The War for the Indonesian Ecommerce Market

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Intro Note

My name is Mikal — I’m an early-stage tech investor and I was born in Asia, grew up in Africa and now live in the US. Every week in my newsletter Emergent I break down a fast-growing business in an emerging market to understand its product, market and growth strategy.

This week I’m breaking down Tokopedia.

Southeast Asia is the fastest growing economic region in the world — growing over 5% per year. The region has been transformed in the last decade with ecommerce and digital payments in particular having grown…

The Rise of African Ecommerce

This piece was originally published in my weekly newsletter Emergent.


2020 was an explosive year for ecommerce globally, with ecommerce businesses seeing their revenues soar, profits increase and valuations climb. One of the biggest beneficiaries of this trend was Jumia, which saw its valuation soar from lows of ~$2.50 in March of 2020 to highs of $65 recently.

Jumia is Africa’s leading ecommerce company connecting merchants and buyers together in 11 countries. Modeled after Amazon, customers of Jumia can buy a broad range of products on the site, everything from electronics to makeup. In addition…

The Tipping Point for Clean Energy

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2020 was a tipping point for clean energy globally. Amid the chaotic news cycle of the pandemic, this fact was mostly lost. Decades of research, investment and advancement culminated in 2020 to decisively change the economics of clean energy and start what will be a decades-long effort to redesign and rebuild our energy infrastructure globally.

Every aspect of the energy industry — from energy generation, energy storage, regulation and economic incentives — have all reached the point where clean energy is now a feasible alternative to traditional carbon-intensive energy generation (coal, oil and gas).

Energy Generation

For decades now several options have…

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The historic COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the modern world has continued to rage for a year now, after it first started in Wuhan in November and December of 2019. Today, 56 million cases have been confirmed globally (a guaranteed understimate of the true case numbers) with over 1.3 million people having lost their lives to COVID-19. Global economies have been battered, with widespread bankruptcies and record government stimulus seeking to stave off a global economic depression. As the pandemic has evolved the prospects for controlling the virus have looked increasingly grim, with record second waves across much of the northern hemisphere.

The Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020, Beneficial Ownership and Panama Papers

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The FinCEN files has quickly swelled into a news story globally with new revelations coming thick and fast — with everyone from Michael Flynn to the Tokyo Olympics now caught up in the scandal. But the FinCEN files — while rich in information — pale in comparison with the 2016 Panama Papers leaks. The Panama Papers involved the leaking of 2.6 terabytes (that’s 2600 gigabytes) of files from the servers of Panamanian company Mossack Fonsenca, the world’s fourth largest offshore law firm (at the time).

An offshore law firm is a multi-jurisdictional law firm which typically specializes in the laws…

How dirty money moves across the Global Financial System

The NY Times story shedding light on the mystery of US President Donald Trump’s tax returns has brought the issue of tax evasion and money laundering back into the limelight in recent weeks. According the NY Times, the President has avoided paying Federal income taxes in 10 of the 15 years preceding his election. Perhaps more politically damaging are the revelations that the President has paid as little as $750 (in the 2017 tax year) in years where he has paid income taxes. …

Silicon Valley Meets Mesopotamia

Archeology is a relatively obscure but deeply impactful discipline. Archaeology is critical to our understanding of human history. Moreover, the discoveries unearthed through archaeological work impact and help shape other intellectual disciplines such as politics, geography, demographics and more. In many ways archaeology is a foundational discipline that creates the base of data and historical context that many different fields rely on.

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Archaeology has three core functions: surveying, excavation and analysis. Archaeologists work diligently to identify archeological sites, excavate them to find artifacts and structures and then analyze them. Archaeology is a resource-intensive, slow and highly manual field. Archaeological teams…

The magic of combinatorial optimization

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Image from here.

Efficiency has been a critical concept ever since the industrial revolution. Increasing productivity and efficiency have been core assumptions and goals of the field of economics since day one. Increasing efficiency is a complex challenge and there are numerous ways to do so.

Typically, efficiency can be approached at a unit-level or at a system-level. Most producers are part of a larger system which interacts to create additional value. For example, every beef farmer out there is part a larger system (the food supply chain) composed of slaughterhouses, meat packers, food suppliers, truckers, supermarkets and restaurants. …

Covid-19 Threatens to End University as We Know It

Universities have long been critical components of public life and deeply formative institutions in the lives of many. Unlike in most nations, US universities also play a very active role in economic activity nationally thanks to their high tuition fees, extensive real estate holdings and the base of consumers and renters they bring to many small towns and cities. According to the Amercian Council on Education there are nearly 4,000 degree granting, two-year and four-year, public and private colleges and universities in the United States. Annually these institutions educate roughly 20 million people and generate revenues of $650 billion and…

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The Rise of the “Sovereign Internet”

The original dream that guided the early days of the internet, a dream of a free space for communication and commerce, is slowly coming apart globally. The internet has shifted from a free space owned by users to one monopolized by giant technology corporations across communication, commerce and search. But even more worryingly, the dream of a “world wide web” is increasingly a distant dream. Ever since China first launched its “Great Firewall” in 1998, the dream of a single internet shared by the world has been under threat. …

Mikal Khoso

Investor @ Wavemaker interested in the intersection of politics, economics and technology. Sign up for my newsletter @

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