Female-led start-up aims to help decarbonize Indonesia’s future

CarbonShare, founded by Faela Sufa, enables everyone from non-state actors to individuals to contribute to the country’s carbon reduction program, through quality greenhouse gas projects and tree planting initiatives.

Sheena Suparman

Sheena Suparman

The Jakarta Post


Founded by Faela Sufa, CarbonShare aims to offer easier solutions for businesses and individuals to balance their carbon footprint and contribute to achieving decarbonization in Indonesia. PHOTO: FAELA SUFA/THE JAKARTA POST

March 27, 2024

JAKARTA – A big “good vibes only” neon sign on a brick wall fills the room with a reddish hue. Trinkets showcasing Indonesian culture, from a painted jar to wayang, are also on display. Adorning another wall are photographs of the country’s beautiful landscapes.

The almost whimsical interior design is as far from a government office as can be imagined, yet it is in line with the advertisements of the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry.

Sitting in the middle of the room is CarbonShare CEO Faela Sufa, dressed in a black vest over a white button-down shirt. Holding a stack of documents about technology platforms, she’s ecstatic about the opportunity to present her work at the 42Geeks event happening three floors down.

Many members of Indonesia’s start-up ecosystem are attending the event to connect with other leaders of start-ups based in Silicon Valley, California.

“If the Earth warms and then exceeds the ideal warming target, more than 2 degrees [Celsius] for instance, there will be food shortages, there will be flooding everywhere. It’s a simple fact,” said Faela.

“I buy a house in Jakarta and then when I’m older, the house’s value will drop, because it floods everywhere in Jakarta. I don’t want to think about those things when I’m old.”

CarbonShare is a tech start-up founded on a mission to offer easier solutions for businesses and individuals to balance their carbon footprint and contribute to achieving decarbonization in Indonesia. As CEO of the company, Faela lit up as she explained more of the topic at hand.

One of the hurdles the world faces in decarbonization is the cost. According to McKinsey & Company, studies indicate that around US$2 trillion per annum in additional finance is needed to meet the Paris Agreement goal and cap warming at 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels by 2030.

A question that plagues everyone’s mind is: Who will finance this? Indonesia’s state budget can’t possibly absorb even a fraction of that cost.

“CarbonShare was built because we see that there is a financing gap. And it’s a chicken and egg question, even until now,” Faela explained.

“For a problem as simple as renewable energy, it’s not that simple. Even if we take one part or one component out of many decarbonization initiatives, for renewable energy, Indonesia needs hundreds of billions of rupiah per year, and the state budget can only finance 10 or 30 percent of it.”

At the end of the day, CarbonShare believes that polluters should pay. Faela’s start-up therefore enables everyone from non-state actors to individual customers to contribute to the country’s carbon reduction program, through quality greenhouse gas projects and tree planting initiatives.

With a background in energy and sustainability, Faela recalled her time as a student at the University of Tokyo almost a decade ago, pursuing a degree in public policy with a minor in energy security. Her transformative years in Tokyo were around the time of the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change that was adopted in 2015 by several countries, including Indonesia.

“It was like a buzzword. Everyone was talking about the Paris Agreement. Most of my energy and environment lecturers went to Paris to be part of the Japanese government’s negotiators.

“Then, we learned about the draft agreement. And that’s really when I got to learn about decarbonization, sustainability and the bottlenecks – the financing bottlenecks,” she said.

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The future is female

In a sector that is historically male dominated, Faela is thankful that the start-up ecosystem she belongs to is more lenient toward female-led businesses, including hers.

At CarbonShare, all of the members on the board of directors are women, as are most of its employees.

“Actually, the energy business is more male dominated,” Faela said.

“In the start-up scene, I think everyone is more welcoming than more conventional businesses. In energy, for instance, it is still very rare to find females, especially from the older generation. But in the start-up scene, [women are] more common.”

While the number of businesses founded by women has grown, Faela is aware that gender can still be a hurdle for most.

Research by Crunchbase found that 2015 saw the highest number of women-founded start-ups in five years. That year saw a total of 10 start-ups, but only three made it to series B funding.

“I think although women are still less represented, [the start-up sector] is more ideal than other sectors. That’s my take. I don’t know the current research, but when I go to events like [42Geek’s] and compare, when I go to energy-related events, gender-wise, it’s quite balanced in the start-up scene,” Faela said.

She also attested that it was becoming more common for children to be raised by working mothers like her. Reflecting on the women she surrounds herself with, Faela said confidently that many female leaders were not only competent, but also thrived beyond measure.

It also helped that women and the local start-up ecosystem had a better support system today compared to many years ago.

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Local start-up scene

International events like 42Geeks’, for example, provides a platform to network, show the community’s growth and highlight what the government has done and can do to nurture Indonesian start-ups.

“For us start-ups, it’s important to have a network with [international forums], because the capital is channeled from [foreign investors]. In many cases, [the amount] is still higher than what’s available in Indonesia,” said Faela.

“We have different kinds of options or many alternatives for fundraising, not only from Indonesian LPs [limited partners] but also from overseas. That’s the importance of networking.”

Networking can also help younger entrepreneurs to learn from others’ experience. While the community of Indonesian start-ups has grown, it may not be playing on the same field as those of other countries. Therefore, having a place to gather and share differences and similarities can only be beneficial for all parties.

Faela also attributed start-ups’ success to their ability to hire from anywhere.

“We can decentralize the talent, and we are pretty comfortable accepting talent from Yogyakarta or even outside Java. I think that’s the approach of other start-ups as well, as long as we can get high-quality talent at a competitive cost,” Faela said.

She also noted that relocating to a city like Jakarta with a higher cost of living to work at a start-up could be “burdensome for some talents”.

“So the government should empower those talents. Especially like knowing what the industry needs, back-end engineer, front-end engineer, designer. Those online or digital skills, they can be done anywhere, actually.”

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