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Jaka Wiradisuria on the failure of Valadoo: I’ve seen it coming.

Sometimes one doesn’t have any specific reason to start a business. Not the money, not the cool factor. Sometimes one only wants to “do his own stuff”. That’s the reason why Jaka Wiradisuria aspired to be an entrepreneur at the first place.

Studying Industrial Engineering at the prestigious Bandung Institute of Technology, Jaka started out as an over­-achieving student: winning a business plan competition held by a Fortune 100 FMCG company, was granted an internship opportunity there, and making his way as a full-­time employee even before he finished his study.

But a good position and decent pay did not satisfy him. Admitting that he has always wanted to do his own stuff, Jaka tried his luck on agribusiness. He co­founded and led Amerthawangsa Arthanusantara, a start up in agribusiness, providing healthier and lower fat poultry products in collaboration with local farmers in Lampung and Bogor.

When he saw that Internet startup scene overseas at that time was full of daily deals site, he and his cofounders wanted to make their own in Indonesia, especially knowing that the players were still much fewer compare to other countries.

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Jaka at Startup #MoveOn meetup. Image credit: Ziliun.com team

So in August 2010 he came up with Valadoo.com, a startup he built together with friends from college. “I created Valadoo because I saw there were many daily deals site, like Disdus, DealKeren, eVoucher. There were only few players, so it was an opportunity,” told Jaka at a Startup MoveOn meetup last Saturday (02/05).

And that was the first mistake, he admitted.

“The co­founders of Valadoo didn’t start a business to solve a real problem. We didn’t try to find out what the users really want. We simply thought daily deals was a good business model.”

After a while, Jaka and friends realized that the daily deals model didn’t really work. So in 2012, they pivoted to travel deals.

The decision to turn Valadoo into a travel deals site seemed like a good one at that time. We kept getting good news from Valadoo: collaboration with MalesBanget.com for a web series called “Jalan­Jalan Men”, and of course, investment from Wego.

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“Wego is a big name in the industry. What we really expected from Wego was not the money. What we expected in the first place was the network, the transfer of technology, and Wego’s support in shaping our business model.”

All was well, before things turned out confusing. “When we met Wego, they were seeking for a startup to invest in, to expand its ecommerce arm. But less than a year later, they shifted back the focus only to metasearch, e­commerce was not their priority anymore and the strategic partnership never really happened. My other mistake at that time was I did not confronting them on what should we do knowing we were rather clueless. Long story short, Valadoo ran out of money while trying out various business models.”

In conclusion, Jaka said that Valadoo being shut down was the effect of a series of missteps.

He has seen it coming. But only at the end of last April, the startup finally closed its operations after running for almost five years.

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“The business opportunity was still there. In fact, we were already in the partnership with several companies, including XL, Unilever and Malesbanget.com. We could still run the business, but to push it even further it wasn’t fair for my management team, the employees and my family. I need to know when to stop and closing Valadoo was the right (and probably the best) decision for all related parties, that includes proper severance packages for my employees.”

The biggest lesson of all? Have the right mindset and know your purpose in building your business.

“Our mindset was wrong. We were too naive thinking that in order to run a startup, investment is everything. Unconsciously we became addicted to raise more money and did not have time to really listen to what customers really wanted. Should we put disproportionate focus on shaping a robust business model with purpose that we believe in, creating a strong product that meet customers’ needs and building the user base while bootstrapping, things were not going to be that complicated.”

When this article is published, Jaka and his team is in the process of transitioning Valadoo brand and its digital assets to other management to ensure Valadoo can live on although it is not under their leadership.

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Header image credit: goodhousekeeping.co.id