A Strong Legal Team Is a Must For Tech Companies to Grow Exponentially—Why I Work Here (Go Fujii)
Hi there. My name is Go Fujii. I joined Mercari Group as a member of the Merpay Legal team in October of 2019 and now work concurrently on the Legal and Governance teams of Merpay and Mercoin. My hobby is photography. Specifically, I like to take pictures of the people I meet when I’m traveling.
Since this is the first time I’ve ever crafted an article like this, I’m not entirely sure what to write. Nevertheless, I’d like to use this text to introduce what draws me to the legal-related work that I have been involved in consistently from the time I joined the company. I’m writing on the fly, so the article might be a little hard to follow in places, but I hope you’ll read through to the end.
Featured in this article
Go FujiiGo is the Director of Fintech BizLegal & Governance. He built experience working for a law office earlier in his career. Before joining the Merpay Legal team in October 2019, he worked for the Financial Services Agency (FSA) from August 2016 to July 2018 in the Financial Markets Division of the Policy and Markets Bureau, where his work was related to financial regulations and cryptoassets. He is registered as a lawyer in Japan and in the US, in New York State. Go also considers himself an (amateur) photographer.
I want to contribute to society through fintech
I was fascinated by the unique appeal of integrating the circular economy and fintech
After building experience working for a legal office mainly in finance, I worked for the Financial Services Agency (FSA) where I was involved in drafting proposals for financial regulations and the fintech sector. Back then, we were pretty much in the Cambrian Period of fintech. It was also a time during which regulators were examining how to strengthen regulations in order to protect consumers as new services emerged one after another. Day after day, I was faced with decisions to make room for cutting-edge services while balancing consumer protections and to create an environment that would link increasing the trustworthiness of financial services with the stable asset formation of people in Japan. In that context, I think that’s when my desire to contribute to society through fintech started to take root. I was fascinated by the unique appeal of integrating the circular economy and fintech, and that drove my decision to join Merpay.
A team of collaborators, not competitors
The Merpay and Mercoin Legal teams that I belong to have as their mission to achieve, the quickest possible implementation and promotion of businesses in the fintech field, which is notorious for the abrupt changes to its business environment and regulations. The team pours its best efforts into bringing to fruition the business ideas generated virtually every day.
Our work covers diverse areas such as the legal examination of the new businesses that Merpay and Mercoin are involved in, business partnerships and M&As, contract creation and negotiation support, examination of marketing strategies, and dispute handling. What’s more, starting in July of 2023, we joined forces with the IP team, and now we also handle work related to patents.
The Legal team is made up of a collection of specialists from diverse backgrounds. Our members have experience in a variety of fields such as finance, payments, communications, and IT, but each one uses their strengths to contribute to the team. As I conveyed earlier, after I worked for a law office with a track record in the financial field, I was at the FSA where I was involved in planning proposals related to regulations for the financial and fintech fields.
Now, the core duties I’m in charge of are related to launching new Merpay and Mercoin businesses. They allow me (or at least should allow me) to leverage, from a business perspective, the legal knowledge I cultivated working for a law office. My work also facilitates the use of my background in regulations and my perspective on consumer protection, both of which I honed at the FSA. But honestly, while I’ve accumulated legal experience in the financial field, I lack experience with other types of work and fields not related to legal affairs. However, the others on my team support me in this regard with their rich experience in other types of work, so I’m really grateful to work with people who can be relied on to promote the implementation of projects. Each has their own trove of abilities, such as a wealth of knowledge in non-financial fields, a talent for data collection and analysis, long-standing cross-team coordination, and—for some reason—a close relationship with our CEO that allows them to DM him with our team’s requests with ease. Through these assets we generate value as a team while complementing all team members without compromising our strengths; we’re a team of collaborators, not competitors.
Moreover, the Legal team’s expertise is not limited to the fintech field. The features that Merpay and Mercoin provide are linked with Mercari’s marketplace business. When our users make a payment at a convenience store by using the sales balance that they have acquired on the Mercari marketplace, use Mercard to make a purchase on Mercari, or exchange points acquired on Mercari with cryptoassets, Merpay and Mercoin provide the indispensable features that make all of these operations possible. The Fintech Legal teams are also deeply involved in these processes. This is where our team is able to leverage its expertise in a variety of situations within the Group while also belonging to Fintech.
A sea of troubles and the lessons they taught me
Business integration with Origami
In the time since I joined the company in 2019, I’ve had the experience of working on several Go Bold projects that embodied Mercari’s culture. Of the many projects that I’ve worked on, the one that really left an impact on me was the business integration of Merpay with cashless payments pioneer Origami. In our early estimates, we anticipated that we would be able to finish the contract arrangements in a comparatively short amount of time and then be free to focus on business succession; in reality, it was not quite that simple.
We ran into difficulties coordinating with a valuable overseas partner, and what should have been a one-month negotiation lasted more than ten times as long. At one point we were filling out and submitting documents written in a questionable format while nervously complying with requests from the government of the partner’s country. There always seemed to be something for us to worry about. At one point, there was an interpretation of a law that I could not get confirmation on, and so I ended up visiting the National Diet Library for days on end to do research.
It wasn’t exactly an easy path to trudge per se, but with support from a large cast of people, we were able to scale down and transfer Origami’s business and dissolve the company over the course of a year and a half. Fulfilling our obligations to every last one of Origami’s customers and facilitating Merpay’s inheritance of Origami’s great pioneering spirit were valuable experiences for me. Being deeply involved with Origami soon after I joined Merpay gave me the chance to compare and contrast two business structures of the payments business, and that knowledge has served me greatly in expanding Merpay’s business.
The creation of Mercoin
When Mercoin was launched in April 2021, it blessed me with the opportunity to be in charge of legal-related work for both Merpay and Mercoin. I was in charge of a wide swath of matters such as service planning for the cryptoassets business. At the time, in addition to each of the various rules and regulations, such as the Payment Services Act and our own self-imposed regulations, I spent my days working through how to create a service amid Mercari Group’s distinct restrictions.
What handed us a breakthrough were the close discussions we had with members involved with the product. This was at a time when we were trying to reconcile two issues directly facing us: How to provide a seamless user experience (for trading cryptoassets) within the Mercari marketplace app, and how to get users to trade cryptoassets with an understanding of the risks and circumstances involved. Getting away from text-based communication, we changed direction and tried to find an optimal solution while examining the in-production demo model we had of the product. Much like putting together a puzzle, when we tried to put our product together by rearranging the order, we found that we were able to create something that satisfied both sides. I still remember the sense of fulfillment I had when I learned that by correctly understanding what you want to achieve as a business, it is possible to arrive at the same result using a different approach.
After that, at Mercoin we continued to make bold changes to the features to create a service that was simpler and easier to use than anything else available. Once the difficult period we encountered in the early stages of the product launch was behind us, we also had new and reliable members join the company, and Mercoin’s service started to take off quickly. Since the release of the service in March 2023, over a million users have used Mercoin’s service. I’m really glad to have contributed to this result as part of a team.
A preference for early involvement in projects instead of just as a member of Legal
The passion that Mercari Group pours into its products is extraordinary. Once I had witnessed that passion with my own two eyes, it made me want our business to succeed even more. In addition, as a member of our Legal team, my desire to be involved in the business at an earlier stage (such as the conceptual stage of the business) grew stronger. This prompted me to become more involved as a participating member of internal competitions for pitching new business ideas. The biggest change I experienced was that, rather than being consulted about the ideas I came up with, I started to enjoy being consulted about ideas that other people came up with.
At Merpay and Mercoin, we provide a variety of services from payment and credit to cryptoassets; these services are connected organically and contribute to the circulation of various forms of value. What’s more, each time a new service is created within the Group, the connections with existing services and business ideas increase exponentially. In such an environment, I think that having connections to a variety of services within the Group from a fintech perspective, witnessing firsthand the birth of new businesses, and having a role to play in bringing these services to the world and helping them grow are what make it so exciting to work on our team.
We still face a lot of issues—aiming to build a strong Legal organization
On the Merpay and Mercoin Legal teams, each member handles the matters they are in charge of with considerable discretion. The words “considerable discretion” are not just rhetoric; what they mean is that our members are entrusted with full authority over the matters they are in charge of. However, having full authority does not mean that the person in charge is wholly responsible for resolving issues under their own power. We allow individual team members to decide how to approach the tasks they are entrusted with, and our team has decided to discuss any concerns, no matter how trivial they may seem, especially if they need help with decision-making. We might be a small group, but we’re able to come together in order to maximize our results as a team; that is another one of our strengths.
However, our team also faces a lot of issues. At Merpay and Mercoin, we’re always challenging ourselves to take on new areas. The scope of these areas already exceeds the conventional boundaries of fintech significantly. When a business expands at the pace that we have, it’s conceivable that it would become difficult to handle in terms of resources and expertise. In anticipation of these future challenges, and although our work focuses on fintech, our team has prioritized the training of specialists in a variety of other fields as an important topic. Moreover, in an environment that values speed, the organizing of information is prone to being deprioritized, and there is a tendency for the work to become the sole domain of specific members. We aim to build a team where knowledge and information is balanced and not dominated by specific individuals—or to put it another way—we want to create an environment that is conducive to getting new members up to speed easily.
I believe that for a tech company to grow exponentially, a good Legal team is a must. I feel this way because cutting-edge businesses commonly find themselves in areas where the rules are not yet clearly defined, and so occasionally it’s necessary to make the best decisions while trying to make intelligent guesses about the future social and regulatory changes that are coming. A Legal team must be a compass that helps guide the way while engaging in operations that continue to take on the challenges of new areas and offer free and unbiased discussions. Going forward, I would like for us to continue to explore what it means to be a robust Legal team.