As reported in TechinAsia by Leighton Cooseboom (found here).

In case you’re new to the scene or have been living in a remote cabin somewhere, Go-Jek is one of the fastest-growing and most visible tech startups in Indonesia. The courier, transport, and shopping service legitimizes previously informal motorcycle taxis — ojeks in Indonesian — by outfitting drivers with green uniforms and helmets, but also by organizing them through a mobile app which lets users book drivers.

Despite his rise to relative fame in Jakarta over the past months, Go-Jek founder and CEO Nadiem Makarim is elusive. He shows up to the press tent outside the basketball court to answers a few questions, then dips back out of the scene like a secret agent. Dogged reporters pursue him.

After a thoughtful smokey inhale, he reflects on Go-Jek’s progress over the past half a year. He credits much of its success in Jakarta to the “right place, right time” factor:

Before he left, Nadiem came up with an idea — an itch he needed to scratch in Jakarta. The idea was that commuters would phone into a call center and request ojek drivers to pick them up on-demand and take them wherever they wanted to go. Nadiem would run the pilot project for Go-Jek that summer.

While in Harvard’s MBA program, Nadiem made a good friend, someone who would ultimately become a fierce business rival. It just so happened this new friend was Anthony Tan. Today we know him as GrabTaxi’s co-founder and CEO. “He was one of my closest friends. We were always consulting each other on our businesses. I was going to take over bikes and he was going to take over cabs.”

After Harvard, [Oliver Samwer] asked Nadiem to help set up Rocket Internet in Indonesia. Officially, Nadiem’s title was managing director of Zalora Indonesia, but at the time, he and the early team also helped out on Lazada Indonesia.

After Rocket, Nadiem went back to the drawing board and tested out several other startup projects. Most failed. All the while, Go-Jek had been running in the background with no significant growth. The company wasn’t dead, but it wasn’t thriving.

However, in mid-2014, investors began knocking on his door with renewed interest in ridesharing startups. They started asking about the investment potential of Go-Jek. Nadiem credits heightened investor interest to the entrances of Uber and GrabTaxi into the local market. At the time, he was the chief innovation officer at a local payments firm called Kartuku. But with VCs hitting him up about the passion project he’d initiated years back, he knew he had to start working on Go-Jek again full-time.

“The probability of you succeeding in a startup is already one to ten. If you’re not full-timing it, it’s zero […] we got lucky because it didn’t die, but it sure didn’t grow in the years prior.”

Jurist and Brian were still running the firm part-time. Nadiem raised a round of venture funding from NSI Ventures and came back to them with an offer, “I said ‘you guys can stay and keep your stakes but you gotta do this full-time’ […] Unfortunately, they couldn’t because one was in grad school and the other was in Manila, so them staying on didn’t work. We ended up buying their shares.”

Nadiem brought in Kevin Aluwi, who was the head of business intelligence in Zalora, as the CFO. The rest as they say is history. These days, Nadiem claims to not own a car because he uses his own product for just about everything. Kevin, with a laugh, says to Nadiem: “It’s true. We looked up our power users, and you actually are [one of them].”

With the advent of Go-Jek’s food delivery service Go-Food, the startup has drawn skepticism about how it can effectively scale while trying to tackle multiple industries. Nadiem responds that Go-Jek’s variety of services is exactly what enables the company to scale quickly.

“Logistics is the key to everything. It’s the key to ecommerce, it’s the key to food. We took a big risk by approaching this problem the other way around,” he says. Kevin adds, “Essentially with a logistics network like the one we’ve built, all these different business units and services are simply being stacked on; we’re just looking for the highest value economic activities to put on the network. So in that sense, we’re not losing focus if you see the focus as increasing the value of activities done on the network.”

In recent weeks, Go-Jek became the most popular free app on iOS in Indonesia. Following the mass recruitment event at the basketball court, Nadiem says Go-Jek now has more than 30,000 drivers in the capital. The media says the startup recently took another hit of funding from a prominent international investor. Nadiem and Kevin, however, decline to comment. When asked about key metrics like the number of rides Go-Jek has completed to date, Nadiem offers up nothing but a sly grin, a long cigarette drag, and a polite “no comment.” Shifting his focus toward Indonesia’s new generation of tech entrepreneurs, Nadiem says they should have the courage to take a lot of money, spend it fast, and go for broke.“I think that is the single biggest missing component right now with Indonesian founders. They’re all trying to optimize and validate. But if you’re going to make something big, and you believe in the market and you believe in your product, then go for it.”