Japanese mobile flea market startup Mercari adds former Mixi CFO to board


See the original article in Japanese

To win in a competitive market, building strong management is necessary for a company. An increasingly competitive market in Japan is the flea market app space.

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Mercari, one of the leading players in this field, announced this past month that Fumiaki Koizumi, the former CFO of Mixi, would join as a board member. Koiziumi previously worked for Daiwa Securities SMBC and took charge of the IPOs for Mixi and DeNA. After he left Mixi, he has been supporting startups, and his recent addition to the board of directors at Trippiece drew some attention as well.

At Mercari, he is currently not in a specific managerial position. But he might assume a title later on. Coinciding with this announcement, Mercari also released some interesting figures. The company says that the total number of items listed on their app has surpassed 1 million since the app went live in July 2013. They say that 10,000 items are added to the app everyday.

As this market gets more competitive, what kind of strategy does Mercari have? We spoke to Shintaro Yamada, the CEO of Mercari, and Fumiaki Koizumi about this.

The Bridge: First of all, I’d like to know how Koizumi-san will get involved in the management of the company.

Yamada: As we expand the business, building strong management is key. The company’s advisor, Atsushi Ishikawa (former vice-president of Unoh Inc., CSO of Wonderplanet Inc.) was the first hire of CyberAgent and understands very well what kind of problems a startup goes through as it expands. He points out these possible problems in advance. I invited Koizumi-san as CFO, but I expect him to be active in the overall business, and in PR, aggressive PR. We had been focusing on development, and couldn’t spare much resources for PR so far.

The Bridge: Koizumi-san recently joined Trippiece as well, right?

Yamada: We encourage double work, and I invested in Smartnews myself. So, we don’t have any problem with that.

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The Bridge: What do you think of the flea market app space?

Koizumi: Since resources in our society are limited, I was interested in C2C transactions as a solution. And now that this trend moving forward, I’d like to be a part of it.

The Bridge: What strategy do you have for PR and marketing? Will you put advertisements in magazines and such mass media?

Koizumi: We don’t have a plan to put large resources into advertisement.

The Bridge: Japan’s C2C market won’t grow without significant effort. We previously featured classifieds site Jmty.jp and looked at their challenges. What do you think is the key to succeeding in the C2C market?

Yamada: I was talking about this with my friends who have management experience. What makes Mercari different from others is that we really care about the product. For example, we carefully look at points where users drop out from the purchasing process, and try to improve it.

Koizumi: Our customer support is simple, but we think that a good user experience is very important.

Whenever I speak with Yamada, I’m always impressed with his passion to make a perfect product. Considering that the most of the members of Mercari have been engineers, bringing new perspective to make the product more sophisticated must be important. A user-friendly interface and a solid app is inevitable for consumer service.

The competition among flea market apps will be fierce in 2014. It reminds me of the past competition in the group buying market. Stay tuned to see who can win out in this space.