Indonesian Minister of Trade Thomas Lembong Visits the Freelancer HQ

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The Indonesian Minister of Trade Thomas Lembong visited the Headquarters (HQ) in Sydney on March 15, 2016. With his delegation, Mr. Lembong discussed emerging business and technology matters with CEO Matt Barrie and Senior VP of Growth, and fellow Indonesian, Willix Halim.

The 35-person delegation were warmly received at the offices in Sydney, where 110 of our staff are based, and eight of which are of Indonesian origin including Willix Halim. The Freelancer office was actually the only company visited by the Minister during his visit to Australia. The group was welcomed by CEO Matt Barrie, Senior VP of Growth Willix Halim, and Deputy CFO Christopher Koch.

ycijh1norb.jpg CEO Matt Barrie and the Indonesian Trade Minister Thomas Lembong had a discussion at Freelancer HQ in Sydney, Australia; accompanied by Freelancer’s Senior VP of Growth Willix Halim (red shirt), one of the many Indonesians working at Freelancer


Freelancer CEO Matt Barrie with delegates from the Indonesia Ministry of Trade

Barrie and Halim spent some time with Minister Lembong discussing the marketplace, which has 1 million users from Indonesia and over 18 million users globally, . has been changing millions of lives worldwide by providing people with jobs in over 900 different categories of work.

Key Points from the Visit

Minister Lembong shared Indonesia's recently published e-commerce roadmap, which is based on two principles:

  • Light-touch regulation to enable entrepreneurs to develop innovative new businesses and business models without being strangled with bureaucracy.

  • Safe harbour to allow entrepreneurs to be able to try new things without having their innovative startup fail and potentially be sent to jail for breaking what may be antiquated laws.

Minister Lembong said that, under President Jokowi, he has been very impressed and has never seen bureaucracy move at such speed, “breaking taboos” and getting things done. He remarked that President Jokowi “likes to tell it like it is” and “that’s breaking the biggest taboo of all”.

Minister Lembong further stated that he plans to make investment in Indonesia leaner, faster and friendlier. He mentioned some things that this might include, namely:

  • To soon allow Australian universities to establish campuses in Indonesia, which is currently prohibited. He estimated that currently $3-6 billion is spent by Indonesians on education in Australia. This would be a tremendous opportunity for the two countries to work together, and a tremendous opportunity for Australian universities.

  • This would be particularly important in the field of vocational training because President Jokowi plans to build “ten Balis”, and Indonesia will require skilled labour in many areas where supply is short.

  • To potentially look at reducing startup capital costs and time for foreign companies to establish themselves in Indonesia. Currently, a PMA company, which allows 100% foreign ownership, requires $10 billion rupiah (about $US1.2 million) of paid in capital to be established.

Freelancer CEO Matt Barrie and Minister Lembong talked about the large number of technology initiatives made by the Indonesian government under the leadership of Indonesian President Jokowi, which included:

  • Country-wide hackathons – One such event was the Hackathon Merdeka ( by, where all Indonesian government ministers were required to support participants in developing solutions for the country’s most pressing problems such as corruption.

  • The Labor Presiden initiative – This crowdsources issues for the President to address and enables people from all over Indonesia to file a report about problems, have them voted up and down by the community, and have them submitted to and addressed by the president.

Mr. Barrie first heard of these initiatives during his on-stage interview with Ainun Najib, Founder of Code4Nation, during SydStart conference in 2015. This inspired him to reach out to the Australian Prime Minister's office to suggest country-wide hackathons for Australia. In the 2015 Hackathon Merdeka 2.0, hosted the "28th Indonesian City" at the Freelancer headquarters where Indonesians living in Australia were invited to participate.

During the visit, Minister Lembong also made a range of observations on technology businesses and innovation in government, highlighting the significant increase of Indonesian key ministers with significant private sector experience.

Similar to the ‘growth sprints’ used in technology companies such as, the Indonesian government has worked through 10 separate policy packages since taking the office, including a legal framework for securitisation and labour market reform. The focus of these has been on impact and pace of change.


Indonesian Trade Minister Thomas Lembong and Freelancer Senior VP of Growth Willix Halim

Up Next

The Jakarta office is now in the works, and will be hiring local support, engineering, and data science teams. Our country manager for Indonesia has already been running a small office there and will be expanding it in 2016.

The SydStart/StartCon conference in 2015, the largest start-up and growth conference in Australia, run by, featured three keynote speakers from Indonesia: Achmad Zaky from (largest consumer to consumer marketplace in Indonesia), Ainun Najib from kawalpemilu and Diajeng Lestari from Matt Barrie and Willix Halim are looking to bring a delegation of Indonesian technology and growth stars to both speak and attend the conference this year, held in November at Sydney's Royal Randwick Racecourse.

About Mr. Lembong

Mr. Lembong was appointed as the Minister of Trade of The Republic of Indonesia in August 2015. Prior to his appointment, he served as a Managing Partner and CEO of Quvat Management, a Singapore-based private equity fund with investments in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Before co-founding Quvat, Mr. Lembong had extensive experience in the financial sector, working for Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley, among other companies and the public sector.

Posted 17 March, 2016

flJulls Staff

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