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Go-Jek CEO Nadiem Makarim sees success from trusting the numbers, hyper-experimenting and luck

  • The 34-year old Go-Jek founder says as a millennial he is ’comfortable not having all the answers’
  • Indonesia’s most valuable tech start-up is ramping up its Southeast Asia expansion to include Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 November, 2018, 12:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 November, 2018, 3:57pm

Nadiem Makarim, the 34-year-old founder and chief executive of Indonesian ride-hailing company Go-Jek, said that as a millennial he is “comfortable not having all the answers” amid his multibillion-dollar start-up’s expansion drive across Southeast Asia.

“Thinking that you do know all the answers has very dire consequences,” Makarim said in an interview with Bloomberg at the New Economy Forum in Singapore on Wednesday.

“In technology, it’s more important to understand and not believe too much in what you think you know. Instead, trust the numbers, trust the data and hyper-experiment the hell out of everything you do.”

His comments come in the middle of Go-Jek’s move to build up operations outside Indonesia, where it started as a motorcycle ride-hailing service in 2010. The company now offers everything from meal deliveries to over-the-counter medicine and massage services on-demand through its super app, which follows the way China’s major internet companies have built online platforms that host multiple services to bring greater convenience to consumers.

Jakarta-based Go-Jek, whose current backers include Tencent Holdings and Temasek Holdings, is poised to launch ride-hailing operations in Singapore this month, making the city state its second international market after expanding into Vietnam in September. The company also plans to introduce its services in Thailand and the Philippines.

That expansion would intensify the rivalry between Go-Jek and Singapore-based Grab, which dominates much of the ride-hailing industry in Southeast Asia.

Grab, founded by Anthony Tan and Tan Hooi Ling, is currently the region’s most valuable tech start-up, with Didi Chuxing, Uber Technologies and SoftBank Group Corp among its major shareholders. Grab, like Go-Jek, has also branched out from connecting riders and drivers to other services, including on-demand food and groceries delivery, as well as payments and financial services.

Grab looks to avoid a price war with ride-hailing rival Go-Jek as it focuses on safe, reliable services

The competition between Go-Jek and Grab is being closely watched, as consumers hope their rivalry would result in lower fares and investors get to determine which company can carve out a larger slice of the regional market.

Both Go-Jek and Grab are also building up their war chests to further develop their respective operations in the region.

Hyundai Motor Co and Kia Motors Corp on Wednesday announced a combined investment of US$250 million in Grab as part of the Singaporean start-up’s ongoing Series H funding round, which is expected to raise a total of US$3 billion.

Go-Jek aims to raise about US$2 billion from a new funding round with its existing investors, according to a Reuters report last month that cited unnamed sources.

Indonesia’s most-valuable tech start-up Go-Jek in talks to raise at least US$2 billion in funding

The growing rivalry with Grab and the high stakes involved are certainly daunting, but Makarim considers the challenge as par for the course.

Makarim said he feels intimidated “all the time” as a young chief executive, but shrugs this off as an “ongoing process” that every millennial has to deal with.

“At the end of the day, I do believe that courage is the ability to overcome that fear, because everyone gets scared,” he said.

Indonesia’s Go-Jek plans experimentation as it expands fight with Grab in Southeast Asia

Amid Go-Jek’s steady climb to success, Makarim cautioned against being too self-congratulatory because luck has played a part in it.

“We cannot ignore the role of luck [in Go-Jek’s success], because if you constantly attribute all of your success and everything to yourself that’s when people start … going downhill and failing at a lot of things because of hubris,” he said.

“You have to be constantly grateful that there are serendipitous forces that just led you to where you are.”