The Traveloka founding team; Derianto Kusuma is in center, standing. (Image: Medium)
The co-founder cites a changing ecosystem and company direction for his decision, while hinting at a new venture
Co-founder and CTO Derianto Kusuma has resigned from Traveloka, Indonesia's biggest online travel agency (OTA). Starting December, he will "no longer represent Traveloka in any way and [he] will be indifferent and detached from any future company directions, strategies, company culture," he wrote in a Medium post.
Derianto had aspired to create a startup in Indonesia that would meet US tech standards. In recent years, however, the Indonesian ecosystem has become "more commercially-driven than innovation-driven, predatory than productive, perception-oriented than fundamentals-oriented," he said.
"While one can argue it might be a necessary stage (debatable) in SE Asia tech landscape, I gradually realized that this game is no longer for me," he added.
No-one has been named yet to succeed Derianto, who said Traveloka could run without a CTO for some time because of the company's strong, sustainable organizational structure. The data and engineering teams will work under a small team of senior leaders until a new CTO comes on board.
As for his future plans, Derianto said he would be spending time reconnecting with his network and focusing on his own "holistic health." However, he also hinted at a new venture.
"We’ll do exactly this: using technology to help solve trust deficit problem in today’s society by employing insights from cognitive systems and mechanism design," Derianto wrote, adding that he looked forward to developing technology that would "fundamentally transform society."
"[T]his time I’m not going to compromise any of my ideals and will invest in the right foundation."
The Expedia-backed Traveloka is Indonesia’s most popular OTA, with an annual booking value of over US$1 billion. Its app has more than 6 million downloads, and its website ranks 41 in Indonesia. Its other investors include JD.com and Sequoia Capital India.
Before starting Traveloka, the Stanford-educated Derianto had worked as a software engineer for Microsoft and LinkedIn in Silicon Valley. It was at Microsoft where he met Ferry Unardi, a fellow intern. Together with Ferry's former classmate from Purdue University, Albert, the three returned to Indonesia to start the OTA startup that is today a unicorn. Just before launching Traveloka, Derianto had written about his decision to return to Indonesia, citing his admiration of the Silicon Valley startup culture and his desire to make an impact in his home country.
Derianto said he became more "at odds with many company decisions" in the last two years, as Traveloka changed direction to follow prevailing trends in the local digital startup scene, namely super apps and fintech. During this period, he focused on equipping the company with deeper tech capabilities, such as machine-learning algorithms for user recommendations. He also broadened the tech base by opening offices and recruiting talent abroad, including former engineers of Apple, Flipkart and Google.
“Deri has an unmatched role in Traveloka’s growth and success. He not only built and developed sustainable systems and technologies, but also a sustainable organization,” said Founder and CEO Ferry Unardi.
“Deri has considered this decision for a few months and discussed it with me and investors. The handover process is complete, and we will keep up what we have built for Traveloka. We will keep growing with a focus on our long-term goal: to be a world-class company that is used by millions of people.”
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