Group Head of Legal & Compliance, GO-JEKA&O: 2010-2016
After studying law in Jakarta and completing his LLM at New York University, Nathaniel began his career at Baker McKenzie Jakarta before joining A&O as a senior associate in 2010. Two years later he was seconded to the Singapore office for a year before returning to Indonesia. He joined GO-JEK as Group Head of Legal & Compliance in 2016.
Nathaniel Mangunsong appears to like start-up situations.
He was one of the first lawyers to join Ginting & Reksodiputro, A&O’s associated office in Jakarta, and now, as group head of Legal and Compliance at GO-JEK, the ride-share and lifestyle app, he’s in the thick of things at one of Indonesia’s most explosively growing tech start-ups.
He recalls that when he joined the Jakarta office in 2010, the general telephone number for the office was 1700. “My extension was 1706 – so I was the fifth lawyer other than founding partner Daniel Ginting to join the firm,” he says with a laugh.
Nathaniel stayed with the firm as a senior associate until 2016, on the way completing a year’s secondment in 2012-13 at our Singapore office.
A&O still operates as lead external counsel to GO-JEK, so in his new role, he finds many welcome connections with old friends and colleagues.
“Even when dealing with counterparties, familiar faces dating back to my A&O days regularly pop up,” he continues. “It’s a small world when you have all those friends working around you.”
However, there is nothing small about GO-JEK. In Southeast Asia’s burgeoning tech market, the company – which started operating from a small apartment in Jakarta in 2010 – has grown at an extraordinary pace.
By August 2017, its app had been downloaded some 50 million times. The company now serves 50 major cities across Indonesia compared with just ten when Nathaniel joined in April 2016.
A fundraising round in 2016 attracted a range of international investors including the private equity (PE) giants KKR and Warburg Pincus. It saw GO-JEK valued at more than USD1 billion to become Indonesia’s first so-called ‘unicorn’ company. Analysts say its value continued to soar this year – an extraordinary trajectory for such a young business.
The company’s offering evolved at an equally impressive pace as it gradually added new services to the original business, which was a ride-sharing app using motorcycles to cut through Jakarta’s notoriously congested streets. GO-JEK is a play on ojek, the Indonesia word for a two-wheeled taxi.
Now it has a range of other value-added services, including four-wheeled taxis, food delivery and discovery, the dispatch of medical supplies, mobile massage and beauty therapies and one of Indonesia’s first mobile phone banking operations.
The company’s website lists a range of neatly branded businesses, including GO-AUTO, GO-MASSAGE, GO-CLEAN, GO-GLAM and GO-PAY, the online payments service – evidence of a top-speed corporate journey from a ride-share to a lifestyle business. And there’s no sign of that journey slowing down.
It’s a good example of how homegrown tech businesses in Indonesia, and across Southeast Asia, have taken ideas and solutions from other markets and adapted them to meet local needs, rapidly growing to scale in the process.
Nathaniel’s own journey to GO-JEK was also, in his words, an “interesting” ride. Approached in January 2016 by a headhunter looking to fill a new head of legal role at the company, he took time to consider the offer.
“I was reviewing my career options and thinking about how I would like to move forward in A&O or other firms,” he says. “I knew Andre Soelistyo, the GO-JEK president, as he was an A&O client. But GO-JEK wasn’t as big as it is now, so I told the headhunter that I needed to think this through.”
Although Andre was not at first keen to recruit a head of legal from the company’s lead counsel, the two men met and soon realised it was a good fit. “In the end, the A&O connection meant that the transition was smooth,” says Nathaniel.
“With me here at GO-JEK, the relationship with A&O runs well because I know the Jakarta team, I’ve worked closely with the Singapore office and with the teams in Sydney and Beijing. So it’s a strong relationship,” he says.
Since taking up his post at GO-JEK, he has expanded the legal team from just two to 13, adding a new compliance function which reflects the regulatory and technical complexity of operating an advanced tech company in a market which is still developing its legal and regulatory framework.
“We won’t stop there,” he says. “As we take up new opportunities and add new products, we’ll need to continue to grow the legal side. As we do, we’ll continue to concentrate on operating efficiently and developing the team’s legal expertise and business skills in these still relatively new areas of commerce.”
Nathaniel says the expansion has not always been smooth or without controversy.
One of the company’s most important jobs is managing ‘the impact of disruption’ – in other words, to introduce transformative technologies into the market smoothly, carrying existing businesses and wider society with it.
“It’s always a challenge, but the company has a clear aim,” says Nathaniel.
“As a company we are not about winners and losers,” he continues. “We’re trying to be a truly inclusive business and to convince other service providers that by working together we can use technology to spread benefits across society. That’s quite a powerful vision.”
One of the best examples of this vision in action is GO-JEK’s role in extending financial services through its GO-PAY online payment service in a market where the majority of people remain ‘unbanked’.
Many of the people who download the app have no access to normal banking services: no conventional bank account and no credit or debit cards. GO-PAY offers them their first chance to transfer credit seamlessly, bringing them into the banking arena for the first time.
The Indonesian government has a policy objective of increasing financial inclusion, yet banking regulation is built around traditional banking services rather than the possibilities offered by new technologies of the sort GO-JEK is deploying.
Regulation needs time to catch up. Given that, it’s important that GO-JEK is being given the opportunity to ‘sandbox’ its ideas and to test out the regulatory system for its services. Such tests will ensure that extending financial services to a new generation of customers through an online platform is done safely and securely.
Nathaniel is acting as a champion in this area of GO-JEK’s business, regularly liaising with regulators and other players in the market to help shape future regulation.
“For regulators and policymakers, this offers hope that they can create financial inclusion in a more profound way,” he explains.
So where does a company that has made such giant strides in its domestic market go next?
Nathaniel is clear that GO-JEK will look for new areas where it can add value. There is still so much more to be done in Indonesia, with a population of nearly 260 million people and an economy that many predict will become one of the world’s biggest, alongside China, the U.S. and India, in the next 10 to 20 years.
“Indonesia is still such an untapped market,” he says. “We have so many smaller cities and island communities that we can address. With the development of infrastructure in these places, there’s a real opportunity for us.”
That’s an exciting prospect for Nathaniel in terms of his own career path. Working for GO-JEK is challenging him to develop new skills, both legal and entrepreneurial. He credits his time at A&O for the grounding that has allowed him to take advantage of new opportunities.
“I’m grateful to the firm for giving me the opportunity to develop my skills across a broad range of disciplines, to experience different practice areas, work in different offices, to train and to build leadership skills,” he continues.
His role at GO-JEK means that he is being called on to innovate in the legal sphere much as the company is innovating in the tech arena in an extraordinary market, and that’s exciting.
“Now I’m at the forefront of not only advising but also of implementing and executing,” he says.
“It’s not always easy, but I think my time at A&O shaped who I am and that means I feel ready and equipped to be part of something great.”
“Working together we can use technology to spread benefits across society.”
Reconnect with Nathaniel Mangunsong via the Alumni Network at allenovery.com/alumni