Some of the most important startups are ones you never hear about.
Some industries are so complex and arcane that its hard for people on the outside to understand the problems that startups are solving or the long-term gain of solving them.
Freight forwarding is one of those industries.
Today we talk with Taka Sato of Shippio, a startup trying to change the way freight forwarding works in Japan. We talk about the challenges involved in trying to disrupt a low-tech, low-margin industry and also the potential rewards if Shippio succeeds.
We also cover some of the bight spots in Japanese entrepreneurship and talk about how one large company, in particular, has had to change their hiring practices to respond to the fact that so many of their best young employees are leaving to found startups.
It’s a great discussion, and I think you will really enjoy it.
What is freight forwarding and why is it important?
The biggest advantage of moving from corporate life to startups
Why so many startups are coming out of Mitsui
The challenges of building a platform in a low-margin industry
How to decide between a service-based or SaaS-based business model
Why there is finally enough pain in Japan to drive change
How the logistics industry reacts to new technology
Why the global logistics industry is a myth
The paradox of Japanese logistics quality
Links from the Founder
Everything you ever wanted to know about Shippio
Connect with Taka on LinkedIn
Leave a comment
Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’m Tim Romero and thanks for joining me.
You know, there is nothing more interesting than startups in boring industries. They are the ones that are taking on entrenched interests and business convention, and because so few outside of their industry really understand what they do and the problems that they solve, they tend to get a lot less funding and a lot less media attention than consumer-facing startups.
No, the startups in boring industrial B2B spaces are old school startups. They may not have the party atmosphere or the easy customer adoption, but the truth is that on average, they have the best chance of success.
Today, we sit down with Taka Sato, the co-founder of Shippio, a Japanese startup trying to change the nature of the freight forwarding business in Japan, and if you’re not exactly sure what freight forwarding is, don’t worry, Taka explains it simply and really well at the start of our conversation.
We also talk about the challenges of pivoting in a B2B space in Japan and how to balance the very real trade-offs between the scalability of offering B2B SaaS products with the stability of offering a service direct to the customer.
And if you’re interested in the freight forwarding industry, and by the end of this interview, I think you will be, we also talk about how the global market is likely to play out. Freight forwarding might seem like a winner take all marketplace, but Taka explains that this is probably not going to happen.
Oh, the industry is going to be disrupted — that’s already happening, but it’s not going to play out quite the way that Silicon Valley thinks it will.
But you know, Taka tells that story much better than I can, so let’s get right to the interview.
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Tim: So, I’m sitting here with Taka Sato of Shippio. Thanks for sitting down with me.
Taka: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me today.
Tim: No, it’s been great. We’ve been trying to make this happen for a long time now.
Taka: Yeah, I know, I know.
Tim: I’m glad you’re finally here. So, Shippio is a digital freight forwarder, but for the audience, let’s explain what freight forwarding is, so let’s say for example, I’ve got some construction equipment sitting in a factory in China,
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