Welcoming Tomohiro Nakano as Investment VP at DNX Ventures

DNX Ventures
DNX Ventures Blog
Published in
4 min readJul 1, 2022

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We welcome Tomo Nakano as our new member of DNX Ventures. He has joined us as the Investment VP at our Tokyo office.

Tomo comes to DNX with a plethora of experience working in the manufacturing and SaaS industries, experiencing working at Japanese and multinational firms, and working for large companies and startups. Tomo looks forward to contributing to the Japanese startup ecosystem.

We asked Tomo about his past experiences and what he’s looking forward to at DNX Ventures.

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Learning from Automotive in Both Japan and US

In my university days, my interests in the environment and energy led me to research catalysts of hydrogen purification for fuel. I then started a career at the Mazda Motor Corporation where I considered how our research and technology apply to the principles of business and the economy.

At Mazda, I was assigned as the PL controller of a sedan product for the North American market. This role was similar to that of the CFO in the product development cycle. I consolidated and analyzed long streams of data, such as the sales planning of each market, variable cost, unique investments, and more. My ultimate goal was to make the product profitable.

Some years later, I was assigned to a factory in Michigan where my product was being produced. The factory was losing tens of millions of cash every month due to non-operation caused by demand deterioration from the aftermath of Lehman Brothers’ collapse. However, thanks to the support of local staff, we were able to improve a variety of cost inefficiencies. This experience made me realize that human relationships are the vital foundations on which successful negotiation and collaboration are built and that practical contribution will create trust in business, regardless of where I worked.

While in Michigan, I felt the growing influence of cloud-computing. Friends there were bringing cloud-based applications and social media into their lives through mobile devices. I could sense a potential change in the future of the world, and my desire to be involved in cloud computing grew stronger, so when I returned to Japan, I joined Salesforce Japan.

The Intense Principle of Global SaaS Business in Salesforce

At Salesforce I was assigned to Finance & Strategy where I worked with each function to ensure that the business plans were prepared and going smoothly. As a global SaaS company, I observed that Salesforce had an intense principle of scaling the strength of SaaS, which was reflected not only in the products but also in every corner of the company from the smallest details of operations, to legal interpretation and subscription, organization designs, etc.

Salesforce allowed me the opportunity to participate in due diligence for Akira who was the representative of Salesforce Ventures Japan at the time. I was impressed by his willingness to learn from entrepreneurs, as well as his commitment to accompanying entrepreneurs in times of their hardships. This exposure to the entrepreneurial mindset of growth and learning remained in my consciousness, inspiring me to pursue contributions to the world of startups. I decided to join TeamSpirit as they were already a part of Salesforce’s portfolio and I had been advising accounting and KPIs for their management team. There were not many SaaS-listed companies in Japan at that time, and I believed that I would be the right person to help TeamSpirit get on that list.

The Bitter and the Sweet Both Before and After IPOs in Startups

From corporate operations to joining management, I experienced a wide range of corporate functions during my time at TeamSpirit. I spent 2 years working at each level both before and after IPO. Looking back at my time at TeamSpirit and Hacobu, which I joined after Team Spirit, I guess I can say that I’ve been through both the bitter and the sweet of the startup experience. In a startup, business cards are useless, and while the product and organization structures are imperfect, stakeholders expect unusual business growth. I have wondered if there is a nice formula to solve this. I felt that building a fan base both internally and externally and creating an environment where I could get extra special support would be the starting line. Reflecting on the company’s IPO preparation, I felt that refining the company’s appeal and uniqueness is part of the process to build a company that people want to see go public.

The Move from SaaS Startups to VC for Full Entrepreneurial Support

I began thinking about possible approaches to support the many entrepreneurs who find it difficult to take risks. With DNX, I aspire to contribute to the ecosystem of Japanese startups that still seems to be in the process of growth in both quality and quantity compared to other countries through risk capital supply and entrepreneurial support. I decided to join DNX as I was attracted to the members’ high level of professionalism and the firm’s unique culture of integrity, a sense of duty and humanity.

Although it is still early, I believe that DNX’s value comes from the team members’ diverse backgrounds combined into one, supporting the success of entrepreneurs.

In Closing

My professional background is in the practical experience with different company cultures and business practices in areas such as “manufacturing / SaaS,” “Japanese / multinational firms,” and “large companies/startups.” In addition to investments in B2B SaaS, I would like to challenge a wide range of areas to improve the legacy of the world and solve pain as well as reencounter the environmental and energy fields that interested me in my university days. As a fledgling venture capitalist, I would like to steadily increase my usefulness to the team by becoming an integral part of DNX’s vast diversity. I am looking forward to meeting you all. Thank you!

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