According to Jakob, he not only sought to address the needs of a largely under-served 270+ million population, but he also wanted to boost Indonesia’s digital ecosystem by building the financial API infrastructure it once sorely lacked.
The beginning was far from easy, as Indonesia's complex geography, historical lack of credit infrastructure, and traditionally manual supply chains have resulted in a significant “supply gap” in financial services products, as well as a significant un/under-banked population”. A testament to his solution-driven approach, seeing these challenges did nothing to deter him一in fact it only strengthened his belief that there are always opportunities in challenges.
Today, their API stack has been adopted by over 1,000 Indonesian companies, including investments from the country’s two largest banks一Bank Mandiri and Bank BRI. Considering that Ayoconnect was only founded in 2016, this is no small feat as a startup, compared to their sprawling clientele of Indonesia’s long-standing institutions.
In this interview, we spoke with Jakob about what it takes to achieve financial inclusion, his experience as managing director of Lazada Indonesia, key learnings for other players in the fintech space and how he managed to earn the trust of Indonesia’s juggernauts.
Please share a brief introduction about your company and the inspiration behind it.
Ayoconnect is Indonesia's largest API platform for open finance. Our API stacks enable product managers and developers to choose from a wide range of financial infrastructure white-label products and quickly launch them to their end-users.
When we started, the financial technology infrastructure in Indonesia was predominantly offline, fragmented, and manual. We aim to establish an underlying infrastructure that will allow all stakeholders within the ecosystem to connect seamlessly. This enables our clients to monetize new products and grow their business more quickly.
How would you describe financial APIs in a simple, beginner-friendly way?
APIs (Application Programming Interface) are software intermediaries which allow two applications or institutions to talk to each other. In our case, Ayoconnect aggregates financial data from several data points and allows its partners to provide better, more inclusive financial services to millions of Indonesians.
As the world’s fourth-largest country by population, this is crucial for driving access to financial products in Indonesia, where a large segment of its population remains underserved.
Ayoconnect’s API platform enables developers to choose from a wide range of financial white-label products on Ayoconnect’s API platform and quickly launch them to their users. Ayoconnect remains in the background, focused on building and operating the necessary infrastructure while allowing their clients to monetize and expand their business in a fast and massive way.
What were you doing before building AyoConnect?
I have a business management background and have learned the ropes working across Europe in investment banking and management consulting for a couple of years.
One day I received a call from a company with a vision of building e-commerce in Southeast Asia. They were looking for business leaders with an appetite for entrepreneurship, which was right up my alley. I jumped on the opportunity and became the managing director of Lazada Indonesia, where I’ve built their marketplace from scratch to 250 employees and half a billion USD in annual turnover.
How did your experience in investment banking, management consulting, and as managing director of Lazada Indonesia help you in starting Ayoconnect?
There are many things I’ve learnt from my past experience and in my journey of building Ayoconnect. Most importantly, you need to define and build a strong company culture. Only hire individuals that fit your company’s culture and invest in those people.
Another highly important thing is to ensure that you are building products and providing services that you would love to use yourself.
At what point in your career did you think that being a full-time entrepreneur is for you?
Having the opportunity to be in Indonesia at a time when the tech ecosystem had just started to take shape, I have first-hand experience of facing the challenges needed to grow the business that I also shared with other tech entrepreneurs in the country. I was eager to solve the issues and realized that the best way to do it is by creating the solutions that are needed by everyone in the ecosystem. That’s why I decided to start Ayoconnect.
Here at Ayoconnect, we want to build the future of Indonesia’s digital ecosystem and believe that enabling companies of all sizes to launch financial products in an easy and fast way is key to achieving our mission.
As a young company founded in 2016, how did you earn the trust of investors and established companies in the market?
We spent a lot of time building a strong culture that focuses on developing solutions that solve real problems as well as providing superior customer service. While we are still early in our journey overall, we have the longest experience building APIs and understand the market better than any other fintech startup in Indonesia. Using our insights, we built a robust ecosystem of open finance APIs, which perfectly met the demand of banks, financial institutions, established companies and emerging tech companies alike. Everyone is eager to launch high-quality financial services to unlock further growth for their own business at the moment and we are working hard every day to be the best partner to help them accomplish their goals.
We are grateful to have investors that share our vision and recognise our capabilities. In fact, we are proud to be among very few companies in Indonesia that received investments from two of the country’s largest banks—Bank Mandiri and Bank BRI. Having gained the trust of both is a huge testament to our efforts and we are looking forward to continuing our mission to build Indonesia’s digital ecosystem.
As a founder, do you have any tips for entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own company?
I would say investing in the people you work with is the foundation of any resilient company. Ayoconnect wouldn’t achieve its milestones without our people who not only put their best efforts but also a lot of passion and thought into what we do.
Building a company is a marathon, not a sprint. Unexpected things or delays happen all the time and sometimes, you have to go back two steps to then leap forward.
So if you are looking to build a high-growth tech company successfully, you will need a solid team where everyone is ready to adapt to changes and new learnings, and put in the time and energy needed to transform ideas into great products that customers love.
What were your learnings from the process that you would like to share with other players in the fintech space?
Financial services products are still offered in silos and are difficult to access. We’ve learnt that to truly drive growth in the digital ecosystem and achieve financial inclusion in a country with a population of 270+ million people, a tight collaboration between financial institutions, regulators, fintech, startups, and other players is required.
There is plenty of room to grow for everyone and we all need to be smart about using our time and resources. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel if you can tap into ready-made solutions that can help you speed up the pace of innovation. Focus on what makes you unique and how you can serve your customers better.
The game we’re in is not about increasing your slice of the piece, it’s about making the pie bigger.
What’s next for Ayoconnect?
We’re excited about continuing to build and launch more digital financial APIs to help our customers grow their businesses in new - sometimes unimaginable - ways. In particular, we are looking forward to unlocking the power of open finance for existing and new customers alike. The opportunities and possibilities of digital transformation in the financial services sector are endless and we are striving to become the technology infrastructure layer that powers it all.
This article was originally published on Aspire on October 6, 2021.
Ayoconnect is Indonesia's largest API platform. It enables developers to choose from a wide range of financial white-label products on Ayoconnect’s API platform and quickly launch them to their users. Ayoconnect remains in the background, focused on building and operating the necessary infrastructure while allowing their clients to monetize and expand their business in a fast and massive way.
Founded in the year 2016, Ayoconnect’s API stack has seen rapid adoption. It is trusted by more than 1,000 Indonesian companies, including leading banks, retailers, e-commerce, fintech, and e-wallets such as Bank Mandiri, DANA, Indomaret, and Bukalapak. Ayoconnect’s APIs process more than 300 million API hits annually.
Ayoconnect has raised a total of USD 15 million (IDR 214.5 billion) from leading local and international institutional investors. Ayoconnect's Pre-Series B investors include BRI Ventures, Bank BRI's corporate venture capital unit; Indonesia’s AC Ventures, headed by Chairman of the Indonesian Fintech Association Pandu Sjahrir; Kakaku, a public company listed on the Tokyo Exchange (TYO); and Finch Capital among others. Ayoconnect continues expanding its ecosystem to accelerate financial inclusion and adoption of embedded finance throughout Indonesia.