In Moon Alumni interviews, we hear from entrepreneurs who have worked with Moon Creative Lab on their innovative ideas for new businesses and incubating new startup ventures. This time, we talked with Takayuki Yamanaka, General Manager of Innovation & Corporate Development Div. of Mitsui & Co. India Pvt, Ltd. Mumbai Branch.
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Takayuki Yamanaka has an incredibly diverse background. Since joining Mitsui & Co. in 1999 having a license of registered customs specialist, he has dealt imports/exports and logistics consultations in Logistics Business Unit, was involved in overseas sales and project management for the Iron & Steel Products Business Unit, served as a COO in the Media Division’s affiliate(at that time) TV Channel “Kids Station”, and is currently the General Manager of Innovation & Corporate Development Div. of Mitsui & Co. India Pvt, Ltd. Mumbai Branch, where he focuses on B2B information and communication technology.
Takayuki joined Moon in 2021 to work on his venture, Japan IP Studio, an intellectual property platform to support the global development of content produced in Japan. This idea had been on his mind for a very long time, seeing that Takayuki is an avid domestic anime fan and collector owning a library of around 6,000 books in his basement.
"I wanted to create an environment that would make it easy to match domestic content creators with companies that wanted to showcase their content overseas by making all kinds of IP and creative data related to domestic content searchable,” Takayuki explained.
Japan IP Studio would provide domestic content creators with marketing data that would help them determine the value of overseas expansion, while also helping international companies search for Japanese content. By acting as a mediary to handle business and IP between Japan and other countries, Japan IP Studio would have hopefully helped the supply of content meeting overseas demand.
According to Takayuki’s research, there were at least 40,000 manga, anime, games, novels, and other types of content in Japan. Though the language barrier was a large challenge, cultural differences in content creation also presented a hurdle. In Japan, content is often created before a marketing strategy is put in place. With global companies, however, art is created to tailor to existing market data. As a result, Takayuki says, foreign companies would often only see popular content, while lesser-known creators remained overlooked.
To counterbalance the disparate domains, Takayuki collected data on each piece of content existing in Japan and made it, for the first time ever, searchable. He also managed the information in intricate detail so that other countries could determine if the content fit its cultural background and legal restrictions.
Takayuki collected and compiled data on approximately 5,000 pieces of Japanese content into a singular database. With the help of a data scientist, he worked with domestic IP owners and overseas companies to customize the search results. But setbacks with time, resources, and the pandemic slowed the Japan IP Studio project down. "I remember it was like a game of messages. Later, with advice from Moon members, we decided to pivot. At first, we were aiming to develop a matching platform for B2B, collecting data on works and systematically connecting content and companies. But then we realized that it is consumers who support the foundation of the IP business. As a result, we came to the conclusion that we must first understand the fans in each region, such as what fans in the U.S. were looking for, or what fans in Southeast Asia are searching for. It seemed faster to take the data I had in my head on domestic content and link it to international fans. For example, trends in games can be generated from Discord conversations, and content can generate buzz without any marketing. I thought it would be faster for me to create such things by sending out information myself, rather than collecting data and creating a platform.”
Takayuki decided to pivot to a business model using SNS. Japan IP Studio used Twitter to not only communicate with fans to identify and forecast trends, but also used that information to provide planning proposals to Japanese content creators and introduce content to overseas companies.
However, building a fan-based business takes time. Though Takayuki was able to gain valuable data by using Twitter, it was difficult to show results in a short time frame. He decided to end his time at Moon after one year.
The project was unfortunately terminated, but Takayuki decided to continue the operation on his own. He devoted his personal time to his blog and Twitter, promoting the account at his own expense and continuing to introduce Japanese productions to overseas users in English. Japan IP Studio’s Twitter account now has a following of over 10,000 international anime fans.
Takayki emphasizes that he learned the importance of personal growth through his research at Moon and his Twitter operation. "I took advice from consultants and actually tried it out, but there were few successful social networking strategies that could be applied directly to what I had heard. I had to try it myself."
Takayuki explains further, "If you advertise too much, you are likely to lose followers rapidly afterwards. So, how much is just right?” He says that subtle adjustments to the strategy, like trying to find the right amount of advertising, would have been difficult to understand without actually trying it, and would have been something that no one could teach him.
He believes that an individual’s hands-on experience brings the greatest benefits to a business group or organization. "Right now, I'm using my personal time to increase my social influence as much as possible through the Japan IP Studio account… I think it is better for individuals to first gain experience and then apply it to their own business where it will be mutually beneficial. That alone has the potential to create great synergy."
Takayuki, who also holds an MBA from the University of Wales and a PLD (Program for Leadership Development) from Harvard Business School, shares that creating connections, such as the personal ties of alumni, can also help build business. "Harvard Business School has an alumni association called HBS Alumni. Everyone has left for their own paths, but the concept of alumni is to loosely unite them… in five or ten years, if the internal entrepreneurs at Mitsui and Moon can create synergies within their networks, the relationship between them should be a great asset.”
He explains the necessity of networking, sharing information, and receiving feedback in order to make a business successful, and how a collaborative environment is beneficial for innovation. “It is similar to checking out of a hotel. ‘How was your stay? Please let us know if there is anything we can improve on, and please come back and have a nice trip!’ I think Moon is playing an important role in promoting such an environment within the Mitsui & Co. group.”
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