How One Indonesian Entrepreneur Fought Back After Failure

These days Danny Taniwan is in the process of setting up a new private marketplace, Afforia, that he is cautiously excited about.
But it wasn’t always so. In 2014 the then 33-year-old Indonesian had to make the most painful decision any entrepreneur faces: Closing his start-up venture, Alikolo – a consumer-to-consumer market platform in the new but busy e-commerce industry in Indonesia.
Taniwan is refreshingly candid about the five lessons he learned from his unsuccessful venture. A real optimist, he sees his failure as a valuable experience that would eventually be his springboard to success.

1. Take your time

Taniwan is a software engineer by education and has had a previous business remodeling cars in his hometown of Medan. He decided to go into e-commerce because it seemed like the hottest thing in Indonesia at that time. He knew so little about the business -- “At first I thought it was just about finding sellers and selling things.”
Now, Taniwan is taking his sweet time fine tuning Afforia. “It’s still under development. I will launch slowly.”

2. Be different

As Taniwan learned the hard way, the e-commerce scene in Indonesia was so crowded that it was difficult to make one organization distinct from the rest. He realized he needed to position himself uniquely. But the one question he found he could not answer was this: “If you sell the same product also carried by Lazada or some other big player and you offer it for the same price, why should I buy from you?”
Afforia will not be as common. It will serve as a private marketplace where only the serious buyers and sellers can meet.

3. Remember: Two heads are better than one

Taniwan set up Alikolo by himself. He relied on his own readings and on the help of angel investors who were his friends. For Afforia, he teamed up with a friend running his own IT infrastructure company in Singapore. This friend takes care of the technology aspect while “I am more the product guy,” Taniwan says. The complementary relationship between the founders allows them to understand the start-up more completely.

4. Know when to stop the bleeding

Entrepreneurs may be known for defying the odds, but they also have to recognize what their limitations are -- and when they must stop. When Taniwan realized that the business was bleeding, he put up a brave front and told his investors: “Don’t waste more money, because we are not going anywhere.”

5. Be on the lookout for challenges, trends and opportunities

Taniwan has since joined an association of e-commerce entrepreneurs in Indonesia. He has learned a lot about the business from his peers. He knows that ecommerce needs to be accompanied by an improved infrastructure for logistics. He also knows that education and trust are crucial to the success of this type of commerce.