Ryan Gondokusumo, Founder And CEO Of Sribu And Sribulancer- The Largest Freelancing Platform In Indonesia To Address The Problem Of Human Resources
ceo sribulancer Ryan Gondokusumo is the founder of Sribu and Sribulancer , the largest freelancing platform in Indonesia to help businesses find and hire the right skillful freelance workforce within minutes instead of months.
Before founding Sribu in 2011, Ryan worked for several multinational companies in the United States and Indonesia, focusing on business development and marketing. Ryan graduated cum laude from Purdue University in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.
Ryan has been working as an online business consultant with many businesses that are looking to go online and startups with areas of expertise, including product development, customer development, growth, and conversion.
Please tell me about your personal background and What motivated you to get started with your company?
Ryan Gondokusumo: My name is Ryan Gondokusumo. I founded two startups, Sribu in 2012 and Sribulancer in 2014, one of Indonesia’s largest freelancing platforms to help businesses find and hire the right skillful freelance workforce within minutes instead of months. Before founding my startups, I worked for several multinational companies in the United States and Indonesia. I graduated from Purdue University in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. Besides running my startups, I have been mentoring many startups focusing on product development, customer development, digital marketing, and growth.
The idea first started when I was still working at my previous company, a travel agency. We needed a poster designed for a campaign. I waited for 3 days and received 3 poster designs from our designer. Unsatisfied with our designer’s work, I posted a contest on one of Indonesians’ largest forum sites, Kaskus. We received more than 300 poster designs in 2 days! I was fascinated by the number and quality of designs that we got. This led me to start Sribu. Sribu’s concept was a contest platform; along the way, we built Sribulancer, a freelancing platform focusing on the Indonesian market.
What is your current main product, and can you share any previous product pivot story to the current product?
Ryan Gondokusumo: Our current main product is Sribulancer. We provide businesses with the ability to find the help they need from a variety of talented Freelancers. You can find services that range from programming, web design, graphic design, voice-over, video making, article writing, email writing, and more. Our Sribulancer system leverages performance data to make the freelancer selection process easy and reliable – every time. Once connected, Clients can work together with freelancers via our workspace tool. Sribulancer has helped more than 12.000+ B2B clients and a community of 23.000 curated freelancers.
We pivoted from Sribu to Sribulancer in 2014. Although Sribu is still up and running, our team focuses mostly on Sribulancer’s growth. One of the reasons for the pivot was due to the smaller market size for Sribu’s business. Sribu only caters to design services. Take, for example, a logo design. A company will only change its logo once every 10 years. It was difficult to produce the recurring revenue needed to accelerate the company’s growth.
In 2021, we are planning to merge Sribu and Sribulancer under the domain and brand Sribu.com.
How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
Ryan Gondokusumo: We have raised 3 rounds of investments. The latest one was in Jan 2018 from Crowdworks Japan. Unfortunately, we will not be able to disclose the number of investments.
What were the internal decision processes in determining when to begin fundraising, and what were the logistics for this? And how many investors have you met so far and how did you meet these investors, and which channels worked best for you?
Ryan Gondokusumo: We created a 5 years projection plan, and through the plan, we can know when we need to raise. As we started executing the plan, we started to compare our plan to our actual data and adjust accordingly. We keep close monitoring of our cash flow as well. From our projection, we need funds by December, and we usually start looking for investors 10 – 12 months before.
Dealing with investors is never easy. We had a situation in which we negotiated for almost 9 months, signed term sheets, and the investor pulled out at the very last minute. Thus I have always given an additional duration buffer when doing fundraising.
Previously I had met with 100+ investors before during the past 9 years. I tend to look for investors that are entrepreneurs as they understand what it’s like running a business.
What are the biggest challenges and obstacles that you have faced in the process of fundraising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Ryan Gondokusumo: Time is extremely precious. I will focus more on growing the business and making sure that I have solid numbers before raising funds. If your company is doing super well, every investor will look for you and want to invest. Thus we do not waste time looking for investors. Secondly, the bookkeeping has to be neat and tidy, from day 1. It will help to fasten the fundraising process.
What are your milestones for the next round? And what are your goals for the future?
Ryan Gondokusumo: Our next milestone is to acquire 100,000 B2B clients in Indonesia and grow to be the largest freelancing platform in Indonesia for Sribu.com.We believe that the future of working is not limited to space and time. Thus freelancing is the way to go, and we want to be part of the entity to revolutionize the way people work in Indonesia.
How have you attracted users, and with what strategy have you grown your company from the start to now?
- Focusing a lot on SEO. Starting with selling keywords, we built landing pages for each selling keyword and category. Tapping in Indonesian and English keywords.
- Google ads. We focus on long-tail keywords. 4-5 words phrases selling keywords. We optimize the performance of the ads to reach improved cost/acquisition.
- Content marketing. We focus on each of our categories of services (design, website, video, digital marketing, and more), educational, and information keywords. We created quality articles based on those keywords and posted them on our blog (blog.sribu.com)
- Building portfolio and reputation from each new client to increase brand trust. We then showcase our clients through our website (https://www.sribulancer.com/en/statics/customers/stories) and share them through our email marketing plan to registered clients and blog subscribers.
Which has been the best marketing software tool for the growth of your startup, and why?
Unbounce To help us create landing pages fast. This allows us to test something out faster without the involvement of the tech team. It can be used for faster trials in collaboration, new features, new campaigns, and many more.
What do most startups get wrong about marketing in general?
Ryan Gondokusumo: They do not track the marketing data. Without data then we can not make decisions accurately. Before we start any marketing initiatives, we have to make sure to implement the tracking.
How do you plan to expand globally?
Ryan Gondokusumo: Currently, we are still focusing on the Indonesian market as there is still a huge untapped market. We are planning to expand to English-speaking countries first, such as Singapore, Malaysia, and Hongkong first in the future, one country at a time.
What are the most common mistakes companies make with global expansion?
Ryan Gondokusumo: Expanding to too many regions at the same time. This creates potential new problems. Each region or country has a different characteristic of the market. We have to hire different people to head each country (this increases overhead expenses) and test each country’s market. The best is to expand one country at a time.
How do you handle this COVID-19 outbreak situation for your company’s survival in the future?
Ryan Gondokusumo: When covid happened in March 2020, we immediately held an emergency town hall meeting. There were a few points that we shared with the team:
- Starting 20th March 2020, management has decided to switch to work from home
- Since it’s WFH, everything is heavily based on KPI; we will not check whether people work or not. We will only check the KPIs. If you don’t meet your KPIs, it means you don’t perform
- Management took a pay cut starting April 2020 until indefinitely, followed by managerial.
- It was a tough April – Aug 2020, sales were down by at least 40-50%, but we managed to pull it through. In November 2020, we were back again to the numbers we were pre-covid.
We are still currently working from home, and it’s working really well for us—more productivities (less traveling), healthy and better performance. We are currently devising a plan to work from home for the next 5 years.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when they start a company?
- Being too idealist
- Focus on less important things such as office, website design, conference, meetup, and more important things such as business model, data, making money, and scaling. Our time as CEO is precious and needs to be used for what’s important for the company.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And What advice do you have for someone who is interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
Ryan Gondokusumo: Not everyone has to be an entrepreneur; being a professional allows you to grow as well. Be yourself, don’t be someone that you don’t intend to be.
If you go the entrepreneur route, be persistent. Please don’t give up after 6 months. Give it longer. It’s an insanely tough route. Be prepared.
What are the top-three books or movies (TV series) that changed your life and why?
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. This shares the story of a serial entrepreneur’s life with lots of ups and downs and situations that required last-minute critical decisions, which turn the life of Ben Horowitz. Ben eventually built the famous VC firm, Anderssen Horowitz.
- The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I learned that people are not born to be guaranteed success, but what drives them to success is the amount of effort and work they spend.
- Double your profit in 6 months by Bob Fifer. It helps me to understand what is important and not in running a company. Our time and energy as a CEO are extremely precious, and we have to use them for what brings the most value to the company.
- I am Zlatan by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This book shares the story of Zlatan, a nobody who eventually becomes a world superstar soccer player through hard work and determination.