Anker CEO Yoshitsune Ido talks about ”The start point of a foreign start-up in Japan”

In December 2019, an event with the theme “Country Manager as a Way of Life” was held. This is the report of the event. In the first article, Yoshitsune Ido of Anker Japan talks about the behind-the-scenes of brands’ launch.


Moderator Takahashi: Thank you all for participating today.

Three people who have started or are currently country managers in the Japanese market are present here today as panelists.

Each of them shall introduce themselves and also talk about their past or present experiences as one of the first Japanese people to start their respective companies.

高橋 君成 氏(RTB House Japan株式会社)
Kiminari Takahashi (RTB House Japan Co., Ltd.)

There could be a pattern of finding these companies or these companies finding them.

Without any further ado, let us begin with Mr. Ido from Anker Japan.

Yoshitsune Ido: Yes. Thank you for inviting me today. I am Ido, CEO of Anker Japan Co., Ltd.

[Profile]
Yoshitsune Ido
Anker Japan Co., Ltd.
CEO

He graduated from the University of Tokyo, Faculty of Economics, Department of Management in 2002. In the same year, he joined Goldman Sachs Japan Co., Ltd., and engaged in M&A transactions for client companies and advisory services in capital markets in the investment banking division. In 2006, he joined TPG Capital, a private equity investment firm where the focus was investing in Japanese companies and increasing corporate value. In 2013, he established a Japan subsidiary of the Anker group and became CEO. He grew this business with sales exceeding 10 billion yen within 6 years. Fifth ‘Dan’ (grade) in Kendo.

As noted in my profile, I have been in the financial industry for about 10 years. I first joined Goldman Sachs, where I worked on the sell-side in the investment banking division, advising on M&A and assisting in financing of client companies.

I also worked for a few other companies, and the third was TPG Capital, a US West Coast-based private equity fund. There, I was working on investing in Japanese companies fund raised from overseas institutional investors.

Although we decided to start Anker Japan in 2013, the brand was launched in 2011 by people from Google. 

As for the question, “How did you find it?”, before working in the financial industry, I was a student studying about the manufacturing industry. I’ve always wanted to be involved in creating something.

If you are involved in a financial business, you are a kind of outsider. And because of that, I wanted to be involved in business as a player to develop a brand.

I had various ideas, but I thought that the angle of bringing overseas growing brands to Japan would most likely be the best, so I kept researching about it.

For example, attending international trade fairs and along with various research, I realized that introducing an established brand to Japan would not be very interesting. So I focused my research on the brands that had the potential to grow.

I heard that there was a really cool hardware startup on the West Coast of the United States created by a group of young people from Google. So I wanted to contact them.

First, I sent an email to an address like ‘wholesale @ anker.com’. I sent a slightly enticing email stating “I have a business plan for Japan market. Do you want to hear about it?”

However, after we exchanged several emails, I noticed that it was strange that there were many names such as Yang, Zhano, and Wang. I mean, West Coast companies would not have this many Asians. After a couple of conference calls, I was told, “You’reinteresting, come and present your business plan directly in the head office.”

Then, when I said that I would go to the West Coast, Silicon Valley, I was told “No” (laughs). I was told to go to Changsha, a town in China I’ve never heard of. I then realized that this was a Chinese company.

Yoshitsune Ido (Anker Japan Co., Ltd.)

(Audience laughs)

I went there and discussed the business plan for about a week, and the plan itself seemed to have reached an agreement. However, we did have to thoroughly discuss how I would be a part of the said plan.

During the discussion, there came to a point where we wanted to break off the plan twice (laughs). However, we did a lot of discussion already and this could probably be fate so I decided it was a waste not to start the project after all. I requested them to pay the project expenses but I told them, “If this doesn’t work out then you can fire me.”

I did request them to pay for the actual expenses but in reality, for example, the security deposit for the office was shouldered by me. It was about 2 million yen. I was the one who presented the proposal, and I couldn’t say that I wouldn’t start the project without the money. That would be uncool of me if I did that right?

(Audience laughs)

It was like I was waiting for them to notice that I temporarily paid the security deposit. My salary was also unpaid for about six months. Of course, I didn’t want to personally ask them for my salary. But as it went on, it came to a point where I couldn’t explain it to my wife anymore.

“How much salary do you get?”    “Yeah, well, ummm …” I said things like that.

(Audience laughs)

While I was thinking the situation was getting bad, the president of headquarters suddenly asked me, “By the way, you are getting your salary right?” and I honestly replied back, “Actually, I have not gotten paid for 6 months.”  He said, “I’m sorry!” And then from there, I got paid.

Takahashi: Did they reimburse you with all the expenses you paid?

Ido: I received the total amount of my salary during the unpaid period and they also returned the deposit that I paid.

Takahashi: That’s good to know. (laughs)

Ido: I’m sorry, I talked quite a lot. Thank you very much for listening.

Takahashi: Thank you.

(To be continued)


Speaker Information

Country Manager Year End Party 2019

-Speaker-
Yoshitsune Ido
Anker Japan Co., Ltd.
CEO

He graduated from the University of Tokyo, Faculty of Economics, Department of Management in 2002. In the same year, he joined Goldman Sachs Japan Co., Ltd., and engaged in M&A transactions for client companies and advisory services in capital markets in the investment banking division. In 2006, he joined TPG Capital, a private equity investment firm where the focus was investing in Japanese companies and increasing corporate value. In 2013, he established a Japan subsidiary of the Anker group and became CEO. He grew this business with sales exceeding 10 billion yen within 6 years. Fifth ‘Dan’ (grade) in Kendo.

Keiichiro Tomimatsu
MediaMath Japan Corporation
Representative

Joined P&G Marketing Department as a new graduate, then worked at Reuters News Agency (Sydney), Citibank, GE Capital, 20th Century Fox Movie (now Walt Disney Studios), Google, etc. Established two Japanese companies, most recently DAZN Media Japan, UK representative. Received numerous awards, including the Japan Academy Awards, Tokyo Interactive Awards, and Dentsu Advertising Awards. Advisory board member of the first Ad Tech Tokyo 2009. Completed the MBA from the # 1 Macquarie School of Management in Australia.

Akira Shintaku
Wolt Japan
Marketing Manager (First employee in Japan Branch)

After leading the strategy of direct response advertising on Twitter, engaged in marketing at UNIQLO and Apple. In November 2019,  joined Wolt (Japanese branch), which develops food delivery based in Helsinki, Finland, as its first Japanese employee.

-Moderator-
Kiminari Takahashi
RTB House Japan K.K.
Sales Director of Japan

After graduating from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, joined Recruit as a fresh graduate. After entering the ad tech industry, joined Criteo, Appier. In January 2018, joined the retargeting advertising company RTB House from Poland as its first employee in Japan. Within just two years of joining, led Japan to become “RTB House’s fastest growing global market”.