Up-and-coming startup Anyperk recently announced that it has raised $1.4 million in funding. And with plans to hire sales, engineering, and marketing staff, it aspires to succeed in a space that has been tough to some other companies. Companies sign up with AnyPerk so their employees can benefit from a number of discounts and deals from partner vendors, such as 15% savings on your AT&T billing, for example.
I recently caught up with one of the AnyPerk founders Taro Fukuyama to learn more about the company’s path up until now, as well as where they go from here.
I first encountered Taro when he was heading up Mieple back in 2011, an idea for a sort of social communication service. That summer saw him and his team head to the US, meeting with over 100 investors while living in their car parked in a Taco Bell parking lot! Takeshi Homma, an exec for a Japanese company working in San Francisco, explains his surprise at the team’s very lean approach in those early days:
My friends and I hosted the welcome dinner in Chinatown for their team and another start-up who just came to Silicon Valley. […] After the dinner, I asked them where they were going to stay. They said nothing has been decided. “What?” I said. “We don’t have a place to stay tonight,” they said. Long story short, they survived as super lean start-up. I’m sure that Taco Bell wasn’t a good place to stay for a week. I’m very impressed with their incredible vitality and I believe that it is one of the most important [qualities] for a start-up. I’m sure they will survive for a long time.
Taro tells me that eventually the team prepared an application and got into the Y Combinator incubator with the idea of Mieple, the first Japanese company to enter the program. That incubation program started in January of 2012, and on the third day, they decided to stop working on Mieple, and in the weeks that followed they came up with the idea of AnyPerk, inspired by companies who had executed similar ideas back in Japan.
In terms of customer acquisition, the company initially struggled with a chicken and egg problem. They needed customers in order to acquire perk vendors, and vendors in order to acquire customers. To work around this they offered discounts to Y Combinator founders to kickstart their initial client acquisition.
Currently AnyPerk charges companies $5 per employee per month, and has made significant progress by bringing in 2,500 customers, including high profile ones such as Pinterest, Quora, Pandora, and Cushman & Wakefield. Among the more notable of its 300 vendors to date are Six Flags, Zipcar, Hertz, Travelocity, AT&T, T-Mobile, HP, and Dell.
As for their target market, they intend to focus on the US for now. I asked Taro if he had plans to bring AnyPerk back to Japan, but he explains given the three or four companies doing similar business there already, they plan to focus on the US first. Other countries could come later.
It remains to be seen whether or not AnyPerk can excel in this space, as a similar service, BetterWorks, gave up on a similar business just last year. But the company does have some tenacious founders whom investors apparently have much faith in, so it will be interesting to see how much further AnyPerk can develop this business idea.
Photo: City Data