Highlights “Staying at home, working from home, is no excuse for us to slow down. This is the moment where the world needs us the most.” “We believe that if the product is right, the product markets itself.” “Now that we have product-market fit, marketing for us is now all about organic education and promoting […]

Ajaib founders: CEO Anderson Sumarli and CPO Yada Piyajomkwan

A case study on product-driven growth: 5 lessons from Ajaib’s meteoric rise leading a generational wave of investors to Indonesia’s public markets

Highlights

  1. “Staying at home, working from home, is no excuse for us to slow down. This is the moment where the world needs us the most.”
  2. “We believe that if the product is right, the product markets itself.”
  3. “Now that we have product-market fit, marketing for us is now all about organic education and promoting product features.”
  4. “We really want to be that resource — that one-stop-shop for anybody who wants to invest in any asset class to come to us and we’ll teach them from scratch and we’ll set them up with our tools and resources for success.”
  5. “The only thing that you need to do is you need to find them at the right place and then give them something impactful that they want to work on.”

Ajaib’s 1M investor milestone featured on New York’s Times Square

Earlier this week, Indonesian stock trading platform Ajaib announced becoming a billion-dollar company after raising a US$153 million round on top of the platform’s stellar growth the past year going from launch in May 2020 to more than a million investors on their stock trading app and one of the largest stock brokerages on the Indonesian Stock Exchange (IDX) in terms of trades.

Ajaib is still very much a young company, and there is still a lot more growth to be had in Indonesia’s retail investing space, with only 1% investor penetration in the market. But in the last two years since the founders, CEO Anderson Sumarli and CPO Yada Piyajomkwan, both Stanford Business School graduates, returned to Southeast Asia and started Ajaib, there is already a lot founders and investors can learn from their journey thus far. While Ajaib means “magical” or “wonderful” in Bahasa, and that can certainly describe their growth, there’s been nothing but method to the magic. In particular we cover 5 lessons from Ajaib’s meteoric rise from mutual fund investment platform fresh from Y Combinator to Indonesia’s fastest-growing digital stock brokerage: 

  1. When life gives great founders lemons, they don’t just make lemonade. They work towards building a fruit juice empire. 
  2. A great product does not just meet market demands, it creates market opportunity. 
  3. A great marketing strategy does not just sell products, it helps develop the product too. 
  4. Great founder-market fit is not just about being in the right market, but unlocking unfair advantage. 
  5. A fast-growing product and engineering team is built on high ownership. 

(1) When life gives great founders lemons, they don’t just make lemonade. They work towards building a fruit juice empire. 

On our podcast with Anderson in June last year, amidst the launch of their stock trading app, our founding managing partner Yinglan recalls when he first met Anderson Sumarli back when Anderson was still studying at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. 

“I have known Anderson since he was a graduate student at Stanford GSB. I already knew he was a founder I wanted to work with, so after a dinner [where we met], I was supposed to catch a flight back to Singapore, and I said, “Hey, why don’t you hop [on with me] and talk about what business you want to build?” And he quickly impressed me, and after the car ride…I said, “Hey, you should consider dropping out of GSB”. And at that time it wasn’t even an online brokerage idea. I still remember it was an insurtech idea, but one thing led to another, and I think today we are privileged that Anderson allowed the opportunity to invest and partner with Ajaib…”

Anderson adds to Yinglan’s story, “We met over dinner. It was a half-dinner, half-house party. Once the house party was over, Yinglan was like, “Let’s talk more, get in my car, I’m gonna go to the airport,” so I actually followed in his car and started pitching my idea in the car. Now I think about it we even stopped for gas at one point and I just kept pitching while you guys were gassing up the car. That was a really exciting first introduction to you.”

Anderson didn’t drop out to work on that insurtech idea, but shortly after his studies, he and fellow Stanford GSB alumni Yada Piyajomkwan returned to Indonesia in 2018 to work on a completely new idea: addressing the massive opportunity to make investing in all kinds of asset classes and capital markets easier for Indonesia’s rising middle class. 

“What we learned is that there are a lot of Indonesians that just had enough savings, because of the rising middle class, and they’re thinking about investing but really have no idea how to do it. They also don’t know who to ask for advice, because neither their parents nor friends invest,” Anderson shares in an Tech in Asia article following Ajaib’s seed round and graduation from Y Combinator.  

In 2019, Ajaib initially launched as a mutual funds investment platform. The previous year they had developed the application in beta, graduated from Y Combinator, put together an initial team and secured a mutual fund brokerage license from regulators. Their initial service enabled users to invest in stocks through mutual funds with a low buy-in fee of US$15. 

Though savvy investors drawn to their app put in a lot more money, Ajaib’s mission was to democratize investment access and bring more first-time investors into the market. In a year Ajaib did exactly that, as Anderson shared on our podcast. “We started out by dominating the mutual fund industry, where in our first year we captured 10% of all retail investors in mutual funds in Indonesia, and contributed 25% of all new investors in the market.”

But while Ajaib had made significant headway with mutual funds, there were bigger fish to fry. Amidst the rollout of their initial product, they were already working on making even greater progress with their mission of making investing easier for Indonesians. What was this bigger fish? Stocks. 

“…and we intend on doing the same for stocks, really trying to open up access to all kinds of asset classes and capital markets for the average Indonesians to access”, continues Anderson. 

Ajaib launches its digital stock brokerage mid-2020 after primarily operating as a mutual funds investments platform

By June 2020, Ajaib announced closing an acquisition of a 30-year-old stock brokerage, Primasia Sekuritas, making them the only startup with a full broker-dealer license in Indonesia at the time. Anderson emphasizes the hard work behind this acquisition: “We’ve been working at it for many many months now, and we’re just incredibly proud of the team to be able to push forward during this COVID19 period.”

Their stock trading app also launched mid-2020 and in six months, Ajaib quickly rose to the top, becoming one of the four largest stock brokerages in the country in terms of trade volume. In January, they were in the big leagues ranking next to the likes of Mirae Asset, Mandiri, and Indo Premier. 

As Yada shares on our podcast with her in January this year, “Now it sounds like ages ago, [but] since we made the acquisition, I think it has been quite a journey. They say time passes by quickly when you’re happy, so I hope that that’s the case for us. Just today we closed the day with being number four and it’s not so much as being number four, but it’s the fact that the three people above us are Mirae, Mandiri and Indo Premier. So these are the giants, the very, very big guys. So we’re kind of together with the real big guys now.” 

Ajaib’s evolution into Indonesia’s fastest-growing digital stock brokerage came at a time when there were a lot of market tailwinds and behavioral shifts incentivizing more and more Indonesians to start investing. In other words, they were already building the lemonade stand when life started to give them lemons. 

On our podcast, Anderson talks about these market tailwinds and behavioral shifts in Indonesia’s capital markets as a result of the pandemic. This “generational buying moment”, as Samir mentions in the same podcast, was not just happening in Indonesia. Comparables across various markets like XP in Brazil, Zerodha in India, and Robinhood in the US were experiencing similar adoption boosts. 

XP in Brazil IPO’ed around the same time Ajaib was growing its digital stock brokerage

“COVID19 has actually driven more people to start investing for the very first time in Indonesia than before. It’s a similar trend elsewhere in the world, in India, China, US, and Brazil, where you see an increase in the amount of retail investors, as well as an increase in the volume traded. You look at the Indonesian statistics, more people were trading during the COVID19 period on average than before. 

We think it’s because of two things. First of all, we think that people investing for the very first time are taking advantage of this massive discount in the market where a lot of equities have dropped massive amounts based on their market cap prior to this. And at least in Indonesia, these people understand that there’s going to be a rebound effect. I take the example of 2008 where the stock market tanked, but only two years later not only did the stock market recover but it tripled in value. And I think a lot of millennials have seen that and think that it’s going to replicate here again in 2020. 

I think the second one is that there’s a lot of restrictions right now that keep people working from home. And we know that the economy is not doing well, so, unfortunately, a lot of people’s employment might be impacted. A lot of the younger generation and millennials try to look for other sources of income, especially when they have a lot of time on their hand at home. That’s why we see a lot more behaviors of people trading on our platform during working hours, maybe earlier in the morning as well.” 

Another incentive for more Indonesians, in particular, to become public market retail investors has also been the emergence of tech companies with everyday apps and products used by the masses that were also heading to the IDX. As Yada Piyajomkwan explained on our podcast with her in January earlier this year, “One thing that we notice is that people are starting to pay more attention to the companies that they’re buying. So they start to understand what companies do, what are their brands, what are their services. They start to recognize those companies in their real life as well. So they would go around and say, “Oh, this farming company, I have this in my portfolio and all that,” which I think is great.

It’s great news, because then people actually understand the fundamentals behind the company. So the whole team actually at Ajaib is super excited about the possibility of tech companies here going IPO, right. Because that would basically replicate what we saw in China. China’s stock trading boomed a lot after Alibaba and Tencent kind of went public and that’s when millennials actually can relate. They use all these apps everyday and for them to be able to own part of that company, I think it’s going to be a huge driver for, even further the existing adoption of retail investment.” 

Then apart from driving more users to their stock trading app, these external factors also helped Ajaib build the case to potential backers, even Robinhood’s own early investors, that this would be the right time to invest in a company like theirs to be the platform these new stock market investors in Indonesia would use to participate in the public markets. 

The lesson here is not about finding the right timing, but reacting to serendipitous timing in the right way. For a company, taking advantage of opportunity begins with the mindset and attitude of leadership. 

Anderson encapsulated this best in his message to fellow founders at the end of his podcast with us. “I recognize that a lot of founders are impacted by COVID19. I understand as a founder how challenging it is, just to survive through this winter that we’re going through. But I also want to tell them that there’s a lot of opportunities coming out of COVID19. That there’s an opportunity not just to survive, but to thrive during the winter. And so staying at home, working from home, is no excuse for us to slow down. This is the moment where the world needs us the most. 

People no longer want to go to a bank branch because of social distancing measures. They demand an online, fully digital experience, so they can manage their money from their couch, from their home. And so this is our moment to actually step up and show everybody else the value of technology in any industry that you’re in.”

And this attitude of never stopping and taking advantage of opportunities for growth was not just something that Anderson exercised in leading Ajaib through the pandemic. It was already evident in his decision to pitch his startup ideas and get feedback on that car ride with Yinglan, the decision to return to Southeast Asia and co-found Ajaib with Yada, and the decision to grow beyond their initial product and expand the company’s value proposition for the Indonesian investor.

“Staying at home, working from home, is no excuse for us to slow down. This is the moment where the world needs us the most.”

(2) A great product does not just meet market demands, it creates market opportunity. 

Mindset is one thing. But what exactly was Ajaib’s approach to maximizing the market opportunities that came their way, especially during the pandemic? 

The short answer: They built for simplicity. Specifically, Ajaib invested a lot into the onboarding and education process for first-time investors — those critical steps when someone can go from an interested newbie to an active investor. They recognized the friction not just in costs but also in the traditionally paperwork-heavy processes and made their product such that users can open a trading account within the same day or even within two hours. 

Anderson explains this pain point and how they were able to reduce friction on our podcast. “…When we ask the regular Indonesians who have never invested, whether they want to invest or not, More often than not, the answer will be yes, that they do want to invest. The problem is that the friction between “I want to invest” to actually investing in capital markets is just too difficult with today’s players. 

You have to fill out forms of twenty pages and deliver it to a branch and wait for a week to two weeks for an answer whether they get rejected or whether they need additional information before they can open up an account. So we really invested a lot in our onboarding process, such that we have one of the fastest account opening processes and most accurate in Indonesia today.

…And the reason why we were able to do this, is because we really partnered with a lot of regulators and government agencies to allow us to conduct this in a very efficient manner but still maintain the high-security standards that they require. This has helped a lot of first-time investors to remove the friction of wanting to invest to going to start investing for the first time.” 

Ajaib’s explainer video on how to buy and sell stocks (saham in Bahasa)

And the level of simplicity Ajaib brought to the retail investor was such that it effectively expanded the very market opportunity the company was tapping into. Those who previously could not invest or found it extremely difficult to invest with the traditional processes could now do so. 

Anderson shares one memorable example on our podcast. “So there’s this one user that was very memorable to me. We had this one user who kept talking to our customer service team. We also offer personalized financial advice. So we had this one user that just kept on talking to our customer service team, our financial advisers, through WhatsApp. And she wouldn’t stop. She would just keep on texting us night and day for many weeks on end. She actually started developing a relationship with our customer service agents, getting to know them, and joking with them. 

And it was a couple of weeks later that we discovered that she said that she’s actually mute and she also cannot hear, so she’s deaf. And she said that she’s always wanted to invest, but she’s never gotten a chance to because she cannot go to an agent, she cannot go to a branch, she cannot express herself and ask them these complex questions on how to invest, how to start investing, all these things. 

We realized that she found us to be useful for her, because we provided a lot of great learning materials online as well as we serviced her very well with our financial advisers on WhatsApp, digital advisers which we actually give for free to everybody. We actually started developing a relationship with her, and I invited her to our office. 

One of our customer service agents coincidentally was able to do sign language. We actually communicated with each other, and I found her to be a very funny individual, a very lively individual, and you know, these kinds of stories really touch us — our efforts are able to really open up access to investment, no matter where they are, no matter what their circumstances are.”

Ajaib’s focus on building for the first-time investor prioritizes education first and positions the product as an investment partner rather than investment gatekeeper, which Anderson points out on our podcast was something not many other products offered in the same way. 

“There’s just something about our product that first-time investors appreciate. The kind of features we provide for them, the kind of educational resources we provide for them. We really pride ourselves in taking this approach of “Let me give you all these resources for you to learn, for you to understand. If you feel comfortable about it, come on board and we’d be honoured to be your first investment partner” whereas maybe many others approach it the other way around, where they say, “Alright, give me your money. You gotta be able to spend this much money before I take care of you, then I might actually teach you how to invest.” So it is a really different way of thinking.” 

Executing this paradigm shift through the way they build their product and manage their customer engagement has not only made it possible for Ajaib to grow the boundaries of the market they are operating in. It also made acquiring and retaining customers more cost-effective, which is a challenge that startups often grapple with in an effort to rapidly scale their user bases, oftentimes resorting to expanding too quickly into adjacencies or giving in to product subsidies. After all, the product’s simplicity could sell itself. Reduced friction means faster conversion, and the education-first aspect would keep users coming back.

This approach also means Ajaib’s marketing strategy revolves around their product ethos. It also influenced how Ajaib reinvested into their business early in the stock trading app’s life as they were trying to figure out product-market fit: what would have typically been spent for marketing the product went instead into building a product that markets itself. 

As CPO and co-founder Yada Piyajomkwan explained on our podcast with her in January earlier this year, We believe that if the product is right, the product markets itself. We have a discipline at Ajaib where we don’t spend our marketing until we get to the exact product-market fit. And I think this is something important to watch out for because if you have marketing money, you can actually fake growth and you can fake product-market fit, which is kind of not something that you would like to do. 

You would really like to understand where that point [of product-market fit] is. And because of that, there was a huge period last year for several months that we literally spent nothing on marketing because we were experimenting and all our effort went into experimenting with products.”

“We believe that if the product is right, the product markets itself.”

(3) A great marketing strategy does not just sell products; it helps develop the product too. 

In Southeast Asia, a common theme among startups has been to build bridges in fragmented value chains or between disparate sources of demand and supply. In other words, building distribution in order to drive product adoption. The foundational elements for a potentially large market are already there, it’s just a matter of, once again, making it easy for these elements to come together. 

As Yada explained on our podcast, “[Indonesians] really, really want to invest and they know about it. They understand the benefit of it. It was just that the process before was too difficult for them to get started. And as I mentioned, the educational resources were not available and that’s what we have [been working on] so far. So one is about whether young people would invest and I think we have already answered that they would.” 

And in the spirit of the previous lesson of building a product for the first-time investor, the question for Ajaib revolved less around “forcing” potential users to use their platform, but instead, finding out where these millennial first-time investors are congregating and reaching them there. 

Apart from their mission to win over first-time investors, the company also realized that when it comes to education and community building, Ajaib understood that the issue was less about the lack of content but how it was being distributed. They focused their marketing initiatives on platforms where Indonesian millennials were already congregating like Instagram Live. This takes a page out of Robinhood’s playbook, where the US stock trading giant built its retail investor community on Reddit. 

A sample Instagram story where Ajaib engages with their users. On the cover are their latest ambassadors Iqbaal Ramadhan and Pevita Pearce (L-R)

Yada explains the misconception around investment education and how this influenced Ajaib’s marketing approach on our podcast. “We noticed that there’s a big misconception in the current market that investment education is not done well in Indonesia because there’s a lack of content. From my side, that’s not true. There’s a lot of content [from] big brokers [and] big financial institutions. They publish news, analysis, and papers every day. 

So there’s a lot of content out there, but still many millennials don’t know how to invest. And so it’s not about the availability of content. It’s about how content is being distributed and consumed. So, like myself, I don’t prefer to read PDFs anymore of stock analysis, and that is [a sentiment shared by] our users. 

What they do is they tune into IG live. They watch videos. They join discussion groups. They go on community platforms to engage other people. They follow what other people are doing. So this is all about how content is being distributed, because you can communicate the same content in a much more attractive way. 

And the key is trying to figure out what is the best way to communicate with our users…It’s like Robinhood, with their Reddit threads…People will find ways that they are more familiar with. Indonesians…are really social. So [the] ways that they consume news are social, like IG Live, where they can share, groups where they can discuss things like that.”

Again, this idea of distribution and repackaging investment education to where the customers are ties back to Ajaib’s product ethos of making things easy for the Indonesian first-time investor. First, it makes conversion easier because potential users already learn about the product on a platform or channel they already use every day. They also easily learn how the product can benefit them directly as stock market investors.

Second, this distribution creates a strong feedback loop between the product and marketing teams at Ajaib where the product team is able to quickly respond to insights gleaned from marketing, which produces better features that the marketing team then educates the users on through these very same channels.

Yada shares more on our podcast how the marketing strategy evolved from “building a product that markets itself” to “marketing supercharges product development”. “Now that we have product-market fit, marketing for us is now all about organic education and promoting product features. So they work really closely together. When the product team wants to launch something, the marketing people try it first. They really understand what the feature is all about because we believe that we combine the understanding of millennials right into the product and marketing. Because when we build a certain feature, we want it to be used a certain way so it benefits them the best and marketing people help around that area. And so if you look at our Instagram, it’s all about education. It’s all about how to trade, how you use the app to trade better, and that’s mostly where we spend most of our time.”

“Going to where the customers are” did not just cover how Ajaib would distribute content, but also who would lead in evangelizing and educating. The ambassadors Ajaib brought in to represent their brand, from the Kdrama StartUp’s breakout star Kim Seon Ho earlier this year to Indonesian influencers Pevita Pearce and Iqbaal Ramadhan more recently, were all meant to target the first-time millennial investor. It also helped that a lot of YouTubers and social media influencers reviewed their stock trading app as well over time, expanding Ajaib’s community reach. 

Ajaib’s Kim Seon Ho ambassador promotional video

On our podcast, Yada explains the reasoning behind choosing a Korean celebrity as an ambassador for an Indonesian stock trading app. “So Indonesia is actually the biggest market for Korean content outside of Korea. And I think that not a lot of people know about this, but Korean content is very big here. And actually, for us, it’s not whether or not he’s Korean or he’s not. For us, we have always been very picky about having a brand ambassador.

So we have actually never had a brand ambassador since we launched, because we really wanted someone who can represent not only our brand, but we want someone that can represent our users, the millennial investor, someone they can aspire to be and someone that they can really look up to, right. It’s not just about getting eyeballs.

It’s about getting the person that people really look up to and wanna copy and become more like them. So Kim Seon Ho in his role as Han Ji-pyeong is one of those. So he’s inspiring. He’s self-made. He started from not a lot. He worked hard, he worked smart. And so we wanted to show to our Ajaib users that if he becomes the investment mentor to them, then those are some of the things that they can achieve as well with their investments.”

“Now that we have product-market fit, marketing for us is now all about organic education and promoting product features.”

(4) Great founder-market fit is not just about being in the right market, but unlocking unfair advantage. 

This whole product and marketing approach we’ve been discussing in these previous two points is no accident. It stems largely from the founders’ backgrounds. Both Anderson and Yada had worked in fintech and financial services through their work in BCG, IBM, and McKinsey, and built a track-record in product execution for the companies they worked with. 

As Yada shares on our podcast, “So Anderson and I met at Stanford during our MBA program and we connected really quickly because we’re both from Southeast Asia. We have both worked in consulting in the region, in financial services. I worked on financial inclusion a lot with governments. He worked in fintech a lot with corporates. So we have a lot of shared experiences and passion and we connected really quickly.”

Anderson also shares in our podcast with him that they were both inspired by the stock brokerage platforms they saw in the US when they were studying there. “We were really inspired, when Yada and I went to school in the US, where we see lots of these financial advisers, lots of these brokerages, and we really want to be that resource — that one-stop-shop for anybody who wants to invest in any asset class to come to us and we’ll teach them from scratch and we’ll set them up with our tools and resources for success.” 

And it also helped in following through on building that “one-stop-shop” that both Anderson and Yada didn’t return to Southeast Asia starting from square one. Through the prior work we mentioned, they had also built connections to regulators and incumbents in Indonesia and Thailand respectively, their home markets and large capital markets at that as well. 

We’ve been talking about product-market fit, but founder-market fit is also highly underrated, especially in its long-term impact on how the company is run and built. Founder-market fit is not just about an alignment between founder backgrounds and the kind of company they want to build, but also how the founders’ backgrounds can open up unfair advantages and influence the way they build their team over time — which, as we discuss in the next lesson, has also become a hallmark of Ajaib’s culture. 

“We really want to be that resource — that one-stop-shop for anybody who wants to invest in any asset class to come to us and we’ll teach them from scratch and we’ll set them up with our tools and resources for success.”

(5) A fast-growing product and engineering team is built on high ownership. 

Speaking of building a team, when it came to product and engineering talent, Ajaib didn’t just focus on bringing in top talent to develop and grow their product, but interestingly, engineers and product managers who were themselves retail investors and could empathize more strongly with the user journey and become “mini-CEOs” and take ownership of various aspects of the platform.

Yada shares on our podcast how her experience in Silicon Valley influenced how she approached building a product and engineering team for Ajaib in Indonesia. “We talked to a lot of users. We experimented with a lot of ideas and we’re reinventing the experience from scratch, from what we think millennials would appreciate, and for you to do something like that, you need to have a very stellar product team because they need to understand what building a product from scratch means.

And I talked to a lot of product people in Indonesia. And I think that a lot of companies here misunderstand the product role. So if you look around, there are product managers, product owners, product analysts, product marketing managers, etc. That’s just not how product roles work in Silicon Valley actually.

And because I have seen what it’s like I want to bring that mindset into Indonesia and build a product team that is similar to the ones we see in the Valley. And what that means is that product managers have the mindset of being mini-CEOs. So they would make all the decisions starting from strategy to execution, creativity, design, technicality, everything.

So they are the ones calling all the shots. And, I think you need a team like that to iterate on a good product because you need speed and a lot of ownership when you’re innovating new things.”

Ajaib team photo taken from their Career page: https://ajaib.co.id/karir/

As Yada mentioned, building a team of mini-CEOs empowered ownership and made it easier to execute quickly on an aligned strategy and iterate on feedback from users. And in hiring these mini-CEOs, hunger and the ability to fit into high-responsibility roles proved to be more valuable than product experience. 

Yada continues, “One thing that we did is in our hiring, we look for people who come in with that passion, right? With that passion, with that hunger. So for them, getting more responsibility, being a mini-CEO is great for them. So they’re already naturally fit into those roles. And I think in our product team right now, the majority of people have no prior product experience. 

I believe that the product role right in itself is a really fast-moving role, even in Silicon Valley as well. Companies are still experimenting with it. So for us, what we found works well is we bring in people who have such a high ownership mindset. And then we say, okay, this is your baby now…You are responsible for the whole thing and here are our goals. And then we align in direction and then they go…”

Another aspect of building a product and engineering team in Indonesia is the challenge of finding top talent, amidst the competition among tech companies for this talent. But Ajaib saw things differently — instead of looking for the best per se, they looked for the ones who shared the same desire to make investing easier for Indonesians, likely because they themselves were investors or wanted to invest in the capital markets. It also means that they would likely be users as well of the product and be able to experience what they’ve built on a regular basis and have insight into how the product could improve over time. 

Yada explains on our podcast how she found hidden gems by hiring for ownership, “I have also heard, and I think it goes around in the market that it’s hard to find engineering talent in Indonesia, product and engineering talent. So far in my experience, there are amazing engineering and product talents here. There are a lot of hidden gems, actually. 

The only thing that you need to do is you need to find them at the right place and then give them something impactful that they want to work on. Indonesians are very, very driven by impact and what they’re able to create. And so as long as you have that for them, we actually experienced many, many amazing engineering and product talent in our team.

First of all, to us, it’s not about their resume as much as what they’re looking to do and their actual skill sets. So we don’t go after, you know, only the top university, top companies. And secondly, we observed that people who are attracted to us and what we’re doing in our product are people who are investors, stock traders, people who have been frustrated by the solution that they were using. 

And they were like, “If I could really build this, I would have done it in a way that I really love.” And I think that’s why you also get the ownership, because they are like, “I’m a user and I’m going to build something for myself.” And they also represent a huge group of millennial investors. So that’s how we’ve been able to get them.”

“The only thing that you need to do is you need to find them at the right place and then give them something impactful that they want to work on.”

Great product leads to real growth, not the other way around

Ajaib’s meteoric two years of growth is a narrative on how a product goes from idea to worth a billion dollars with more than a million users and millions more in terms of growth potential. That said, there’s certainly no perfect product, and that’s part of the common thread through all these lessons from Ajaib’s growth story thus far: product drives growth, not the other way around. 

It’s easy to fall into the allure of the latter, especially for venture-backed software-based companies, where you can fund or engineer growth to magically “force” product adoption or incentivize usage of features that are ultimately not core to the product, but how sustainable can this type of growth truly be?  

Product-driven growth is where Ajaib continues to invest the money they’ve raised, even in this US$153 million unicorn round, as the Bloomberg coverage reads, “The startup plans to use the funds to recruit 100 engineers as well as product and data staff over the next six months, adding to its workforce of 200, the CEO said. It also plans to improve its app and offer credit facilities for margin trading for some investors.”

Collage of Ajaib team photos from their career page: https://ajaib.co.id/karir/

And whether it’s building new features, building communities on IG Live, tapping into leadership’s connections, or hiring even more “mini-CEOs”, the focus remains to build a product that makes investing easier for Indonesians. 

Granted, prior to the pandemic’s serendipitous boost of the capital markets, launching a digital stock brokerage in a massively underpenetrated market posed significant challenges in terms of market education and user acquisition, but even then Ajaib already had the ingredients, which we’ve covered in this piece and our conversations with Anderson and Yada, to make the most out of the “lemons” they had and build a “fruit juice empire”.

Now that life has given the company even more proverbial lemons like Bukalapak’s IPO and more upcoming IPOs from the tech sector, the value of these ingredients Ajaib started out with is worth a lot more moving forward, and Ajaib’s role in increasing Indonesia’s investment class has become more important than ever. Ajaib has helped prove to the world that Indonesians, especially the youth, can be productive with their money and that this disposition is not only reserved to an elite minority. This has not only opened the floodgates for the company, but also the whole industry of investing and wealth management in Indonesia, which makes it an exciting time for the country’s capital markets. 

If you’d like to be a part of this movement, they’re hiring!

Ajaib from zero to 1M investors and counting

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