Day 2: The expectations that investors have for WOVN ~ Becoming a trillion-yen company with a must-have infrastructure service

Day 2: The expectations that investors have for WOVN ~ Becoming a trillion-yen company with a must-have infrastructure service


At WOVN Investor Day, investors talk openly about how they view WOVN.
Following Day 1, we invited two more guests for Day 2: Mr. Mochida of Tybourne Capital Management (Tybourne), who we welcomed as a new investor in July 2021, and Ms. Seki of MPower Partners Fund L.P. (MPower).

* You can read more about what happened on Day 1 here.

In this article, we’ll discuss the happenings of Day 2, minus the company secrets!


Mr. Uemori (the MC for WOVN)
Mr. Mochida and Ms. Seki, thank you for joining us today!
Let me get right into questions regarding your backgrounds.

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Mr. Hayashi (WOVN)
This is a bit sudden, but Mr. Mochida, what does “tybourne” mean?

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(WOVN’s CEO, Mr. Hayashi)

Mr. Mochida (Tybourne)
I also didn't know until recently, but apparently the founder went to a university in the U.K. and the name comes from one of the rivers that flows into London. Just like how the River Tybourne flows on out of sight, these investors stay out of the public eye yet provide companies with long-term support.

Mr. Uemori
As an institutional investor, you invest in both listed and unlisted companies, right?

Mr. Mochida
The interest rates in the U.S. are low, so innovative companies that have a superior outlook and that we find interesting seem to raise funds repeatedly but don’t end up going public. We discussed internally how not investing in good companies simply because of their status showed that our priorities were getting mixed up, so we now invest in plenty of unlisted companies as well.

Mr. Uemori
Is there a difference between how you handle unlisted and listed companies?

Mr. Mochida
With listed companies, there are a lot of things you can't inquire too closely into. For example, if you were to ask if you could speak to a COO, such as Mr. Uemori, you may be turned down and told that the CFO handles investor relations.
The interesting thing about unlisted companies is that you could be invited to internal events such as this one and learn about businesses more closely.

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(Mr. Mochida from Tybourne)

Mr. Uemori
Ms. Seki, what kind of investment company is MPower?

Ms. Seki (MPower)
MPower is a venture capital fund that emphasizes an ESG-oriented culture, and we are highly interested in investing in companies that incorporate ESG into their own growth strategies to gain returns and give back to society.

Mr. Uemori
Although we also have a team at WOVN working on ESG, could you share a bit more about ESG?

Ms. Seki
I’m sure everyone is familiar with “E,” but “E” stands for Environment and this points toward carbon-neutral behavior and doings things that are good for the environment. “G” stands for Governance and striving for better corporate governance. Examples include transparency and the diversity of board members.
“S” stands for Social contributions. A recent hot topic has been how Airbnb is offering free accommodations to refugees from Afghanistan, which I think is a great example of a contribution to society.

Our theory is that by adopting ESG, companies can actually boost their value and improve their market price. This is something that we want to prove.

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(Ms. Seki from MPower)

Mr. Uemori
When we first met, you were known for being the translator of “Factfulness,” right?
How many books have you translated?

Ms. Seki
I’ve translated 50 books. I don’t focus on a specific genre, but I try to translate works that are very original, so I end up working on books that cover hidden truths. When it comes to investing, I think having a contrarian view helps.

For translations, the translation of proper nouns takes a lot of time, so it would be great if WOVN could automate this. It's really difficult to spell out English names in katakana.

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(Examples of books that MPower’s Ms. Seki has helped translate. Images taken from Amazon)

Mr. Uemori
Like whether to spell a name as “Maikeru” or “Maikoh.” (laughs)

Ms. Seki
Some people will write “Steve” while others will write “Steven.” These are really minute details, but they take up a lot of time. It would be nice if a translation matched the most common spelling at the top of Google’s search results.

Mr. Uemori
We’d also like to help reduce the translator’s workload.

Ms. Seki
Yes please!

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Mr. Uemori
I’d like to move on to the second topic now and that is how you came across WOVN.
I met Mr. Mochida when Mr. Fujiwara (WOVN’s CFO) introduced us.

Mr. Fujiwara (WOVN CFO)
That’s right. I was also introduced to Mr. Mochida by an acquaintance who set a meeting up for the two of us. I had an hour to give my presentation, but Mr. Mochida got so excited about the product’s potential during the first half that I didn’t get to share the second half of my presentation...(laughs)
Mr. Mochida may seem reserved, but we had quite a lively discussion.

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(Mr. Fujiwara from WOVN)

Mr. Mochida
When we met for the first time, I was convinced that WOVN would become a top-tier company. The product is interesting and the WOVN team is excellent.

We do a lot of research on companies that we’re interested in. For example, we conducted independent user interviews with around ten companies to receive their feedback on WOVN.
We checked on most of the popular SaaS in Japan, but WOVN’s customer feedback was overwhelmingly positive in comparison.
To be honest, the results really surprised us, as we’d never seen such positive results in the past, and that made it easy to pitch internally.

Mr. Uemori
Mr. Mochida interviewed a large number of our users, digging deep into areas where even our Customer Success Team hadn’t heard much from and shared that feedback with us. This really expanded how we viewed things.
When Tybourne was considering investing in us, you prioritized WOVN because “it looked interesting” even though you were quite busy at the time, which was pretty unconventional.

Mr. Hayashi (WOVN CEO)
During the investment process, it felt like Mr. Mochida was working really hard to help us. There was a very strong sense of collaboration, with Tybourne introducing to us clients even before investing in us. It went against the stereotype for institutional investors in a good way.

Mr. Mochida
Thank you? (laughs)
I feel like we investors are in a neutral position, so if someone asks us, I think that we can help contact and connect people.

Mr. Uemori
We’ve received a question via chat. What would the two of you do if you both worked as members of WOVN? It's from Mr. Akiyama.

Mr. Akiyama (a WOVN Sales Team member in his 20’s)
How much have you thought about what you could achieve at WOVN? Just wondering!


(Mr. Akiyama from WOVN)

Mr. Hayashi
That's a good question.
A lot of different styles exist, but your faces are saying, “Isn’t that the job of the company to decide?”

Mr. Mochida
Not the case! (laughs)
I've looked for services similar to WOVN globally, but there aren’t any major competitors. So, you might be able to become the universal standard for website translation outside of Japan as well. I honestly think that WOVN is a good product, and this isn’t the investor part of me talking.

Ms. Seki
If there is anything I can do, it would be passing my translator expertise on.
I think it would be good if you could offer language support, mainly related to websites, to companies that expand to Japan from English-speaking regions through the WOVN platform.

Mr. Akiyama
Thank you both for answering my question!

Mr. Uemori
The final question for today: What are you two expectant about when it comes to WOVN’s future?

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Mr. Mochida
Having an annual recurring revenue (ARR) that grows is crucial, and I think the result of WOVN’s product, sales, marketing, and all other team members working hard as an organization will lead to exemplary growth in this area. I think WOVN will turn into a trillion-yen company, so it’s more a question of how quickly that will happen.
I feel like WOVN’s growth curve will be comparable to that of Japan’s current top SaaS companies.

WOVN has the potential to change the way Japanese SaaS companies operate, so I’d love to see everyone give their all!

Ms. Seki
We’re also investing in WOVN with the belief that it should become not only something that’s “nice to have,” but an infrastructure service that is also a “must have.”
I’m working on another job at the moment translating the letter that Amazon's Jeff Bezos writes every year to investors, and I was surprised to learn that they had sales of 1.5 billion yen in 1996, a year before they went public, and that their sales rose to ten times that amount at 15 billion yen in 1997, the year they went public. And whether sales reach ten billion yen or a hundred billion yen, each year the letter states that “every day is day one.”
I believe that such a day will come for WOVN too.

Mr. Uemori
Thank you very much! Next, I’d like to answer some questions from members at WOVN.

Mr. Tanaka (a WOVN HR/CEO Office member in his 20’s)
I’d like to know: What do you think it will take to raise the MRR to our target?

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(Mr. Tanaka from WOVN)

Mr. Mochida
I don't think WOVN is in an easy market. There are a wide range of use cases for the service such as e-commerce websites, intranets, and corporate websites. So, I think you need marketing, sales, and customer success teams that have a deep understanding of each area.

You’ve recently been able to acquire some interesting projects, and if one success story comes out of that, you’ll need to have a structure that can immediately branch out horizontally. I think that MRR will grow a lot as a result.

Mr. Uemori
We’ve received some questions via the chat as well. Do you think that the development of machine translation will eliminate the need for manual translation? Any thoughts, Ms. Seki?

Ms. Seki
I hope it does! The accuracy of machine translation is increasing for Latin-based languages, but there are unique characteristics to Japanese which mean that human translation will be a necessity for a while. I believe that Japanese companies and Japanese society as a whole tend to ignore cost and rationality and seek accuracy.

It would be great if WOVN could work together with such clients, but I think it would be good if more companies started to allow for a certain level of inaccuracy.
I think that we - Japanese society as a whole - must learn how to work together with machine translation going forward.

Mr. Uemori
There are still many things I would like to ask, but I would like to close the session while it is at its peak.
Mr. Mochida, Ms. Seki, thank you for your time today!

Thank you !!
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