Indonesia’s new stock-trading app gets Softbank backing

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A new app that wants to help ordinary Indonesians invest in the stock market just got a boost from a big-name investor. Ajaib, which launches this weekend after four months of testing, has pocketed US$2.1 million in a round led by Softbank Ventures, the team tells Tech in Asia. When TIA talked to Ajaib over the summer, the founders had just graduated from Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator and rolled out the investing service quietly in test mode via an Android app. In the interim, the Jakarta-based crew has grown to 14 employees and secured a mutual fund brokerage license from Indonesia’s regulators. There’s a waiting list of 5,000 people to join the stock-trading app this weekend.

Time to grow        

With only 1 million of Indonesia’s 260 million people investing their cash into stocks, Ajaib CEO Anderson Sumarli sees huge scope for growth, especially now that the country’s consumers are using digital services on their phones for things like ride-hailing. Next, they’ll be ready for new financial services on their phones, beyond the cashless payments and online loans that they’re pretty familiar with. Yada Piyajomkwan, the startup’s CMO, concurs, saying that “2019 will be about wealth management.” Sumarli is from Indonesia and was previously a consultant at The Boston Consulting Group. Piyajomkwan, from Thailand, is an ex-McKinsey consultant who has specialized in financial inclusion at Stanford University as well as in her counsel to her country’s central bank. The duo ran into each other at Stanford.

To grow the app, the Ajaib team is looking to go viral. “We’ll encourage existing customers to refer their friends, and this will be them giving advice to their friends on investing for the first time, together with some money to start investing with,” says Piyajomkwan. “And the second thing: we want to encourage our customers who are our loyal users to talk about us on social media – to become, basically, champions of the product.” Those cheerleaders will get rewards. Softbank Ventures will prove useful as a partner with its experience in Indonesia’s tech landscape, Sumarli says. And he’s already got some good advice. “It’s really helped us in terms of our product roadmap – how we think about launching the next feature or product – and in terms of [how to] build a healthy company with proper unit economics and business model,” he explains.

15 bucks for starters

With stock trading being a fairly new proposition to Indonesians, the app is looking to keep it simple, with no paperwork to sign up, a low buy-in of US$15, and three easy settings to adjust how safe or risky you want your investing strategy to be. There is no account or processing fees for investors since Ajaib makes money from fees paid by fund managers. Data from the four-month beta period has revealed two types of customers, according to Sumarli: newcomers who start at US$15 and then add more when payday comes around, plus relatively more savvy personal portfolio jugglers who manage US$10,000 to $30,000.

Although Southeast Asia has the same kind of untapped potential as Indonesia, Ajaib will focus on Indonesia for now, with other personal finance offerings possibly added at a later date. Elsewhere, Robin hood is seeing success with its investing app in the US, while Tradeflix is building a rival service focused on Asia. Y Combinator, former Sequoia partner Tim Lee, Insignia, and Alpha JWC also contributed to Ajaib’s seed round, with the cash going toward hiring, especially on the engineering side.

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