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Converting from Web Consulting to SaaS IPO with Business Partner
Converting from Web Consulting to SaaS IPO with Business Partner

"IPO STORY" unravels the trajectory from the encounter between an entrepreneur and JAFCO to the listing. We will talk about the episodes and thoughts that can be told now that the entrepreneur has successfully grabbed the listing, and the outlook for the future. This time, we will deliver a dialogue between Mr. Ryohei Obuchi, CEO of WACUL Co., Ltd., which was listed on Mothers in February​ ​2021, and Yutaro Saka, the capitalist in charge of JAFCO.


【profile】
CEO Ryohei Obuchi
Born in 1987. After graduating from the Faculty of Economics, Kyoto University, joined Boston Consulting Group Co., Ltd. Engaged in the development of new businesses and the formulation of management strategies in the technology, media and telecom sector. Established WACUL Co., Ltd. as a co-founder and became COO of the board in September​ ​2011. He is in charge of a wide range of tasks, from business aspects such as sales and development to management aspects such as finance and personnel. After that, he became CEO in December​ ​2017. Work on corporate data-driven management and promotion of digital transformation.


[What's​ ​WACUL Co., Ltd.]
WACUL Co., Ltd. realizes DX (digital transformation) of sales and marketing with the vision of "making each business partner with technology". "AI analysts" who maximize the results of websites through AI analysis support PDCA for digital marketing, from data analysis to proposals for improvement points, management of measures and verification of results. Established in September​ ​2010. Received funding from JAFCO in June​ ​2015 and September​ ​2016, and listed on Mothers on February​ ​19, 2021.

Porfolio


I felt the future of WACUL in the high need for "website improvement"

Saka: You first met  WACUL around March​ ​2013, about two and a half years after the company was founded.


Obuchi Members Five When I was about a person, I had you come to the multi-tenant building at that time. At that time Web The consulting business is the main business, and at that time I was wondering "Why did you come to us?" (smile)..

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Saka: When I was interested in  UI / UX and was looking at the WACUL homepage at that time, I found an example of the production of a corporate website of a major company. I was wondering why such a small company was receiving an order for a project from such a large company, so I went to see him.


Obuchi: At that time, I was a consulting company, and I thought that it was still a long way to include external shareholders in terms of management strategy, so I remember gently refusing to invest.


Saka That's right. However, I felt that I was a company that I could have contact with in the future. As of 2013, I was talking about creating a platform like the current "AI analyst", and I thought it would be interesting to have a point of contact.


Obuchi After that, it was January​ ​2015 that I decided to raise funds. Originally, WACUL was a company that I, who was at a consulting firm, started up with my former president, who is a senior at my university. I took over the baton as I moved to the organizational expansion phase in 2018.

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The former president had knowledge in Web content production and marketing from his previous job experience, and I also had industry knowledge because I was consulting with tech and telecommunications companies. There was an idea to do a small number of elite web consulting businesses, which are the areas of strength of both parties. The management team took the lead in seeking ways to create value on-site and generalize the knowledge cultivated there to commercialize and mechanize it.


Saka: I was contacted at the end of  2014 and asked if I should raise funds because I would like to promote the conversion of products that are the predecessors of "AI analysts" to SaaS. At that time, there was no similar service yet, and I felt that it was a service with great potential, so I think it should be procured, and I answered that I would invest in it. Of course, I have to get an internal approval, so I can't decide by myself ... (laughs). As an individual, it was a company / business that I wanted to invest in immediately.


Obuchi: The speed of decision-making was fast (laughs).


Saka: At that time, I was in charge of various companies, including Money Forward, and I realized that they all had the same issues. Even start-ups, which are tech-driven and highly talented, haven't been able to improve their websites at all. I've heard from many people that Google Analytics analysis is difficult, and I thought that "AI Analyst" is a service that solves that problem. So, in fact, the due diligence in advance was almost over.

Furthermore, I remember being surprised when Mr. Obuchi was told that "not only improving websites, but even website design can be automated by AI", which is beyond imagination. The reason I decided to invest was that I thought there was a need and I could do it.


Obuchi That's right. AI pointed out the improvement points of the website, and he said that it would be nice if he could create and operate the design. Of course, the idea is still alive. At the time of the first investment, the concept that is the basis of the strategy has not changed since then, and Mr. Saka has been watching the changes in the business format and organization on the way.

Helped in everything from hands-on sales support to consultation on management issues

Mr. Obuchi JAFCO invested 300 million yen at the same time as the release of "AI Analyst", and from there he came with a muddy three-legged race. I feel that he was the same age as Mr. Saka and shared the idea of "let's grow together."


Saka: I was still a fledgling capitalist, so I was desperate (laughs). Immediately after the investment, we introduced our business partners as much as possible, and with a system of 6 sales people, 3​ ​WACUL and 3 JAFCO teams, we were also doing a "100 introduction campaign".


Obuchi JAFCO's network really helped me. The reliability is different if WACUL introduces you to JAFCO rather than going directly to sales.


Saka: You talked about management issues while getting involved with sales support.


Obuchi That's right. Including the worries that it would be useless to consult with investors in such a flat manner. It may or may not be enough for a listed company, but I would like to talk about my frank feeling as to whether it is correct to proceed as a company, as an organization, and as a management system. bottom.


Saka: In terms of business expansion and strengthening of the organizational structure for the  IPO, Mr. Obuchi was the representative, and in many cases I was able to do it.


Obuchi That's right. With the previous system, no one else did it (laughs), so I naturally took charge of the Administration Division, and as a result, I took control of the fundamental parts of the business, such as sales strategy and product development. In addition, it was gradually becoming impossible to start.

As a director, I often say, "Why are you making such a product?", But that was the initial strategic concept and equity story (business strategy after financing, There was a slight discrepancy with the one that explains the growth strategy to investors), so it was difficult to decide how to explain it to stakeholders when raising additional funds.

At that time, the former president himself wanted to take on a new challenge outside of management, so he decided to inherit the baton.



I first learned about the difficulty of the entrepreneur side

Slope Became a representative 2018 At the timing of the year, Mr. Obuchi was the director until then CFO I will take on the position of. When the organizational structure changes, a new one CFO I didn't have time to adopt, so it felt like a bridge until then.


Obuchi That's right. Saka-san was the only person who knew the situation of the organization, had the same feelings for WACUL, and wondered who would be able to take full responsibility for money, including salary (laughs). I asked if you could come in the form of a secondment.

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When I entered the slope, I was surprised at how much I had to do. Capitalists often solve problems that have come down by themselves, but the work of officers must be assigned to teams and aim to solve the problems. I was entrusted with work that I had never done before, and I ran without feeling that I was doing well.


Obuchi: Immediately after taking office as the representative, I had to reorganize the products, rethink the business strategy of where the company should aim, and move forward with the verbalization of the organizational culture at once. Everyone was full for a while.


Saka: The biggest thing I learned as a CFO was that I was able to understand the difference between investors and entrepreneurs. Until then, as an investor, I was on the side of talking about "the theory that should be". But when I stand on the entrepreneurial side, I often say, "I know that, but I can't!" The management of a startup receives various advices from various fields including shareholders. Of course, all of them are appreciated, but if there are 10 advisors, there are 10 ways of advice. Some people say A is correct, some say B is correct, and both of those advices are correct. The important thing is to decide which is the correct answer for us.

Startup management has to choose from a number of options without knowing which is the correct answer. I realized the difficulty of making that decision. I regretted "I'm sorry" to the many entrepreneurs who have advised me as investors without knowing such a situation (laughs).


Obuchi, however, it is extremely important for management to convey the theory that they should be as an investor, and I am grateful.


Saka: I learned that it is meaningless if you don't give advice that supports decision-making, not just telling. I'm not saying that this is the correct answer, but that the role of VC is to support the decision-making to make the correct answer for the company. I think I was wearing it wrong.


Verbalized vision and mission, renewed recruitment policy

Obuchi Vision and the verbalization of the mission were also decided by the executives during a "management training camp" for about half a year. However, what is important is not only the vision and mission, but also the puzzles, including the business content, strategy, and organizational culture, all in parallel. We have been discussing the design of visions, missions, and action guidelines, and going back and forth between business strategies so that one of them does not collapse due to misalignment.


Saka: In the meantime, finance was approaching, and I was wondering if the vision was saying something lenient.


Obuchi That's right. After that, I finally had the opportunity to talk about WACUL 's vision and business content in various places, and I felt that I was confident one by one by receiving good feedback. Looking back on the difficulties at that time, the preparation phase for the IPO was easier because it was clear what to do. The consultation with Mr. JAFCO was also narrowed down to two points: "what kind of person to hire and how to increase sales".


Saka: The hiring policy has changed a lot. Until then, as management led the organization, needs were subdivided, saying, "I want people who can handle this task." After the organizational expansion phase, we needed someone who could take care of the entire organization, including management.


Obuchi Jito Adopt if you are smart! I've been doing rough things like this, but from now on, instead of focusing only on skills and experience, it will be a way of facing "human beings" as to how much they can share the same feelings as a companion who manages the organization together. .. I was also helped by JAFCO's recruitment support as to how to change the communication at the time of selection.

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Aiming to develop services that go beyond the digital marketing domain

Saka: Now that you have been listed on Mothers in  February​ ​2020, how do you see the future?


Obuchi We have the knowledge to produce results based on data. Currently, we are limited to supporting DX and digital marketing areas, but AI-based business automation can be transformed into more business formats. I hope that WACUL 's uniqueness can make society as a whole happy.


Saka WACUL is a company that fits into my investment decision axis. I'm the type who doesn't like to do the same thing over and over again, so like an "AI analyst", he gives me the answer I wanted, and there is a lot of information. I want a service like a partner who can instantly give me the answer I want to reach. I think that I will continue to invest in such companies, so I think it would be good if Mr. Obuchi developed a service that would make society as a whole happy. It's kind of pretty, but it's really serious.


Obuchi 's true intention is transmitted (laughs). For me, Mr. Saka is a companion who has grown up with me. Mr. Jafco was willing to send Mr. Saka to us. I'm just grateful. It was comfortable for me that Mr. JAFCO honestly looked at the business content and growth rate and evaluated it. People often say, "It's a venture, but it's sober," but I'm not denying it sober, and I'm looking at the numbers properly. I think it was because of Mr. JAFCO that he was able to shake off what he was good at and what he could do.
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