From 0 to 1M: How an early employee at Indonesia’s first unicorn built a startup to empower blue-collar workers

Written by
Zachary Pestana
Last Modified on
December 19, 2023

Empowering Indonesian blue-collar workers一who have long been at the mercy of outsourcing agencies一is a mission that Sampingan’s CEO and co-founder, Wisnu Nugrahadi, feels strongly about.

The passionate entrepreneur’s journey first started in Gojek’s early days where he helped to launch the lifestyle arm of what soon became Indonesia’s first unicorn. The experience of scaling from thousands to millions of drivers led him to discover that the outsourcing industry needs improvement.

Soon, Wisnu joined the Antler programme in Singapore to begin building his dream. Many entrepreneurs can attest that the initial stages are hardly glamorous一Wisnu’s grind is no exception. However, staying in a hostel throughout his Antler days didn’t deter his vision to building a platform that’ll connect Indonesian workers to equal opportunities.

Today, Sampingan has successfully raised US$5 million in series A funding led by Altara Ventures. The app, once a hopeful idea, is continuing to make a difference to millions of blue collar workers across Indonesia.

Inspired by his relentless drive, we chatted with Wisnu about his take on building a fast-growing startup, how his time at Gojek shaped him as a founder and why adversity makes great leaders.

Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your company.

I’m Wisnu, CEO and co-founder of Sampingan, the one-stop solution for all blue-collar related needs for businesses. Today we are trusted by over 150 companies who are connected to more than one million screened workers across 80 cities in Indonesia, to improve their business efficiency by automating most of the workforce lifecycle journey.

Prior to Sampingan, what were the early days at Gojek like?

It was great一the years went by so quickly. I first joined Gojek in 2015 when there were barely 50 people inside the company to help launch the lifestyle arm and it definitely was a great learning experience to help the company scale from thousands to millions of drivers, merchants, and service providers.

What were some of the biggest takeaways from Gojek that helped you as a founder?

I think that it’s all about having the right team in place at the right stages. While there are key traits that we are always on the lookout for, like making sure that the person is super hungry and driven, and could be trusted to always act in the company’s best interest, we need to understand that not everyone is best suited for certain stages of the company. The importance of having the right mix of generalist vs specialist experienced vs non-experienced, and tactical vs strategic talents could not be stressed upon enough.  

How is Sampingan impacting blue-collar workers in Indonesia?

Our mission from day one is to bring equal access to jobs and opportunities to Indonesian blue-collar workers. The only thing that we can do so is by establishing extreme trust. The trust we established between our customers allows us to provide more jobs to the workers. The technology that we introduce is a means to help scale our effort in building trust for all the stakeholders involved. As we continue to onboard more jobs on the platform, the impact that we can bring towards the blue-collar segment in Indonesia is also wider. However, what we’re currently doing is only scratching the surface. There’s still so much work to be done to really make the impact that we strive to have.

What has been the highlight of your journey to building Sampingan to date?

The journey of building Sampingan itself is already a highlight. Working every day at Sampingan excites me because our work allows us to create an impact for millions of workers by connecting them to job opportunities and all of the customers that trust us in providing the right workforce solutions to help them scale and grow their businesses.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when building Sampingan and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge that I’ve personally faced during the three years in Sampingan is during the early days of the pandemic. The uncertainty impacted a lot of services that we served. Therefore, we needed to respond to the external environment and increase our focus on improving multiple processes to heavily reduce costs. We ran some models, did massive pay cuts as well. The most extremely painful implementation is to let a significant number of people一those who have been with us from the earliest days and have trusted us to take care of them一go.
Sampingan Indoneesia teeam
I’m super proud of how the remaining team members helped in ensuring that the people leaving us are able to get another opportunity out there in the smallest time frame. And thankfully, they all have found their new homes in less than two months since we have parted ways with them.

Any anecdotes from your early days that demonstrate resilience and determination?

Be as honest and transparent as you can to your people. In moments of extreme hardships, it is very important to get everyone in the same boat一you’d be surprised at the level of ownership and brilliant initiatives that will come from your team.

What do you think is the most important investment when growing a company?

People. Having the right group of smart, ambitious, and supportive team members and ensuring that they have all the tools and resources they need to succeed is, for me, the key.

How does Sampingan differentiate itself from its competitors?

Everything that we do revolves around building trust. The technology that we build is leveraged to automate administrative processes so that we can focus on the human aspects of the business一ensuring that our customers trust us in delivering the outcome as expected in time, and ensuring that our workers trust us in providing a stable amount of jobs and earning opportunities with no hidden costs. Focusing on building the right tools and processes to improve the trust that we have established is what makes us different from the rest of the pack.

What does success look like for Sampingan?

Success for us would be measured by the number of workers and customers that use our platform on a daily basis. Our aim is to be the most trusted workforce solution in Indonesia.

What tech solutions or services have helped you in your business so far?

Our business revolves around trust. For the customers, we always ensure that they can count on us to deliver the work promptly with the highest quality. As for the workers, we ensure that we provide them with relevant jobs and pay their salary on time. To do that, we’ve used a number of payment and financing solutions like Aspire.

What are the essential traits of a startup founder?

I think that being reliable and honest allows for a more open and tight working environment. I always think that the traits of a great leader are shown once things are difficult, and if that happens, you’d always want someone you can trust and rely on to help lead the way.

Having gone through the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, do you have tips you would like to share with other entrepreneurs looking to build a product?

Focus on the problem and not the solution. Unless you’re building something in deep tech, you should be able to quickly launch an MVP version of your product by using no-code tools or an off-the-shelf solution. This would save you a lot of time and most importantly, runway. The most important thing for founders in the early stages is to find product-market fit一once that is achieved and you need to scale up, then it makes total sense to invest more in engineering.

Are there any special offers you want to share with the Aspire community? Feel free to mention it here!

If anyone from the Aspire community is looking for a way to scale their workforce efficiently and effectively, please feel free to shoot me an email at

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About the author
Zachary Pestana
is a seasoned writer in market trends and business thought leadership. With a writing history at Incorp Global, MOQdigital, and AIESEC Australia, Zachary leverages his broad range of experiences to stimulate industry conversations and engage audiences.
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