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A Tech Startup Born and Made in Bali

Mailbird is perhaps the clearest proof yet that Bali is home to more than lifestyle businesses.

A desktop e-mail client for your Windows PC, Mailbird is a tech business born and made in Bali. But its customers, like its employees, are scattered across the world.

With offices in Bali, Bandung and Copenhagen, and employees in the US, Canada, Europe and Indonesia, Mailbird is a global company that is scaling fast. After launching three and a half years ago, it recently celebrated its one millionth customer. And it’s now increasingly being paid a visit by investors looking to get a slice of exposure to one of Bali’s earliest tech startups.

Mailbird’s CEO Andrea Loubier says Bali used to be a drawback where investors were concerned, but she thinks that’s changing very fast.

“Previously when I was fundraising it was hard to get investors to take us seriously when they’d hear we were based in Bali” she explains.

“The interpretation of a startup in Bali has been they are just entrepreneurs who want to live on a fancy island and relax. This is not attractive to investors who want to invest in people building gigantic businesses that are going to scale and go global.”

“But now investors are increasingly coming to Bali. And we recently launched Bali Startupers, a group to connect startups across the island, to help stimulate the community so I think you’re going to see this more and more.”

Improvements to infrastructure are also helping. “Now we have fiber optic lines, when we started it was pre-fiber optic.”

Her two other founders – both Danish, and both called Michael, include Michael Bodekaer, who founded co-living and coworking space Livit and Project Getaway, a retreat for entrepreneurs.

Andrea thinks a large of Mailbird’s success is down to the collaborative environment provided by Livit, which is located in a quiet enclave of Batu Bulan, far removed from the glamorous hotels of Seminyak.

Livit consists of 10 villas and a communal kitchen complete with staff. Guests are cooked and cleaned for and there are no chores to do. Only work.

“Cost of living is much more affordable here and you’re far from the tourist areas, so you just work on building the business. It’s great if you’re working on a business you’re passionate about it. And you don’t have to think about what you’re going to eat.”

“I’m very productive. I am completely free of distractions here,” she explains.

Livit houses between 30-40 people who work on a diverse range of tech startups from virtual reality to publishing. It also provides support to the startups in residence in terms of recruitment and legal.

“There are lots of resources. You can get help with your business plan, or help hiring a development team, you can learn how to adjust your structures and systems. They built their team around specialists so there’s expertise across all these different areas.”

So how hard is it to attract top talent?

“Bali is a great draw when it comes to talent – even those that don’t relocate to Bali are attracted to the fact they get to travel to Bali a few times a year for work.”

To foster a team environment across continents, Mailbird also runs company-wide hackathons three times a year to gather team members together from across the globe.

As a global company, with the majority of users in the English speaking world, one of the main essentials for any new recruits is being comfortable with remote working.

“Our customers are everywhere, but until recently all our customer support has been done from Bali. But soon we will be handling US customers from San Diego which should make things easier.”

Livit provides lots of support for startups, and Andrea foresees this trend growing fast as Bali is a very attractive destination for small teams working independently.

“The costs are much lower out here and that is probably still the biggest draw. You can just start the way we did: get a villa, bring in a team and start building.”

Post Author
Clare Harrison

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