From Founding to its Growth Stage of the “Improbable” AI Business

On April 27, 2022, AI inside held a discussion event under the theme of “From Founding to its Growth Stage of the “Improbable” AI Business: How to overcome difficulties on the way.”

We shared what they answered to the questions from the audience in part 1, and in this article, we will share their comments for those struggling to grow, and more.

Form A Winning Strategy with the Future and Societal Trends in Mind

Takahashi: Our next question is for Toguchi-san. When you said, “In 2005, I found a strategy for certain victory,” what strategy was this?

Toguchi: At the time, I was working on the operation of a gourmet food website. Back then, there was this one competitor company that dominated the market, and it was like there were not a lot of other alternative sites. It was as If you opened a restaurant, you absolutely had to make it onto that site.

Now, the question here is how to win against a company like that. It turned out that the company had the business model of a publisher, not the business model of a web company.

This gourmet food site had salespeople, photographers, and writers. They received requests from restaurants, and instead of putting the restaurant’s information in print, they simply put it on the web. I was in Nagoya at the time, and the number of restaurants within Nagoya city that were listed on that site was in the tens of thousands.

But when I took the train to a city five minutes away, I found that of the around 420 shops there, only four of them were listed on the site. So, I went to these 420 shops myself, took pictures with my own camera, wrote articles, created a portal site, and even printed and distributed coupons all by myself. I thought that people would be sure to see it with all that effort.

Everyone knew about this famous website, but if none of the shops where you live are listed there, you’ll be disappointed. But if they were listed on my website, you’d definitely use them.

Since we were doing all of this for free, I knew that people would definitely use it. And if enough people visited the site, we’d have advertisers to make up for it. Japanese Yakiniku restaurants started advertising on the site during that time.

Takahashi: And this was back in 2005, yes. I think this ties back to what you said at the beginning of the main presentation: “If you know the future, you can win.”

It’s not just about knowing your own strengths, but also about what the future looks like, including the social structure. Obviously, one should predict realistically and with logic, which I think is necessary for the growth and scaling of the AI field.

Scale by Growing Your Product Together with Users and Partners

Takahashi: On to our next question: Obviously, it takes time for development to reach the stage of a final product, but are there any other stages that require a lot of time?

Toguchi: Building a network of partners. We had to find sales partners, sure, but also users who would develop the product alongside us. Also, hiring people who can work with you to bring your vision to life. So my answer to this question is , “relationship building.”

Takahashi: What do you think, Nishikawa-san?

Nishikawa: It’s all in how to handle things when errors occur in a product. When making a product, there can be so many defects even in the beta version that when you bring it to customers, they point out the errors. The question is, how quickly can we get the critical issues under control and handle them to the point where they can be somewhat used by the users?

Takahashi: As for partners, it’s more about gathering people who will share the risk and polish the product alongside you. I feel that finding these people is very important during growth stages.

Think the Fundamental Issues Through and Provide Value

Takahashi: To end our segment, I’d like to ask if you can provide a message to people who want to achieve growth but are struggling to do so. I’m sure we have a few people like that in the audience.

Toguchi: There are many different situations where people struggle with growth, so I don’t think there’s a single message I could give that’d apply to everyone, but if I were to try, I’d say, “be sure to think things through.”

I think it’s a good idea to ask yourself if your vision, strategy, and tactics are thought out enough for you to really believe in them.

I know that it might sound like what everyone would tell you, but that’s not what I mean. I think it is better to keep thinking and asking yourself whether what you are doing is responding to what’s fundamental to you.

Takahashi: Facing the fundamental issues is certainly part of it. What about you, Nishikawa-san?

Nishikawa: Personally, I think the most important thing is providing value to customers. If you have customers who are willing to take a risk, invest, and try out your product, then you focus on whether or not you can deliver value to them that’ll blow them away. Enough to stake your life on it. If a customer says “this is amazing,” then I think you have some solid evidence that things will work out.

Takahashi: Thank you both for your time. There are plenty that we didn’t get the chance to talk about, but I think that will be all for today. Enjoy your evenings, everyone.

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