From Tekapedia to HayoKerja: How failure led to a less exciting business model – and success

The HayoKerja team with CEO and founder Alexander Ivan Tirta (second from R) © HayoKerja

Borrowing the e-commerce marketplace model, Tekapedia tried to match businesses with blue-collar hires, but it soon realized the sector had simpler needs 

In late 2017, three friends and fellow entrepreneurs came up with a business idea and unabashedly named it Tekapedia – after the Indonesian e-commerce unicorn, Tokopedia, hoping to capitalize on the publicity.

The Tekapedia website was created as a marketplace, to connect blue-collar workers like domestic helpers, drivers and store staff with businesses looking to hire them. The word “teka” is short for “tenaga kerja” (Indonesian for “labor”) while “pedia” refers to the process of learning and growing.

Today, Tekapedia no longer exists.  Alexander “Ivan” Tirta, the company's former COO and co-founder, has since moved on to start HayoKerja (loosely translated as “C'mon, let's work” in English), a recruitment website that is a simplified version of Tekapedia.

When he co-founded Tekapedia, Ivan had the idea of turning the conventional business of blue-collar hiring into “something that is a strong digital platform, akin to what Gojek and other similar startups have done,” he said in an interview.

Tekapedia hoped to stand out from other platforms with its digital filters that could quickly connect companies with outsourced labor agencies, and find the best fit for each business. The idea was not novel but for the business founders, it had promise. Tekapedia's filters that allowed potential hires to be rated by skills, work experience and salary range would offer what every business needed to find the right workers.  

“It's like in online marketplaces and transport services; it made sense to apply [the filtering concept] to labor services,” Ivan said.

Prospective investors were talking to Tekapedia by October 2018, but the leads did not follow through. According to Ivan, the Surabaya Rotary Club expressed interest and The Premiere Group from the UK promised $250,000, but neither deal materialized. A private angel investor, whom Ivan declined to name, made a handshake deal to commit IDR 2bn yearly, but pulled out after the first year.

Flawed premise

The founders soon discovered that businesses using blue-collar workers did not have the will or time to browse through a website looking for quality hires. These companies usually had established relationships with labor agencies and were happy to leave the selection process to agencies and, if necessary, vet a few potential employees themselves. 

Tekapedia's idea of online filtering was too long-winded and unnecessary for its potential clients. The potential investors understood this earlier than Tekapedia did, which explained their lack of follow-through.

"Essentially, [the companies] preferred to just say to the agencies, we would like these many drivers, for instance, and if they turned out to be bad, simply replace them. They trusted the agencies would always have workers in unlimited numbers,” said Ivan

Back to basics

In short, Tekapedia had sold itself as the digital broker that no company needed. The company was on the verge of collapse when Ivan resigned at the end of 2018.  

He realized soon after that Tekapedia's only “real moment of truth” was a simple direct employment program that it briefly ran. Using that concept, Ivan started a new company, HayoKerja, which steered clear of filters and the marketplace. Instead, HayoKerja was the labor agency. 

Tapping the Tekapedia database, which was open to the public until the website was discontinued, Ivan was able to quickly offer candidates based on the needs of businesses. If the hired workers did not work out, he would replace them with new ones. “It was the traditional way, nothing special, But lo and behold, it immediately made money,” he said.

He also encouraged more blue-collar workers to register on HayoKerja. These workers, who usually live in the peripheral neighborhoods of Jakarta, would tell other jobseekers from their neighborhood and back in their villages about HayoKerja, leading to a quick expansion of its candidate database.

HayoKerja also received IDR 600m funding from an unnamed angel investor, Ivan said. The investor is ready to up his investment, and has provided the startup with a five-story office building to be used as its headquarters – ironically in the same area where Tekapedia was based. According to Ivan, he is in talks with more investors.

“HayoKerja.com has moved so fast," he said. “Now we have seven people in our team who are loyal and share the same vision, an investor that believes in us, no drama, and a simple concept that has proven itself over time. I'll make sure this doesn't fail.” 

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Edited by S. Mani, Bernice Tang

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