MerCafé Vol.1—A Conversation With the Trio Working to Create the Next Generation of Mercari

The café space at Mercari’s Tokyo office is a place where members can relax. You can often find people sitting comfortably and chatting, wrapped in the delicious aroma of coffee. The MerCafé series is all about bringing that environment of casual, relaxed conversation to our readers.

For this article, we spoke with Keita Nakamura (@keita0q; joined Mercari as a new graduate in 2018 and is now CEO of Mercoin), Hiroyuki Nakato of the Business Development Team (@nakato; joined Mercari in 2019 as a new graduate in 2019, but left the company temporarily to take on other challenges), and Shundai Ogawa (also joined Mercari in 2019 as a new graduate in 2019 and left temporarily to take on other challenges) of the Web Growth Team (@shundai). We all gathered in the café space with our coffees to talk about everything from their memories of when they first encountered Mercari to their ambitions for the future.

Featured in this article

  • Keita Nakamura

    Keita participated in several internships as a university student, helping launch a programming education service at CyberAgent and introducing a sentiment analysis platform for video services at DeNA. He later joined Mercari’s research and development organization—known as R4D—as an intern. Upon graduating from university in 2018, he joined Mercari full time as a blockchain engineer and was involved in the MercariX project at R4D. Keita then moved to Merpay, where he served as a PM on teams working on distributed ledger development, AML systems, and credit design. In April 2021, he moved to Mercoin as the Director of the Product Division, before assuming his current role as CPO in October 2022. Keita has been CEO of Mercoin since April 2023.

  • Hiroyuki Nakato

    After receiving an offer from Mercari, Hiroyuki joined the company as an intern in 2018, working as a product manager. After graduating from Kyoto University’s Faculty of Law, he joined Mercari as a full-time employee in 2019. At his own request, Hiroyuki was the first new grad to be assigned to BizDev, and was in charge of planning and executing Mercari’s offline initiatives. In 2021, he assumed the position of manager of a team in charge of promoting the company’s offline business. In April 2022, he joined a seed-stage startup company providing B2B SaaS as the company’s first full-time employee. There, he was in charge of marketing, sales, customer success, and alliances. Hiroyuki returned to Mercari in April 2023 and is currently a member of the Category Growth Team.

  • Shundai Ogawa

    After receiving an offer from Mercari, Shundai joined the company as an intern in 2018, working as a product manager on the team in charge of AML systems and other teams. He graduated from the College of Liberal Arts at International Christian University in 2019 and joined Mercari the same year, working as a data analyst with the CRM and CRE Team, where he was mostly responsible for product strategy, experiment design, and analysis. In 2020, he moved to Vietnam to launch a startup prep school business for local high school students that offered training both offline and online. There he was responsible for the launch, growth, and eventual scale-down of the through lockdown. After that he started his own business in the country. Shundai returned to Japan in May 2023 and joined the Mercari Web Growth team as a technical product manager.

Encountering Mercari and beginning new careers

@keita0q: My introduction to Mercari as a potential workplace came when I was contacted via LinkedIn by a hiring manager at the time. I was interested and set up a meeting. When this happened in 2016, I was a user of Mercari, so I had this image of the company as “already complete,” which made me doubt whether I could contribute anything even if I joined. However, I was able to see myself working at Mercari when I heard that the company was preparing to launch Mercari R4D (an internal R&D organization aiming to implement the results of its R&D activities in society). The newly formed organization would be taking on new technological challenges such as blockchain, an area in which I was interested.

The offer I received was actually for a position as a machine learning engineer, but I had already worked as a blockchain engineer at R4D during my internship, so I ended up joining R4D as a new grad. Thinking about it now, it’s such a complicated beginning that I can barely keep it straight in my own head! (laughs)

@shundai: For me, it all started when I accepted an offer from Mercari at the Boston Career Forum held in the United States. At the forum, I was mainly considering sales and consulting companies, but of all the offers I received, Mercari was the one that I felt had the most momentum and potential for growth.

@nakato: I have always wanted to work for a company whose services change people’s lives. My mother is a daily Mercari user and has over 1,000 Kando Listings. When I saw how much she loves Mercari and how it gives her a sense of purpose in life, I was moved by the high value that the Mercari service provides.

My desire to work for the company grew even further because, at the time, Mercari was heavily featured in the media as Japan’s first unicorn company. When I looked at the company website to do some research, I found out that Mercari was offering a summer internship program for students. Unfortunately, the timing of the program prevented me from participating, but I knew that I definitely wanted to join Mercari, so I brought a 20-page analysis report to my first interview.

All: What! 20 pages?

@nakato: Yep! I took the initiative to research and summarize Mercari’s competitors and advantages, and gave a presentation on what I wanted to work on if I joined the company. I think my enthusiasm was well received. Thankfully, the selection process proceeded very quickly from there, and I received a job offer for the position of product manager (PM).

Hiroyuki Nakato (@nakato)

@shundai: You are definitely a very driven person! On the other hand, I had barely used Mercari at all before joining, and the person who ran my second interview made a point of calling out that fact. Thankfully though, I was given a chance and told to do my best in the next interview because they saw some potential in me. So, I prepared meticulously for the final interview. Thinking about it now is making me feel a bit nostalgic!

@keita0q: It’s interesting to hear three completely different reasons for joining the company! Could you tell me a bit about the internship and what it was like when you all first joined the company as new graduates?

@shundai: During my internship, I worked as a PM on the same AML system team as you, @keita0q, and I was often in charge of analytical work since my job was close to the backend. As such, there were many situations where the data analysis I had studied at university was useful, but after observing many senior PMs during my internship, including @keita0q, I felt that I had to improve my strengths. After taking an inventory of my own skills, I decided to specialize in analytics.

Later, the manager of the Analytics Team at the time gave me the opportunity to try to interview again for the analyst position. This led to me joining the company as a data analyst when I was a new grad.

@nakato: My career transition just might be somewhat similar to @shundai’s, actually. I started as an intern after receiving a job offer for a PM position, but when I joined the company, I ended up joining the Business Development Team (BD Team). After my PM training wrapped up, I realized that I preferred to think about fundamental business action plans rather than UI/UX, so I decided to move to the BD Team after consulting with the other members at the time, many of whom were good friends of mine.

Building relationships with people from other companies is very important for BD. I learned the basics of conducting myself in this kind of environment, such as how to properly hand out business cards and use the appropriate language to avoid offending anyone. Although I ended up transferring, my time working as an intern PM turned out to be a great asset for me. My manager at the time, who was in charge of training PMs, told me that typing was a foundational part of the job and that he would not be able to entrust me with any work until I was able to pass a certain score in a typing game. After that, I practiced typing eight hours a day for a week! (laughs)

All: That sounds pretty rough. (laughter)

@nakato: Well, it was explained to me like this: “When you are a new graduate who has just joined the company, you may not be able to understand important things right away during a meeting. So, it’s important to keep accurate meeting minutes and read them back later to learn from them. This will in turn lead to your personal growth.” That perspective made a lot of sense to me, and I’m very grateful that the basics were instilled in me from the time I was a new grad. I encountered lots of difficult situations during my first year at Mercari, but I managed to overcome them and move forward one step at a time.

Distance makes the heart grow fonder—in pursuit of work with a more hands-on approach

@shundai: I haven’t had a chance to tell you both about how I rejoined Mercari yet!

Well, since doing fieldwork in Indonesia when I was in university, I had this goal of someday being involved in the education business in Southeast Asia. Through a combination of various connections and opportunities, there was a moment toward the end of my first year as a new grad at Mercari when I thought, “If I don’t take this chance now, another one may not come along for another few years.”
So, I took a leap of faith and left Mercari for a startup in Vietnam. There, I was in charge of business, launched and grew an offline and online prep school for local high school students, grew and then later sized-down the business through a lockdown before eventually starting my own company. I persevered through trial and error, but after three and a half years, the time finally came when I felt I had done enough in my own way, and I started looking for a job in Japan.

Now I’m back at Mercari as a Technical Product Manager (TPM). During the process of changing jobs, I had a number of casual interviews with Mercari employees, and all of them were straightforward with me about my career. Those interviews reminded me of what I already knew—Mercari has great people. They made me think that I might want to try working at Mercari again. In addition to that, I was also attracted by the opportunity to take on the challenge of becoming a TPM—a role that is still quite new to Japan, but I was excited that it would allow me to utilize my analytical skills and also do everything else I wanted to do, including research, product strategy, design, and scrum management. I was super excited!

Shundai Ogawa (@shundai)

@nakato: After working at Mercari for 3 years, I moved to a B2B SaaS x manufacturing startup as the company’s second full-time employee (the first being the company’s president). While I thought Mercari was a great company, I wanted to experience a completely different business early on to gain more experience. That’s why I decided to change jobs.

After joining the startup, I had a hand in everything on the business side, from marketing and sales, to customer success, alliances, and corporate planning. The number of employees kept growing and that became a very intense year for me.

One of the things that prompted me to return to Mercari is the hands-on approach of the company. Mercari places great importance on VOC (Voice of Customer), and since many people around me, including my mother, are Mercari users, I feel perpetually close to our users.
I felt like Mercari was possibly the only company in Japan where I could experience firsthand the impact of my work, so I wanted to give it another go.

@shundai: There are some great things about Mercari that you realize were exceptional only after you’ve left—especially the amazing HR system.

@keita0q: While Mercari has been rapidly growing and adding new members, it has also been able to instill its culture within the company from its very beginning. This includes our efforts to systemize our policies covering such things as evaluations and compensation.

@nakato: Exactly! When I was creating the company values at my last job, I first referred to Mercari’s three values. I thought and thought, but I just kept coming back to “Go Bold,” which is already one of Mercari’s values (laughs). I had to view Mercari from the outside looking in to realize just how good Mercari’s values are.

The origin story of Mercari’s first new-grad CEO—using technology to create a world that no one has ever seen before

@keita0q: I honestly didn’t really feel like a “new graduate” (laughs). When I joined the company in 2018, it was chaotic—but in a good way—so the scope of what I was entrusted with was extremely broad. I thought about it in my own way and tackled each of my duties through trial and error. This led to me becoming a manager in my first year.

From there, I was transferred to Merpay to work as a PM during the phase where the company was building up Merpay to be a pillar of our business alongside Mercari. However, there were still times when I would hit a wall. As I was becoming acutely aware of my own shortcomings, I was also thinking long and hard about how to polish the product and make it grow. This process allowed me to feel change and growth within myself, and it has given me the confidence to lead Mercoin as CEO.

@nakato: I was really inspired by the fact that @keita0q became a manager in his first year! It made me think about how I could be like him.

@shundai: I know that feeling! When I started my internship at Mercari as a PM, I was really surprised to find out that @keita0q, who was in his first year at the time, was my manager. When @keita0q was appointed as CPO, I was as happy for him as if it was me that was getting promoted (laughs), and I reached out right away to congratulate him. Do you remember?

@keita0q: Of course I remember! And about 6 months after that, I was approached to be the CEO of Mercoin—I was really surprised at how fast it happened! (laughs) I had already told Naoki-san (Naoki Aoyagi, Senior Vice President, SVP of Japan Region) that I wanted to be in charge of a business on my own one day. I had been working with him on a career roadmap, but my initial expectation was that it would take about three more years to reach the position of CEO.

But it’s not really the role itself that interests me. I have a personal mission to “use technology to create a world that no one has ever seen before,” so I will do whatever it takes to create that world. Becoming CEO of Mercoin was just part of the path I have to take to get there. That’s really all there is to it.

Keita Nakamura (@keita0q)

Personally, I think that having only experienced work at Mercari has been a pretty big factor in my career. I really love Mercari because I have sincerely devoted myself to the company for the past five years. It’s as natural to me as breathing, and I even use Mercari buzzwords like “value” in my private life!

Mercari provides an environment where I can be myself and be appreciated, which enables me to patiently work towards improvement instead of just doing the bare minimum. This has led me to where I am today. I think one unique thing about Mercari is that it gives new graduates a chance to grow by carefully observing their work.

We want to make Mercari more exciting to a new generation

@nakato: As for my own enthusiasm for the second chapter of Mercari, I would like to contribute to creating an awareness that people should look at Mercari first when buying something. I want more people to know that secondary distribution is a viable option for acquiring things, and I want to create a scenario where Mercari is the first choice for those consumers. During my first three years at Mercari, I was involved in a lot of growth-related measures, so now I want to turn my attention to creating.

@shundai: さThis goes back to @keita0q’s story from earlier, but I think Mercari is a company where those who persevere succeed. New challenges are always difficult, but if you keep at it, you will eventually create opportunities for yourself.
One regret I have is that I was not able to grow the business I was involved in when I was in Vietnam, so my goal now at Mercari is to gain experience as a TPM and eventually become someone capable of growing the entire business.

@keita0q: There’s something interesting about the contrast between the two concepts of creating and growing! My first priority is to contribute to Mercari’s evolution by growing Mercoin’s business. At the same time I will continue to focus on achieving our mission. The potential of Mercari Group is nearly limitless, and I believe that we can change the world. There are many obstacles to overcome in order to achieve this goal, but I truly believe that if we continue to persevere we’ll be able to realize a world that no one has ever seen before.

I also want to make Mercari even more exciting for our generation, which I think is our mission. And, as we move forward, nothing would make me happier than to meet more like-minded individuals who share our aspirations and want to take on the challenge of working at Mercari!

Drink of the Day: The Barista’s Corner

At Mercari’s café space, professional baristas make you the drink of your choice! This time, @keita0q and @nakato chose to get iced drip coffees, while @shundai went with an iced decaf latte. To find out more about these delicious drinks, we spoke with Iga-chan, one of the baristas working at café space.

Iced Drip Coffee

Today, we made iced coffee from our original bean blend, Mercari Base Tokyo Blend, which is only available here. The iced drip has a crisp and cool sensation that goes down easy in this summer heat!

Iced Decaf Latte

We have something for everyone—we have decaffeinated coffee options too, so that all members can enjoy a good cup of coffee!
Since it is caffeine free, this is a very popular menu item that can be enjoyed day or night, perfect for those who prefer to enjoy their coffee without the extra kick.

If you need a break from your work, come visit us for a drink at café space! We look forward to seeing you!

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