Indonesia plans to create more SEA startup unicorns

indonesia Rudiantara
Indonesia's Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Rudiantara, during an interview with Reuters at his office in Jakarta, Indonesia August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia wants southeast Asian nations to cooperate in helping startups in the region worth at least $1 billion expand outside their home countries, the communication minister said on Friday.

The effort aims to keep foreign startups from dominating a market of 640 million people by assisting the region’s estimated seven to ten unicorns, or companies that have attained a valuation of $1 billion without tapping the stock markets.

“I’ve discussed this strategy with other ministers in Southeast Asia and have offered to everyone to adopt existing unicorns and have a presence in each other’s countries,” Minister of Communication Rudiantara said in an interview.

“I’m really passionate about the issue and have discussed it at our last Association of Southeast Asian Nations ministers’ meeting,” he said at his office, adding that he would discuss the matter again at the next meeting of ASEAN ministers in Bali.

The suggestion drew a positive response from ministers from Thailand and Singapore, said Rudiantara, but did not mention whether funds would be allotted to the effort.

Rudiantara told Reuters he had spoken to his Philippine counterpart to offer help for the neighboring nation’s developer of prefabricated homes, Revolution Precrafted, to expand to Indonesia.

“I told them we need to build millions of houses in the country, why don’t you come to Indonesia soon, I will facilitate,” Rudiantara said.

He gave no details of the help offered, the response of the Philippine minister, or outline how the plan would work, however.

Revolution Precrafted did not immediately answer a request from Reuters to seek comment.

Indonesia has four unicorns: ride-hailing and online payment company Go-Jek, travel site Traveloka, and market places Bukalapak and Tokopedia.

Rudiantara said he had lobbied his Thai and Vietnamese counterparts to help support the international expansion of Go-Jek, which is backed by Tencent and Google.

Go-Jek launched in Vietnam on August 1 under the name Go-Viet and is expected to launch in Thailand in the fall. The company had said it would also expand to Singapore and the Philippines.

Asked about Singapore’s response to negotiating for the expansion of Go-Jek, however, he said, “Go-Jek is not as applicable in Singapore, it’s a small market.”

A spokesman for Go-Jek declined to comment.

Malaysia’s ride-hailing platform Grab and Singapore-based e-commerce company Lazada are among the other Southeast Asian unicorns.

(Reporting by Fanny Potkin and Cindy Silviana; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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