Rob Davies: The En­tre­pre­neur Be­hind APP­so­lute Dig­i­tal

Rob Davies, the CEO of APP­so­lute Dig­i­tal and Arm En­ter­prises, shares his views on In­done­sia’s tech­nol­ogy mar­ket and his for­mula for suc­cess.

Indonesia Expat - - Contents - BY CHRISTABEL SASABONE

Arm En­ter­prises and APP­so­lute Digi­tial seem like two very dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies; what are the dif­fer­ences and sim­i­lar­i­ties, and what was the mo­ti­va­tion for com­pa­nies in such dis­parate sec­tors? Yes, they are, but they have a com­mon theme in both soft­ware and the In­done­sian mar­ket.

Ac­tu­ally, Arm was the first com­pany set up in Sin­ga­pore around six years ago with a cou­ple of great In­done­sian friends to de­velop soft­ware around the English Premier League. And after some suc­cess, it has moved into Telco so­lu­tions for the re­gion with dif­fer­ent part­ners.

APP­so­lute Dig­i­tal was es­tab­lished two years ago to fo­cus on soft­ware and mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tions for the re­gion and is funded by pri­vate in­vestors from mainly Aus­tralia. The hope is that our ini­tial projects, such as ROBS Jobs, could lead to a tech fund in Aus­tralia to essen­tially in­vest in star­tups around South­east Asia that need fund­ing or re­sources.

ROBS Jobs, one of the apps cre­ated by App­so­lute Dig­i­tal, seems like a type of "Tin­der" for job ap­pli­cants and em­ploy­ers. Can you tell us how it works? How do the fil­ters work and what ben­e­fits does it have for em­ploy­ers and can­di­dates? It is ex­actly the same ap­proach as Tin­der for jobs with the dif­fer­ence be­ing that only the com­pany can match with a job seeker. The can­di­dates fill in their details via a sim­ple drop- down menu and this cre­ates a vir­tual CV, which is then matched with the em­ploy­ers' re­quire­ments. From there, some mag­i­cal al­go­rithm scores the ap­pli­cant to those re­quire­ments and shows in real time those best suited for the job.

The ben­e­fits for the em­ploy­ers are that they can re­view only the best ap­pli­cants ranked in or­der of matched re­quire­ments dig­i­tally, and do not have to look through lots of CV's that are not suited to the po­si­tion. This process is in­stant and pa­per­less so is time ef­fi­cient and good for the en­vi­ron­ment too.

The ben­e­fits for the can­di­dates are they do not have to send CV's to ap­ply for va­can­cies as these are dig­i­tally com­piled in the app. They merely swipe right for jobs they are in­ter­ested in and left for ones they are not. With huge com­pe­ti­tion from other job seek­ers, this means they can ap­ply for more jobs in a shorter space of time and have a bet­ter chance of find­ing work that suits their skills.

In ei­ther case, once an em­ployer has matched the ap­pli­cant, a live chat opens in the app which al­lows them to ar­range in­ter­views, start times or dis­cuss any other is­sues eas­ily in real time, so the process to hire some­one can be re­ally fast.

What were some of the big­gest hur­dles you faced when start­ing your com­pa­nies? How did you man­age them? The process here in In­done­sia for start­ing up a com­pany has still not im­proved de­spite ef­forts from the gov­ern­ment, so you face a long jour­ney be­tween de­part­ments which are not con­nected with end­less de­lays. Luck­ily (and most im­por­tantly) for me, I have a fan­tas­tic busi­ness part­ner, Ika Novi, who seems to han­dle ev­ery­thing in her stride.

Do you be­lieve there is some sort of pat­tern or for­mula to be­com­ing a suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur? All I can say at this point is don't give up.

As an en­tre­pre­neur and ex­pat, how do you find con­duct­ing busi­ness in In­done­sia? As an en­tre­pre­neur, it’s chal­leng­ing mainly from the end­less amount of hol­i­days there seem to be these days; I think a four- day work week seems to be the best you can hope for most of the year. As an ex­pat, I love the hol­i­days as it gives me a chance to travel around the awe­some places that make up this won­der­ful coun­try. I sup­pose I am a bit con­flicted.

The process here in In­done­sia for start­ing up a com­pany has still not im­proved de­spite ef­forts from the gov­ern­ment, so you face a long jour­ney be­tween de­part­ments which are not con­nected with end­less de­lays.”

What are the pros and cons of cre­at­ing a tech startup in In­done­sia? The size of the pop­u­la­tion in In­done­sia is a great rea­son to launch tech busi­nesses here if you can solve real prob­lems that af­fect peo­ple in some way. Find­ing so­lu­tions to these prob­lems can pro­pel rapid growth and in the process make ex­cel­lent re­turns whilst do­ing some good. I think if there is a down­side to cre­at­ing tech here is that it's likely your ideas will be copied quickly and com­pe­ti­tion will spring up all around in a very short time; still, it's a mas­sive mar­ket and room for lots more play­ers.

From your van­tage point, do you agree with the fore­casts for steady growth in the tech sec­tor in In­done­sia? Why or why not? Yes, I think there are many ar­eas where tech can pro­vide so­lu­tions to prob­lems the av­er­age In­done­sian faces, which will im­prove their lives with the right so­lu­tions. Com­pa­nies such as GO- JEK for trans­port,

Su­per­soc­cer for on­line foot­ball stream­ing, Bli­bli for e- com­merce, and many oth­ers show there is still huge po­ten­tial here for growth. With more and more com­pa­nies look­ing to In­done­sia, it's go­ing to be that way for a long time to come.

What is on your top three words of wis­dom for for­eign in­vestors or ex­pats who want to start a tech busi­ness here? Be very pa­tient.

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