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  • Writer's pictureJae

BLOCK71 Jakarta x Refuel: Progate, a Japanese edtech startup venturing into Indonesia

This week, Refuel is bringing you the story of Norman, country manager of Progate Indonesia, which is based in BLOCK71 Jakarta. Read on to learn more about how Progate aims to disrupt the edutech scene in Indonesia!


MNCs vs. Startups

Before his role as country manager at Progate Indonesia, Norman had stints in both MNCs and the oil and gas industry. After which, he decided to start his own startup with a few of his college buddies, and the rest is history. Moving from an MNC to a startup is one of Norman's proudest moments, and from then on, he has not strayed away from the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

I think anyone who has the guts to move away from something very comfortable should be very proud.

To Norman, purpose, passion and motivation is extremely important, especially when determining your career trajectory. Despite his work at MNCs being interesting, he identified pain points in the education system in Indonesia that he wanted to solve, and found that the mission and vision behind Progate fuelled his passion.

Our passion is the thing that keeps us motivated no matter how much work we have to do. It also gives us that compass, because it helps us to prioritise and guide our decisions.

A Passion for Edutech

After the exit of his first startup, Norman went on to start an edutech startup. From his studies abroad, he realised that the talent gap is huge in Indonesia, especially when taking into consideration what the country needed and the resources and population it has. When the opportunity to expand Progate to Indonesia arose, Norman could not pass up the chance.

It was a good timing and a great product. Indonesia is the right country to start an online learning coding platform.

Indonesians are very lucky because there are many edutech platforms out there, to fit everyone's needs, budgets and time. However, Progate stands out with its user-friendly and hurdle-free platform, which allows users to experience the fun side of programming. The platform also introduces gamification, allowing users to collect points and level up, lowering the barriers to entry for students especially.

The startup just launched in Indonesia two weeks ago, but already managed to get 2,500 signups in a matter of days. It has also managed to secure a deal with Indonesia's Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as one of their official partners.

For Startups Venturing into Indonesia

When considering expanding your startup's operations into Indonesia, who better to take advice from than a seasoned Indonesian startup founder? The Indonesian market is huge and everyone wants a part of it. Hence, Norman advocates being aggressive. However, being aggressive does not mean blowing off all your competitors. It is important to find a good balance, and sometimes even work with competitors instead of going head to head with them.

We do have a lot of indirect competitors. I approached all of them and tried to form some relationship and even collaborate with them because education is just such a big industry to tackle with just one company alone.

Next, local know-how is extremely important, and is applicable to any company that aims to venture overseas. So, having a local team is extremely important, especially people who know the country's language, culture, and how business is done. Having team members that have large networks and connections is also a great plus point, as it smoothens out the business development process. Norman recommends working with someone who is already well known and has a positive reputation, because they are by default a media magnet.

Facebook's motto when it just started out - Move Fast, BreakThings - is very much applicable in startups. Especially in the highly competitive Indonesian market - release your product as fast as possible, and you can always carry out iterations just as quickly.

Release fast, iterate fast, learn from users and respond fast.

Aiming to learn a new skills whilst you work from home? Progate has 15 programming languages on its platform, and is constantly being updated with more lessons!


Learning more about entrepreneurship, innovation or just curious about how startups make money? Find out more about Progate's business model, and check out a SWOT Analysis on the company here!


Refuel was founded to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs through the stories of startup founders. We aim to build a global community of entrepreneurs and innovators, and hustle on together.

We hope you liked the story! If you have any requests for startups to feature, questions on entrepreneurship, or just simply want to chat, feel free to drop us a line at, on Facebook or Instagram!

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