This week, it’s national Heroes day in Indonesia. As a Dutch, it’s somewhat strange to write about it, because I don’t feel proud of what my ancestors did in Indonesia. What stands out for me is the power of celebrating heroes. Heroes are the people that fight for their vision. They try to change the world (in this case create freedom for Indonesia). They defeat the odds.
And that’s what entrepreneurship is all about. People who have a vision for a better future. Recognizing something that needs to be ‘fixed’ or seeing an opportunity that needs action, they start from scratch. They keep fighting and building until that vision is reality. Many fail, some succeed and very few make it big. No matter what, entrepreneurs wake up every day to make the world a better place. Just like those heroes did in 1945.
I don’t consider myself a hero. And I value being humble (one of the values I appreciate Indonesians for!). But allow me to share my own story.
In 2015, I decided with my wife to move to another country. I saw a cheap flight to Jakarta and decided to explore Indonesia and Bali specifically. On that trip, I fell in love with Indonesia and decided to move my family (wife + 3 kids) mid 2016. Our plan was: let’s do this as an experiment for 1 year. We keep our house, we tell everyone we’ll be back. If we are all comfortable and happy, we stay. If not, we go back to Belanda.
I’ve heard about the ‘1-year experiment’ from many foreigners in Bali. Many end up staying many years. I just completed 5 years without plans for moving anywhere. The experiment brought me a lot. When I moved, I already had Bridge Global, which provided me with an income. I wasn’t sure what my next move would be. Prior to moving, I had participated in some Agile conferences in Europe and India. I liked certain elements of Agile and the Agile community. Over the years it grew on me as a way to empower people, stimulate entrepreneurship and give people back control over their own time.
At the end of 2016, I decided to test my MVP: 1 scrum training in Bali and 1 scrum training in Jakarta. I had no contacts anywhere, so I had to build community and relationships with people. My then 2 team members in India, started our Agile community on Facebook and meetup.com. We organized a meetup 6 weeks prior to the training to gain interest. From that, I was flabbergasted: people reached out to me, and BCA (thank you pak Frans :)) even asked me to host the meetup in their office. I learned that there was only 1 Indonesian scrum trainer. People were looking for fresh perspectives on adopting the agile way of working.
From the initial meetup and training, I got many friends that started helping me. This made me realize a big difference between my home country and Indonesia. Over here, everything is based on relationships and trust. Where I come from, relationships of course play a role, but we’re more transactional. My credo became: I drink coffee with people, make friends AND have an impact on people and the customers I help. That led to Ekipa becoming Indonesia’s trusted team of Agile entrepreneurs. Most companies that move to Agile will at some point ask us to help them transform.
Over the past few years, thanks to some great colleagues, we’ve been able to build a strong team. That’s one lesson I learned as an entrepreneur: it all comes down to the people. If you surround yourself with smart, strong people, you can play the entrepreneurial role (working ON the company); if you have mediocre people, you have to work IN the company, because you have to close the gaps, solve the problems others don’t solve.
A couple of years ago, thanks to my partner Paul Hutton, we also launched Ekipa in Singapore and Malaysia. Initially hard to get started, but now we have a great team with a growing company servicing customers all over APAC.
I’m now at a stage where I can pull myself out of the (Agile) operations slowly. Our team handles things. And my entrepreneurial blood can go to ‘something new’ (which is ALWAYS on my mind). That something new has to do with entrepreneurship, impact, and venture building. As a first step, I’ve created some courses on entrepreneurship on Ekipa +. We kick off strong, with a new event: founders playground. And I’ve become a partner in Bali Investment Club, helping impact startups to scale up.
Agile plays a big role in my entrepreneurial journey from doing a 1-year experiment living in Bali, testing MVP until now Ekipa grows not only in Indonesia but also in Malaysia and Singapore.
There is a specific pattern that I found along my entrepreneurial journey. That pattern helps and supports me to grow my business. I called that pattern an agile habit. This agile habit fits with this volatile era.
My personal mission is to touch people with the Agile spark. The Agile spark has 3 components in my own world: entrepreneurship; self-organization and a balanced workplace.
To support my personal mission above, I’ve just created a new course on entrepreneurship: Agile Habits Course & Challenge. I am happy to see the growth of entrepreneurship in Indonesia. I would be happier to see people incorporate these agile habits into their entrepreneurial journey. The agile habits help them grow even in a volatile environment.
The meaning of entrepreneurship isn’t only for those who want to build a new business. Even employees in the corporate world could experience entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship means spotting opportunities for improvement, for (personal) growth. Self-organization means taking full responsibility for whatever you commit to. A balanced workplace means I have the freedom to work when, where, and how I want, as long as I deliver the impact we agreed upon.
The core of that spark is entrepreneurship. Most people think of entrepreneurship as something Elon Musk or Richard Brandson ‘do’. But entrepreneurship can be everywhere at many levels. I’ve always believed that many people have this ‘dream’ or ‘itch’ to start their own company. Because they are hooked on salaries and other perks in the companies they work for, it’s hard to make the leap. Today, startups are popping up everywhere. Corporations try to become more ‘startup-like’, so they can launch the products and services of the future. For all of that, we need entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, venture builders, innovators. Heroes that spot a problem worth solving and then JUST DO IT.