She co-founded a $1 billion fintech start-up in Asia — and wants to show other women they can too

Tessa Wijaya describes herself as “a unicorn amongst unicorns amongst unicorns.”

As an Indonesian lady working a $1 billion monetary expertise start-up in Southeast Asia, she is a slightly uncommon breed.

Girls leaders in tech are unusual. That is very true in fintech, the place they maintain 7% of leadership positions. However Wijaya mentioned she is hoping that can change by displaying extra girls and ladies they’ll observe the trail much less traveled.

“I actually do wish to encourage extra girls to be in tech,” the millennial entrepreneur advised CNBC Make It.

A $1 billion feminine founder

Wijaya is the co-founder and chief operations officer of Xendit, an Indonesian fintech platform that processes digital funds for companies in Southeast Asia, like Seize, Clever and Traveloka.

Since launching in 2015, Xendit has grown quickly. Right now, it processes greater than 65 million transactions value $6.5 billion yearly. It reached the $1 billion “unicorn” status in September.

It was an enormous problem… how do I sustain with these folks?

Tessa Wijaya

co-founder and COO, Xendit

To Wijaya, nevertheless, success nonetheless feels overseas.

“The unlikelihood of somebody like me — a girl born and raised in a small city in Indonesia — changing into a co-founder in a tech firm invested in by billion greenback funds, doesn’t escape me,” she mentioned.

Discovering her toes in finance

As a younger woman rising up in Indonesia, Wijaya mentioned she was “unusual,” preferring to play with G.I. Joe motion figures slightly than dolls.

However she was bold too, impressed by the grandmother who raised her and her cousins, whereas working a small meals enterprise.

In her early 20s, Wijaya interviewed for an analyst job at a brand new non-public fairness fund in Jakarta. Although she had no conventional finance expertise, her essential pondering and dedication impressed the corporate, and he or she secured the job. She studied the business exterior of labor hours to construct her data.

As an Indonesian lady main a $1 billion monetary expertise start-up, Tessa Wijaya describes herself as a “unicorn amongst unicorns amongst unicorns.”


Nonetheless, the journey wasn’t straightforward.

As considered one of only some girls on the workforce, Wijaya struggled to be heard. She did not have a level from Harvard or MIT, like lots of her colleagues. The overall supervisor of one of many fund’s firms would merely ignore her when she spoke, she mentioned.

“For me, it was an enormous problem… how do I sustain with these folks? I had no Ivy League diploma,” mentioned Wijaya. “I regarded actually younger, too. To be taken severely whenever you look younger and you are a girls is absolutely onerous.”

Figuring out a rising pattern

But, she was undeterred. Wijaya was wanting to play a task in Southeast Asia’s evolving enterprise scene.

Working carefully with rising start-ups within the non-public fairness area, she noticed the area’s speedy rise of expertise within the early 2010s. However she additionally observed a lacking hyperlink.

“You may have experience hailing, you might have e-commerce,” mentioned Wijaya. “They’re nothing with out the funds.”

I have been given the good alternative to alter how the office behaves, so extra girls can transfer up.

Tessa Wijaya

co-founder and COO, Xendit

In a stroke of luck, Wijaya was launched to a bunch of scholars from the College of California, Berkeley who have been engaged on an identical challenge by start-up accelerator Y Combinator.

“It was work love at first sight,” mentioned Wijaya.

The workforce instantly started engaged on a brand new funds platform, that might later change into Xendit.

Encouraging extra girls in fintech

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