Building an Engineering Organization That Promotes Global Expansion—Meet Mercari’s Leaders, Vol. 4: Shunya Kimura (CTO)

“My ambitions to take on the world haven’t changed since the day I joined.”

Shunya Kimura (@kimuras), who currently oversees the technology of Mercari Group as a whole, has been passionate about global expansion since the day he joined. He now serves as CTO for three Mercari Group companies. We asked him about the career path that led him to Mercari, his motivation for joining, his thoughts as CTO, and his future outlook for the engineering organization.

Featured in this article

  • Shunya Kimura

    Vice President, Chief Technology Officer. Beginning in 2007, Shunya worked at MIXI, Inc., where he was in charge of work related to recommendation engine development and data utilization. He was also involved in developing advertisements and marketing data that leverage machine learning. Shunya joined Mercari in 2017 and was in charge of establishing R4D, Mercari’s research and development organization, as well as overseeing a multitude of AI-focused research fields. After that, he established an engineering organization dedicated to AI and search engine fields, was appointed to a director role, and was one of the leaders who pioneered the introduction of AI to Mercari. In July 2022, Shunya was appointed Vice President of Platform Engineering, a position that oversees internal platform development. He has been in his current post since January 2024.

The value of 1-on-1 meetings with lead engineers in formulating a cross-company roadmap


—What does your role as CTO entail?

I manage the engineering organization of Mercari Group as a whole, and am responsible for everything from the formulation of our overarching technological roadmap and OKRs to their implementation. My role involves communication with a wide range of people, from talking with engineers to push measures forward to holding discussions with executives to finalize decisions.

My current focus is on reforming and optimizing the development policies and structures across Mercari, Merpay, and Mercoin. By consolidating structures and processes that have existed separately until now, we aim to facilitate more efficient collaboration and decision-making and provide value to our users with higher speed and quality.

—What do you focus on when aligning the structure of three companies?

Communication with the lead engineers at each company. There are various stakeholders to communicate with in this process and only limited time to do so, but I make it a point to hold regular discussions with the lead engineers at each company to get a feel for things like the technological challenges and ideal architecture for this endeavor. Based on these conversations, I formulated a cross-company engineering roadmap and OKRs that included the voices of various people. This was a large and difficult endeavor, but with everyone’s cooperation, we were able to reach a consensus on the areas that needed solutions, and built the foundations to make fundamental improvements across companies.

Using experience from natural language processing research in a form that contributes more to society


—Today, you are reforming our organization as CTO, but tell us where your career began.

When I was a student, I conducted research in machine learning—specifically in the field of natural language processing. At the time, the internet had just started gaining popularity, and there was an abundance of misinformation. I was researching the underlying technologies that would distinguish the credibility of information.

My research was focused on health-related information in particular. I believed that making it possible to automatically detect credible medical information would contribute to advancements in the medical field, as well, and was passionate in my research.

—What led you to then pursue a career as an engineer rather than as a researcher?

One reason is that I wanted to use the knowledge and experience I had gained from conducting and implementing this research to contribute to society even further. At the first company I joined, MIXI, Inc., I worked on pioneering a social media service that would allow users to share diary entries, build communities, and interact. In order for our users to discover people and information of interest to them, we needed to develop search and recommendation technologies. The number of users on the platform was growing exponentially, and I believed this service would contribute greatly to society, as well.

The second reason I became an engineer is that I felt creating things for users was more in line with what I wanted to do. I really enjoyed programming, and although I felt that my research was meaningful, I wanted to create things that would bring joy to people, which led me to choose my career as an engineer.

—Are there any experiences from your time at MIXI that you still leverage in your work today?

Every experience during my 12 years there still live with me today. When I first joined the company, the engineering organization was small in size, and I gained full-stack development experience, not just in R&D, but from backend to frontend.

After that, I became the manager for R&D, and was involved in the research of brand new fields such as security and identification. I also gained experience managing SRE and API development teams as the head of the technology department, and managing designers and PMs as the head of social media development. My experience working in a wide range of fields and with people in a wide range of positions informs my work to this day.

Creating a platform that increases cross-company productivity and sets the stage for global expansion


—What was the biggest reason that led you to join Mercari?

I had the opportunity to take on various challenges and continue to grow at my previous workplace, as well, but I chose Mercari because I wanted to take on challenges on a global scale. Back when I first joined Mercari, the company’s mission was to “create value in a global marketplace where anyone can buy and sell,” and Shintaro (Shintaro Yamada, Director, Representative Executive Officer and CEO) spoke of eliminating waste from the world. True to those words, I witnessed the company quickly expand to the US and believed this was a place where I could contribute to engineering on a global level.

I still believe that to this day. Now, with our e-commerce platform Mercari Shops, which allows anyone with a smartphone to easily set up an online shop, we have begun cross-border sales, allowing for international transactions. I want to contribute from the technological side toward accelerating endeavors like these that have the potential to improve the global economy.

—As CTO, what do you plan on tackling over the next three to five years?

I will be focusing on a few initiatives toward increasing the productivity of Mercari Group as a whole. The first is the project I mentioned earlier to unify the engineering organization across all our companies. I would like to create an optimized process for making decisions and technological choices. I call this the “golden path.” This will give way to a more organized development process for not only our existing businesses, but any new business we launch moving forward. I aim to construct a system that will allow us to iterate the PDCA cycle at high speed across the entire Group while smoothly engaging in all manner of decision-making when needed.

The second is a reform of our company-wide architecture. I plan to improve the design and development processes of the microservice architectures that are currently being used across all of our products in a way that better suits our circumstances today. In addition, from the perspective of infrastructure costs and maintainability, I believe it’s also important to create an optimized architecture that can evolve. By working on these through trial and error, I’d like to create a platform functional on a global scale.

—Are there any aspects of the culture of the organization that you would like to reinforce?

Our culture of proactively taking on new challenges is something I would like to continue to reinforce. We have cultivated a blameless culture of learning from failure, and as we continue to take on bold challenges moving forward, failure is inevitable along the way. I would like us to remain an organization that does not fear challenges, learns from failure, and repeatedly applies lessons learned to take on even larger pursuits.

The challenges we choose to take on are informed by continuously studying the newest technological trends. I would like to strive toward a culture in which, as an organization, we encourage one another to grow and improve. I would love to welcome new members who value sharing their individual knowledge and expertise with the organization as a whole, and are committed to doing so consistently through holding learning sessions and various other means.

—What else do you look for in potential candidates for Mercari?

I look for someone who resonates with and is committed to our Group mission. The goal of engineering at Mercari is to achieve our Group mission, so all of the decisions and strategies made in our organization are based on this mission. This is an environment in which those who understand the connection between the mission and their work and are committed to achieving it can thrive.

Another important factor is passion toward the services we provide. It goes without saying that candidates must believe in the unique value that Mercari’s services provide, and be excited to join us on the journey of repeated trial and error toward achieving our mission. I would love to work with new members who are not only technically skilled, but have the same sense of mission as existing members.

Bonus: How I use Mercari!

I like to buy camping gear on Mercari—especially tents. Tents are relatively expensive, and there is so much variety. To find the perfect combination of camping gear, as well, including your lamp, sleeping bag, campfire stand, and other tools and wares, you need to try out different items over time. If I try a tent once and decide I don’t like it, throwing it out would be such a waste. I’ve been using Mercari to pass these items on to other people who could make good use of them. Not only is this an action I can take as an individual to help eliminate waste from the world, it also allows me to try out a variety of tents affordably.

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