STORES.jp Operator Bracket Announces MBO (Part 1)

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It only takes two short minutes for users to create an online store with STORES.jp. Operator of STORES.jp, Bracket, was founded in October of 2008 and became a subsidiary of Start Today, who also manages ZOZOTOWN, in 2013. After experiencing steady growth, Bracket entered a new phase as of September 30th, 2016, announcing a buy back of Bracket’s stock. (Part 1)In addition to the MBO which will separate them from the group, the company also announced a change in leadership with Ayana Tsukahara stepping in to the role of director.

We sat down with Representative Director and CEO, Yusuke Mitsumoto, to talk about the circumstances from which this was carried out and about his visions for the future.

It has been a full 4 years since STORES.jp was released in 2012. Looking back, what do you think was the major key that led to such success?

Yusuke Mitsumoto (a.k.a. Mitsumoto): I believe that STORES.jp was released at a good time when there was a high demand for creating an online store “with ease” which is what lead to our current number of users – 700 Thousand (as of September 2016). Our website was spread through word of mouth and through the support of our users, which meant that we didn’t have to invest much finance into marketing. Currently we are working towards convincing individuals who do not feel that there is a need for online stores, to see the merits and values of STORES.jp. Responding only to actual needs will eventually reach a limit. In order to reach that next level breakthrough of 5 Million or 10 Million users, I believe it is necessary to encourage the idea that having an online store is the norm. Our service is similar to that of a blog. A little while ago blogs were used as a tool among people who wanted to write articles. However, blogging companies successfully advertised it as a “place to share your diary online” and so the bar for content dropped and blogging became a part of culture that anyone can partake in. Our goal is to make online stores as prevalent as blogging.

Where does the desire to have a service that will have an even larger impact come from?

Mitsumoto: It comes from the main reason I wanted to create an internet service in the first place which was to create a service from scratch that will enrich and become a part of a lifestyle – comparable to services such as Twitter, LINE, and Ameba blogs. To get to a point where people will look back and think “without these people, this kind of subculture wouldn’t even exist”. I often say to my employees, “let’s make a service where when you say ‘I made STORES.jp’ on a date, people will instantly have more interest”, and the response from your date is “wow! I use that service everyday!”.

What effect has there been on Bracket regarding Start Today’s wholly owned subsidiary company “ZOZOTOWN”?

Mitsumoto: It has been 3 years since joining the Start Today group, and the growth we have seen in sales, users, distribution, profit, and so on have been phenomenal. Before joining we had complete equity, and so it was difficult to step up to challenges that could result in us going into debt. However being able to be a part of such a recognized large scale company like Start Today, has allowed us to step up to difficult challenges and investments, which confirms that the timing of joining in 2013 was the right decision. I am extremely thankful to the representative Mr. Maezawa for understanding and supporting our vision, which allowed us to grow without compromising the principals of STORES.jp.

I understand that in October of 2016 there were 2 big events. Can you tell us about them?

Mitsumoto: Yes, Bracket is now entering a new phase due to these 2 big events. The first is that I am buying out the stock of Bracket through an MBO (Management Buy-Out) and we are leaving the group. The second is that I am turning over the role of representative to the current director of Bracket, Ayana Tsukahara. I will be taking over the role as director and devoting myself to the development of a new business.

That is a very daring decision. What is the outcome you are hoping for?

Mitsumoto: Of course, as a member of the group I foresee the business doing very well. However when we became a wholly owned subsidiary company, I felt that it would be more beneficial for STORES.jp to move ahead alone rather than aim for synergy between both companies. To continue pursuing our current goals of changing people’s minds about online stores, and creating a new big subculture, I felt that moving ahead as a single unit would allow us to dive head first into new challenges. Moreover, Start Today agreed that it would be best for the continued growth of the Bracket and encouraged us, which is another reason I arrived at this decision. With our users reaching almost 1 million, I thought it was wise timing to change our structure as well.

Did you ever have any hesitations with your decision?

Mitsumoto: To an extent there was some hesitation because it involved a huge financial risk as an entrepreneur, since I was spending a large sum of money to acquire a company. Spending such a large sum in one go was something I had never done before. I don’t typically second guess my decisions, but since this decision impacts everything around me, I did question whether or not I’d be able to handle the risk. Ultimately I was confident that this decision would pay off, and feeling that I understood the potential of the business more than anyone else, I decided to take that step.

Continues in Part 2.