An Indonesian mobile financial technology company has won top honors at Her Startup, a tech startup competition looking to bring diversity into the startup scene. The trans-Pacific competition welcomes companies with at least one female CEO, and the participants show that gender needn’t be a thing that bars women from success. This year’s winner was mobile app Wobe, whose founder, Adrianna Tan, would like to see it empower business women.
At first glance, the product seems highly specialized. It’s touted as a tool that allows anyone to become a business owner, through the transaction of prepaid phone credits. That may seem like an unusual market, but as this Fast Company article by Wong Yi Wei notes, almost prepaid status dominates almost every aspect of the Indonesian economy. The overwhelming mobile phone user is relying on a prepaid agreement. Electricity, water, and transportation are looped into the prepaid model as well.
In Indonesia, most transactions are still done via cash, and Tan’s app makes the financial landscape that much more inclusive. Also, existing digital infrastructure for prepaid sales can be stuffed with middlemen that prevent the seller from actually making a profit. But Wobe is putting a stop to that. With a small buy-in of $5, users can make prepaid investments in the largest mobile carriers in Indonesia, and build up their own prepaid marketplace. The prepaid business is worth about $7 billion annually, and with almost 280 million subscribers Indonesia has the world’s fourth-largest telecommunications market.
To Wobe, Tan has brought years of experience from places as diverse as Myanmar and Hungary. In fact, she was part of the team that introduced Uber to Asia. Her company’s win at Her Startup went beyond exposure and local recognition— it secured its seed round with a $100,000 from Draper Associates, known for its investment in Skype among others.