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Go-Jek CEO resigns to join Indonesian government

Nadiem Makarim set to assume new digital economy post in Jokowi cabinet

Nadiem Makarim co-founded his company in 2010, before the technology existed that has since helped to make Go-Jek into a Southeast Asian super app. (Photo by Kosaku Mimura)

JAKARTA -- Nadiem Makarim, founder and CEO of Indonesia's most successful internet startup Go-Jek, has resigned from his position at the superapp company to join President Joko Widodo's new cabinet.

The appointment of a tech entrepreneur to a cabinet position is a highly unusual move but follows Widodo's pledge to leverage the archipelago's digital startups to boost the country's economy. The president, who was sworn in for a second five year term on Sunday, has also said that he wants to include professionals and millennials in his government.

"I have the extraordinary honor to be able to join his cabinet," Makarim told local media after meeting the president on Monday. "My mission at Go-Jek was always to show Indonesia on the world stage. So this is a continuation of that mission, but now for the country on a larger scale."

Makarim, 35, declined to reveal his new position, but local media have linked him to a post in a new Digital Economy ministry or in education.

Makarim, who comes from a prominent Indonesian family, founded Go-Jek in 2010. Backed by investors such as Google, Tencent and U.S. private equity firm KKR, it soon became Indonesia's first unicorn -- a private company worth more than $1 billion.

Taking Makarim's place at Gojek will be Andre Soelistyo, Go-jek Group President, and Kevin Aluwi, Gojek co-founder, who will "share responsibility for leading the company through its next stage of growth as co-CEOs," a company spokesperson said.

"We have planned for this possibility and there will be no disruption to our business. We will make an announcement on what this news means for Go-jek within the next few days," he added.

Makarim's move into government marks a new twist in Go-Jek's long-running battle with Singapore-based rival Grab to become Southeast Asia's dominant "superapp" -- an application that meets a multitude of everyday personal needs.

Grab was founded by Anthony Tan, Makarim's former classmate at Harvard Business School, and the two companies' rivalry has always had an element of personal competition between Makarim and Tan.

Go-Jek began as a call centre for bike taxis called "ojek" in Indonesia. But an app it launched in 2015 that was primarily focused on ride hailing, quickly caught on and it now offers a range of services from payments, to food deliveries and even on-demand massages.

The company is now valued at as much as $10 billion according to CB Insights, making it one of Southeast Asia's few decacorns as well as an emblem of Indonesian entrepreneurial success.

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