances.

The last quality is a paradoxical state of mind, where a founder has to master the ability to position themselves strategically and be able to face every situation with two approaches. A founder should know when to hold and when to fold their cards, to be flexible but firm, and to respect other people yet be assertive if need be.

Evaluating our privileges and calculating the resources to achieve the end goals are the two first steps a person can do to eliminate self-doubt and be more certain. This process of auditing ourselves will lure us to devise an action plan based on the points that have not yet ticked the checklist.


To round up the criteria of a great startup founder, time and again, we have always emphasized the importance of discipline as well as building the habit to learn and be better. Ultimately, investors will be able to separate individuals who have diligently been working on their business model regardless of the opportunities of meeting investors, from the ones who work on the model only because they are going to meet them.