“I saw a need and was trying to fill it,” Christmas said, lighting up cigarette at an outdoor cafe. “I was also genuinely interested in digital publishing.”
“A lot of the newcomers in digital media seem to be attracted by the hype, they see how fast things are growing and want to jump in,” he said. “You’ve seen that especially in the last year, year and a half.”
These days, Christmas is thinking more seriously about ways to make money _ one of the biggest challenges he and others face, because with only 3 percent of the population holding a credit card, there is almost no e-commerce.
There’s also little in the way of adverting dollars.
Pulling an iPad from his bag, Christmas shows one of his latest projects, interactive books, starting with Indonesian classical pianist Ananda Sukarlan.
His newest company, Enervolution, is a registered Apple developer, and will allow users to browse content for free and then pay for and download Sukarlan’s music with the help of an iTunes app.
He’s hoping, in this way, to tap into a premium market.
At this early stage, there have only been a few big success stories, most notably the forum and classifieds portal Kaskus, which got a $100 million commitment from a local investor, and the location-based social network Koprol that Yahoo! recently acquired.
But plenty of others are gaining traction, thanks in large part to high penetration of BlackBerry, iPhone and other smartphones _ some of them knockoffs _ which have allowed Indonesians, despite poor infrastructure, to shoot straight into cyber space.
The idea _ as in the early days of Silicon Valley _ is to build-first, find ways to capitalize later.
It may seem risky, but even Google CEO Eric Schmidt thinks the opportunities are huge.
Joining him at a conference celebrating local entrepreneurship on the resort island of Bali late last month were a small group of investors and venture capitalists interested in encouraging tech-hungry youths and also seeing what opportunities might exist for them.
They looked at an online soccer simulation game, Football Saga, where members train their players, join teams and compete with other clubs set up by their friends. They also were interested in a payment gateway for music, e-commerce and other digital content and a Web-based karaoke site.
“You have 180 million cell phones, but did you know that you have only about 18 percent Internet penetration?” said Schmidt. “You’re going to have an Internet explosion.”