SOKU, a Local Startup that Develops Autonomous Self-Driving Technology
Indonesia still has thousands of startups spread across the country. Not a few of them also have ideas or innovations that are no less interesting than unicorn and decacorn startups. One of them was created by SOKU, a local startup from Solo, Central Java, which is engaged in food commerce.
SOKU is currently developing an autonomous self-driving car or an unmanned car. The plan, the car will be used as a “mobile shop” that can serve buyers without the need for human employees.
“We will do a prototype trial in January,” said Soekma A Sulistyo, founder of SOKU. The development of autonomous self-driving is only a small sample of the innovations made by local startups.
There are probably many other local startup innovations that have not been identified. Unlike the big startups, local startups spread across various regions in Indonesia are far from “perfect”. Perfect in this case is a built-in ecosystem, not optimal.
Lack of Support System for Startup in the Region
In Solo, for example, there are no capable incubators and accelerators. Incubation is a program that focuses on maturing the ideas and products of a startup. In the incubation, startups will introduce themselves to investors, introduce their products and business models.
They then get mentoring to accelerate their business growth. Meanwhile accelerated programs target more mature startups and help them validate to the market. Soekma added, startup founders who want to enter incubators and accelerators must go to big cities, such as Jakarta or Surabaya, which of course cost a lot of money.
“Then there is venture capital, not in Solo, in big cities like Jakarta and Bandung,” Soekma explained when talking with KompasTekno in Solo, Central Java.
Soekma, who is also one of the initiators of the Solocon Valley startup community, said that in Solo, there are only about five startups that can be called stable, meaning they already have a market and earn income. Even if there is venture capital, continued Soekma, the funding concept is still conventional, not suitable for the startup business model.
Low Salary Makes Human Resources Move
The problem is not enough to reach an ecosystem that is not optimal. In Solo, the need for capable programmers is also not fulfilled. This is because human resources are sucked into big cities that offer higher salaries than Solo, such as Yogyakarta or Jakarta.
Apart from hard skills, soft skills are also the next problem. Soekma assessed that in Solo, there were many interesting startup ideas, but the leadership of the founders was still not strong. “Everyone can be a founder, but not everyone can be a founder,” said Soekma.
This means, not all founders really devote all their abilities, including material to develop a startup business. Soekma, who is also a frequent mentor for startups in Solo, often convinces startup founders so that they have a strong foothold. “If you are not strong, then you don’t have to,” he said.
Strong and successful founders will have an impact on the improvement of the startup environment. They will also serve as an inspiration and promote regional names. “A good environment will have an impact on other human resources, such as programmers. If they are well developed they will not run to other areas. Because of the orientation of the salary,” said Soekma.
The problems faced by Solo startups have been conveyed to the Minister of Communication and Informatics for the 2014-2019 period, Rudiantara when participating in the National 1000 Startup Digital Movement program which was created in 2016. The program has now changed its name to The Next 1001 Startup Digital starting in 2019.
“The aspirations have been conveyed, but we don’t know where they are. If it only comes to funding it doesn’t create a good ecosystem,” said Johannes Widya Santoso, who is also the initiator of the Solocon Valley. Joe said, although there are many obstacles to developing a startup business in the regions, this is not necessarily a reason to stop innovating.