08 Jun Ep 22: A 14-year ride in the travel industry – with Kei Shibata
Everybody talks about the rise of tourists coming to Japan. Since Japan was selected to host the Olympic games of 2020, there is a big fuss about the increasing number of foreigners traveling to the country. In 2013, Japan has for the first time crossed the 10 million tourists threshold. And it is expected to double by 2020 with over 20 million visitors. This excitement about the booming tourist sector has attracted many businesses to enter and address this market.
While the foreign tourist market is on the rise, it remains relatively small compared to the domestic travel market. In value it represents no more than 5% of the total travel industry in Japan. This is the reason why my guest, Kei Shibata continues to bet on the Japanese domestic market.
Kei is the founder CEO of Venture Republic, a company managing websites like travel.jp or hotel.jp. His company has been in business for over 14 years and went IPO in 2008. He also sold the e-commerce part of his business to Yahoo Japan in 2013.
With such an long experience in business, I’m asking Kei about the main changes he has witnessed in the industry. When he first started, it was the early age of the Internet, and Kei explains how online strategies have evolved over time. In particular, he claims that today, quality content is the key to be seen in a market where the attention span has never been shorter.
Kei reveals the biggest lessons he got through his experience. He insists on the importance of having a solid admin team, something that is sometimes ignored by tech startups. He also shares some management insights, talking about the way he’s been working with companies he acquired in other countries.
Kei is a veteran of the online traveling space and I was glad he could share the biggest lessons of his 14 years experience in this short interview.
Questions: What part of the travel industry still need to be improved? What has been your biggest lesson since you started your business? (reply in the comments)
- (1:51) Presentation of Kei
- (3:11) Introduction of Travel meta search business
- (5:12) Importance of domain names
- (7:35) Travel industry boom in Japan
- (14:07) Content strategy and social media
- (20:45) Mobile apps
- (22:53) Startup acquisition strategy
- (28:48) Importance of the admin team
- (32:03) Quick-fire questions
- Venture Republic
- News curation apps: Gunosy / SmartNews
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