Starting Up The Urbanesia

Posted on March 3rd, 2011 at 12:29 am by Farah Fitriani


Indonesia is a rising start-up nation powered by potential start-ups like Urbanesia,Tokepedia, Freesia City, AdaDiskon and many more. Today, Selina Limman (see image below), Founder of Urbanesia will share with us her story on Urbanesia and also her experience and thoughts on creating a start-up in Indonesia.

If you haven’t already known, Urbanesia is a social city directory for Indonesians to find recommendations on what to do and where to go in Jakarta. There are more than 230,000 businesses and 16,400 active users in the Urbanesia community. The site generates more than 450,000 unique visits in a month and its location-based search within the website has been used over 20 million times by 3.5 million people.

(1) Hi Selina, thanks for your time. First, what inspired you to create Urbanesia?

Urbanesia is pretty much a product I would use myself. I like browsing as well as using the net to find information. After spending 6 years in the U.S (from 2001-2006), I was frustrated by how hard it is to look for information about products and services in Jakarta. I was spoiled with,, Google maps, and sites about events happening around us. That somehow triggered me to build one for Indonesia.

(2) Who are your investors?

My dad. I am very lucky to have a very supportive family. My father likes to follow technology development. He himself has a Ph.D in electrical engineering and my mom has a bachelor in computer science. They are both entrepreneurs and very dedicated to their businesses. My dad believed that Internet industry will boom in the coming years so he’s willing to invest in this idea.

(3) Is the business profitable?

We are still not profitable. But we have been making revenue generating partnership deals in the past few weeks. These deals will give us positive cashflow starting June if everything works according to plan.

(4) I know you guys are going into mobile. Anything to add on that?

Our strategy into going mobile is creating niche applications on top of Urbanesia’s platform of user-generated-content city information. Our mobile site will be launched in April. Batista Harahap (image left), the Chief Innovation Officer of Urbanesia teams up with me for technical development and product innovation, especially on our mobile application.

(5) What are the 3 greatest obstacles faced?

1. Lack of experience
Before I started running Urbanesia, I had never run a company nor work on a management level. There are so many things that I (and the team) have to learn in running a start-up. Leading a start-up you must understand the fast dynamic of the market and technological development as well as basic company operation like management, finance, marketing and internal system operation. There were so many of this I had to learn myself. I’m lucky to have my parents, my ex-bosses at SemutApi Colony (a marketing communication consultant), friends like Andrew Darwis (founder of Kaskus, the largest Indonesian network) and now East Venture to learned from. I also try to learn as much as possible from reading other founders’ stories.

2. Limited resources
I am proud to say that we are very efficient compared to our competitors. We are doing great but I am very sure we can do much better if we have the resources needed to speed up development, build mobile applications on all platforms and market them.

3. Lack of focus
We are very fortunate in a sense that we have a strong product and brand, which attract a lot of opportunities to expand through partnerships. As we are always too excited about our products we get distracted easily. But I have learned a lot this past year. Now, I always evaluate opportunities offered to us carefully. For example, how it’s going to cost us (especially in human resources) and whether the benefit is in-line with our current target and objectives.

(6) Do you think Indonesia is a good place to start up?

To be honest, I am a little jealous about the government and mentor support start-ups receive in Singapore and Silicon Valley. In terms of mentoring, I am glad to see a growing number of independent incubators or VCs in Indonesia backed by companies whose owners are passionate about technology. In terms of government support, I wish the government can see the passion and hidden talent waiting to be unlocked by the right support.

Despite our disadvantages, I would still consider Indonesia as a good place for Internet start-ups. First: big emerging market, even if you create something for the local only, you still have a big market. Second: strong local start-ups community. Because of the lack of support, we turn to each other for mentorship. Third: there are still so many things to do here, so many problems to solve, many products yet to be developed.

Lastly, when I first started Urbanesia in 2008, never in my wildest dream thought Indonesia (Jakarta particularly) would turn into a mini South East Asian Silicon Valley(supposedly). I had never expected any investment [East Venture] or a chance to pitch for funding.

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