Interview with Mr. Makoto Ishihara, CEO, Aperza Inc.
We interviewed Mr. Makoto Ishihara, the CEO of Aperza Inc., a Yokohama-based startup that participated in the startup convention “Slush Tokyo 2019” which took place in Tokyo in February.
Please give us an overview of Aperza’s projects.
Aperza Inc. offers an internet marketplace and media platform for manufacturers. Imagine an “Alibaba” for manufacturing and industrial production. We also operate a news distribution service for the manufacturing industry. The focus of most manufacturing media up until this point has been reporting on large-scale, macro-level shifts in the marketplace, but we aim to provide a platform for… well, for example, the people in charge of improving factory production equipment. Rather than focusing on only macro-level information, we’re looking to offer relevant information on all levels for those in the manufacturing industry.
This year has been the third since the company was founded, but even from the very start we had a medium-term business plan. There are 3 processes to our business. The first is data acquisition. The second is comparison. The last is conducting transactions. If we were Business to Consumer (B2C), that third process on its own might be enough, but because we’re also Business to Business (B2B) the first and second processes are extremely important, especially in the manufacturing industry. So in our first year we created and published media to support our data acquisition on manufacturing, in our second year we created the “Aperza Catalog” to allow for the comparison of products, and now in our third year we’ve released our online marketplace and we are currently expanding our e-commerce.
When I founded Aperza we had only 10 members. Now, three years later, we’ve expanded our team to around 70 to 80 people.
How is talent acquisition progressing?
One of our aims when choosing Yokohama as our location was the acquisition of excellent, skilled talent. There are many talented engineers living in the suburbs of Tokyo and especially the western side of Yokohama that are commuting into Tokyo, but it’s a difficult commute. Many of the engineers that had been commuting into Tokyo chose our company as a favorable alternative. But at the same time, over half of our workers live within Tokyo. There are plenty of tech companies in western Tokyo, like Shinjuku, Shibuya and Shinagawa, but many people find it easier to commute to Yokohama, since it’s not as crowded or hectic as commuting into Tokyo. I think that all lends to Yokohama being an easier location for tech startups to acquire talent.
Are there other reasons you were drawn to Yokohama?
I think Yokohama’s atmosphere as a port city echoes, and ultimately connects to, the open atmosphere of America’s west coast. In conducting our business, and in the spirit of tackling the challenge of global enterprise, I thought that instead of a crowded environment like Tokyo, I wanted to work somewhere that feels open and expansive like Yokohama. Yokohama was my first choice. It’s a great environment to live in, and there are many assets already available for startups here.
Can you tell us about your future business prospects, including any in North America?
I started this company with the goal of global expansion in mind. The reality is that currently there aren’t many Japanese online tech companies that are succeeding in foreign markets. But it’s for that exact reason that I wanted to create a tech company that would succeed abroad. And the way I see it, by creating an online B2B service for the manufacturing industry—an industry that’s been historically strong in Japan—we have a good chance at that. We’re endeavoring now, after three years of preparation, to design a platform that’s a fit for global markets. We’ve already been expanding our business domestically throughout our first, second, third years, but our approach has always been with a global mindset. More concretely, we’re thinking to expand into North America within the next few years. We already have one researcher stationed in in Seattle, and we have allies and partners in Chicago and New York. We handle Japanese products, so the fact that there are other Japanese companies that are active in North America already makes it a promising market. We’re conceptualizing starting by creating users and a consumer base in Japanese companies abroad that already know and trust Japanese products, and expanding from there to attract local users. Of course, procuring foreign capital investment is also among our goals.
Interviewed on March 18, 2019
Company Name Aperza Inc.
Headquarters Nittochi Yamashita-cho Bldg 13F. 23 Yamashita-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa
Capital JPY 530,201,922
Management Makoto Ishihara, Representative Director, CEO
Major Business Online Media & Marketplace
・Industrial Portal | Aperza
・Industrial Catalog Portal｜Aperza Catalog
・Industrial EC Marketplace｜Aperza e-commerce
・Curation Media ｜Monozukuri News
・Factory Automation Newspaper ｜Automation News Web
・IoT Navi｜IoT Navi
Sales & marketing consulting
Marketing cloud service
Marketing support business in China