Why to quit a successful business

Posted     Location: Ubud, Bali, Indonesia  | 

Ubud, Bali, 6 PM, 26 degrees Celsius. The windows are wide open on the first floor of the co-working space to let the breeze flow into the room full of guests waiting for Michealangelo Moran, the co-founder of GO-JEK, to tell his adventures of being a startup giant.

GO-JEK is a leading mobile tech company that provides transport, courier, shopping, food delivery, and other services in 14 cities across South Asia. Along with his high-school friend, Nadiem Makarim, Mike co-founded GO-JEK in Jakarta, Indonesia, where he was the brand director until his resignation in 2016.

During the event he talked about the six years spent in the company that has one of the biggest business success stories in the startup world. It was amazing to learn how such a small company with six enthusiastic young employees in a completely run-down apartment in Jakarta scaled up so fast and realized an incredible growth in just six months. And what is a great success for a company it can be the cause of unhappiness for the ones working in it. The sudden growth of the company meant a full dedication to the work, which in the case of Mike resulted in him burning out after a while. This brought him to the decision to leave the company. 

Hearing this, my eyes lit up, and not because he had to quit, but simply because he was able to do that, to leave the company that he started from it’s the very beginning. After the presentation, I approached Mike to ask him more about his decision.

Was GO-JEK your passion?

I can’t exactly say it was my passion. I thought the idea was brilliant and if I make a positive impact on my country in any way, I’d do it. That’s why I signed up to do it; to give back. Every single one of my businesses has always been about helping people. 

I heard you are also a DJ. What can you tell us about that?

Music has always been a major part of my life. 

After GO-JEK I created Bali Praia with my business partner, Fadi Alturk, who is also a DJ. My intention was to make a significant impact on the Bali community with a business model that’s truly unique. We are nurturing both local and international talents and providing them with a creative hub to create music, share music, talk about music, and network with other likeminded individuals from all over the world.  If you look at the business, you’d think it’s a great concept, but during the first eight months of operation it wasn’t making any money yet. Sometimes we have profit, sometimes not, but what preoccupies me is how could I create a bigger impact from this space I created. Perhaps an online music, music conferences, or a music academy?

Do you feel more fulfilled doing the Bali Praia? 

I would say so. It hasn’t been easy for me to quit GO-JEK. The unhappiness came because it was scaling so fast and it was growing so fast that I ended up burning out. I think I started to become unhappy when I couldn’t handle the work-life balance anymore. Finding the balance in your private life while putting your very best into the business is a difficult task. That is the part that is unenjoyable. 

Bali Praia is music and it is passion, and I’m trying to create an impact with that. So yes, there is great happiness on that front.

Interviewing Michaelangelo Moran

Huge cultural differences can be observed between Asian cultures and the Western world. We are standing here barefoot, talking to each other at an event in a work space where you are the star of the evening. This is unimaginable in a Western country, but Bali has this tradition of leaving shoes outside the house. 

What about success? Here in Indonesia, what do you consider to be success?

If you can make an impact on just one person, in the end it’s what feeds you, your own feeling of self-achievement. Right? So with whatever you do, there is an uncontrollable happiness. Like me, right now, I get messages of people thanking me for their successes. It is very fulfilling that we are creating such amazing stories for them.

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