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Fintech is a game for Indonesia’s Dana

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Photo: Getty

To traditional bankers, Jakarta’s gaming salons might seem unlikely places to launch a hot fintech startup. But for veteran gamer Vincent Iswaratioso, battling virtual bad guys in World of Warcraft has proved the perfect training ground for his universal Dana e-wallet.

The people behind fintech powerhouses – think Japan’s Rakuten Group, Europe’s Revolut and Australia’s Afterpay – typically start off in finance before they become disruptors of the established order.

Hiroshi Mikitani, the founder of e-commerce firm Rakuten, worked for Industrial Bank of Japan before it became Mizuho. Nik Storonsky, who set up fintech firm Revolut, was a derivatives trader at Lehman Brothers before it imploded in 2008. Anthony Eisen, co-founder of payments platform Afterpay, had been a career investment banker. All three had their roots in traditional financial services before they disrupted, or evolved.

And then there’s Indonesian fintech startup Dana, an app-based banking and payments platform with more than 80 million registered users and a backstory that has nothing to do with banking.

Dana has a distinctly millennial heritage as it evolved out of the peculiarly teenage world of online gaming. This unorthodox origin for a modern-day e-wallet-cum-neobank would make perfect sense to anyone who spent time in chaotic Jakarta during the 2000s. Back then, gaming was one of the great paradoxes of life in the Indonesian capital. Around the city, teenagers flocked to pop-up internet salons to spend their pocket money battling online with virtual combatants around the world, their virtual warfare enabled by decent broadband speed.

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Eric Ellis
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