Skip to content

Love What You Do. Just Don’t Forget Your Revenue Model.

March 9, 2009

In college, we learned about social entrepreneurs, the people like crazy Bill Drayton of Ashoka, who are transforming the nonprofit landscape by infusing their projects with a decidedly entrepreneurial flair. Most were nonprofits, very few were primarily businesses that, secondarily, happened to be in the business of ‘helping people.’

Sutanto Widjaja knew he wanted to stay in business, but also recognized that he’d never stick it out unless it had personal significance to him.

“I believe my idea will change something or do good.”

To Sutanto, this meant either healthcare or education. His first startup, Sutro Biopharma, launched technology to reduce the manufacturing costs in the biopharmaceutical industry. Sutanto’s idea was that inefficient processes, coupled with outrageously rising healthcare costs, comprised a challenge that had to have a solution. After four years of draining his own pockets – a true show of commitment and great way to attract smart, but poor, partners – Sutro Biopharma recently received $25 million in venture funding.

Ok, now what’s next?

Coming from a traditional, education-loving Asian family (like me!), Sutanto knew he’d want his next venture to have something to do with education.

Get Accepted
“I was raised to value education very highly. If you’re willing to try hard, and get a good education, then they’re are plenty of doors that will swing wide open for you. That’s the idea behind”

For Sutanto, the considerable intellectual challenge and moneymaking potential of a good start-up still weren’t enough.

“I want to be engaged for a long time. I want to wake up every morning knowing that I’m spending my time fruitfully and productively.”

He has a point. If you’re not personally into it, you’ll never live through the valleys.

Money, Money, Money

Now that we’re done feeling good, let’s all recall that it can’t be all valleys. There are many sexy, high-profile companies in the media every day, burning cash and still trying to figure out their revenue model. Like the really pretty party people in high school, they may be hot enough to marry rich and do OK, but, just in case, they should still go to college, get some kind of career going, and figure out their own, independent revenue model.

Sutro Biopharma sells technology to the pharmaceuticals industry. charges users for access to expert-level content on college preparation and admissions.

Be Random

Does my eclectic background hurt my career, as my traditional, worrying Chinese mother constantly informs me? Depends on the career.

I’ve never been cut out to be a company lifer, or a surgeon, or a corporate attorney (though, after hearing about those swanky interships, I wished very hard).

Luckily, entrepreneurship of any kind – including blogging – values a random, wandering background that pushes you to tie lots of different things together.

Sutanto’s background includes semi-conductors, wine, a dotcom, biopharmaceuticals, college counseling, hedge fund management, financial consulting, electrical engineering, computer science, and VC work. Impressive, but random, and just exactly the kind of role model wandering, pondering people like me need.

If you ask him, that’s exactly the right cast of characters to turn a life into an epic.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: