We interviewed the Chief Corporate Development Officer at Kabuku, Mr Asakura. With extensive experience at a large corporation, at a start up company and as a CEO, we would like to know why Kabuku was chosen.
Please tell us about your current duties at your job.
I am in charge of general management of the company as an executive officer. In the Corporate Planning Department, we are in charge of a wide range of duties including monthly meetings with venture capital investors, medium and long term business planning, alliances, finance, personnel affairs, legal affairs, etc. I work hands-on with officials in METI by handling upstream and downstream tasks from the IoT promotion laboratory project to dealing with bank transfers. I respond to the needs for the business side and the engineering side from time to time without concern for the job title.
What kind of career have you had so far?
I started at Mizuho Financial group at a metropolitan bank where I was engaged in corporate financing, undertook business analysis and financial analysis to solidify my foundation in finance. The reason for entering was that Mizuho Financial Group had the world's top assets at that time, and I had a desire to work in the world's best environment. In addition, I also wanted to learn firsthand about the role that finance plays for people, goods, and in management. After that, I moved to Employment agency and was a recruiting advisor for companies and a career advisor for job change applicants. After that, I changed to project management for the IT department mainly for systems. Then I worked in the Business Information Technology Department, which was a merger of the Business Planning Department and the IT Department, where I dealt with cost structure reform as a project manager for company-wide structural reform projects from the viewpoint of financial accounting and management accounting.
In the Corporate Planning Department, I was responsible mainly for overseas business. I was in charge of starting new businesses and M&A for companies in the United States, the UK, the Netherlands and the Philippines and overseas marketing in China, India, Vietnam and Singapore. In addition, in order to introduce the company’s system from San Francisco to overseas corporations, we had meetings in English in Boston and New York for development of the next generation matching system.
While working in Japan with members from the UK and the Netherlands for overseas business in my twenties, I wanted to work overseas and moved to a venture company. Overseeing business management, I took over as Managing Director in Singapore, where I formulated overseas business plans, established joint ventures and M&A for ASEAN countries, including Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and Malaysia, Originally, I learned programming in BASIC as a student, then I began working on development and product management using Ruby on Rails. Having experience in the talent industry for ten years I felt the importance of technology for programming and web service development. After stepping down as Managing Director for a company in Singapore, I did product management on my own and set up my own corporation in Singapore and became Founder & CEO.
After that, I traveled around the world to places such as Singapore, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Silicon Valley, New York, Boston, and London. At that time, I had encounters with world class people from Harvard, Stanford, Boston, Berkeley and MIT Media Lab and I became aware of the world standard as a business person.
Please tell us your impetus for joining Kabuku
Before joining Kabuku, I could have joined a management team in New York or Singapore. Alternatively, I had the option of developing and starting my own product.
Among the above options, the primary reason for choosing Kabuku was the people. At that time Kabuku had a pretty strict selection process where we could not join unless we were accepted by all members, and I simply felt a match with the people I met at that time. The primary reason for me was the people because of the idea that working together well is more important than things such as annual income and position.
There were also three reasons from a business point of view. First, there was the market. The market for 3D printers will be 20.8 trillion yen in 2020 according to the data from METI. Next, there are multiple excellent engineers including the CTO, Mr. Adachi whose development speed is fast. And there were funds available from the 750 million yen from investors, so it is to be able to accomplish big goals. While there were options to create my own startup, I viewed participating in startup as an environment for investment.
What are the strengths of Kabuku as a company that you feel as an employee?
The CEO, Mr. Inada had a clear vision of "democratization of manufacturing", and there is no wavering there, so all strategies and tactics are being implemented.
Next is the technology. I have experience in programming with Ruby on Rails and BASIC, but I feel that the 3D technology and deep learning technology at Kabuku is the highest level in the startup industry with experienced developers. For the level of the engineers, it is definitely world class.
And it is a start-up that does developing not only for Japan but also globally. Our company uses manufacturing data from external factories of clients, and the factories now extend to more than 300 factories in 30 countries around the world.
Currently the company also has a global environment, with excellent talent from such countries as Sweden, Germany, Estonia, China and the United States. There is a diverse and rich environment where members of various nationalities, races, and religions are joined.
What is the attraction of Kabuku’s working place?
The flexibility and opportunities unique to a startup. I joined the company as a Director of Overseas Business, but after a few months joining the company, I was in charge of Rinkak Marketplace as Business Officer, Global MMS Business Officer and Marketing Business Officer. After that, I was appointed Managing Director of the Overseas Business Department, Management Planning Department, and Finance and Accounting Department, and in January 2017 I was appointed Executive Officer, one year after joining. I think that this speed cannot be felt at major companies.
Moreover, it has a very flat company culture, I think that it has an atmosphere where everyone respects each other and does not hold back. And I think that it is distinctive for being bottom up.
In addition, it is an environment where our time other than working can be valued. I have a 2-year-old daughter and I can work in a flexible way. When I need to visit her nursery school, I can leave work and get off early when her condition is bad. We can be managing directors while raising children, creating a climate that balances work and family in a natural way. I think operating this way is very difficult but in this respect, I feel that Kabuku is a company that operates properly.
Moreover, I think that there is high degree of freedom for the workers. Last year I visited Shenzhen, Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines, Malaysia privately and was able to catch up on the latest overseas local trends on technology.
Tell us about the challenges at Kabuku.
There are two points. First of all, in terms of the high-level business development capability, there is no strong sales planning function as an organization. I was experienced in corporate sales at Recruit Career with strategic design for business plans, product development, KPI design for sales planning, packaging of goods, KPI management and monitoring for corporate PDCA. I have experienced business organization on both the management planning side and the sales department side. In analyzing the current situation based on this experience, I feel that there are still many immature parts on the business side, and I think that growth of the company be furthered by conducting proper business planning.
In addition, I feel that the balance between culture and growth is the second challenge. We believe that our vision should not change even if the company grows, but the individual mind set, skill set, culture as organization, and climate need to change according to growth. I think that it is one option. Kabuku has a culture as a bottom-up entity, but already the employee number exceeds 30. In some parts, there is not future scalability, but it is possible to further improve by reviewing each on a specific basis. We can begin by cultivating the culture for the environment and organizing it. I think that this is needed to be done.
For example, as the number of foreigners who are interested in Japan increases, there are also demands such as benefits for Japanese language learning and paid vacation as an incentive. For requests that cannot be handled by the existing system, I feel that the system is still inadequate to respond while guaranteeing quality and speed. In particular, I feel that the back office must improve to support the company.
I would like someone who has experience in the Corporate Planning Division to join as one of the options to improve the situation. It is a start-up with rapid change, an environment where you can work while feeling your own growth day by day. I hope you will come and visit our office.
About the talent that matches with Kabuku
It is a person who is ready to for the challenges at a startup. For stability and benefits, there are major companies. Someone who is prepared not for brands and annual income but to take risks to earn a return and to be seriously competitive with a managerial perspective.