More important than the idea, finding the right person to share the entrepreneurial journey was crucial.
We believe every human has the potential of doing extraordinary things and changing the course of the world for good. Speaking with Puteri opened our eyes and made us realize how unbelievable the power of passion can truly be in the quest of making an impact. Since her youth, she has had her eyes on the prize: creating a better planet. At the end of the conversation, we felt filled with hope and thrilled that Puteri led by example towards a greener and more sustainable world. We are in good hands folks!
Puteri is the COO of and Co-founder of Savvie. Together with Jessica, they aim to revolutionize the way food businesses think and act about food waste by leveraging and implementing machine learning optimization techniques. Puteri was born in Indonesia and experienced first-hand the consequences of not taking care of our planet. After working at a global energy giant, and as an environmental consultant, she decided to take a leap of faith and cross the world to study Environmental Engineering at Imperial College London as a full-ride scholar. Yet, there is so much more, and we can’t wait to share Puteri’s unique journey!
But that is only one part of the story.
At Venture Insider, we strive to undress the ups and downs, the late nights, the early mornings, the failures, and the victories.
In a few words; we want to share the real stories.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I always had a passion for the environment. My background is in environmental engineering, and after graduation, I started working at a multinational oil and gas company. I was the only woman working on the platform and I led a team of technicians. I liked to get my hands dirty, but I knew this was not the end-game for me.
I was very fortunate to receive a full scholarship to study at Imperial College London, where I pursued a master’s degree in environmental engineering. Yet, as part of the deal, I went back to Indonesia after graduating. There I joined a USAID-funded project clean energy development, where I managed a big pipeline of renewable energy projects. It was a great learning experience for me!
Two years ago, I got married and moved to Norway since he works for the Norwegian energy company. I didn’t know anyone in Norway, and it was a very challenging period for me to start all over again. Despite the initial difficulties, I landed a job at a local VC firm where I nurtured my entrepreneurial curiosity. However, the turning point occurred during my maternity leave. Antler came knocking on my door, which led me to join the program and become the COO of Savvie! What a crazy ride it has been!
How did your passion for the environment come about?
When I was in high school, I witnessed on the news an explosion of methane in an open dumping site in West Java, Indonesia. I was touched since it was terrible devastation, one whole village was buried in deadly waste.
Not only that, during my elementary school years; so often that I experienced my school had to close down due to deforestation. The entire region gets extremely foggy, you can feel the smog as far as in Singapore! We had to wear masks, and it was terrible seeing the rainforest burning down and turned into palm oil plantations. These two particular events made me wonder whether this was the only way to sustain the human race. It couldn’t be!
I wanted to find potential solutions to these problems. Studying environmental engineering was therefore a pivotal moment in my life.
What did you learn working in a big Oil and Gas service company? Did it help you towards your goal of creating a more sustainable planet?
My dad was a geologist, and he worked for an oil and gas company. Practically, I grew up eating food that came from these industries. I was curious to see from the inside how they behaved before pointing out the fingers saying they are the “bad” ones.
Experiencing the other side of the table allowed me to understand how these giants operate and think about societal problems. I needed to learn these lessons before moving to the “good” side. Yet many of the things they do help society. For example, one of my projects was to help clients get refurbished oil and gas pumps. Not that bad right? Overall, I learned a ton and this experience was well worth it!
How did your life change after moving from Indonesia to the UK, and then Norway?
I moved many times during my life and traveled a lot because of my dad’s job. I lived for a couple of years in California during middle school. Therefore, moving to the UK was not a drastic change, and because of the studies, I had a stable support system. However, moving to Norway was a completely different story. It was probably the lowest point of my life.
The culture in Norway is very different from the rest of the world, and it was incredibly challenging to integrate. Starting from scratch in Norway is certainly not a walk in the park. I was unemployed for the first couple of months, and I spent my time upcycling “free” stuff from the second-hand marketplace and selling for a profit. It was my own way to contribute to the circular economy even though I had no job. During this time, I had a lot of time to think about my next move and reflect upon my life.
How did the idea behind Savvie come to life?
More important than the idea, finding the right person to share the entrepreneurial journey was crucial. I had an eight-month-old baby at home and needed to be smart about what networking session to join. I was forced to prioritize. Jessica, my co-founder, is fantastic. I was fortunate to meet her early during the Antler program.
Jessica and I both knew we wanted to build a business that has a positive effect on the triple bottom line. We are foodies, and often talk about how hard it is to find good food in Oslo (don’t tell anybody about this). The vision behind Savvie is to build a more sustainable food business. Concretely, we strive to optimize food businesses’ value chain by increasing profits while reducing food waste. After interviewing countless food business owners and brainstorming across the different Sustainable Development Goals and realizing what a colossal problem food waste is, the idea behind Savvie was born.
How did your life change after you became an entrepreneur?
My life took a quick turn after becoming a startup founder. Interestingly, the lessons I learned in the corporate world, such as being structured and disciplined, helped me immensely. I loved the freedom from being a business owner, yet it came with many challenges, especially since I had a young child.
Since you always need to be ready for the next things as a founder, you can never rest. The key is to be good at managing time, including a lot of trial and error and communication with your loved ones. But most importantly, there are more important things in life than your startup, and it is essential to spend time with your family and take care of yourself.
How was your experience at Antler?
I’ve always been fascinated by Antler’s model of investing in people. It is clear that it works, and I am blessed to be a part of its journey. Regarding the program, it was super intense, especially the first month. It felt overwhelming at times but is certainly something I needed to get used to as it simulates a founder’s life. Even after I graduated from the program, Antler has been endangered in our work and supported us by opening up doors to potential clients and investors. It wouldn’t have been possible without them!
If you could change one thing in your journey, something you now have regret for, what would it be?
I would have taken more risk, been more spontaneous, and stopped second-guessing my capabilities during my youth. It gets harder to do all those things once you get older.
What are the milestones that are still left to be achieved on a personal level?
Increasing my Norwegian proficiency and following a proper exercise routine (laughing). These things are part of my new year's resolutions. However, my big dream is to start my foundation.
Living in Norway or any other privileged country disconnects us from many of the world’s most significant problems. We need to acknowledge that there is a side of the world that needs our help. I will work hard to help as many as possible and turn this dream into a reality.
When was the time you felt the most vulnerable?
I felt vulnerable the first time I wore a hijab. I lived in London during this time, and I wanted to try it out and see if anyone would react. In the beginning, I thought that people would look at me differently, but actually, nobody cared. It was all fine, and I felt excited.
I never used a hijab back in Indonesia, but I felt fewer pressures and less judgment as soon as I moved. It is much easier to change once you leave your bubble and leave the comfort zone. It was a very frightening decision, but an important one for me and my identity.
If you only had 30 days to live, what would you do?
This is a terrifying question because nobody knows when our time is coming. If I had only thirty days left, I would apologize to everyone I might have done wrong, and pay any debt. I would also give my money away to charity, and turn off my phone to fully enjoy every single second and be fully present at the moment with the people I love.
Do you have an inspiring figure?
My grandmother. She was the most selfless, optimistic and empathic person I have ever met. She was also knowledgeable and attended class with her older siblings. She studied to become a dentist but left everything to marry my grandfather and moved with him to a rural place in the middle of the jungle. Yet, she raised four incredible, caring and successful children. Her story inspired me!
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
What can ordinary people like us do to change the world towards a more sustainable future?
Most people believe that factories and transportation are terrible for the environment. However, the highest greenhouse gas emission is from food production. The greatest tip is therefore to make sure that you finish your plate, balance your diet and not bite more than you can chew.
Our Main Takeaways
- Passion drives impact. In whatever you do, as long as you’re truly passionate, the impact becomes second nature.
- Standing up while you’re down. We know it is difficult, but the lowest lows can galvanize the beginning of the highest highs. Like Puteri, the strength to keep going during the tough times is vital.
- Stay true to yourself. It’s easy to change once you leave your own bubble and enter a new environment. However, like Puteri realized, being different is exciting.
Inspiring story Puteri, thank you very much.
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