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Shailendra first met Tokopedia, an Indonesian C2C marketplace, when he was in Jakarta for another business meeting. A serendipitous encounter led to Sequoia considering the investment. But the company was hit by a serious technical problem soon after the term sheet.

William and Shailendra talk about this nerve-wracking time and how a community of people jumped in to work together and solve a tough challenge.

William Tanuwijaya
Tokopedia

The crisis broke out on April 9, 2015, around 8 am. Suddenly, due to some issue with our image storage servers that run on Gluster, 90% of the images on Tokopedia were not visible to our users. We battled the issue for close to 16 hours, and then I reached out to Shailendra.

Shailendra Singh
Sequoia

When I first saw the SOS from William on Whatsapp, Roy (Director of Technology at Sequoia India) had just left Jakarta and was on his way to meet another portfolio company in Taipei. I had no way of reaching him. It was not a trivial problem - 19 million images had been corrupted! They were several hours into the problem by the time William contacted me. Their technical team believed that recovery could take a week or two.

William Tanuwijaya

The team was working so hard to find a solution. They researched all possible online sources but were unable to uncover any clues or make real progress. For a marketplace like Tokopedia, trust and credibility are very important things. Any downtime that makes the site or its images inaccessible to users really damages this credibility. It was a major crisis for us.

Shailendra Singh

For obvious reasons, William was very worried about the fallout from this and the impact on their consumers and sellers. That night, we swung into action and started making phone calls. Over the next several hours, we contacted the guys who created Gluster – the co-founder and the chief architect, who graciously agreed to help troubleshoot. We got in touch with Red Hat (Gluster was sold to Redhat a few years earlier) and we connected with Ben Golub who was previously the CEO at Gluster and now the CEO of Docker, a current Sequoia portfolio company. We also got on the line with Idea Device, one of our portfolio companies in the infrastructure space that has world-class systems-level expertise. The next day, we started to fly people out to Jakarta to start active troubleshooting.

William Tanuwijaya

Shailendra quickly analyzed the situation and the technology we were using. Based on that, he started reaching out to people in the Sequoia network who could help us zero in on the root cause of the problem and fix all the related issues.

Shailendra Singh

The site was down for two to three days as multiple teams worked on recovering it. They eventually succeeded. The end result was a better performing Gluster, hacked together using some of the core components of the original. It was a non-trivial engineering accomplishment.

William Tanuwijaya

In a sense, the crisis drew us closer. During the course of those stressful hours, we got to know the Sequoia team better. It definitely boosted our confidence and comfort in the relationship. We have worked closely since then with the teams across marketing, legal, HR and technology to identify weak links and build an enduring company. For starters, we were able to hire a world class VP of Engineering soon after the crisis.

Shailendra Singh

William has been kind enough to say that the crisis may not have been resolved so quickly without our help. But honestly, I’m glad that they asked us and gave us the chance to help.

William Tanuwijaya

I'm very grateful that I not only have Shailendra on my board, but that I also have a friend, mentor, partner, and co-founder figure in him. Others like Yinglan and Pieter have been so passionate about the company, always ready to help. They have all become family.


This crisis also brought me really close to my internal team - people who worked relentlessly, without a break, to get us up and running for our customers. Those moments made me realize that I'm surrounded by this amazingly sincere and dedicated group of people - and that together we have the potential to build a truly enduring company with a purpose.

Tokopedia
Tokopedia is an online marketplace for individuals and small and midsize business owners in Indonesia.
Milestones
  • Founded 2009
  • Partnered 2014
Founders
  • William Tanuwijaya
  • Leontinus Alpha Edison
Investment Advisor