Tessa Wijaya is a woman in the tech industry and is building a unicorn

Tessa Wijaya describes herself as “a unicorn in a unicorn in a unicorn.”

As an Indonesian woman who runs a $ 1 billion financial technology start-up in Southeast Asia, she is a fairly rare breed.

Female leaders in technology are rare. This is especially true for FinTech. 7% of leadership positions.. But Wijaya said he hopes to change that by showing that more women and girls can follow fewer journeys.

“I really want to encourage more women to participate in tech,” said a millennial entrepreneur. CNBC Make It.

$ 1 Billion Female Founder

Wijaya is the co-founder and chief operating officer of. XenditIndonesian fintech platform for processing digital payments for Southeast Asian companies such as, Grab, Wise and Traveloka.

Since its launch in 2015, Xendit has grown rapidly. It currently processes more than $ 65 million worth of transactions worth $ 6.5 billion annually.Reached $ 1 billion “Unicorn” status in September.

It was a big challenge … how can we catch up with these people?

Tessa Wijaya

Co-founder and COO of Xendit

But for Wijaya, success still feels foreign.

“It’s unlikely that someone like me, born and raised in a small town in Indonesia, will be a co-founder of a tech company invested in a billion dollars,” she said.

Find her feet in finance

As a young girl raised in Indonesia, Wijaya said she was “strange” and preferred to play with GI Joe’s action figures over dolls.

But she was also ambitious, inspired by her and her grandmother who raised her cousin while running a small food business.

In his early twenties, Wijaya interviewed an analyst at Jakarta’s new private equity fund. She had no traditional financial experience, but her critical thinking and determination impressed the company and she secured a job. She studied the industry during off-hours to deepen her knowledge.

As an Indonesian woman who leads a billion-dollar financial technology start-up, Tessa Wijaya describes herself as “a unicorn in a unicorn in a unicorn.”


Still, the journey has never been easier.

As one of the few women on the team, Wijaya had a hard time listening. She, like many colleagues, did not have a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She said the general manager of a fund’s company would simply ignore her when she spoke.

“It was a big challenge for me … how can I catch up with these people? I didn’t have an Ivy League degree,” Wijaya said. “I also looked very young. It’s really hard to take it seriously when you look young and you’re a woman.”

Identifying upward trends

Still, she didn’t stop. Wijaya was eager to play a role in the evolving business scene in Southeast Asia.

She worked closely with private equity start-ups and saw the rapid rise of technology in the region in the early 2010s. But she also noticed the lack of links.

“You have ride hailing, you have e-commerce,” Wijaya said. “They have nothing without payment.”

It was a great opportunity to change the behavior of the workplace so that more women could move up.

Tessa Wijaya

Co-founder and COO of Xendit

Fortunately, Wijaya was introduced to a group of students at the University of California, Berkeley. They were working on a similar project through the startup accelerator Y Combinator.

“It was a love of work at a glance,” Wijaya said.

The team soon set out to develop a new payment platform, which later became Xendit.

Encourage more women with FinTech

Tessa Wijaya is a woman in the tech industry and is building a unicorn

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