We talked to Kosuke Sogo of AnyMind Group about rapid business expansion and helping businesses grow, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kosuke Sogo: We are doing great. At the start of COVID-19, it was a bit unusual because I am a hands-on entrepreneur, and I’m used to travelling to multiple countries each week and having face-to-face meetings and casual meals with my staff across our markets.
These days, we can do the same thing through video calls, but once travel resumes, I intend to continue meeting my staff members face-to-face because it is totally worth it if we can build stronger relationships across our various offices.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded AnyMind Group.
Kosuke Sogo: When I was young, I really wanted to start my own business and follow in my grandparents’ footsteps. After graduating from university a decade ago, I saw that the digital industry was growing very quickly in Japan, and I pursued a career in this industry by joining one of the biggest companies in the digital industry.
I’m not satisfied with my current level, and I am always challenging myself to grow more. I rose quickly through the ranks of my previous company, and at the same time, I saw that there was a huge opportunity in the Southeast Asian region.
In April 2016, my co-founder and I started AnyMind Group. At that time, we just focused on building the business in the digital marketing industry, but over the years, we have expanded and grown across many areas, including cloud manufacturing, direct-to-consumer, e-commerce, and of course marketing.
At present, we have over 750 people situated across 17 offices in 13 markets and raised funding of US$62.3 million across Series A and Series B rounds.
Today, AnyMind Group has evolved into a brand enablement platform. To put it simply, we provide technology and solutions to individuals and influencers to create, produce, sell, market, and distribute their own brands, and provide technology and solutions for enterprises for digital transformation, supply chain optimization, and sell and market their products. Our technology extends across brand building, manufacturing, e-commerce, marketing, and global expansion.
Since December 2019, we were already planning moves into direct-to-consumer and e-commerce, which we launched in 2020, and interestingly, the pandemic has helped these two spaces grow drastically.
How does AnyMind Group innovate?
Kosuke Sogo: As you can see, we’re always looking at more ways that we can grow and innovate to get there. There are two main ways of innovation:
Company-level innovation – We’re a company that promotes an open culture. Anyone in the company can propose their business ideas directly to me, and if there’s an opportunity that we can pursue as a business, we will turn that idea into action. I’m also always seeing what’s the next step we can take as a business and looking at market trends and wider industry happenings to see if there is an opportunity or market that we can pursue as a company.
Product-level innovation – For products, we take a very democratic approach. Our product managers are in constant communication with our sales reps across all markets. This means that a customer who uses our product is not just getting features that are built based on local difficulties, but they also receive features and functions that help our customers around the world. I would say 70% of our product development plans are based on customer wants or feedback, and 30% is bringing in additional or parallel features that are useful for them.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Kosuke Sogo: Right now, we already have good progress moving on from the coronavirus pandemic. As our business is largely digital, the main part that was impacted is in having face-to-face meetings with our customers. However, that was easily solved using video calls.
Personally, I’m very happy that our business continues to grow strongly, but as a company, we’re also mindful that not all businesses are lucky during this time.
Adding on to that, with our moves into cloud manufacturing, e-commerce, and direct-to-consumer, what we’re doing now is to enable individuals and businesses to create and launch their own brands and products. We believe that every business should be borderless, and we want our products to help the world remove borders, including those created by COVID-19.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Kosuke Sogo: Not really a difficult choice, but with travel restrictions because of the pandemic, we didn’t manage to have face-to-face time with our new members from POKKT Mobile Ads, a company we acquired at the start of the pandemic. POKKT was the fifth company that we acquired, and for our previous four acquisitions, I had one-on-one sessions with all the staff from each of the companies. However, post-merger integration was successful, as both companies’ staff and management are highly aligned, and we are already opening up new opportunities across the business.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Kosuke Sogo: There are two things. I am passionate about doing business and entrepreneurship, and I consider it as a hobby. I also treat this business as my child, so most of my time is spent on the business. I find that it’s easy to be highly motivated and easy to recover from challenges when you’re doing something that you love.
Also, having a bathtub is very important to me because taking a bath is a good time for me to take a short break and rest myself. But most of the time, I end up still thinking about the business because it’s what I’m passionate about!
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Kosuke Sogo: As our business has expanded so quickly, I find that there’s no like-for-like competitor. We have competitors in various industries, for example, influencer marketing, but no other influencer marketing company has the same scale as us or similar offerings, including enabling influencers to create their own branded merchandise and products through our platforms.
We will always look at new ways to grow and offer more opportunities around our customer bases to help them grow. This can be something as simple as adding a new feature on one of our platforms to make our customer’s lives easier or moving into a new industry that can help our customers grow more.
Your final thoughts?
Kosuke Sogo: The world has changed, and businesses also need to adapt. As a company, we are helping our customers, including influencers, business owners, marketers, online and app publishers, to find new opportunities to grow, whether it is by unlocking new production chains, establishing e-commerce infrastructure, digital marketing, monetizing websites and apps, and even expanding the business globally.
Ultimately, we want to help every business remove their borders, whether it borders between geographies, online and offline, platforms to humans, and more. We will continue to innovate around, helping every business remove their borders.
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