#Asia Japan’s Nulab gets first-ever external investment – 13 years after launching

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Nulab founder and CEO Masanori Hashimoto. Photo credit: Nulab.

Nulab founder and CEO Masanori Hashimoto announced the closing of his company’s first-ever funding round on stage at Tech in Asia Tokyo 2017 today – 13 years after its launch.

The Fukuoka-based firm – which develops a range of online collaboration tools – has raised US$887,000 from East Ventures. Hashimoto said the funding would be used to grow the company’s presence in Europe and North America, including the establishment of an office in Amsterdam.

“We have successfully raised funds – not on a grand scale like a lot of companies do – but it’s big news for us because we haven’t raised funds externally until now,” he said.

As Nulab was founded way back in 2004, Hashimoto said that he wasn’t sure if it is correct to think of his company as being a startup. Nevertheless, it has experienced the rapid growth characteristic of early-stage businesses, with a 140 percent boost in year-on-year sales over the past 12 months. “So maybe we are a startup after all!” he said.

We would go to VCs and they would say Nulab maybe doesn’t need money.

Nulab’s age makes today’s announcement of its first-ever fundraising round all the more remarkable. Hashimoto said that the company decided now was the right time to seek its first external investment, as it is aiming to significantly expand its presence outside of Japan.

The company’s impressive growth was sometimes a hindrance as Hashimoto and his team set about pitching to investors. “We would go to VCs and they would say Nulab maybe doesn’t need money,” he said. But he explained that Nulab’s ambition to take the next steps and expand beyond Japan would require funding. “If you are thinking of being global company, you need to create one team internationally. But tax laws, employment regulations, and so on, make that very difficult.”

He could hire several people in Japan for the cost of hiring one person in the US, he said. “Costs are very different from country to country, so you need a lot of money if you are going to expand globally. Also, if you are going to create one global team, you need to bring in good management to make that work.”

Hashimoto said that the funding from East Ventures would go towards additional hires – particularly in software and product development – across its offices in Japan, Singapore, and the US, as well as creating a new office in Amsterdam to enhance its European presence. “People in the Netherlands speak good English, perhaps better compared to the other countries in Europe,” he said, explaining the decision to locate in the Dutch capital. “In other cities such as Berlin, I also think the cost of living will get higher than in Netherlands.”

While it took 13 years for Nulab to close its first external fundraise, Hashimoto said the company is already considering if it should tap further investment. “We are discussing whether 100 million yen [the amount from East Ventures] is enough. But our aim is to create as much growth with as little money as possible.”

This is part of the coverage of Tech in Asia Tokyo 2017, our conference taking place September 27 and 28.

This post Japan’s Nulab gets first-ever external investment – 13 years after launching appeared first on Tech in Asia.

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