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JAFCO, an unwavering partner who stood with us when times were hard

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Sep 26, 2017

Mf01

About Tadashi Shiiba, CEO

Tadashi Shiiba was born in 1973. He joined Tecmo, Ltd. in 1997 after graduating from Rikkyo University. In 2003, he joined GameOn Co., Ltd., led its IPO on the TSE Mothers market in December 2006, and resigned as Managing Director in March 2008. In June 2008, he became CEO of ONE-UP Inc., and resigned in May 2011 to establish Aiming in the same month. His career in the game industry started with home video game development. At GameOn, he became known for releasing Redstone, the first free-to-play MMORPG to become a gigantic hit in Japan. At ONE-UP, he launched Browser Sangokushi, Sengoku IXA, and other classic titles in the early era of social games. He has extensive knowledge and experience in online game planning/ developing/ operating/ marketing, at both field and management levels, that allow him to achieve first successes in innovative online games.

About Aiming

Company name

Aiming Inc.

Services

Online game development/ production

History

May 2011

Aiming Inc. established

June 2011

Acquired a studio in Osaka from ONE-UP Inc.

February 2012

Taiwan Branch established

April 2012

A subsidiary established in the Philippines

November 2014

Business tie-up with the Tencent Group

March 2015

IPO on the TSE Mothers market

Road to incorporation

—Time to bet on market expansion/ potential

All markets repeat ups and downs. In such cycle, it is very important to closely examine the demand and possibility of one’s business ideas and take risk at the right time.
In the rapidly changing game market, in particular, trends alter drastically in a cycle of 3- 4 years. In late 1990s, home video game consoles became popular. The mainstream shifted to portable games, then on to mobile phone games, as platforms became a key focus. Having recognized potential in PC online games, which were still minor at the time, I focused on market development. As a result, I achieved success in line with my plans. This proved that anyone can win in the rapidly changing game market by identifying a new genre/ target/ method and taking a chance at the right time.

—Constant search for a new challenge

After developing the PC online game market, I launched many online games at my former employer, while looking out for a next big wave and a new challenging field. This constant search led me to the smartphone market. At the time (2011), the smartphone game market was still undeveloped. Monthly sales of a global title were a mere \100 million. However, as smartphone specifications continued to evolve, allowing constant access to the internet, I felt certain that I can deliver original rich-media smartphone games on par with console games to players around the world. In 2-3 months after deciding to challenge myself in the smartphone market, I established Aiming in line with the close of the first financing round. I had no second thoughts. It was now or never.

Aiming’s Challenge

mf04_2 —Create a fun game “like you breathe”

The game market allows you to compete purely by quality of each title. At a time when people all over the world play games on smartphones, you can surely make profit if you have the ability to create high-quality, exciting games. Based on this principle, we at Aiming are working to form a team of developers that can constantly release better games. “Create a fun game like you breathe” lies at the base of our corporate culture. To create better games, what’s necessary is not a great strategy, but a team of developers who are constantly searching for something new and fun for customers. If all members “create a fun game like you breathe,” our team will definitely become a global winner.

—Maintain cultural purity

Our first priority at establishment was on strengthening game development expertise. We had secured a solid development base of 100 employees at business launch, which has since expanded to 300 at IPO and to currently 500. As employee numbers increase, we have deployed various mechanisms to “maintain our cultural purity.” These include our recruitment policy of “hiring gaming geeks.” Job applicants must write their gaming resume (games they’ve played to date), to which we refer during job interview. Consequently, only game enthusiasts apply for jobs at our company. I believe a truly strong organization is a company capable of maintaining its cultural purity no matter how large it becomes.

My encounter with JAFCO

Mf01 —Abrupt visit and speedy response

My first encounter with JAFCO was a sudden visit by a JAFCO staff. A few days after Aiming’s establishment, he read my interview article and contacted me immediately. He listened earnestly to the company’s challenge in an unknown smartphone game market, and expressed JAFCO’s intentions to provide the funds we requested to take on the challenge jointly. In less than a month from his first visit, I decided to accept funding from JAFCO. JAFCO’s response was very enthusiastic and speedy.

—Unfaltering trust in the management

JAFCO always trusted us in terms of both business and management. There is a story that I’ll never forget about JAFCO’s staff in charge of our company. At that time, we were struggling with slow growth in performance. At a board meeting, where other investors were also present and exchanging various views, the JAFCO staff, usually a man of few words, said, “We have all invested in Aiming because we believe that it has a great potential. Let’s not judge its critical future policy based only on the current situation, and believe in Mr. Shiiba.” Soon after this meeting, JAFCO led an additional funding round—although given our poor performance, there must have been many objections raised. We truly felt that JAFCO believed in the management and treated us with respect during the time of slump.

—JAFCO’s extensive support

JAFCO also provided wide ranging operational support based on its solid track record and diverse expertise. Support was very thorough covering every detail of pre-IPO adjustments/ procedures and other operations that we had never experienced before. Many investors also invested in Aiming, but we always consulted JAFCO not only on operational matters but also on various issues because we knew JAFCO believed in us and would provide every support possible. JAFCO is an unwavering partner who stood with us when times were hard.

—Messages to CEOs and entrepreneurs

Have a strong conviction that “I can win in this market.” This is the first step to success. Also, be a “geek”. “Geek” is a person who has hands-on expertise. In a world of excessive information and a sea of similar services, we rarely come across innovative discoveries. First, pick anything that interests you, study and deepen your understanding, and think of a way to put your ideas into shape. Have faith in your strong conviction to win and take pride in being a “geek.”

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(Translation of Japanese original posted on September 29, 2015)

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