A Career Focused on Technology and the Global Stage—Meet Mercari’s Leaders: Takeshi Nagasawa (Vice President, Chief Growth Officer / Chief Executive Officer (Fintech) / Representative Director, Chief Executive Officer of Merpay, Inc.)

“The tech industry is high-risk, high-return, and so much fun.”

So says Takeshi Nagasawa, who was appointed Vice President, Chief Growth Officer / Chief Executive Officer (Fintech) / Representative Director, Chief Executive Officer of Merpay, Inc. as of January 2024. After completing his MBA at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Takeshi continued to build his career with a focus on technology and the global stage. We asked him about his philosophy on work and the future he aims to create as CEO of Fintech.

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  • Takeshi Nagasawa

    After graduating from Hitotsubashi University’s Faculty of Management and Commerce in 2007, Takeshi joined NTT Communications, where he was in charge of marketing and business development. He went on to complete his MBA at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2016, he joined Amazon Japan as manager of the Amazon Prime Video marketing team. He joined bitFlyer in 2018, becoming the head of executive business strategy the following year. In 2021, he joined Merpay, where he oversaw growth for Merpay and Mercoin as Vice President of Growth (Fintech) starting in July 2022. He was appointed Vice President, Chief Operating Officer (Fintech) in April 2023 and subsequently appointed to the additional role of Vice President of Marketing (Marketplace) in June 2023. He was appointed Vice President, Chief Growth Officer / Chief Executive Officer (Fintech) / Representative Director, Chief Executive Officer of Merpay, Inc. as of January 2024.

There should only be one customer journey

—What is your current area of responsibility?

I have two main roles. The first role is that of CEO of Fintech. At Mercari Group, Fintech is composed of Merpay and Mercoin—two services I believe our users continue to choose thanks to our commitment to offering a unique experience only possible in conjunction with our marketplace app. That’s why my mission is to make our Fintech services even more convenient to use while continuing to improve the collaboration between our Fintech and Marketplace businesses.

I am also responsible for the growth of our Japan Region businesses as a whole. There are many functions that drive growth, including marketing, product development, UX improvements, data analysis, and many more. My role is to grow our businesses by unifying all of those functions to work toward one common direction.

We own a variety of businesses, including Mercari, Merpay, Mercoin, Mercari Shops, Mercari Hallo (our new on-demand labor business scheduled to launch in spring 2024), and more, but they all coexist within a single app, and can all be used by a single customer. That’s why we believe there should only be one customer journey, as well. While we strive to achieve goals and optimize features within each individual business, we also stay conscious of the singular customer journey and prioritize the customer’s perspective when crafting an appealing service.

The high-risk, high-return tech industry is so much fun

—Can you talk about your career so far?

I joined NTT Communications as a new graduate. I had the opportunity to experience working in a variety of divisions and positions—VPN, data centers, IaaS/PaaS, payment platform product planning, marketing, HRBP—and gradually, I developed a growing desire to make the company successful on the global stage. It was at that time I learned of the company’s tuition reimbursement policy for studying abroad. Companies like Google and Facebook were growing rapidly at the time, and I expressed my desire to produce a company like that out of Japan. I urged the company to let me earn an MBA overseas, and was approved to utilize the company’s policy to study abroad at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). There, I completed my MBA with my studies focused on tech and analysis.

During my time there I also experienced internships at various startups. In the US, I worked for a company measuring the effectiveness of TV commercials, and one focused on cloud email distribution. Later, I worked for a SaaS company from Chile. My biggest takeaways from working for companies of various stages, from startups in their launch phase to ones receiving Series C funding, were that the fundamental principles of business are the same across countries, and that people can understand one another regardless of nationality, language, or culture. Purely in terms of the ease of conveying messages, in my case, it’s obviously easier to communicate with a fellow Japanese person, but whether you ultimately get along with someone has nothing to do with nationality or language. More important are the ideas you hold, what you deem important, and whether your values match. Through communicating with people of various backgrounds overseas, I could feel my own values becoming defined with higher clarity. Studying abroad was definitely an invaluable experience for me.

—What was your career like after returning to Japan?

Working in the US really opened my eyes to just how different the scale and social systems were at global corporations in comparison to Japanese corporations. I also felt that in order to properly compete on the global stage, I myself would need to acquire more skills, which led me to the decision to move to a new company. I joined Amazon Japan, where I was the manager of marketing for Amazon Prime Video.

After that, I worked at bitFlyer, a Japanese company competing globally. The reason I chose the blockchain and cryptoasset industry as the next stage in my career was because I believed what happened with the internet in the past 10 to 20 years would happen again with blockchain. The emergence of the internet and smartphones completely changed people’s lives, and I felt that blockchain would surely do the same. I wanted to experience working right from the center of the world of what would be the new internet.

—You really have a strong passion for technology.

I’m the type that lives on intellectual curiosity, so I enjoy diving deep into why things are the way they are. Plus, I feel that the world of technology is the most high-risk, high-return industry for good ideas. Your return could be miniscule, or it could be massive. Because of that, I never get bored and enjoy working in this industry. I think I find it more exciting to work in an environment where the future is never known, and the decisions you make in this moment can change the course of what happens tomorrow.

To create something unique, do what you love

—What led you to join Mercari?

I first learned of Mercari from interacting with Mercari members through my work and at private gatherings with friends. I initially thought it was a company I would never join. (laughs) Mercari had already gone public and the company was already established; it didn’t seem like a place where I would have fun.

As I spoke more with members of Mercari, though, I realized that their aspirations to change the world with a revolutionary service created by a startup were in alignment with my personal values. I was also very much drawn to one of Mercari’s values, “All for One.” At executive meetings, you sometimes see executives focus on defending their own territories, but at Mercari’s executive meetings, there is an atmosphere of combining the strengths of each individual to work as one toward achieving a common mission. I loved how everyone put the customer and product first, irrespective of roles and circumstances within the company. That’s what led me to join, and that’s why I’m at Mercari today.

—What is your philosophy on work?

Be authentic. It’s important to me to stay true to my values no matter what. I don’t force or fake anything. When something interests or excites me, I value those feelings and externalize them. A recent example is how I felt about generative AI. I found the technology intriguing and thought about how integrating it into our business could change the experience entirely and create a paradigm shift in the world. This is the kind of thing that gets me excited. Not everything at work will spark your interest, and of course the less exciting parts need to be handled as well, but allocating more time toward the things that do interest you will give you more leverage and make life more fun.

Personally, I think things that are truly unique and valuable can only be born from passion that isn’t based on reasoning. You can logically deduce that a service catering to what many people in society like will be successful, but with that alone all you’ll end up doing is optimization. Surveying the market and thinking logically can produce something that many will use, but prioritizing that alone will only bring you to the same answer as everyone else. I think that following through with what you love and believe in, instead, is what will give birth to interesting ideas and unique services. That’s why I plan on continuing to live authentically from here on forward, as well.

—Lastly, please share with us your vision as CEO of Fintech.

I shared four things with our members the other day.

The first is that our customers choose us because of the unique products we incorporate within our app. I believe the reason Merpay and Mercoin have received so much usage is because of their synergy with Mercari. That’s why it’s important to continue our focus on creating Fintech services that promote Mercari’s circulation of value.

The second is to set bold goals and work as one to achieve massive growth. Each of us have our own titles, roles, and circumstances, but none of those things matter to our customers. To create a service that provides value to our customers, we will set bold goals, leverage each individual’s expertise to the fullest, and pour all of our efforts into producing incredible results.

The third is to drive the growth of Mercari Group as a whole from the forefronts of the cryptoasset and digital marketplace industries. Existing financial services have various restrictions, and it would be difficult, for instance, to produce hundreds of billions of yen in revenue in a single year. However, I believe it is entirely possible in the cryptoasset and digital marketplace industries. Therefore, we should take on large challenges and drive the growth of Mercari Group as the frontrunner in these industries.

The fourth is to provide a safe and secure service that our customers will continue to choose. In the six years since the launch of Merpay and two since the launch of Mercoin, our organization, structure, and strategy have continued to change as we’ve grown. We will allocate time to share ideas on governance, risk management, and compliance, and take the initiative to consider and propose new measures necessary for a service that customers can safely use.

Bonus: How I use Mercari!

I do essentially all of my buying and selling of books on Mercari. I also sell games quite often. I love playing games, but the tough thing about them is that when I get into one I can’t stop playing. My family has raised their concerns recently… so I’ve been creating an environment that forces me to stop playing by selling my games. (laughs)

I’ve also started experimenting with buying clothes on Mercari recently. Until now I’ve mostly purchased my clothes in stores, but since I tend to be quite decided on the style of clothes that I wear, I figured as long as I have information on the size and material, I can buy clothes more affordably on Mercari moving forward.

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