Building a Business That Lasts: A Founder's Story
This is just casual talk without much meaning. It's not like I'm a famous failure, I just didn't do things very well, so I'm posting this as a memo. Fortunately, I've been asked about it more frequently lately. I founded a sports business in 2000, and it has been over 20 years since then. I searched for past press releases to boost the company's base and posted them on our current platform. In the near future, I want to look back and remember my initial motivation.
Before university, I lived in Hiroshima. I started listening to Western music in middle school, admired foreign countries through James Bond movies, aspired to become a surgeon through the TV show Super Doctor K, and applied to the top national medical school, but failed the second exam. After a year of studying and reapplying, I got into Keio University's Faculty of Science and Technology, where I originally planned to be a "masked repeater," but was impressed by the school and advanced to the next level. I dreamed of becoming a sports agent after watching the movie Jerry Maguire, but didn't know how to go about it. On a trip to Indonesia, I had a vague idea of wanting to work for a general trading company. While studying computer science and technology at university, I focused on artificial intelligence, despite having no interest in computers or machinery. To challenge myself and focus on courage, I paid $500 yen to go skydiving at the age of 20, even though it scared me and wasn't necessary. This changed my perspective on life. I went on my first overseas trip to Indonesia for a month during my third year of university. For my graduation trip, I spent a month in Turkey.
1994: Graduated from Keio University with a major in Neural Networks (AI).
1994-2000: Joined Itochu Corporation (4 years in IT, 2 years in finance).
2000: Started own business at the age of 29.
Strategy: Combining sports and IT using own strengths.
Model: Creating a community and using advertising.
Result: Business model did not work out, so earned money through website creation and IT consulting.
Strategy: Combining sports and IT using own strengths.
Model: Measuring records in marathon events.
Result: In 2003, found a blank market in China and received the largest contract for measuring records at the Beijing International Marathon. Also received contracts for the Shanghai Marathon and Xiamen International Marathon, and grew like the current company, R-bies (Runners, acquired by ASICS).
Beijing Marathon was chosen by a Japanese TV station as a practice event for the live broadcast of the marathon during the Beijing Olympics, and we started our highest revenue transaction at the time. Accelerated investment in event equipment. Not only as a result measuring company, but also as an AR/agent for Japanese athletes, successfully negotiated with organizers to invite and sell athletes. A Japanese negotiator who negotiated with African athletes also finished in 4th place, and these were our best days of record measurement.
2006: A Chinese partner's president was replaced, and we lost all of our Chinese marathon business after being used our valuable hardware as leverage by the new president, whom we had trusted.
Business model: Sports agent.
Also started player representation business. Tried to sell Japanese players to foreign clubs, but the players' level was too low to be considered, and instead established a model of introducing good foreign players to Japan. Became the Asia Regional GM for an Italian agent company, and negotiated with Japanese companies on international transfers for players like Ronaldo and commercial contracts for players like Kaka. We were busy with more than 60 professional players in soccer, basketball, and volleyball. Went to Korea as a J1 GM on the premise of a player's contract worth about 60 million yen per year, but received a yellow card and found out at the venue that the Brazilian player was not playing, and was comforted instead of being scolded by the GM. At this time, I was still an inexperienced agent who had been in the business for a few years. There was no money because of the success fee system. In order to manage negotiations, we introduced Salesforce in 2007 and became extremely proficient in using it.
Strategy: Survive for the time being. Model: Earn income through marketing analysis based on IT skills. Result: I relied on someone I knew before and was picked up for a project with a foreign beverage manufacturer, supporting digital marketing analysis and DWH construction work from 2007 to 2013, coming to the office four days a week. (Afterwards, I continued to support many companies, including major Japanese department stores with sales of several hundred billion yen, electric infrastructure companies, first-section Tokyo Stock Exchange call center companies with sales of several billion yen on Mothers, and temple-related businesses, using IT-based marketing analysis, supporting new business, supporting ERP using Salesforce, and supporting Shopify utilization). During that time, I established a company in China to retaliate against the opponent who had done something to me. Although I obtained several projects, I realized that I couldn't win against the Chinese people in a bribery heaven, and withdrew. Also, there were high political risks such as the influence of Prime Minister Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine at the time, and I suffered losses. → Focused on agent work. Built up a track record with foreign volleyball players. Went to watch international volleyball and basketball games and scouted (picked up) at the venue, experiencing the daily life of a so-called player agent's "name card" (business card) ninja (stealthy) work, which was rare in Japan at the time (from the 2006 World Volleyball and 2006 World Basketball, etc.). Realized several international transfers of foreign and Japanese players every year. Also, realized the transfer of several Cuban players in volleyball and basketball, which became their strength. Visited Japan and Korea's professional baseball teams for scouting in Cuba several times. Drove around and watched baseball players all day. Also, arranged for the Korean basketball team's pre-season training camp to come to Japan several times. Accompanied the team from early morning to late at night. Even among the same professional basketball team, the culture and thinking were quite different from Japan, and there were many learning days with the "bold decision-making and execution speed of the Korean team, but can you guys do it even if we pay?" request, but I fulfilled their demands. Although it was supposed to be a 10-day training camp in Okinawa, the situation changed during the camp, and we had to lead over 20 players and staff with a height of 2 meters or more by bus while arranging hotels, meals, opponents, and training environments as we traveled north from Kyushu. In the end, there was a case where we returned from Hiroshima, but it was tough, and we completed the support and were grateful to be paid properly. In volleyball, I became the agent who had the most cases of Japanese players' overseas transfers in terms of quantity, such as Italy, Turkey, France, Germany, Spain, Azerbaijan, etc. The foreign players' transfer to Japan was also going smoothly. The transfer of foreign coaches to Japan was also implemented. It was tough when both foreign players and foreign coaches were under our contract and stuck in the middle when things weren't going well between them.
In rugby, negotiations with a Japanese player were successful, and the player was offered double the salary to join a new team. However, due to the unique barriers in rugby, the transfer did not happen and legal action was considered, but ultimately, the player did not move teams as their career would have ended during the years-long legal battle. The agent fee was paid anyway.
During the 2011 earthquake, a foreign player who had been contracted refused to come to Japan, causing the agent to lose millions of yen in revenue and causing a difficult situation between the team and the player.
The author had started a marathon business in Cambodia and Vietnam after the business was stolen by a Chinese partner in 2007. They were contracted to manage the Angkor Wat Half Marathon and Phnom Penh Half Marathon, which were successful until competition from neighboring Thai companies arose, causing the business to become deadlocked.
They were also contracted to manage record-keeping for the first and second Danang International Marathons in Vietnam. However, after four years of working together, the local staff, who had become familiar faces to clients, took the deposit and sales without permission and lost all the money in a casino. The author forgave them and gave them a chance, but the same thing happened again and sales disappeared once more. The total amount lost was worth several years of the author's income. The author again understood the situation in developing countries, where the police and courts are immature and even formal procedures through lawyers are not taken seriously.
In Japan, the author was contracted to recruit foreign runners for the Fuji Mountain Marathon from the first event in 2012 to the fifth event in 2016, expanding to nearly 2,000 people. The author also competed with other companies for record-keeping contracts in Japan and started hosting and recording events both domestically and internationally, primarily using their own company.
In February 2020, they co-hosted a new marathon event in KEP, Cambodia, with the Cambodian Athletic Federation. They received support from the police and the governor, and the event was a success.
As an expert in recruiting foreign runners, the author accumulated know-how on the operation of overseas marathons and foreign runners, giving lectures to event organizers ranging from several thousand to tens of thousands of people.
In December 2018, they released the beta version of the "Genki Point (delight.fit)" health point app created with blockchain technology. They expanded their field from sports to healthcare.
The challenge at this point is to build a customer base, not just one-off events.
Their business model is focused on agency, events, and SaaS.
- Player agents Foreign players' arrival and scouting became difficult, and player agents were at a standstill.
- Mainly organized events such as marathon races Marathon races were canceled even in Cambodia.
→ The events will resume from this year, but strategies and resource allocation are being reviewed. Large-scale marathon races are also impossible in Japan.
- SaaS/DX support Promoting advanced initiatives as an experimental ground for the company
Achievement of automation and decentralization of company operations through DX Details: http://bit.ly/3vGddU9
It is difficult to promote new businesses that rely on going out or avoiding crowds in the external environment.Therefore, we changed the priority and SaaS-ized the AI phone we had been using in-house for the marathon race secretariat, naming it Delight Assistant, and are currently in the PMF stage. We are expanding globally using our accumulated marketing and sales skills.
- We plan to raise funds based on MRR growth.
- 2022/6, we will concentrate resources on the growth of AI phones. Angel round pitch video (from 39 minutes): https://youtu.be/rnef3GVhuLI
- 2022/10 Fundraising release http://bit.ly/3zum0dP
- 2023/2 Founder Institute/Oxford OXENTIA graduation
Although I receive various advice from senior entrepreneurs and investors, I focus on facing our customers' challenges straightforwardly!
Latest 1min pitch https://vimeo.com/805776227/147525d8b7