#Asia #Japan 122: Japan’s Business Card Giant Explains Why Business Cards Are Disappearing

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If you’ve ever done business in Japan, someone probably walked you through the intricacies of Japanese business card culture.

Chika Terada, the founder of SanSan, created one of Japan’s most successful startups around the business card protocol. And even though SanSan has been expanding quickly and is on track for an IPO, Chika thinks that Japanese business card culture will soon disappear.

Chika and I talk about the challenges of rapidly scaling a company, and how the IPO market in Japan will change in the next few years.

We also talk about what Chika learned as his company expanded into other markets and how even B2B business is really a complex mix of business and culture.

It’s an interesting conversation, and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Show Notes

Why business cards are not data, but an event marker
Why SanSan wants to replace business cards
How to save the corporate culture when you are committed to things that don’t scale
How stock options should be (and are) used at Japanese startups
Why marketing is so hard to disrupt in Japan
How Japan’s business card culture extends overseas
How big company attitudes towards startups re changing in Japan
How to teach innovation in Japan

Links from the Founder

Everything you ever wanted to know about SanSan

Check out Eight for business networking
SanSan in English

Friend Chika on Facebook

 Leave a comment
Transcript
Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’m Tim Romero and thanks for joining me.

You know, anyone who has done business in Japan has had to learn the intricacies of Japanese business card culture and the protocol involved in exchanging them.

Well, Chika Terada has built SanSan, one of Japan’s most successful startups around business cards. The name SanSan started as a play on words, kind of like the band Mister Mister but the company itself has grown into a powerhouse of B2B CRM and corporate relationship management in Japan where LinkedIn has failed.

Now, Chika and I talk a lot about the challenges involved in scaling a company up so quickly and what he’s learned by expanding into international markets, some with business card cultures very similar to Japan and some with very different protocols, and we talk about why we might finally be seeing a shift in the unhealthy fixation that so many Japanese investors and founders have on the IPO.

And you know, despite the fact that SanSan has built its entire business on business cards and the protocols surrounding them, Chika explains why he thinks that they may eventually go away and what will replace them.

But you know, Chika tells that story much better than I can. So let’s get right to the interview.

[Interview]

Tim: So we’re sitting here with Chika Terada, the CEO and founder of SanSan who is really changing how Japan looks at business cards. So thanks for sitting down with me.

Chika: Thank you, thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to talk with you again.

Tim: Again, yes, it’s great to have you back on the show because you were actually the very first guest I had on this show over three and half years ago.

Chika: I’m very pleased to hear. I mean, by looking at your success after the first interview, that’s remarkable.

Tim: And likewise, you as well. SanSan has been just growing at a fantastic rate since that interview and jt’s one of the real startup success stories in Japan. People from overseas often see SanSan as kind of like a business card scanning app and I know it’s a lot more than that. It’s more like a networking tool but maybe you can just start out by explaining what SanSan is and what Eight is.

Chika: Right, it is true that our company deals about business cards but this means our company is all about the business encounters. People meet people in business every day and in Japan and in other Asian countries,

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