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How Data Analysis Startup Ptmind Raised 3 Billion Yen Towards Global Expansion (Part 2)
Ptmind Inc. (http://www.ptmind.co.jp) develops and provides the next generation access analysis and data analysis tool “Ptengine” (http://www.ptengine.jp) and data integration platform “Datadeck”. Established in Beijing, China, they have been developing a global presence with two branches in Japan and China, with a third branch now in Seattle. (Part 2)
With more than 130,000 users worldwide, many companies of different industries and sizes now use Ptengine. In 2016, they won the Silver Award at China’s largest marketing event “MEXPO” in recognition of their utilization in Subaru. It is worth mentioning, that though it is a business to business (BtoB) product, through word of mouth and on social media, it became widely known, with more than 60% of its users introduced to it by a friend.
We asked Ptmind’s founder and CEO Zheng Yuan and Co-founder Takashi Ando about what attracts people to Ptengine and the key to successful organizational management.
— With two locations, your development team in China and customer success team in Japan, it seems that Ptengine has a unique organizational structure. Is there anything special that you do in terms of organizational management?
With global expansion in mind, we feel that it is ideal to have an organization with members of different backgrounds and ideas, and we currently have members from 11 different countries on the team. We wish for each member to be self-controlled, work freely, and increase productivity. For this, we have implemented flexible work styles like flexible hours and remote work, and we aim to create a “flat” organization where bottom-up decision making is accepted.
As for office space, we built our own bar counter, put up wallpaper, and have created a comfortable working environment on our own. We recently made two new spaces in the Japan office, one with music and the other a quieter space for better concentration; turns out more people prefer the music space.
— Wow, DIY in the workplace, sounds wonderful. Could you tell us what you look for when recruiting new members?
When hiring, we put emphasis on finding someone who share a similar mindset, rather than the person’s set of skills at the time of hire. We look for cultural fit, and their capacity to grow. “I don’t have special knowledge on data analysis, but I want help create a world where data can easily be used and shared, and contribute to improving a company’s decision making speed and accuracy.” We wish to increase the number of team members who empathize with this mission, and are able to think and see things at the level of the general users.
— Are there any difficulties in managing the company, especially due to the fact that there are two separate locations, in China and Japan?
In Ptmind, it is required more so than other companies for management to understand the different markets of Japan and China, and to find the best course of action. For example, business practices are different. In Japan, services are advertised through channels like advertisement agencies, whereas in China, it is required to directly approach and sell to someone higher up with authority to make decisions.
Because of this, at Ptmind we devise a globally mutual product strategy, and then localize sales strategy according to each country’s business practice. As for management, we are required to understand these fundamental situations and continuously be aware and be updated of each market condition.
Another important theme for management is creating a structure where members of different locations can work together successfully. We now have a more diverse team with our branch in Seattle, so we feel this is even more challenging. However, by management actively keeping an open mind, we feel that we can overcome these obstacles. We use Slack and online meeting tools to share information, create chances for discussion, and try to spend as much time understanding each other’s characters when we have the chance to speak in person.
— Seems like Ptmind’s sense of unity and teamwork is derived from these efforts by management.
We also have all members hired in Japan to start off working in the China office. By doing so, they are able to feel the speed of business in China, and they are able to bring that speed back with them to Japan. We also encourage business trips to maximize the merits of having multiple branches in different countries.
— So far, you have succeeded in raising a total of three billion yen. To accelerate the company’s success, what are some points of concern in selecting a VC?
When selecting a VC, we look to see if we share the same vision rather than the VC’s capital strength. For example, we value whether they have a global mind, deep understanding of data and AI, and whether they will respect our vision and goals. We feel that this match with investors is equally as important as when hiring new team members.
— Please share with us your future visions.
Currently, we have users in 180 countries. Of those, we feel that global expansion will go smoothly if we can succeed in Japan, China, and the US. We plan to share more information including each country’s success stories and actively increase the fluidity of team members and branches. What we value is the spirit of “going back to day 1”. We want to continue challenging ourselves and not rest on our laurels.