Jun 23, 2017
Born in Aichi Prefecture in 1988. Graduated from the Graduate School of Engineering of the University of Tokyo. While at university, he developed “Gunosy,” an information curation service. In 2012, he founded Gunosy Inc., which made IPO on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s Mothers market on April 28, 2015. He gained attention as a young, talented engineer-CEO with a graduate degree from the University of Tokyo.
“Gunosy” is the most popular information curation application in Japan with over 11 million downloads. In 2014, the Company announced the “Gunosy City Plan for a Population of 50 million,” and continues to diversify contents to make “Gunosy” the de facto platform for the smartphone era.
Established in Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Released “Gunosy for iOS”
Released “Gunosy for Android”
Downloads exceeded one million
Launched “Gunosy Ads”
Released “Gunosy” overseas version
Launched “Gunosy Ad Network”
Downloads exceeded five million
IPO on the TSE Mothers market
Downloads exceeded 11 million
I developed “Gunosy” in November 2011 while still at graduate school of the University of Tokyo, working on my research topic (machine learning) in data mining. While Twitter and Facebook were changing the flow of information in line with the wider use of smartphones, there was still so much noise in the news that flowed. On the other hand, it had become easier to use users’ behavioral data, including access to/ sharing of personal information, which was accumulated through SNS and other similar services. The initial motive for developing the service was to deliver optimized information to individuals by using such data effectively. After the release, user numbers steadily rose and I received favorable feedback. That was when I decided to turn “Gunosy” from a leisure activity into a business. Following consultation with two friends, who later became co-founders, Gunosy was incorporated in November 2012. It was before graduation and I had to turn down a job offer that I had applied for, so to be honest, I was afraid. But I thought, “even if I failed, this would be a valuable experience of my life.” Thinking back, this decision was the base of the Company motto “Give it a go!”—Key to success is speed and timing
In a fast-paced market, I’m constantly aware that I need to expand a service as fast as possible following the launch. For example, in the worldwide market, there are services that achieve 100 million downloads in two years, whereas “Gunosy” has only achieved 11 million downloads in just under four years. “How can I expand as quickly as possible?” is my way of looking at the business.
Also, a factor behind our sharp business growth was a strong fundraising environment at the time of launch. In the last 20 years, investor confidence in venture capital investment has risen thanks to a successful track record of forward-looking entrepreneurs. As a result, the fundraising environment had become friendlier in Japan.
We will continue with our efforts to expand Gunosy’s user base, with the aim of creating a service that provides a front door to various information, including news. Under the “Gunosy City Plan for a Population of 50 million,” announced in 2014, we launched the “Gunosy Platform” as a lifestyle-based platform, offering new contents including “Gunosy Manga”, “Gunosy Otoku” (shopping flyers, giveaway prizes), and “Gunosy Fortune-telling”.
As a business organization, we aim to build a corporate structure that ensures user-oriented decision making. At our company, we make important decisions based on actual data on user behavior, and not on orders from superiors or CEO.
To operate a better service, it is necessary to judge what’s best for the users based on numerical figures.
While concentrating on the Gunosy service, I intend to make the Company bigger to develop various businesses over the medium and long term. Personally, I’ll work hard to acquire the skills needed for a CEO. Ways to run a business differ between a new venture entrepreneur and a CEO. I will grow out of the venture entrepreneur phase, which places importance on your own decision-making from limited resources and speed of action, and move on as CEO to create a truly strong company by maximizing team synergy instead of individual ability.
Sakai (JAFCO’s staff in charge of Gunosy; hereafter “S”): I came across Gunosy before the Company was incorporated. Sometime later, I met Mr. Kimura (co-founder), from whom I heard about Gunosy in more detail, how the service was growing, and its high-profile engineers, and instantly thought “I want to invest.” When I met Mr. Fukushima for the first time, I had largely decided on making an investment, so all we needed were small adjustments.
Yoshinori Fukushima, CEO (hereafter “YF”)：At the time of establishment, most of people who offered support were angel investors. You were the first person wearing suits who came to us for an official business meeting (lol). JAFCO’s sizable investment at a stage where success was far from assured meant that you had expectations of us, not the business, and trusted us. JAFCO hardly meddled with our business and let us do what we wanted, so we were always aware of your expectations and trust.
S： At JAFCO, we leave the business operation to management, while we work hard to support our portfolio companies through value-adding activities.
YF : For our advertising sales, JAFCO introduced us to potential clients using its network. You provided access to companies that were unreachable, and we actually signed contracts with many of these companies. Back then, there was a quota for Mr. Sakai at the Company (lol).
S：With regard to our network, JAFCO’s Business Development Group specializes in client referrals, personnel placement and other support activities for portfolio companies. We utilize our strength of extensive network to make prompt and effective referrals.
YF : I want to thank JAFCO also for its various IPO support. Compared to other VC firms that we have contacted with, JAFCO stands out by its IPO track record/ expertise. We were given accurate advice at the right time.
S：Because each investment staff is in charge of a relatively small number of portfolio companies, we can physically increase the time we spend on supporting each company. We do our best to meet their demand in detail and look out for the things that are often overlooked. With regard to IPO, the Corporate Consulting Group provides specialized support.
YF：JAFCO made two sizable investments in our company. Venture companies take risks at the growth stage, and there are few VC and business firms capable of providing funds that enable us to take such risks. Also, based on its expertise and network, JAFCO explained successful cases that we could refer to in managing business and operating an organization.
S：My first impression of Mr. Fukushima was that of an engineer, but not of a geek engineer because you said what’s important was not technological strength but how you incorporate the technology into a service. Also, I noticed that you were becoming a management expert each time I visited you.
YF：Recently, the fundraising environment has been favorable, so now is a chance for people who are willing to take risks. You don’t have to have a grand vision or a dream to launch a business. Motivation changes in line with business/ company growth. What’s important is the will to take on a challenge. The first big step is to give it a try.