In this interview series, we talk to employees from Mitsui & Co. Ltd., who were seconded to Moon Creative Lab to work on new business ventures. These Moon alumni share their experiences as Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs) at Moon and the knowledge they’ve brought back to Mitsui.
For this interview we talk with Yoshinori Tatsumi, currently leading the crypto asset Zipang Coin.
What did he learn from his experience at Moon?.
Yoshinori belongs to the Commodity Trading & Risk Management Division of the Corporate Development Business Unit of Mitsui & Co., Ltd. In 2018, he submitted his idea to Moon and was then chosen to work with Moon as an EIR.
Initially, the project started as an investment project, but eventually shifted to business development for collaboration. Yoshinori tried to build a service that targets inbound tourists, focusing on mobility and regional revitalization. The idea was named "1 Hour Trip”, which aimed to enhance users' travel time by introducing recommended travel routes rather than the shortest route to their destination.
Together with Moon, Yoshinori tried to develop a platform that integrates transfer information for transportation, such as buses and trains. The goal was to then link service information, such as restaurants, tours, and various experiences, with the proposed routes, which may also include walking. There were also benefits for service personnel such as the dispersion of transportation resources and the prevention of tourists from expanding into residential areas.
However, due to various challenges such as technical problems and the time required to establish an alliance, the business idea had to pivot repeatedly. Yoshinori says it was difficult to imagine the issues and needs of target users with different living environments and cultural backgrounds.
"The inbound tourists who were our intended users were very different from me. Interviews were necessary to understand their needs, but the more interviews I conducted and the more user needs I imagined, the more I seemed to lose sight of what was important to me. We couldn't decide what kind of prototype to develop for various reasons, and the repeated pivots had an impact as well. I couldn't say with confidence anymore that we must do this.”
A lack of confidence had a significant impact when proposing to the Moon Committee and working with project members. Towards the end of the project, Yoshinori found convincing business potential, but at that time, there was not enough time left for research and the development of that business was postponed even before he could create a monetization mechanism. Yoshinori graduated from Moon in December 2020.
Immediately after returning to Mitsui, Yoshinori participated in the launch of Zipang Coin, a crypto asset that aims to be linked to the price of gold. In the long term, it is expected to be used for exchange with gold.
From his experience at Moon, Yoshinori learned the importance of having a deep understanding of his target user.
"I felt that it was very important for me to be the target user. I remember that other ventures at Moon, in which entrepreneurs themselves were the target users, had something powerful to attract various things, regardless of the size of the market. Especially in marketing, they had an advantage. So, even if I wasn't the target user in the first place, I thought it would be good if I became one."
Yoshinori started to embody Moon's values, such as "experiment fast" and "stretch our comfort zone," one after another at Mitsui.
"The moment I joined the Zipang Coin project, I turned all my assets into cryptocurrencies and started trading on my own. Since users are investors, I had to become an investor myself. By using my own money to trade, I gained a deeper understanding of certain aspects. This is why I know the value and weaknesses of our products better than anyone else, and I can confidently say I know how our product is seen in the market. I believe we are well known in the market, as investors tend to associate Zipang Coin with my face. This is because I actually practiced what I learned at Moon.”
With the start of Zipang Coin's business, Yoshinori created and began managing a website and SNS account on his own. As a result, he was nominated for the "Person of the Year" by the Japan Blockchain Association, even though SNS operations and content marketing were tasks that he had hardly experienced before, even during his time at Moon.
"What I learned from Moon’s experts was the importance of doing things yourself instead of outsourcing everything. If you can handle it yourself, you can respond more flexibly and quickly, and it does not cost much nor require approval. You can create a website without writing code, and anyone can create an SNS account right away. I think it's better to release it to the world as soon as possible and observe people’s reactions."
For Yoshinori, the use of websites and social media was one of the best ways to allow him to immediately gauge the market’s reaction without spending any money. When he was at Moon, he focused on research, so there were no products developed yet and what he could do was limited. He now acknowledges the value and power of actually creating something with his own hands.
"I have always kept my distance from social media, but I got to learn the importance of social media, especially in the investor community. Although my reach is limited, connecting with people in the community could lead me to supporters who have millions of followers. In some cases, third-party opinions have a greater impact on investment decisions than press releases. Trustworthy connections between individuals are crucial."
Finally, Yoshinori reflected on his experiences at Moon and since returning to Mitsui.
"Through my experience at Moon, I met people from diverse backgrounds that I had never met before. Without meeting them, I don't think I would have been able to broaden my horizon. It would be ideal to share what I learned at Moon with Mitsui through my work, and as a result, the Moon value would be shared at Mitsui as well.”
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