Eight Keywords for Delving Into Mercari: Our First 10 Years and the Potential and Future We Seek to Unleash / The Eighth Keyword: “Potential”

February 2023 marked the tenth anniversary of Mercari, Inc. We now have a new Group mission of “Circulate all forms of value to unleash the potential in all people.”

Here at Mercan, we have kicked off a new series feature called “Eight Keywords for Delving Into Mercari: Our First 10 Years and the Potential and Future We Seek to Unleash,” where we shine the spotlight on the thoughts and dreams put into this new Group mission and what we intend to achieve in the future. We will hear from key people who will lead Mercari into its next era, and try to paint a picture of the present and future of the organization that is Mercari to help us imagine how we can contribute to the company in the coming ten years.

The final keyword in this series: “potential.” In this article, we sat down with Yuki Ishikawa (@maze; CEO of Souzoh, Inc., VP at Mercari, Inc.), Kazushi Osari (@osarin; Vice President, Chief Operating Officer (Marketplace)), and Shunsuke Sako (@sakoshun; Vice President of Growth, Chief Business Officer (Marketplace) / Director of Souzoh, Inc.). Read on to find out how Mercari has unleashed the potential of its services, the company, and its users; what the driving force between Mercari’s creations has been so far; and what potential they hope to unleash in the future!

Featured in this article

  • Yuki Ishikawa

    After graduating from the University of Tokyo, Yuki joined Nintendo Co., Ltd. in 2012. In 2014, he joined Moi Corporation (TwitCasting), where he worked on various development projects and new services. He joined Mercari Group as a member of the previous Souzoh, Inc. in June 2017. Later, he transferred to Mercari, Inc., and in July 2020, was appointed VP of Product at Merpay, Inc. In January 2021, Yuki was appointed Representative Director and CEO of Souzoh, Inc. Since July 2022, he has held the additional role of VP at Mercari, Inc.

  • Kazushi Osari

    Kazushi is a graduate of Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Engineering, where he majored in aeronautics and astronautics. Prior to joining Mercari in March 2018, he worked as a manager for strategy consulting firm Bain & Company as well as in the President’s Office of Sega Games Co, Ltd. Since joining Mercari Group, he has worked on the corporate side in the Finance IR Group, Risk and Compliance Group, and the Governance Team, where he was in charge of creating mechanisms and promoting projects. Afterwards, in July 2019, he became director for the Management Strategy Office (formerly the CEO Office). Starting in February 2020, as the Head of Corporate for Merpay, he took charge of the company’s financial affairs, operations planning, legal affairs, compliance, and risk. In January 2022, he was appointed COO of Marketplace.

  • Shunsuke Sako

    After graduating from UCLA, Shunsuke joined Mitsubishi Corporation. Following this, he joined MOTHERHOUSE Co., Ltd. In April 2014, he was appointed Representative Director & CEO of Minit Asia Pacific Co., Ltd. and oversaw Mister Minit businesses launched in six APAC regions. In November 2021, Shunsuke joined Mercari as a Vice President, and he now works on new businesses.

The source of Mercari’s creativity: “Go Bold”

——With Mercari’s new Group mission, the company is aiming to create even more potential. What would you say has been the source of Mercari’s creativity in its first ten years?

@maze:Mercari has three values: Go Bold, All for One, and Be a Pro. Of these, Go Bold represents our approach of taking on big challenges without fearing failure to do things that no one else can. Since Mercari’s founding, this value has driven us forward and acted as the source of our creativity.

Yuki Ishikawa (@maze)

@sakoshun:Looking at Mercari’s history, the decision to establish Mercari US in 2014 was a prime example of Go Bold. Most companies wouldn’t even think of trying to go global in their first year. I think that Mercari was able to grow as much as it did because Shintaro (CEO Shintaro Yamada) and all the other Mercari members worked so hard to make Mercari a global marketplace, even putting aside short-term profit and conventional wisdom to do so.

@osarin:Mercari has a culture of always wanting to go one step further, never saying “this is good enough.” Recently, we’ve seen more and more expectations for our growth, even from people outside of the company, and our Group mission of “Circulate all forms of value to unleash the potential in all people” is driving that even further.

Our organization ideals are another major factor behind Mercari’s creativity. Koizumi (Director and President Fumiaki Koizumi), who used to be in charge of Mercari’s corporate division, would often talk about how shared values and culture remove the need for strict processes and rules at a company. I think that keeping restrictions to a minimum and opening up infinite possibilities helps unleash the creativity in people, and even in the whole company.

Creating something that will be essential a few years in the future

——So basically, the source of Mercari’s creativity is our values and the organization ideals born from them. On the product side, how would you say we’ve unleashed the potential in people so far?

@osarin:The marketplace has grown like an amoeba, adapting to the needs of our users as they arise over the years. At first, Mercari was meant as a service to find new value in items that people no longer need, but now there are people who make a living selling unneeded items on Mercari, and it has even led to a phenomenon of “Mercari buys”—buying something new knowing that you’ll sell it later. As the use cases have grown, Mercari itself has evolved as well.

@maze:When we create a new product, we want to make something that will be essential to the world a few years in the future. We created the marketplace thinking that, as smartphones grow more popular, it will become common for people to buy and sell things on their phones, and it did. We believe the same will happen with our new businesses, like Merpay and Mercoin.

——Thinking about what will be essential a few years down the line sounds like a really important perspective when creating new services. But how do you actually determine that?

@maze:One way to do it is to actually experience the future for yourself. For example, when we were launching Merpay, we had most of our employees go to Shanghai to scout out the technology there. The mobile payment industry in Shanghai was more advanced than in Japan, so we did some hands-on research to see what it was like and what the trends were, and then took that knowledge back with us to Japan to leverage it in our product.

@sakoshun:I make it a point to keep an eye on the latest trends, even outside of technology. In the US and the EU, consumers are very concerned with sustainability, especially in younger generations. If companies don’t take into consideration how their products can be reused or recycled after sale, consumers won’t accept them. I think the approach of looking overseas for future trends and bringing them back to Japan to create the fundamentals for the future is perfect for Mercari.

Shunsuke Sako (@sakoshun)

Culture as the strongest mechanism for unleashing the potential in people

——It’s really interesting that Mercari creates products based on what we think the future will be, rather than what’s popular now. What about from a people perspective? How has Mercari unleashed the potential of its members?

@maze:Rather than creating elaborate training programs, I think Mercari emphasizes each individual unleashing their own potential through the opportunities given to them. One thing that makes Mercari unique is how we entrust responsibilities to people from an early stage. Other companies might wait until someone can do, say, 80% of the work themselves before giving them responsibilities. But at Mercari, that number might be only 60%. Of course, that doesn’t mean we leave people to fend for themselves unsupervised. If it’s really too difficult, someone will step in and take over before everything comes crashing down. But being given responsibility and put in a situation where you have to learn really accelerates a person’s growth.

@osarin:And once you’ve managed to do it yourself, you should leave it for the next person and take on a new role. That’s another thing we value here. Shintaro calls it “a culture of firing yourself,” which is a phrase I really like. (laughs) Rather than repeating something you’ve already experienced, it’s easier to be enthusiastic about new challenges you haven’t yet taken on. And when you’re more enthusiastic about something, you’re more likely to succeed. Though of course, this can only be done if someone else is there to take over the work you’re leaving behind.

@sakoshun:Both taking on a challenge entrusted to you and letting go of the things you can do in order to take on a new role are acts that require serious determination. So it’s important to have experiences that bring out that determination in you. My teammates and myself are actually planning trips this year to Asian countries that are in the middle of remarkable growth, like India, to experience the marketplaces there firsthand. We hope to not only deepen our understanding of market opportunities, but see for ourselves the excitement of economic development and knowing that each day will be better than the last. I think that, both as an individual and as a company, we’re expected to create our own exciting opportunities like this one.

@osarin:I think we need to establish mechanisms to create opportunities like this as soon as possible. In the past, new Group companies like Souzoh and Mercoin have been great opportunities, but as Mercari gets bigger and we have more and more employees, we’ll need other mechanisms to meet the growing needs.

——When it comes to mechanisms, it’s important that they’re actually used properly and effectively. Is there anything in particular that you keep in mind when creating mechanisms?

@maze:I think the most important thing is to create mechanisms based on the company culture. Mercari has implemented countless mechanisms, but not once have we done anything without thinking about it in the context of our culture first. For example, when we added financial support for fertility treatment and daycare for sick children to our Merci Box benefits package, we were careful to explain our reasoning behind it and how we want employees to use these benefits. As a result, we don’t have to set strict rules, because we know no one will abuse these benefits. I believe that culture is the strongest mechanism of all.

That idea is still alive at Mercari, but as more new members join, it becomes harder and harder to ensure that everyone shares the same understanding. Now that we’ve established our new Group mission, I think it’s the perfect time to put our culture into words so that everyone can clearly understand what our new mechanisms are based on.

@sakoshun:Another important thing to ensure mechanisms run smoothly is fostering confidence that making use of the mechanisms will bring about a better future. To earn that trust, we need to be able to show that the mechanisms can be used to do great things—like create a new business or make something possible that was impossible before. I hope we can set precedents like that to help deepen our culture and ensure that the mechanisms work well.

Looking for ways to unleash potential and take the marketplace to the next level

——We’re almost out of time, but I’d like to ask one more question. What do you think about the next ten years and Mercari’s potential going forward?

@sakoshun:I think that our goal of becoming a global marketplace says it all. In the past, we’ve established local subsidiaries in the US and the UK as steps toward that goal, but there are other ways to go global that don’t involve establishing our own companies in every country. One option is acquiring local companies. Another is the crossborder project we’re working on now. If we can partner with crossborder e-commerce businesses overseas to circulate items between countries, we can realize Shintaro’s long-held dream of a world where, say, someone in Africa could buy something from Japan with just one click.

@osarin:When I think of the next ten years, I think about how the marketplace will evolve, too. Over the course of this series feature, I believe we’ve talked about many bold challenges we plan to take on outside of the marketplace in order to achieve our Group mission of circulating all forms of value. That’s all very important, and there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll be looking for ways to unleash potential by trying new things in many different areas. But I think that in the end, all of those will tie back to elevating the marketplace to the next dimension.

For example, the crossborder project will enable transactions with people overseas, which will evolve Mercari into a global marketplace. Mercari Shops, which allows business operators to open online shops on Mercari, enables buyers to purchase things on Mercari that they couldn’t buy on the marketplace before. The more we can get people to look on Mercari first when they want to buy something, the more the marketplace’s value grows. I think that integrating all of the businesses and services we launch into the marketplace will help us really achieve our goal of circulating all forms of value.

Kazushi Osari (@osarin)

@maze:Outside of our products, one thing I’d like to see over the next ten years is us seriously investing in technology as a global tech company. One example of this is large language models (LLM), which is an area we’re beginning to look into. We haven’t decided anything about when, where, or how we’ll implement it, but we want to create an environment where Mercari employees can use this technology freely to encourage innovation across the whole company. We still have plenty of room to grow as a global tech company, so stay tuned to see some exciting things in the future!

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