She’s an experienced entrepreneur and investor, and now, the latest Integra Partners’ Win With Women Venture Partner out of Indonesia.
We spoke to Cynthia to get a better understanding of her interest and aspirations as an angel investor and startup mentor. We look forward to working together to promote female participation in angel investing, venture capital and technology start-ups.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your ambitions for the Win With Women program.
I grew up in local schools in Jakarta, studied in Los Angeles, and began my career in public policy and consulting in Geneva, Switzerland before my entrepreneurial drive led me to the burgeoning startup ecosystem of New York in 2012.
As a startup operator then founder, I built a community of female founders and mentors and was named in the Forbes 30 Under 30. We grew together as female founders, there was a growing number of female mentors, and my peers in VC were so generous with their knowledge and network. In my 5 years in New York as a startup operator then founder, I experienced what a strong ecosystem can do for a newcomer with nothing but some smarts and a lot of hustle.
With the Win With Women program, my goal is to help more women become investment-ready and make my own personal investments in Indonesian startups with female founders.
What are your insights on the Indonesian market so far? How can we increase female participation in startups and venture capital?
There’s no shortage of talented women in Indonesia. I think the question the industry needs to ask is, how can we make building VC-backable businesses clear and compelling for the most skilled and ambitious women? What are some misconceptions, and why might they rather be doing something else?
I also find that female founders everywhere tend to be more concerned about mission dilution and loss of control. We need to talk about which of these concerns are real vs. perceived in venture capital. On one hand, the nature of venture capital is that investors expect rapid growth and an eventual exit – the sale of the company, an M&A, or an IPO. On the other hand, I find that there isn’t as much investor meddling in the day-to-day or even general direction or mission of the company as founders might think.
These are the insights that will help talented female founders decide if they want to build a venture-backable company, and bring more of these talented women into the fold.
What industries are you most excited about in Indonesia and why?
I want to explore three themes with my investments:
1) how we keep the lights on: energy, power, and mobility-related tech companies
2) how we eat and stay healthy: agtech, foodtech, and healthcare companies and
3) how we consume and leisure sustainably: consumer, circular economy, and community/hospitality enabling companies
These are “bread and butter” issues in an era of resource constraint, and I think ambitious, venture-backed startups will be the ones to solve them.
What are your insights from having been both a founder and in venture capital?
I know what it’s like to be deep in the trenches as an operator, but having worked at a large European VC fund, I also understand pressures that a fund has to deliver returns. I’m looking forward to bridging that gap by helping founders understand the blueprint for building a VC-backed business.
What ”thinking big” looks like is not just a mindset, it can be very tactical, like understanding what inorganic growth and tackling adjacent markets looks like. Fundraising and attracting senior talent are also things that I find may not come naturally to great founders, and these are functions I’ve been able to see up close from the venture capital side.
What do you enjoy most about working with founders as an investor?
What I love most about working with founders is getting to see a distinct problem and thoughtful solution so clearly from the perspectives of those on the front lines.
I often use the metaphor of the little yellow person on Google Maps – as an investor, your job is to employ a sense of enquiry, humility, and active listening to understand something completely new in incredible detail.
I also think it’s a huge privilege to be taken on that journey by people who share their life’s work with you.