Spotlight on Visiting Partners: Chinmay Chauhan
Founder Stories

Spotlight on Visiting Partners: Chinmay Chauhan

Yi Jun Phung
March 7, 2023

Chinmay Chauhan is the co-founder and President of BukuWarung (YC S20), which builds bookkeeping, digital payments, and e-commerce solutions for the 60 million MSMEs in Indonesia. At BukuWarung, Chinmay led product and technology functions, grew the organization to 400 people, and helped raise $80M in funding. Prior to BukuWarung, Chinmay was the Director of Product at Carousell and the Product Lead at Grab.

Chinmay has a BTech. in Computer Science from the Indian Institute of Technology (Bombay).

Get to know Chinmay in this series.

What was your first job?

One of my first jobs was an internship at Microsoft 12 yrs ago as a software engineer. It gave me good exposure to what is expected of an engineer in a large-scale environment where perfection and accuracy mattered more than moving fast.

One of my jobs where I learnt the most (before BukuWarung) is at Grab, where I was product manager #8 during its early days — I was building payment and fintech products for Grab’s merchants and drivers across Indonesia and the rest of SE Asia. It was truly an enriching experience to see the company scale by over 20x during the few years that I spent there.

What's something about you or your past experience that would surprise people?

It's surprising for people around me to know that my childhood was spent in a very low-earning, micro-merchant family, where both my parents had to work hard as micro-merchants and barely earned 100$ per month.

I received a lot of surprised reactions when I shared this story of my mom. For the longest period of time, my family earned <$100 per month, and my mom was contributing 50% of this income. She ran a small tailoring business from our home while also raising us and running the household. She ran this business for several years to help us meet ends financially.

Her spirit and hustle in running her small business, and overcoming all odds during the toughest of times are what inspired me to start BukuWarung (YC S20), with the mission to empower millions of small and micro businesses in Indonesia who, like my mom, work daily to meet ends for the future of their families.

What’s your motivation for working with founders?

Giving back to the founder community. We benefited immensely from founder angels/advisors in our early days of BukuWarung. And I'd like to give back to the founders who are just starting up, help them avoid the mistakes that we made along our journey and also share insights that we discovered.

I've personally invested in and advised over 30 companies in the past 3 years and also have benefited a lot from seeing the other founders’ journeys. Learning from exceptional founders has complimented my own learnings that I've been able to share with my portfolio founders.

What’s something you’re especially good at or like helping founders with?

I usually help founders with product, technology, fundraising, team building, and culture, as well as scaling for later-stage companies

But most importantly, as a founder, I think I can empathise with fellow founders and act as a coach for them because having been in the same shoes and facing similar challenges as them, it really helped me connect with the founders. This is where many founders see the most value.

If you could go back in time to the moment you decided to start your first company, what advice would you give yourself?

If there’s one piece of advice I could give to all founders and myself, it is to prioritise your well-being. Focus on your fitness, and take regular breaks. In the initial high-intensity years of building my startup - I didn’t take a break or have a disciplined focus on my fitness levels.

I’ve seen many other founders make similar mistakes – being in an “always on” mode hampers productivity and creativity in the long run, so it's essential that founders take good care of their physical and mental well-being.

Our current batch is underway, but we're always open for applications. If you're a founder and working on something, you should apply here.

The newsletter that helps 4,000+ other founders in their journey

Iterative Insights is a monthly newsletter on startups, growth, fundraising, and anything else that stresses you out as a founder.