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Japan’s Cacoo boasts 3 million users, wants to attract with new collaboration experience

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See the original story in Japanese. Fukuoka-headquartered Nulab, the Japanese SaaS (Software as a Service) company offering several collaborative work solutions, has rolled out a new interface on their flagship product Cacoo. Because this is the first major update since the product’s launch back in 2009, we can expect there will be numerous improved functions and upgraded features based on user feedback. Major updates include: Modern and sophisticated designs for dashboard and editor screens New comment function facilitates user feedbacks to team members Easier diagram drawing by adjusting styles Automated data saving while drawing diagram Improved presentation mode for sharing idea with team members In addition to its headquarters in Fukuoka, Nulab has offices in Tokyo, New York City, Taipei and Singapore. The renewal was made on top of concept design and research which has been mainly conducted by their user experience researchers and designers over one year in Japan and New York City. When we take at look at how Cacco has been growing their user base to date, it surpassed 200,000 users back in 2011 celebrating the second anniversary, and then marked 500,000 users in 2012 and 1.5 million users in 2015. In the announcement at this time,…

See the original story in Japanese.

Fukuoka-headquartered Nulab, the Japanese SaaS (Software as a Service) company offering several collaborative work solutions, has rolled out a new interface on their flagship product Cacoo. Because this is the first major update since the product’s launch back in 2009, we can expect there will be numerous improved functions and upgraded features based on user feedback.

Major updates include:

  • Modern and sophisticated designs for dashboard and editor screens
  • New comment function facilitates user feedbacks to team members
  • Easier diagram drawing by adjusting styles
  • Automated data saving while drawing diagram
  • Improved presentation mode for sharing idea with team members

In addition to its headquarters in Fukuoka, Nulab has offices in Tokyo, New York City, Taipei and Singapore. The renewal was made on top of concept design and research which has been mainly conducted by their user experience researchers and designers over one year in Japan and New York City.

When we take at look at how Cacco has been growing their user base to date, it surpassed 200,000 users back in 2011 celebrating the second anniversary, and then marked 500,000 users in 2012 and 1.5 million users in 2015. In the announcement at this time, Nulab revealed that Cacoo has reached 3 million users, and more interestingly, over 86% international access accounts for their entire user base, which is unusual for Japanese companies.

Nulab launched earlier this month a single sign-on scheme called Nulab Account which allows users to utilize and integrate their portfolio with a single user account all across the company’s business integration tools: Backlog (serving 780,000 users, primarily in Japan) and Typetalk (serving 12,000 users as of March 2016 but the latest figures not disclosed). The Nulab Account scheme was partially launched in 2016 but its full roll-out  this month enables full migration of user management functions, enabling users to go back and forth between these tools.

The company’s user engagement activity is not limited to online, and the  launch of NuSpace in Singapore this April underscores their aim to foster user community in the Southeast Asian region.

Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japan’s promising SaaS startup Nulab to set up community space in Singapore

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The Japanese startup Nulab, offering various SaaS (software as a service) such as BackLog, Cacoo and Typetalk, announced today that it will set up a community space in Singapore called NuSpace. Startups using Nulab products (owning Nulab user accounts) can make use of it gratis as a base for business expansion efforts in Southeast Asia as well as for their market research activities. The firm claims the recent increase in Nulab users and large-scale expansion of Japanese startups into Southeast Asian region have allowed them to decide on establishing the venue. NuSpace will not only serve local developer/designer communities in helping them organize meetups but also in offering seminars and Nulab product user support. Nulab wants potential venue users to sign up online beforehand, although  the website for it is still under development. Thus these users are encouraged to enter their email address when using this form so that they can be notified when the website becomes available. In the past Nulab had set up shop in Taiwan, New York and Amsterdam, in addition to several offices in Japan. They used to have an office in Singapore (in the Arab Street neighborhood) but shut it down after Nulab Singapore’s Taiwanese…

NuSpace Singapore (For illustrative purposes only, may differ from the actual photoshoot.)
Image credit: Nulab

The Japanese startup Nulab, offering various SaaS (software as a service) such as BackLog, Cacoo and Typetalk, announced today that it will set up a community space in Singapore called NuSpace. Startups using Nulab products (owning Nulab user accounts) can make use of it gratis as a base for business expansion efforts in Southeast Asia as well as for their market research activities.

The firm claims the recent increase in Nulab users and large-scale expansion of Japanese startups into Southeast Asian region have allowed them to decide on establishing the venue. NuSpace will not only serve local developer/designer communities in helping them organize meetups but also in offering seminars and Nulab product user support.

NuSpace Singapore (For illustrative purposes only, may differ from the actual photoshoot.)
Image credit: Nulab

Nulab wants potential venue users to sign up online beforehand, although  the website for it is still under development. Thus these users are encouraged to enter their email address when using this form so that they can be notified when the website becomes available.

In the past Nulab had set up shop in Taiwan, New York and Amsterdam, in addition to several offices in Japan. They used to have an office in Singapore (in the Arab Street neighborhood) but shut it down after Nulab Singapore’s Taiwanese community manager Lillian Lu went back to Taiwan. With the launch of NuSpace at this time, it is expected to resume some functions as mainstay Singapore office for the company.

NuSpace Singapore (For illustrative purposes only, may differ from the actual photoshoot.)
Image credit: Nulab

The detailed location of renewed NuSpace Singapore has not yet been announced but it seems like it will be located within the neighborhood of MRT Expo Station, one stop from Changi Airport towards downtown Singapore. Since Nulab has a café space to host employee and community events within the company’s Fukuoka headquarters penthouse, the new Singapore presence will apparently emulate it in terms of usage concept and interior design.

Despite the fact that the ASEAN market generally for co-working spaces is saturated, we have been seeing some Japanese startups establish their own spaces in an effort to further engage with local user and developer communities in the region.

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Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japan’s Nulab gets first cash injection in 13-year history, poised for exponential growth

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See the original story in Japanese. In an interview with The Bridge back in September of 2015, Nulab CEO Masanori Hashimoto told us that the firm was about to graduate from startup mode toward a sustainable growth but it seems like things were not going as expected. Offering three cloud services such as Backlog, Cacoo and Typetalk, Nulab had been exponentially growing since 2015 when they stopped entrusted system developments but started focusing on the SaaS (software as a service) business. He said jokingly: We couldn’t graduate but still need to repeat years as a startup (laugh). The Fukuoka-based company revealed today that it has secured its first cash injection from an external investor. It’s 100 million yen (about $884,000) funding from East Ventures, a seed round for the 13-year-old company. Nulab has a relatively long history but had been initially focused on entrusted system developments, subsequently making a total shift into the SaaS business in as recently as 2013. Quoting Chatwork (previously known as EC Studio) as an example which has also a 17-year history but shifted into the SaaS business several years ago, Hashimoto explained: We (virtually) started as a startup back in 2013 when we made a…

Masanori Hashimoto, Co-founder and CEO of Nulab
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

See the original story in Japanese.

In an interview with The Bridge back in September of 2015, Nulab CEO Masanori Hashimoto told us that the firm was about to graduate from startup mode toward a sustainable growth but it seems like things were not going as expected. Offering three cloud services such as Backlog, Cacoo and Typetalk, Nulab had been exponentially growing since 2015 when they stopped entrusted system developments but started focusing on the SaaS (software as a service) business. He said jokingly:

We couldn’t graduate but still need to repeat years as a startup (laugh).

The Fukuoka-based company revealed today that it has secured its first cash injection from an external investor. It’s 100 million yen (about $884,000) funding from East Ventures, a seed round for the 13-year-old company. Nulab has a relatively long history but had been initially focused on entrusted system developments, subsequently making a total shift into the SaaS business in as recently as 2013. Quoting Chatwork (previously known as EC Studio) as an example which has also a 17-year history but shifted into the SaaS business several years ago, Hashimoto explained:

We (virtually) started as a startup back in 2013 when we made a total shift into the SaaS business. That’s why both our mindset and our team members are pretty young.

The company’s user base is currently comprised of 780,000 people across 50,000 companies in Japan using the Backlog project management and collaboration tool as well as 2.8 million people (86.2% of them are from outside Japan) using the Cacoo visual collaboration tool. They introduced a chat communication tool called Typetalk back in February of 2014, allowing users to complete various team work and remote work tasks within the Nulab platform. The Nulab Account single sign-on scheme enables customers to use all the three web services with a single user account.

The Nulab team
Image credit: Nulab

The company has now grown up to a 80-people team based out of Tokyo, New York City, Taiwan and Singapore locations in addition to their headquarters in Fukuoka City. In view of such a high number of users and employees, we can assume that they have less urgent needs in funding because they may generate ample cash flows from their business. However, it seems like that the latest funding at this time around is intended for strengthening global expansion and preparing for a future initial public offering. We can also see the reason behind their choice of East Ventures as a sole investor in this round, which is highly evaluated in terms of global investment and hands-on support.

Hashimoto elaborated:

Based on our achievement, we may create a tunnel that can carry Japanese SaaS products (including third-party products) into the global market. In a way like the global market adopting Japanese project management methods developed by Toyoda, Honda and others, I believe there are many spaces that Nulab and other SaaS companies can expand into.

Regarding the reason why Nulab is looking at an IPO while they used to be less aggressive about funding from an external investor, he added:

Companies and businesses are different. Nulab is a company, and has three businesses (like three startups): Backlog, Cacoo and Typetalk. Now that these so-called startups have further grown up than I thought, I turned to think I need to focus on stabilizing our management base. Otherwise they wouldn’t be able to concentrate on their business but might get up shit creek.

Since Nulab is focused on pursuing people’s diversity of both their in-house developers and user community, it employees many international staffers in the team (like a Canadian assistant to Hashimoto-san). As part of this effort, the company revealed that they will set up a new location in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

There are not many Japanese startups looking at the global market yet, but it’s interesting to see a startup from Fukuoka seeing such an exponential growth. Encouraged by their progress, I really hope that more startups from across Japan will be motivated for aggressive global expansion.

Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japan’s Nulab enhances flagship diagram sharing product, sets up shop in NYC

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See the original story in Japanese. Fukuoka-based Nulab has developed web-based collaborative tool for use with remote workers. On Wednesday, the company released Cacoo for Business, the cloud-based enterprise version of their flagship diagram drawing and sharing tool Cacoo. According to Nulab, Cacoo has acquired 1.5 million users, many using it for business. See also: Changing gears: How Japan’s Nulab pulled off the slow pivot With Cacoo for Business, users can separate private diagrams from organizational diagrams, which are managed by the organization’s administrators. Organizational diagrams can only be shared among the organization, preventing any accidental leakage of important diagrams. Other security and sharing settings include the options to “publish the diagram with URL” option and to give other users permission to view, but not edit, the diagrams. Cacoo for Business provides several additional premium options, such as features allowing users to export their diagrams in PDF or PowerPoint format. Nulab offers a free 30-day trial for the premium option upon the launch of the enterprise edition. Nulab CEO Masanori Hashimoto told The Bridge how Cacoo has been successfully penetrated since its beta launch back in November 2009: Cacoo’s use cases include creating wireframes, sitemaps, network charts, architecture diagrams, as…

cacoo-for-business_featuredimage

See the original story in Japanese.

Fukuoka-based Nulab has developed web-based collaborative tool for use with remote workers. On Wednesday, the company released Cacoo for Business, the cloud-based enterprise version of their flagship diagram drawing and sharing tool Cacoo. According to Nulab, Cacoo has acquired 1.5 million users, many using it for business.

See also:

With Cacoo for Business, users can separate private diagrams from organizational diagrams, which are managed by the organization’s administrators. Organizational diagrams can only be shared among the organization, preventing any accidental leakage of important diagrams. Other security and sharing settings include the options to “publish the diagram with URL” option and to give other users permission to view, but not edit, the diagrams.

Cacoo for Business provides several additional premium options, such as features allowing users to export their diagrams in PDF or PowerPoint format. Nulab offers a free 30-day trial for the premium option upon the launch of the enterprise edition.

cacoo_business

Nulab CEO Masanori Hashimoto told The Bridge how Cacoo has been successfully penetrated since its beta launch back in November 2009:

Cacoo’s use cases include creating wireframes, sitemaps, network charts, architecture diagrams, as well as reviewing user interfaces, creating design order documents, and many other purposes.

Before launching Cacoo for Business, Nulab had been providing the on-premise version of Cacoo for notable Japanese internet companies like DeNA, DMM, and Cookpad, where the company understand how much these users want to secure their assets and resources.

Hashimoto continued:

For example, we have received feedback for more efficient user management, more flexibility for user permissions, how to take over diagrams created by a retired employee to a new designer. We have made these possible in the brand new cloud edition (Cacoo for Business) to better serve our users.

Nulab will keep providing individual user plans as they have been in the past. In view of offering multiple service plans like individual use, business use, or freemium option, our readers may think that Cacoo has a business model similar to DropBox and Evernote.

Hashimoto added:

Going forward, we will add more features aiming to reach corporate users. Specifically speaking, these efforts include strengthening security policy setting such as two-factor authentication as well as integration with other third-party tools and services.

Global expansion

86% of Cacoo users are from outside Japan. US users account for 15% of the user base, and Japanese users take an almost equal share. Considering this, Nulab established a local subsidiary in New York City last October to strengthen marketing in the US.

Hashimoto elaborated:

Our user base in Japan and the US is almost the same size. In the number of paying users by country, Japan is ranked tops, followed by the US, which is far higher than other markets. So we see that many people are using our service in business in the US as well as Japan. That’s why we set up an office in New York for more intimate communication with users. Now we have two local employees there to develop community engagement.

Nulab has been making increased efforts in user engagement in the global market, including holding their recent meet-up in Taiwan last month where local users are rapidly increasing. The company plans to bring the brand new enterprise edition to global companies and other high-profile organizations.

nulab-global

Translated by Masaru Ikeda
Edited by Kurt Hanson

Changing gears: How Japan’s Nulab pulled off the slow pivot

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See the original story in Japanese. Nulab is a startup based in Japan’s western city of Fukuoka, which has developed web-based collaborative tools for use with remote workers. You may be familiar with their diagram sharing tool Cacoo or their task tracking and management tool Backlog. In terms of business management style, Nulab does things a little differently than typical startups. Their method is incrementally progressive, similar to what typical SMEs do. They don’t show off so much, but their services are pretty great, and Cacoo in particular has a wide following around the world. We recently had a chance to hear from the startup’s CEO, Masanori Hashimoto, who told us a little more about their progress to date. Developing Backlog The startup’s primary revenue early on came from developing mobile and web apps for its clients. That’s how Backlog was invented. Hashimoto: We launched back in 2004 and started our business doing software development for clients. So we were working on web productions for our clients in Fukuoka, system developments for securities companies, or even consulting work. In such processes, we had no system for tracking bugs and managing fixes. So we developed our own. That was the beginning…

IMG_9609
From the left, Nulab’s co-founders and board members:
Shinsuke Tabata (managing director),
Toshitaka Agata (managing director), and Masanori Hashimoto (CEO)

See the original story in Japanese.

Nulab is a startup based in Japan’s western city of Fukuoka, which has developed web-based collaborative tools for use with remote workers. You may be familiar with their diagram sharing tool Cacoo or their task tracking and management tool Backlog.

In terms of business management style, Nulab does things a little differently than typical startups. Their method is incrementally progressive, similar to what typical SMEs do. They don’t show off so much, but their services are pretty great, and Cacoo in particular has a wide following around the world. We recently had a chance to hear from the startup’s CEO, Masanori Hashimoto, who told us a little more about their progress to date.

Developing Backlog

The startup’s primary revenue early on came from developing mobile and web apps for its clients. That’s how Backlog was invented.

Hashimoto: We launched back in 2004 and started our business doing software development for clients. So we were working on web productions for our clients in Fukuoka, system developments for securities companies, or even consulting work. In such processes, we had no system for tracking bugs and managing fixes. So we developed our own. That was the beginning of the Backlog app.

Using some open source code and libraries, we could finally introduce the commercial version of the tool after a couple of testing versions. That was in 2006, and at that time the tool was available for free. We didn’t care about charging to our users. (laugh) After that we picked up a lots of new users without any intentional promotion activities.

Subsequently, they released a premium version that was priced at around 8,000 yen (about $80) a month, but that didn’t quite work out. They needed to find another way to make it work.

Hashimoto: We had been developing the app from an engineer’s perspective. We hoped the tool could help software engineers design system architecture or interfaces for their work. But then we changed things and made some improvements for designers or website producers, and the premium version started showing good numbers.

As a result, the tool became widely recognized as a task management tool, not only in the Fukuoka tech community but all across the country.

The emergence of Cacoo

Following up on the Backlog app, the startup introduced Cacoo back in 2010, enabling users to collaborate on diagrams with other remote users, and even chat within the app. Cacoo would go on to become a smash hit.

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Cacoo is now integrated with AdFlow, a banner ad production assisting tool.

Hashimoto: We released the Cacoo app back in 2010. During development work, we previously used wikis for sharing technical information among our developers. But we wanted to edit a diagram or an image in the Wiki easily. And that’s why we started developing the diagram editing and sharing tool.

But for them, it was a very long road to releasing both Cacoo and Backlog. By taking time away from their primary work to develop the Cacoo app, they needed two years to develop the app and get it published.

Shifting focus

Each of the three board members plays a different role. Hashimoto was in charge of managing the client software development, but since these two web services started showing good numbers, he decided to shutdown that department.

Hashimoto: Our director Tabata takes care of the Backlog app, and Agata takes care of the Cacoo app. Since these services are growing now, we shutdown my department. It used to be the primary revenue stream for the company but I think it there is less potential in the future.

We have expected to execute this pivot earlier, but it was impossible to do it so rapidly. We spent three years to shifting our resources from development work to intensifying these new web services.

The startup has also introduced an SDK, which allows third-party developers to work on system integration with the Cacoo app.

I asked Hashimoto if he’s interested in trying for an IPO. He explained:

If your company is listed on a stock exchange, it’s no longer a private company, and should serve people almost like public works. If you expect to make your business into something like that, it’s worth trying to IPO. […] Our next goal is to make this a world-class company.

With the lofty aspiration of further global expansion, Nulab launched a subsidiary in Singapore back in March of 2012. It will be interesting to see if they can use that outpost to find further opportunities around Asia and beyond.