How to Make Startup M&A Work in Japan – Naoki Yamada
By Tim Romero: Serial startup founder in Japan and indomitable innovator
Startup M&A is changing in Japan. In August, Naoki Yamada sold his startup Conyac to Rozetta for $14 million. It was an unusual journey of alternating cycles of rapid growth and near bankruptcy, and today Naoki explains how he managed to make the deal happen and also how M&A is changing in Japan, and it seems that change might come much sooner than anyone had been expecting. Naoki talks very openly about some of the mistakes he made and give solid advice on how you can avoid making the same ones. And of course, he explains how he handled the negotiations for the acquisition, and why he decided the exit now rather than continue to grow the company. It’s a great story, and I think you’ll enjoy it. Show Notes for Startups How two quick pivots saved Naoki's company The risks for startups hiring (and firing) too quickly The temptation and danger of focusing on investors at the expense of the team Why M&A made more sense than another round of fundraising What Japanese acquiring companies are most worried and most excited about The struggles of post-M&A integration Advice for large companies who want to acquire startups Links from the Founder Learn more about Conyac at their home page Rozetta's Home page Read Naoki’s thoughts on Nakoki’s personal blog Follow him on Twitter @naokey Friend him on Facebook [shareaholic app="share_buttons" id="7994466"] Leave a comment Transcript from Japan Disrupting Japan, episode 65. Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I'm Tim Romero and thanks for listening. Today, Naoki Yamada, founder of Conyac, joins us for a second time. Long-term listeners may remember that he first came on the show a little over 2 years ago and he’s been very busy since then. In August, 2016, Naoki sold his company to Rozeta for about 12 million dollars. But that deal almost didn’t happen and today Naoki joins us again to tell us the story of massive growth, followed by near bankruptcy, followed by massive growth, followed by near bankruptcy, followed by recovery, followed by M&A. So you already know the ending but it’s the story that’s important. Naoki talks very openly about some of the mistakes he made and gives solid advice on how you can avoid making the same ones. And of course, he explains how he handled the negotiations of the acquisition and why he decided to exit now, rather than continue to grow the company. But, you know, Naoki tells that story much better than I do, so let’s hear form our sponsor and then get right to the interview. [pro_ad_display_adzone id="1404" info_text="Sponsored by" font_color="grey" ] Tim: Cheers. It’s great to see you again. I’m sitting here with Naoki Yamada and we’re going to talk about Conyac. And it’s an exciting story of starting up and growing, and almost going bankrupt, and growing, and almost going bankrupt again, and having a happy ending. So thanks for sitting down with us. Naoki: Thank you. Tim: So let’s back up a bit—let’s back up a lot. Tell us about what Conyac is. Naoki: When was the last time we talked? Tim: A little over two years ago. Naoki: Okay. It’s been a while and we’ve changed a lot. We started Conyac as a social translation and we slightly changed our service from customer service to business service in 2013. Tim: So let’s start from the beginning. In 2009, you started it. What is consumer translation? Was it like peer-to-peer translation? Naoki: It was more like a community-based translation service. At that time, there were only two options for the translations. One is traditional translation entities and the other one is Google. We wanted to make our service in between those two options, so we asked people who could do the translations outside of the community. We added many translators in our platform and we did translation through those people. Tim: So was it just very small batch translations of 1...