Ep 35 – Getting a competitive edge in a crowded marketspace – with Masashi Takahashi

masashi takahashi from voyaginMasashi Takahashi was the very first user of Airbnb in Japan and has been hosting over two hundred travellers. Japan being a country where information in English is still very scarce, he was used to have guests asking him for recommendations of places to visit and sometimes had to help them make reservations. That’s where he recognized the need to make a platform to help foreigners find activities around Japan.

He founded Voyagin in 2011 under a different name: FindJPN. He explained what led to the change of name as well as the evolution of its service from the initial idea to what it is today. Voyagin has become this marketplace where users can easily find and book tours, activities, restaurants and tickets. It currently lists some 2000 activities, including 40% outside Japan. Today the company is profitable with over 30,000 guests making a booking (in 2014.)

With Japan hosting the Olympics in 2020, the market for services targeting tourists is really getting crowded. Masashi explains how he found a competitive edge that could set him apart from the competition. In particular, he shares with us how he first broke the “chicken and egg” problem that all marketplaces face at the very beginning. He also explains how the advice from a VC to focus on two specific but different destinations – Tokyo and Bali – made Voyagin really take off.

More recently in July 2015, The giant e-commerce company Rakuten acquired a majority stake in the company. Masashi goes through the changes that it brought to his company. We also discuss how the two entities are now working together despite their difference in size and culture.

Questions: How can a company know when it’s best to merge with a bigger player? What role travel plays in someone life? (reply in the comments)

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Shownotes

  • (2:56) First Airbnb user in Japan
  • (6:52) Presentation of Voyagin
  • (10:38) Getting traction on a marketplace
  • (20:04) Finding the right sales channels
  • (25:08) More foreigners coming to Japan
  • (29:03) Acquisition by Rakuten
  • (32:52) Step by step collaboration
  • (36:51) Decision process of selling your company
  • (38:03) Moving HQ to Singapore
  • (41:10) How does it feel to see your company
  • (41:47) Differentiation advantage
  • (45:45) Travel impact on life
  • (48:17) Quick-fire questions

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Frederic

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