Measuring success through the currency of positive impactFeatured

Ivana is the CEO and Founder of Venopi, and a front-end focused Javascript lover. A coder at heart and writer during leisure time. In 1987, I was born in a small village called Tulungagung, East Java, Indonesia. I remember vividly that my childhood was fun and active - swimming in the river, play barefoot soccer with friends, eating fresh fruits from the trees, dancing in the rain. Everything was great! Or so I thought, but later on, I realised that my parents were poor. My mom told me that when I was a baby, she couldn't afford to feed me with milk, so she kept feeding me with sweet tea to make sure that I wouldn't go weak. She still blames herself today for my shortness and later on, for my "slow learning". I beg to differ, I don’t think I am that short or that stupid.Fast forward, in 2004, I had this urge to see the world. I don't even understand why this urge was so strong - I blame it on Hollywood. Since I was raised as a Christian, I prayed to God and begged to see one country other than Indonesia. Just one. And I won't ask anything more. My dream was going to Canada because I thought Hollywood was in "CA" hence Canada, but later on, I realise that "CA" is California. Duh. But my parents couldn't afford to send me anywhere. So my only option was to get a scholarship. Problem is, I was a mediocre student. The single good grade I regularly got was physics - everything else was a gamble for me.But the universe listened to my prayers and I successfully got a scholarship to the Netherlands. This is proof that I am not that stupid, but there was still one problem. My parents needed to transfer €8000 for my subsidised tuition and living. Their financial situation was better at that time, but they surely wouldn't afford €8000 for years after. So I made a deal with them, if they could provide me with the first €8000, I will never ask anything more and would take care of the rest. I remember my dad asked me why I wanted to major in music. He said that all of the success stories I heard about people going abroad had less than 1% chance of happening. So I said, why can't I be that 1%?So tired of arguing, they let me go, and I survived 4 years of school, working 7 days per week at 6 different locations with €5 monthly expense for food for years. I even managed to go to California for an internship for six months in 2008, which got expanded for a year because they ended up hiring me. During my time in L.A., I was introduced to coding because I was handling some artists' MySpace pages, so I started playing around with HTML and CSS. One day, an artist asked, "Can you make a website for me?" Desperate for money, I said, "Of course I can!" I couldn't. All I knew was HTML and CSS for MySpace headers, but I thought I will figure it out. So I did, thanks to GitHub (I read a crazy amount of people's code and studied it), and I fell in love with writing code ever since. When I came back to the Netherlands in 2009, it became clear to me that writing code is something that I love doing. So I started looking for a job as a junior developer/designer. Several companies didn't want to hire me because I had no background in programming, but eventually, someone believed in me, and I got my first job as a developer in Amsterdam. I was lucky to be surrounded by so many amazing, talented, and helpful developers throughout my career. I worked at a start-up, medium to large sized companies, and later on, decided to be a freelancer to be able to finance my start-up called Venopi. Starting in July 2019, I decided to focus 100% on Venopi and left my freelance projects behind.Sometimes people asked, why did I choose to burn all of my money for a start-up which might not work? As a freelancer, I could have lived comfortably and even bought a bigger house with a garden.The truth is, when I was 25, I bought my first apartment in Amsterdam. When I was 27, I bought my second apartment in the city centre. Things looked good, but soon after I got depressed. I started to feel empty because I realised that I only made my life better, my impact was mostly affecting me. Not others. I came from poverty and I understand that I am lucky to be where I am today. There are many people out there struggling twice or three times harder than the people with better education and better finances. I dream of contributing to society and the environment, especially to children's education in Indonesia, and I am doing my best to make it a reality. My start-up is a part of my plan to make my dreams come true. It's a big gamble. There’s a chance I will lose everything. But I am determined and persistent. Also, I am a pretty lucky person. I asked the universe to give me a chance to see one country other than Indonesia, and I have been to so many countries that I stopped counting. When I was studying in the Netherlands, I could only afford to rent a small room. Owning anything was beyond my wildest imagination. Yet, I am lucky enough to have two apartments in Amsterdam. I just want to be useful and to create something that would help a massive amount of people. That's why I do what I do, and I hope this post would motivate other people out there to try and do something they think is impossible. Nothing is. You just have to keep on growing. I believe the world would be a better place if we would start measuring “success” through currency other than money and power and instead focus on the positive impact in others’ lives. I don’t think it’s hard; we all have the capability to do it; all we need to do is to start caring.
chichamarisa's profile thumbnail
Hey Ivana, Thank you for sharing a beautiful story. Also, Hello from fellow Indonesian who started from nothing and only had a big dream. I would love to connect with you more, I'm building startups for FinTech donation. I'll send you a PM and hopefully, we can meet in Amsterdam :)
nafisaisa's profile thumbnail
Thanks for this, Ivana! I've been trying to measure my success by my own standards of happiness recently and have been finding ways to apply this to my professional life too. This is random, but I would love to learn more about where you go for inspiration in Amsterdam/the Netherlands? I also come from humble backgrounds and have struggled, but am interested in cultural, social and educational experiences that go beyond the norms of Western or European standards of beauty and creative edification.
Ivanasetiawan's profile thumbnail
Thanks for reading! For me, most of my ideas/inspiration coming from a combination of absorbing tons of information from books/blogs about things that I care about (maybe for you would be meetups with the topics you love, theatre shows, or museums?) and a long walk in nature or silence. It's like a meditative experience for me - the secret is to give myself a space to balance my brain between massive input of information and time to process (for valuable output, hopefully)PS: I am introvert though so I need time for myself. I can imagine extroverts would prefer to discuss their thoughts with like-minded people.Hope it helps! :)
fannysurjana's profile thumbnail
Hi there, fellow Indonesian here! Your story is very inspiring. Best of luck!
Ivanasetiawan's profile thumbnail
Thank you @fannysurjana
zoek's profile thumbnail
Thank you for sharing! Such an amazing and empowering story! Also 100% on the value of the positive impact!