ChatWork, Interview with CEO Toshi Yamamoto

Toshi_Yamamoto_headshotA chat platform changing the world of business building a creative working culture. This is the mission of ChatWork, the Japanese company ready to disrupt the team collaboration process, which too often still relies on paper and email.
Following the close of the Series B round, we spoke with CEO Toshi Yamamoto about the opportunity they found in the market, the product and its applications, the company and its growth path, the funding and future plans.

FinSMEs: Hi Toshi, can you tell a bit more about you?
Toshi: I’m the founder and CEO of ChatWork. I lead the day-to-day operations of ChatWork from the U.S. and work with our teams in Japan and other Asian countries. I’m from Osaka, Japan, but I moved to the U.S. with my family in 2012 to focus on expanding our market share here and in Western countries.

FinSMEs: Let’s speak about ChatWork. which is a business chat app…how does it work?
Toshi: Today, it’s harder than ever to work as a team. There are too many emails, too many meetings and too much information that’s hard to keep organized. Team members are in different time zones. Projects take longer to complete than planned. It’s frustrating, stressful and teamwork falls apart.
Teams need an easier, faster and more streamlined way to communicate and work together with less drama and stress.
ChatWork is a new way to work where everything flows and is streamlined for teamwork. There’s a chat room for each project you work on together. Conversations, tasks and files are in context and are transparent. Global teams can stay in sync and engage in real-time.

FinSMEs: Can you make an example of successful adoption from your customers?
Toshi: We have customers from all kinds of industries who use ChatWork with their internal and external teams. One example is our customer, GeoRepublic. They are a software company that specializes in geolocation. They compete on a global scale and have employees and customers all over the world. They give their employees the freedom to set their own schedules and work from anywhere like Munich, Tokyo and Osaka. By using ChatWork since their founding in 2011, their global teams can collaborate and stay in sync regardless of their different locations or time zones.

FinSMEs: Given the above, a huge market opportunity?
Toshi: ChatWork already helps over 86,000 companies from 204 countries and regions all over the world. We’re on a mission to help all the rest of the teams across the globe who are frustrated and stressed out because they are still depending on email to get work done. We want to show them there’s a faster, more streamlined and collaborative way to work. This is a tremendously big market opportunity.

FinSMEs: Where is ChatWork in terms of growth?
: ChatWork has over 60 employees in Osaka, Tokyo, Taiwan and San Francisco.
Our customers are teams from over 86,000 companies based in 204 countries and regions. With our funding, we know we can continue to expand and reach even more teams especially in Western countries.

FinSMEs: You just raised a meaningful Series b round of vc. How are you using the funds?
: With our Series B funding, we’re excited to accelerate our market growth in the U.S. and Western countries and help businesses build a more humanized work culture and excel in our global economy.

FinSMEs: What about the startup ecosystem in Osaka? Supportive? Is it growing?
: The situation for startups is changing in Japan, but it’s not like Silicon Valley. There’s not a lot of entrepreneurs there starting new businesses and so there isn’t a lot of funding from VCs. I want to be a role model to business leaders in Japan and show them it’s possible to succeed beyond Japan and represent Japan in the U.S.
ChatWork was fortunate to receive funding from from JAFCO Co. Ltd., the largest and most prestigious venture capital firm in Japan.
We hope with our Series B funding of $12.5M (U.S.), one of JAFCO’s largest rounds they have ever invested in, that this will create a huge impact in the Japanese VC industry and will help build momentum for other Japanese startups.



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