In 2017, Indonesian O2O e-commerce platform Kudo made headlines when it was acquired by Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant Grab to strengthen its foray into the fintech sector.
On the first day of Echelon Asia Summit 2019 at Singapore Expo on Thursday, May 23, Kudo Co-Founder Agung Nugroho revealed that the acquisition process can be considered “coincidental.”
Three years after founding the company in 2014, Kudo sent its engineers to Singapore to learn from bigger startups such as Grab.
Due to a miscommunication, the team of engineers ended up meeting Grab’s corporate finance team instead.
“We [ended up] pitching about Kudo without any intention to raise any fund,” Nugroho said in a fireside chat with Business Times Deputy News Editor Kenneth Lim.
“Grab saw a good value in Kudo, and Kudo realised that in order to grow across Southeast Asia, the best thing is to be part of the winning horse,” he continued.
Is there any difference in the way Nugroho run the company following the acquisition? More importantly, how does he feel about being an employee again after years of being an entrepreneur?
“To me, being an entrepreneur is not a title. It’s a mindset. Even when I was working at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), I was already quite entrepreneurial,” he answered.
“Grab is a big company and I do not see myself as an employee,” he continued.
Nugroho stressed that Kudo operates as an independent subsidiary with enough freedom to grow and innovate within their own corridor.
A strong support system
Nugroho’s enterpreneurial journey itself began when he was studying for an MBA programme in the US. His study was sponsored by his former employer BCG; despite the privilege, he felt reluctant about returning to work in the company again.
“Seeing all the cool, tech things in Silicon Valley, we felt like doing something,” he said.
Together with co-founder Albert Lucius, he developed a concept of using individual, offline agents to facilitate underserved communities in using digital services.
By the time, the co-founders promised that if by the time they had to return to Indonesia they had not secure any investment, then they are going to let go of the idea.
“No investors in the US were familiar with the model that we were trying to implement,” Nugroho explained.
Five days before their flight to Indonesia, the co-founders attended a dinner party where they met East Ventures Co-Founder & Managing Partner Willson Cuaca. Even after the restaurant was closed, they had a conversation that ended with the firm investing in the idea.
Nugroho then decided not to return to BCG –which led to him being indebted with the company.
“When you are a founder of a company, you need to have a good support system. By the time, my wife was a very good support system. She told me, ‘Agung, the debt [that you acquired from your former employer] is very big. But believe that you worth more than that. You can have bigger impact, beyond this IDR2 billion (US$138,000) loan,’” he said.
“It gave me the confidence I needed to start the company. Thank God, three years down the road, I can finally pay back that loan … I learned that becoming an entrepreneur is a life choice. It requires full support from those around you,” the co-founder stressed.