Dubbed the Sparrow for Windows, French born Filipino-American, Andrea Loubier,30, relocated to Bali to launch Mailbird, an email client for Windows, in April 2003, and has gone on to become known as one of the region’s top female tech entrepreneurs. INTERVIEW BY MARISSA CARRUTHERS.
Why did you move to Bali?
Having lived in Jakarta for nine years then relocating to the US with my family, I always wanted to go back to Indonesia to pursue international business. I was introduced to my business partners who had been considering starting up new technology businesses from Bali. So I moved to Bali to start the greatest and most exciting challenge ever, building a kickass email client and productivity hub for people on Windows. Also, Bali isn’t too bad a place to live and build your business with an amazing and inspiring group of people who share the same passions as I do.
What is Mailbird?
Mailbird is an all-in-one communication app that allows you to manage multiple email accounts, such as Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo … from one really sharp and beautifully designed interface. It’s specifically for people on Windows OS given the limitation of alternatives to Outlook. I became involved through my co-founder when I was talking to another company about joining them to take over marketing initiatives. Instead, that position closed and when I talked to my co-founders I was excited to start this new business venture. Something about having nothing and having the freedom to mold and build it into something that millions of people around the world would soon be able to use was so exciting. Knowing I’d be relocating back to Indonesia was great too, because I feel I have strong roots here.
What are the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur?
The pros are that you learn so much in the process, and it’s exciting to discover new ways of doing things whether it be process management, remote working culture, productivity tools or connecting with like-minded entrepreneurs. The cons are the rollercoaster ride you go through. Initially, it’s tough to handle many failures along the journey, but with the right team and a highly persistent mindset, we embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and grow the business faster and at scale. Really you have to love all of it, the good and the bad. You have to love being the motivator and cheerleader for your team when things are tough. The best part is when you overcome big hurdles in the development of your business, you become a much stronger and cohesive team.
What are the challenges you face as a CEO?
I’m publishing a five-part series on ‘The Challenges of Remote Working’ that dives into some challenges. These may be letting people go who did not quite fit; where hiring is probably one of the most important jobs you have as an entrepreneur. These people if they aren’t a good fit, if their priorities are not in line and their passions are elsewhere, can really make or break your business. ere are many challenges, and as an entrepreneur you quickly learn that you have to roll with the punches and constantly embrace learning and be proactive about your next moves; always being one step ahead.
What difficulties did you face launching in Bali?
Slow internet, limited access to journalists and investors, a small startup com- munity, improvised working environment and visa requirements for foreign team members. All of these have been overcome since I started three years ago. Today, we have fibre optic internet, communication platforms make it easier to connect with journalists, tech content sites are initiating more startup to investor relation platforms, opening up accessibility to investors no matter where you are in the world. More co-working and startup communities have emerged so you never feel alone. Visa agents are extremely supportive of new businesses starting in Indonesia that open up the job market for much of the local IT talent. Even new investor networks are starting up. Bali has really transformed itself into one of the destination hot spots for entrepreneurs and it’s awesome.
Do you think Indonesia could be the next tech start-up hub?
With the rapid roll out of co-working spaces, the flexible working culture that entails with globalisation, the realisation that hiring the best people for your company doesn’t need to be restricted to a 100-mile radius, technology is getting faster and better, and Bali has done an amazing job with building that community for entrepreneurs. The environment here stimulates passion, collaboration, creativity and really gets things done without location being a barrier to where you build your business. We are no longer limited to a nine-to-five office anymore. Today, I work from anywhere as long I have my laptop and a WiFi connection or 3G/4G on my phone.
Does being a woman in a male tech start-up world present any problems?
It’s definitely improved since I started. I’d attend a tech conference and people would be very surprised to meet a female founder and CEO of a tech start-up. In the US, it’s totally normal, but in Southeast Asia it’s still very fresh. Today, I don’t see gender being any hindrance. In fact, more entrepreneur events, networks and communities embrace and encourage women to jump into the ring. I believe many foreigners working from Southeast Asia have female role models from Western cultures, and they bring this inspiration to Asia. is continues to be another factor in gender roles that span and diversify through globalisation, awareness and community-driven initiatives to educate and empower more women in Asia to thrive in entrepreneurship. Women have a very distinct voice, and the few Asian female entrepreneurs around today are building an amazing path for the future women executives that will solve the problems for future generations.
What tips do you have for managing emails?
Don’t do it when you’re on the go, set limited times to manage email so you can focus on key priority tasks instead. You’ll feel much better when you can cut yourself off from constantly checking emails. You’ll find yourself being much more productive and effective in your work. We also, of course, recommend people on Windows use Mailbird because it’s a really beautiful, smart email management alternative that compliments this new wave of travelling entrepreneurs where you may have times that an internet connection is not available, but can still access and write emails with offline access using Mailbird.