Chief Financial Officer at WACUL

Yuya Takemoto

Senior Producer at TIS

Katsunori Yamagishi

Aiming to solve social challenges by combining mutual strengths through CVC-based collaboration

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  • Case Study: WACUL Inc.

At TIS INTEC Group, we engage in CVC (Corporate Venture Capital) by making principal investments with our own funds rather than through fund raising activities. In our CVC activities, we strive to achieve growth in collaboration with startup companies in the industries and IT domains that TIS INTEC Group is engaged in. One of the companies we have invested in is WACUL, a company that primarily offers services that support the digital transformation (DX) of marketing by effectively utilizing AI and other digital technologies. We interviewed Katsunori Yamagishi, who leads the CVC efforts at TIS, and Yuya Takemoto, Chief Financial Officer of WACUL, to discuss what kind of advantages their collaboration will bring.

A Tech Venture that will Deliver Unique Advantages with “AI x Marketing”

What are the unique characteristics of WACUL’s business and services?

Takemoto

We mainly develop services designed to support marketing DX (digital transformation) activities. Our flagship product, the “AI Analyst Series,” is a service that utilizes AI to support digital marketing PDCA. It takes advantage of digital technologies such as AI where our company’s strengths lie. We also provide DX consulting services that support the development of digital strategies and the launch of organizations, and are engaged in delivering corporate DX support through joint research with companies and academic institutions.

Specifically, what kind of service is your AI Analyst service?

Takemoto

Generally speaking, digital marketing tools support the visualization of analysis results, such as displaying them with a nice-looking graph, but what is distinct about AI Analyst is its ability to support a better understanding by using AI to even make suggestions based on analysis results. AI can make a variety of for improvement suggestions based on data by suggesting, for example, that ‘you can increase the number of registered users by doing this’, or in the case of an e-commerce site, ‘you can increase the number of purchasers by doing this’, or ‘increase the number of inquiries by doing this’. Since it also includes functions that verify the effectiveness of measures after the suggestions are actually implemented, AI supports the PDCA cycle of digital marketing.

Unlike BI tools where experts analyze and make proposals, AI is not only highly reproducible, but also low cost and easy to use even at small-to-medium sized businesses. By amassing PDCA data, which are the results of measures implemented at many of our client’s businesses, we are able to improve the accuracy of our improvement suggestions by realizing more sophisticated pattern classification.

Why are you able to use AI to make digital marketing-related suggestions ?

Takemoto

We’ve been developing business with a special focus on consulting services that utilize digital technology since September 2010, and making data analysis-backed suggestions to clients on a daily basis. While doing that, we noticed that client issues and solutions fell into a certain number of patterns, and that these patterns kept repeating. Based on this experience, we felt that if we could analyze these patterns and let AI learn from them, we could offer suggestions with lower cost and higher reproducibility. As a result, we started offering “AI Analyst” in 2015.

What led you to join WACUL and what is your current mission as CFO?

Takemoto

I joined WACUL in July 2018, partly due to my connection with CEO Ryohei Obuchi, as we were in the same seminar as university students, and also due to my interest in startups. Before joining the company, I had experience in finance and business strategy at a foreign securities firm and a foreign strategy consulting firm. Currently, as CFO, I use my experience in aiming to serve as a bridge between business and finance at our company.

Collaboration that Leverages Respective Strengths on an Equal Footing

Could you share the reasons and events leading to the investment in WACUL from the TIS-CVC?

Yamagishi

Sure. First of all, I’d like to congratulate you on your IPO to the Mothers section of the TSE on February 19.

Takemoto

Thank you.

Yamagishi

I visited the company in the latter half of 2018 after hearing about its high growth potential in AI, a keyword at the time.

Takemoto

We were looking at VCs and other investment sources from companies with business synergies for our next round of funding, and just around that time, TIS contacted us and shared their ideas. We felt it was easy to discuss business synergies with them because they were quick on their feet and willing to invest on an equal footing if given the chance.

Yamagishi

We started discussing seriously in September, and it only took about a month and a half before we decided to invest. Since WACUL was so responsive, we were able to proceed smoothly.

Takemoto

Actually, we had already met and talked with dozens of VCs and CVCs, and even though TIS entered the picture much later, talks with them proceeded very quickly.

On what kind of business is TIS intending to collaborate with WACUL?

Yamagishi

We are currently trying to package the process from sales strategy planning to marketing execution for launching a new business or new service. Therefore, we are continuing to discuss ways to collaborate with WACUL.

Takemoto

When it comes to new business initiatives at large enterprises, although the products are highly polished, it is difficult to make upfront investments in marketing, sales, and other promotional aspects due to the inability to mobilize resources from existing businesses. If possible to boost promotional capabilities by outsourcing the marketing to an external company, the marketability of your new business can be quickly ascertained, which can be a driver in launching the new business. This is based on the concept that it is better for the client to focus on the product, and leave the rest to people with that specific expertise.

WACUL has been growing in the marketing area, and we are about to expand our value chain to sales and other connected areas. Given this context, since TIS has excellent development and handling capabilities, if we are able to isolate that aspect and deploy it as a set with our marketing, I believe we will be able to leverage our respective strengths. When large enterprises and startups collaborate, in many cases, the large enterprise only lends its sales channel to the startups’ product, but with TIS, it treats us as equals, wanting us to succeed together to create a business that will solve social issues. We have never felt any kind of ‘we will just sell your product for you’ attitude.

Yamagishi

The most fundamental principle of our company is to collaborate with partners in a way that maximizes their best aspects. Because there is a business need, we would like to work with WACUL to enhance business capacity as we move forward to meet that need. I also learned a lot from the book written by their CIO, Yui Kakiuchi, “Digital Marketing Tried And True Tactics: Why Do Marketers Keep Repeating Strategies That Don’t Produce Results?”.

Aiming to Expand Collaboration Across the Entire Group

What are your expectations towards TIS in terms of expanding collaboration in the future?

Takemoto

Since TIS has a good understanding of the startup company status and has been easy to approach for advice, we certainly want to keep working with them. Ultimately, I hope that we will not only create and develop a single product, but also a relationship that allows us to continue producing products in the long run. Of course, since we also want to provide value for TIS’s clients, we recognize the importance of creating value in each joint project.

We are a problem-solving company, and since TIS also has a corporate philosophy of solving social issues, we look forward to working together proactively to do whatever we can without being fearful of failure.

Yamagishi

Our company’s vision of being a company that contributes to solving social issues is similar to theirs, and we would be delighted to continue developing our current synergies. As far as the nature of our business, I believe the company has the potential for collaboration anywhere within TIS INTEC Group. Therefore, we look forward to expanding our collaboration synergies across the entire group.