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Live interview with Nicko Widjaja

This article is written by Jeremiah Uke, a Contributor Author at Startup Istanbul.

An early tech investment pioneer, he has a career spans over 15 years in venture capital, corporate transformation, and startup ecosystem. He was formerly the CEO of MDI Ventures, a Telkom Indonesia backed venture capital, with investment in over 10 countries. Under his leadership, MDI Ventures become one of the most profitable venture capital firms in the region with two international IPOs (ASX and TSE) and four trade exits in just four years since inception.

Nicko was live with us for a fireside chat with our founder – Burak Buyukdemir. Starting out the interview with the question “why did you become an investor?”.

Nicko grew up in Silicon Valley, he remembers working for multiple startups in his first career in 2002/2003. Fascinated by the egalitarian culture in San Francisco, he was in his early twenties and he always wanted to work in the same setting that Silicon Valley had. Although, he knew it was tough to become a startup founder because of the many demands the portfolio comes with.

At 25, he switched to an investment career, working his first job as an investment analyst for Delta Partners in Silicon Valley. He relocated to Indonesia where he joined his first fund in 2010, unfortunately the fund didn’t work out.

Nicko described his time at Telcom Indonesia as one of the most rewarding milestones in his life. After getting their first fund of $5M 3 years earlier, in 2014 Telcom awarded his team $100M. His team had to adapt fast and learn by doing.

Through their experience in investment. Nicko mentioned that his team got into a number of deals. Including deals that are not exactly high-profile deals. Some of these deals were the more mature ones, with a short time to liquidity of 3-4 years. This sort of deals then influenced Nicko’s team into investing in Series B, Series C or even pre-IPO companies.

Nicko established BRI Ventures in 2019. H e mentioned that BRI is the largest bank in Indonesia currently. While working on a thesis for BRI Ventures in 2018, they discovered that the next wave of startups will come in form of financial technology. Therefore, Nicko and his team leveraged on BRI’s resources and widespread reach to rural areas, after envisioning that the impact of combining technology with these BRI factors will be huge and it will touch a lot of lives.

BRI ventures is currently investing only in startups focusing on fintech. With a ticket size of $5M-$15M. The fund is worth $250M and will run it’s investments for about 5 years. This year, the team would focus on looking for the highest growth of companies that could support the group’s innovation.

─ May 26, 2020