Takahiro Haneda is a speaker at Echelon Thailand 2015, which will be held on November 26-27 at Bangkok’s BITEC
APAC Marketing Director of App Annie, Takahiro Haneda oversees marketing in the region. App Annie, which launched in 2010, is a mobile app intelligence platform that provides valuable data to app developers.
We chat with Takahiro Haneda about his move from architecture into marketing, differences in working cultures in the APAC region and foreseeable trends.
Below are the edited excerpts:
Your background is in architecture, how did you end up in a marketing role?
I grew up in Japan, and I was always interested in going overseas. I studied at Wesleyan [in the US] and spent four years in the liberal arts. You get involved in many different studies in the liberal arts.
For me, the interesting part of architectural studies is the design process, and it’s still applicable in the app business. You need to come up with functions that you want to implement, a sophisticated experience, graphics — these things make architectural education quite relevant!
After I graduated, I stayed behind in the US for a year in 2006, for Optional Practical Training. [a scheme in the US for international students to stay 12 months for practical training, after graduation]. When my year was up, I went back to Japan to work at a smaller advertising agency.
Prior to starting out at App Annie over a year ago, you were Director of Marketing at IT startup Uzabase in Japan. Take us through what got you here.
I always loved tech and wanted to be a part of building businesses. When I went back to Japan, I moved onto a startup called Uzabase that developed a B2B information platform called SPEEDA and also a B2C news curation app called NewsPicks.
When I joined Uzabase, the team was less than ten. When you join a team of that size you get to do everything, from hiring people to operations. I focused a lot on content partnerships and gradually shifted to marketing.
For App Annie, I do marketing. You have to be aware of market data and use the information to help businesses get better. Their resources might be limited. We run a lot of reports, blogs and content and deliver them. Usage data is key to understanding how to build successful apps, develop products and monetize.
I started out with App Annie in Tokyo. I was the Senior Marketing Manager for Japan, and they wanted me to be in charge of other regions including China, Korea and Southeast Asia, so I moved to Singapore three months ago.
You spent four years working in a Japanese startup and now you’re in Singapore working for App Annie, which started out in Beijing and now has HQs in San Francisco. What differences do you see in the startup ecosystem?
I’ve been in Singapore for three months, so I’m not an expert. But I noticed that when you’re in this area, there’s more regional growth compared to Japan.
In Japanese rankings, many local companies are doing well in the domestic market. Since the market in Japan is so big, you already have success when you perform well in your own market. In Singapore, the market is not as big, so a lot of companies are focused on regional growth.
In terms of hiring in Japan, it’s hard to find talent with bilingual capabilities. When it comes to communication, a lot of Japanese people are shy, even if they can read and write English. For regional roles, it might be easier to hire in Singapore.
What are some general app trends you see in APAC region happening now?
China is becoming a trendsetter. Some of the US guys are really aware of this and watching out for China.
Japan has its own ecosystem, though Japanese businesses are doing well in the gaming industry, generating good revenues and downloads.
Asia has so much potential for growth. Indonesia continues to move up in downloads. Hong Kong is experiencing major revenue growth driven by games. The population of first-time smartphone owners is growing in emerging markets like India, Indonesia and fast-rising Vietnam.
What advice would you give to new app developers in the region?
A majority of businesses successfully focus on the domestic market. But if you are a startup thinking of penetrating or taking a market share from a giant, you may be successful by going into India or Indonesia, where first-time mobile users by taking a chance.
Targetting new user segments at the lower end of the market may give local app developers an opportunity to stand out. Consider going into emerging markets that are really growing their user base. Indonesia is moving up in downloads.
For those in Japan, I’d suggest that they try to use their experience from their own market overseas.
Mobile apps have a finite lifespan for growth in regards to downloads.
You’re around apps all day. Which three apps rule your life?
1. WeChat: I use it to communicate with colleagues, including those in China. A lot of messenger apps are unavailable [there]. The WeChat payment is quite advanced. I’ve seen my colleagues pay for cabs and splitting dinners with WeChat bills.
2. NewsPicks: Which I took part in developing! I use this to keep up with business news in Japan.
I have also been checking the haze in Singapore on a few apps!
Want to hear more from Takahiro Haneda? He will be speaking at Echelon Thailand this November 26 – 27 at Bangkok’s BITEC. Join us as we connect the Mekong region through Bangkok, Thailand in two action-packed days. Learn more about Echelon Thailand here.
Image Credit: Takahiro Haneda
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