Tessa Wijaya is the Co-Founder and COO of Xendit, a leading payment gateway in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia. Xendit became a unicorn in 2021, making Tessa the only female unicorn founder in Indonesia. At Xendit, Tessa oversees finance and operations and also initiated Xendit’s Women in Tech Indonesia program.
Before co-founding Xendit, Tessa worked as a private equity investment professional at Mizuho Asia Partners and Principia Management Group. She took the leap into building Xendit because she wanted to learn about emerging technology businesses.
Tessa has an MPhil in Philosophy from the University of Sydney.
What was your first job?
I worked at a bakery as a server and cleaner at 15 when I was in high school. It made me more popular at boarding school because I brought unlimited amounts of free bread if I did a night shift.
What's something about you or your past experience that would surprise people?
I once went to art school. I come from Indonesia and as a kid, creativity was not something taught at school. Discovering this world of art when I moved to study overseas was such a mind boggling experience. I ended up dropping out because I realised that appreciation of art and being good at art are two different things!
What’s your motivation for working with founders?
I want to inspire the next generation of founders in SEA. I think we have a bigger handicap than those coming from the Western world because we don't get to meet and/or get advice from the same caliber of people we see in places like Silicon Valley.
Obviously this is changing fast as we produce more and more homegrown Unicorns and with the likes of Iterative partners coming in and bringing this wider point of view. I want to take part in sharing the wealth of knowledge I've learned in running a fast growing startup.
What’s something you’re especially good at or like helping founders with?
Giving practical advice. I've been running operations for a good 5-6 years now, and I've gone through a ton of real world challenges that founders are probably faced with. So hopefully I can help them problem solve in a real practical way that helps them execute in their own startups.
If you could go back in time to the moment you decided to start your first company, what advice would you give yourself?
Focus on products that customers want. My first company was a sandwich shop in Jakarta. It was a tiny hole in a wall with a great concept and logo. Sandwiches from around the globe, the café was called Food Criminal. The slogan was, 'food so good it's a crime.'
Except it wasn't.
I had a ton of fun developing the concept, but didn't spend enough time on the core product - the sandwiches. I didn't do food tastings, I didn't test the product before rolling it out full on, and the café was a flop. A great experience that taught me that no matter how big or small a business is, you should always focus on providing the right products that customers want first!
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