CEO IDN Media: A Dream and Hope for Indonesia

Winston Utomo, the Founder and CEO of IDN Media

Technology plays an important role in the lives of Millennials and Gen Z. They even utilize this digital brilliance as a starting point to build up their own business, for, in fact, there have been a lot of startups initiated by Millennials and Gen Z.

When others decide to have a business in e-commerce, payment, or education, Winston Utomo (Founder & CEO of IDN Media), at that time, was so sure to jump into the media industry.

Dominated by those media conglomerates, this step Winston had taken was really against the stream. What kind of determination that Winston held onto so that he was so keen on building up IDN Media on June 8, 2014?

1. Winston Utomo, his dream, and determination

Winston Utomo, the Founder and CEO of IDN Media

Born and raised in Surabaya, Winston had the chance to pursue his bachelor’s degree at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and master’s degree at Columbia University, New York.

He, then, started his professional career in Google Singapore. From that moment on, he began to recognize the power of technology and its potential to bring positive impacts to the society.

He said, “One fine evening after work, I asked myself: what kind of job that could give positive impacts to society at a large scale? The first answer popping up in my head was the media. However, although it played such a significant role, especially in Indonesia, why was there no single media in Indonesia focusing on Millennials and Gen Z as its audience? In fact, these Millennials and Gen Z were the holders of the future and they were also the largest internet users in Indonesia. In 2014, Millennials and Gen Z weren’t yet popular一many still focused on Gen X.”

Later that evening, around 7 PM, Winston went on to execute his idea by making up a blog named indonesiantimes.com. He didn’t sleep that night to write his first 10 articles一from 7 PM to 7 AM.

“Right after I was done, I shared those articles on social media, Facebook especially, the one being so popular at that time. In the evening, I checked the analytics of my blog and found out that in a quite short time, there were hundreds of readers opening that site I had created. Most of them opened it through social media. I became more certain that fundamental changes in the way Millennials and Gen Z consumed contents really did happen一from a single-platform to a multi-platform. Along with the right vision and team, I believed, this could be a good disruption in the media industry. More importantly, it could also bring positive changes to the people of Indonesia, especially Millennials and Gen Z.”

2. The struggle with his brother, William Utomo

Winston Utomo (the CEO of IDN Media, left) and William Utomo (the COO of IDN Media, right)

In the same year, his brother William Utomo (Founder & COO of IDN Media) had finished his study in the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

“At the beginning, William planned to work in an investment bank. However, I assured him that what we could build would bring positive impacts to Indonesia. After some more discussion and consideration, William was so excited and agreed to build IDN Media together with me.”

When IDN Media was still a dream, the two brothers decided to divide the tasks. William should be in Surabaya to manage everything, while Winston should still go on working at Google Singapore — the salary he got would be used to pay IDN Media’s operational expenses.

This, of course, obliged Winston to have good time management. From 06:00 AM up to 08:00 AM, checking up on IDN Media was his very first agenda to do. After getting back from work at 07:00 PM, Winston would continue to work for IDN Media until 02:00 AM. He regularly slept for less than 4 hours. It was just once a week that he could sleep for 6–7 hours long.

“That routine happened for 1 year, 3 months. I didn’t get enough capital, so I needed to work myself off and give my best performance in Google. That way, I could keep my own company alive,” Winston explained.

Not only that, every 2 weeks, Winston also had to go back to Surabaya to meet the team and hold meetings on weekends. He said, “I took the last flight from Singapore to Surabaya. It was China Airlines. I departed on Friday at 11:00 PM and arrived in Surabaya at midnight.”

On Saturdays and Sundays, he would be in the office all day, while on Mondays at 06:00 AM, Winston would fly back to Singapore and work at Google for the next five weekdays.

3. A meeting that changed the fate of IDN Media

Winston Utomo (the CEO of IDN Media, left) and William Utomo (the COO of IDN Media, right)

Obstacles and challenges were always there since day one, as Winston admitted. Not to mention, he couldn’t fully dedicate his time to IDN Media yet because of the shoestring budget he needed to work on. The fear of failure was certainly inevitable because everything still felt so unsure.

Until finally, in 2015, William Utomo met Willson Cuaca from East Ventures. Within hours, William successfully assured Willson and so he decided to give IDN Media the first seed round funding. With this milestone, Winston encouraged himself to go back to Surabaya, leave Google and Singapore, for the sake of his dream: IDN Media.

4. A dream and hope for a better Indonesia

IDN Media HQ

Leaving Google Singapore was hard for Winston, but how would we know if we didn’t even try?

Winston stated, “For me personally, humans are born to make this world even better than before. I assured myself that by building up IDN Media, the impact I could give to society would be more significant and meaningful. IDN Media was never about my dream, the team’s dream, or just some people’s dream. It was actually the dream of the younger generations — those who wanted Indonesia to be a better country, one in which we could live peacefully. It was why, I believed, .”

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