This can be solved by either having international talent in the team from the beginning or spending a chunk of founder’s time away from Japan, she says
“This year is an opportunity for me to reinvent myself, so I do not want to rush into something new too quickly,” said Emi Takemura, Co-founder, Peatix, a Japan-based event-ticketing platform, in an interview to e27.
She recently left Peatix in search of a reinvention, and plans to start something in the education industry. In the mean time, she is also running a social enterprise accelerator for Unreasonable Institute, a programme that targets the world’s biggest social and environmental challenges.
Today, she is speaking at Hack Osaka, a Global Innovation Conference, in Osaka, Japan, where she will talk about “global challenges”.
We chat with Takemura to find out more about where she’s been, and what she thinks about the Japanese startup ecosystem.
Here are the edited excepts:
Tell me about yourself. How did you start your career?
Right after University, I joined CS First Boston, an investment bank, as a sales trader for Nikkei Futures and Options, where I quickly learned that it was not a good fit, with exception for my love for numbers and spreadsheet!
After a year, I joined Monitor group, a boutique consulting firm that focused on strategy projects such as market entry projects for multi-national companies.
During my years in consulting at Monitor, and McKinsey, I was fortunate to have found a few tech clients and became fascinated by the future of the Internet.
After four plus years in consulting, I grabbed an opportunity to join an Internet media company, Excite Japan, as a Board member and Business Development Director. Ever since, I’ve been working in the Internet space, including co-founding Peatix.
What made you decide to found Peatix?
The founders – four of us — met at Amazon Japan. While working as product managers of various media verticals, we learned that many creative industry people (e.g. authors and musicians) were struggling to make their ends meet, due to small margins paid to them from product sales, as well as decline of package media sales.
With a strong sense of purpose, we decided to start a company to democratise the power of Internet for our target audience — the creative types that are pushing our culture to the next level.
After trying out a few products, we decided to focus on empowering live experiences and launched Peatix.com.
What were the biggest challenges when it came to running Peatix?
The biggest challenges were building a great team, figuring out product/market fit, and keeping finance in order. As for product market fit, it was particularly difficult initially, as it was not easy to find people who are planning to launch events or live experiences. Event organisers can be everywhere, but there are a few in each community. Hence, in all the markets we participate, the beginning was always a challenge, as we had to build a great community from scratch, so that we could be in the potential event organiser’s radar, rather than us trying to find people who are seeking an event platform.
As for people, building an internationally-minded team across four countries has been a challenge. For example, in Singapore and Malaysia, we did not know anyone at the beginning; therefore, we could not rely on any referral as source of talent. Instead, we were very fortunate to have startup community support to help us find great talent in Southeast Asia.
Lastly for financing, there is no magic answer, but it took a lot of time and energy to find good investors that were in line with our objectives. As we did not have CFO till last year, it took a lot of time away, especially for our CEO.
What made you leave Peatix?
It is quite common for a number of founders to leave, as a company gets more matured. In my case, there were a few factors that led me to leave, but the main reason was to let the management structure be more streamlined.
What’s your new project about?
I cannot discuss details at this moment, but I am planning to focus my energy on education of our future generation while running a social enterprise accelerator for Unreasonable Institute in Japan, called Unreasonable Lab Japan.
This year is an opportunity for me to reinvent myself, so I do not want to rush into something new too quickly.
You’ll be speaking in Osaka. What are the differences between running a startup in Osaka compared to Tokyo?
Osaka traditionally has a lot more entrepreneurial culture than Tokyo, but as for tech startups, it seems to be the opposite.
There are quite a few Osaka-born tech entrepreneurs, but many are unfortunately in Tokyo or overseas.
I think the key differences are ease of access to capital, breadth and depth of potential customers (especially, if you want to target large companies and/or advertisers), and a pool of tech talent.
I believe that the startup environment is getting better and better in Osaka with the ecosystem being built up, but Tokyo still has a leg up.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for most Japanese startups? How can it be solved?
One that is most striking is the lack of global readiness for Japanese startups.
As the market in Japan is still sizeable, and it is hard to optimise for international markets after building a site/app, hyper-localised for Japan market.
It is easy to “translate” a site/app to multi-languages, but there are not many startups located in Japan with a sizeable international business. I think this can be easily solved by either having international talent in the team from the beginning or spending a chunk of founder’s time away from Japan.
It is very easy to be insular when a person lives in Japan, but once a person spends enough time overseas, it is much easier to gain more heuristic point of views. Having travelled over 30 countries and lived in Singapore really helped me gain global perspectives and communication skills to work with people from all over the world.
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