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Mar 31, 2017

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About Yosuke Tsuji, Founder and CEO

Yosuke Tsuji graduated from the Faculty of Agriculture at Kyoto University in 2001, and received an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2011. After working for Sony Corporation and Monex, Inc., he founded Money Forward in 2012. In January 2014 then-Ambassador Caroline Kennedy presented him with the U.S. Embassy’s Award, recognizing him as an ‘entrepreneur who will play a vital role in Japan’s future.’ In February 2014, he received the JVA Chief Judge’s Award at Japan Venture Awards 2014 for being an ‘exemplary entrepreneur.’ That following March he was awarded the Grand Prize at the Financial Innovation Business Conference 2014 held by Information Services International-Dentsu, Ltd. In November 2016, he ranked 7th on the list of Japan’s best entrepreneurs compiled by Forbes Japan. He is a member of Monex Ventures’ Investment Committee and an executive member of the Board of Directors of the Japan Association of New Economy.

About Money Forward

Company name

Money Forward, Inc.

Founded

May 2012

Services

Automated personal accounting and asset management services “Money Forward” Cloud-based corporate services “MF Cloud Series,” including cloud-based accounting, tax return, invoice, reconciliation, payroll processing, My Number management, and expense report

History

May 2012

Money Forward established in Takadanobaba, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

January 2013

Launched “Money Forward,” automated personal accounting and asset management services

January 2014

Launched “Money Forward for Business,” cloud-based accounting software

July 2014

Awarded “TRUSTe” Privacy Seal (a high global standard for privacy management)

July 2015

Launched “MF Cloud Payroll,” cloud-based payroll software

December 2015

“Money Forward” selected as Google Play Best Apps of 2015; awarded Google Play Top Developer Badge

January 2016

Launched “MF Cloud Expense,” cloud-based expense adjustment system

March 2016

Decision was taken to offer “MF Cloud Finance,” cloud-based fundraising software

September 2016

Number of “Money Forward” users exceeded 4 million

Money Forward solves money-related issues using its technological strength

Our company’s mission is “move money forward, move life further forward”. Although money plays a very important factor in life, we hardly have opportunities to learn about managing it in our life time. It is also difficult to raise awareness of money management. We launched our services with the hope of using our technology to help people solve money-related issues and problems, and make life easier. We are committed to creating services with the aim of providing a monetary platform for everyone.
We currently offer two mainstay services, “Money Forward” and “MF Cloud Series.” “Money Forward” provides automated personal accounting and asset management services, while “MF Cloud Series” provides a series of corporate back-office services, including accounting, payroll, expense, My Number, and invoice management services. “Money Forward” has more than 4 million users, and “MF Cloud Series” has more than 500,000 users. Our user base also includes 1,900 accountant firms.

The new generation of accounting software will be connected to various information in the cloud

Accounting software, which is available as PC applications, or more recently, as cloud applications, allows everything from daily journal entries to closing of books. Our aim is to go beyond the boundary of existing accounting software and create services that enable users to solve various issues related to financial management.
In order to achieve this aim, we will promote alliances with various outside services. For example, we have formed alliances for “MF Cloud Accounting” with banks, credit card companies, e-money and other financial services, and also with sales/ revenue management services. With accounting software that needs installing, users had to enter receipts and other transactions manually to aggregate data, whereas with “MF Cloud Accounting,” users automatically obtain daily transaction data from alliance partners, and depending on the types of statement, it automatically makes journal entry proposals. We have received many favorable comments from small business users of “MF Cloud Tax Return,” which offers integrated tax preparation support through to electronic filing, that they could save tremendous amount of time and energy by using the software. “MF Cloud Finance” offers comprehensive support for companies looking to apply for loans, including preparation of a vast amount of documents and cutting time required for time-consuming due diligence. It also benefits users greatly in terms of improving cash flow.
As explained above, we would like to build an ecosystem for back-office operations by forming alliances with various service providers, and automate processes, whatever possible, to help business managers create an environment that enables them to concentrate on their business. Our eventual aim is to revitalize the Japanese economy by improving the management of business entities.

We want to create a new flow of money in the FinTech era

In addition to the current accounting-related services, we want to create a new flow of money. With the aim of creating a service that makes money flow to where it is needed, we launched “MF Cloud Finance” as a fundraising support service for small and midsize companies. Personal fundraising services, including crowdfunding, have become popular and attracted a large number of users. Similarly, I think cloud fundraising will become a financing option for small and midsize companies.
The concept of money will definitely change. Needless to say, the world has changed completely before and after the internet. Money is originally a tool to exchange things and it has no value in itself. If something is worth \10,000, this \10,000 is a currency unit guaranteed by the Japanese government, while a \10,000 bill is just a paper. It is basically an agreement between two people exchanging the bill as a credit worth \10,000, so if the credit is secured and an agreement is reached, money can take any form.
The spread of the internet has led to the emergence of Google, Apple and other global tech giants whose scale is larger than that of a country. On the internet, we seldom think about the “border,” and in such era, the concept of money will surely change. Loyalty points offered by companies can be considered money, and virtual currency that does not rely on a centralized system can be considered new money. These changes are natural in the age of the internet, and we aim to create services that keep pace with the changing times.

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There were only 10 users when the business started

I remember the difficult period soon after the startup. I founded Money Forward to create a new service, which ended in failure. A subsequent new service that I created was “Money Forward” that offers automated personal accounting and asset management services. However, user numbers did not increase following the launch and I was on the verge of giving up.
What allowed me to overcome this difficulty was a focus on users. A service must have value to attract users, and I was obsessed with the idea that I will not survive unless I create a “must-have” service, and not a “nice-to-have” service.
As there were no cases that I could refer to in creating such service, I spent days and nights asking users for their opinions and making improvements at an exceptionally fast pace. It felt like an endless road. If you know what needs to be improved, development is easy, but when there are only 10 users each day and 7 of which are your friends, your mind just goes blank.
In those days, I also got used to being rejected. When we went on sales calls soon after the business launch, we just got turned away. It’s only natural, but it was like “Money Forward? Who?” Japanese people are polite so they don’t say “No” upfront, but this was also painful in the end (lol).

JAFCO is one of our biggest supporters from establishment

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In the four and a half years since establishment, there are several people to whom we owe our growth. One of them, although not a person, is JAFCO. An investment staff in charge of our company helped us tremendously.
We received a sizable investment for the first time from JAFCO in November 2013. We had received a capital injection from Monex Ventures, where I worked earlier, but in real terms, JAFCO was our first outside investor.
JAFCO was surprisingly quick in making a decision to invest in our company. Soon after the person in charge visited our company and was given a business presentation by our team, he said “I personally would like to invest in your company as soon as possible.” It had a huge impact on me. It was the first fundraising for our company, so there were many things that we didn’t know about, but his devoted support was of great help to us.
He knew about our industry very well from his experience in investing in Monex Securities and financial ventures, so communication with JAFCO was very smooth. I’ve talked with many venture capital firms and each of them has strength, but to me, JAFCO stands out as the most powerful player in Japan. We’ve kept in close touch with JAFCO following the investment, and they’ve always been supportive. I’ve had no bad experiences with JAFCO.
One of the things I admire about JAFCO is that they always come to us when there is a need for a meeting. There are investors who make you come to their offices, but if you can use such time for sales and product upgrades, it would benefit both investors and companies.

Message to entrepreneurs and business managers

What we, entrepreneurs, lack most is funds. Off course, we also lack personnel and other resources, and would welcome all kinds of professional advice and help in creating a new business network. JAFCO has provided invaluable support, backed by their sufficient funds, experienced staff, long history, and expertise in growing businesses.
JAFCO provided us with growth capital at a very early stage and has made additional investments. JAFCO’s support in providing business introductions and arranging deals using its extensive network throughout Japan was especially valuable.
I originally worked for Sony, so my dream was to establish a company like Sony that can grow. I think it would have been very difficult to develop business had it not been for a top tier venture capital partner like JAFCO.
If your aim is to climb to the top, it is important to select a partner who can share the same goal.

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(Translation of Japanese original posted on January 10, 2017)

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