William Tanuwijaya, a name that most millennials look up to. His product, Tokopedia, has empowered 10 million entrepreneurs so far and served more than 100 million monthly active users across Indonesia. Despite being born to an ordinary family, his dream was not ordinary at all. Not only did he successfully build one of the biggest e-commerce companies in Southeast Asia, but William has also helped many other businesses grow and gave space to many new entrepreneurs in the growing startup market.
Tokopedia has a mission to democratize commerce through technology. Its vision is to build a Super Ecosystem where anyone can start and discover anything. To this day, Tokopedia has empowered millions of merchants and users across the marketplace and digital goods, financial technology, and payment, logistics, and fulfillment.
The Early Days
Despite his recent success, his early life was not so easy. Born in Pematang Siantar, North Sumatera, on November 18, 1981, he decided to pursue higher education in Jakarta, Indonesia, leaving all of his memories behind in Pematang Siantar to get a better education and fight for a better future for him and his family.
William was not your typical startup founder who graduated from Stanford, Harvard, or any Ivy League university. He took an undergraduate at Bina Nusantara University (BINUS), majoring in computer science. His four-year journey on campus was not easy. In his second year, he had to take up a part-time job in order to support his father, who fell sick and needed medical treatment. His first job was as a computer operator at an internet cafe, monitoring and maintaining the internet cafe’s computers and systems. No one saw how his first job would be the first baby step into the digital world he would come to dominate.
Journey of Life
After he graduated, William worked in several big IT companies in Jakarta before thinking about his next big idea. Listening to problems is how a startup company is made – in order to find an innovative solution. William often heard issues related to scams on the internet that his close relatives were experiencing. Because of this, on February 6, 2009, Tokopedia was born.
Willam, with his close friend, Leontinus Alpha Edison, started to develop Tokopedia.com. It needed more than six months since the initial founding to launch the website platform. But in 2010, the world was not used to startup companies yet. Luckily, Tokopedia got funding from several of Willam’s close connections, such as the boss from his former workplace and other small investors.
With all of the limitations, William Tanuwijaya’s mission and effort to grow Tokopedia to the next level paid off as the Indonesian company got more funding from the big league, such as East Ventures in 2010, and Softbank in 2013. This budget gave William an enormous amount of Indonesia’s biggest e-commerce companies’ capital to grow and later on being one of the biggest e-commerce companies in Indonesia alongside Shopee, BukaLapak, and Lazada.
Every day it’s easy for us to find 1001 reasons for “can’t”, but the truth is, we only need one reason to be able to. When we wanted to start Tokopedia, the biggest challenge was about building trust. Even at one point, I met an investor and he gave me a piece of advice, “don’t be too grandiose about our dream” – at that point, I met my purpose in life. The past cannot be changed, but the future is in our own hands.
I remember Soekarno Hatta (Founding Father of Indonesia) gave a speech, “Dream as high as the sky so that if you fall it’s still among the stars” It has not been 100 years since we were independent, it will be very sad if we lost our freedom to dream.– William Tanuwijaya
Today, Tokopedia is on the top ladder of Indonesian e-commerce platforms alongside Shopee. Their future is quite promising with giant funding across the world to the point where Tokopedia has crowned a unicorn startup company with US$2,8 billion funding as of right now, backed by 13 huge investors, including Google, Alibaba, SoftBank, and Sequoia. Tokopedia has created more than 5000 jobs across all of Indonesia, naming its employees “Nakama”.
Other than that, Tokopedia has collaborated with BTS and Blackpink, two of the top figures in the Korean entertainment industry at the same time.
Written by Juandi
Juandi is a content writer for ASEAN Youth Organization, where he publishes content related to ASEAN country’s relations and events. He was born in the capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta, and has lived most of his life there. At 20 years old, he is currently studying at one of Indonesia’s top universities, Tarumanagara University, majoring in Business Accounting. He is currently working for one of the top esports startup companies in Singapore, IMPLS Entertainment.