Being able to make “mistakes” is a strength in and of itself. The global outlook forged by a company with no vision or drive
EDOCODE is an entity involved in the operation of point mall businesses, system development and other independent business lines. It is a part of the Wano group which largely focuses on entertainment-related business operations. EDOCODE was spun off from the Wano group and at the helm stands Takamasa Tamura. This interview will take a look at the trials and tribulations that he has encountered to date, as well as his plans for the future.
Selected to undertake a management role at an alarmingly rapid pace just two years after graduating from university
Tamura’s fated encounter with the Wano group dates back to when he still worked for his previous employer. In 2006, Tamura joined Adways as a new graduate hire. That very same year, Adways was listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Mothers and enjoyed a period of strong financial performance. Tamura saw that his senior colleagues were being poached by competitors by virtue of the company now being a “listed member”. It was at that time that Tamura, himself, was headhunted and received multiple offers from external companies all during his first year at the company. He recounts that he did indeed give some thought and consideration to the idea of leaving Adways.
Tamura: “I opened up to Mr. Okamura (Haruhisa, Founder and CEO of Adways) about my wanting to change jobs. He responded, “There’s nothing wrong about changing jobs if you believe that that’s the right choice for you”. I took a moment to reflect and consider if leaving Adways was a choice indicative of who I am as a person and arrived at the conclusion that it wasn’t. I had only been at the firm for a short period of time and there were still many things left that I wanted to achieve and so much more for me to learn. Accordingly, I resolved to stay.”
Thereafter, just one year and three months after joining the company, Tamura was made manager of a department with 40 employees. Adways was known for its tendency to provide due recognition to performers and hand out rapid promotions and it was in this manner that Tamura, who was viewed as an up and coming key player, commenced his professional career and started off on a path of clear, smooth sailing.
Tamura: “I was made manager at around 24 or 25, and even had the good fortune of being allowed to sit in on the company’s board meetings. I was hands down the youngest at the table and, for the most part, was given the liberty of expressing my views and opinions”.
Tamura continued to work as a manager at Adways for a period of two years and although there were no particular issues on the work front, he all of a sudden started to feel uneasy.
Tamura: “The thought just cropped out of nowhere. While I was grateful for the fact that my efforts were being recognized and I was being afforded an increasing amount of responsibility, I started to wonder if it would be alright for me to continue working in a management capacity despite my lack of experience. I began to worry about what I would be capable of by the time I reached the age of 40 and felt that I would do well to really reflect and figure out what it was that I wanted to do”.
It was then that Tamura was approached by Iichiro Noda, a senior colleague and friend of his from a different department, as well as his first superior, Kei Tanimoto, to join them at Wano, a firm that the two had founded.
I responded to my former boss’ and senior’s offer that I would join them only if “we were on equal terms”
Tamura’s decision to join Wano was mostly informed by his being able to better envision and see the meaning and significance in the work that he would be carrying out.
Tamura: “To date, I had mostly been involved in advertising-related work and got to see up close those clients who had met with success by using the company’s products and services. Along the way, I began to be intrigued by the prospect of wanting to create a particular product or service and have said product or service recognized by the rest of the world. In other words, I wanted to change playing fields and shuffle over to the creation side. It was right at that time that I was approached by Mr. Noda and Mr. Tanimoto about joining them as a founding member of Wano.
Truthfully speaking, I wasn’t as invested as Mr. Noda and Mr. Tanimoto regarding the proposed corporate mission of “changing the music and entertainment sectors”. Rather, I intuitively felt that it would be more interesting and rewarding to work with people who had a strong desire to create something new. Accordingly, I replied that “I would be open to the idea if we were all on equal terms” and was allowed to join as a board member.
During his student years, Tamura also helped out by working at one of his friend’s bar. He had the option of continuing to work there post-graduation but decided to join Adways as he “didn’t want to piggyback on someone else’s dream but rather, wanted to find what he wanted to do with his life on his own”.
His decision to join Wano, too, was driven by his belief that getting more experience in the business world coupled with self-reflection was the next step in his getting closer to his “being able to find meaning” in his work.
From the outset, Wano explored the possibilities of starting up a business centered on supporting creators. However, in order to keep the company afloat and amass capital, each director needed to first take on consignment work to build up rapport and generate an inflow of work.
Tamura: “You get all excited and proclaim that you’re going to start up an entertainment and music company, but it never gets off to a smooth start. As a result, I found myself taking on advertising consulting and system development work in the beginning.
However, that very business that you took on for the sole purposes of amassing capital starts to grow and eventually you need to start hiring. In the end, I found myself looking after our point mall and system development lines of businesses which had become one of our cash cows.”
Later on, the businesses that Tamura was in charge of started to take off and grew to a point that Digital Garage, one of the company’s partners, offered to inject capital into Wano. This served as the catalyst to spur the decision to spin the development business off from Wano which was primarily focused on entertainment. As a result, in 2016, Digital Garage and Wano jointly established EDOCODE.
Confronting the issue of “not having a vision” and the heightened implications thereof by virtue of being a cash cow
While EDOCODE continued to steadily grow, the line of business that had started off as a small initiative had grown beyond expectations and now faced a new challenge.
Tamura: “I believe that EDOCODE continued its growth trajectory because our employees take pride in the development work that they do. But, because the business was only started as a way to generate cash flow, neither myself nor any of our team members happened to have any vision for the business or idea in terms of how to grow it further.
While the point mail business, our biggest business line, was a source of revenue for the Wano group, we struggled internally to define “why the business exists”.
I found that I was unable to provide a response if one of my employees asked me what EDOCODE’s strengths were or the reason why the company exists. Further, I began to question whether there was any meaning behind by assuming the role of representative director if all I could say was ‘I suppose’ when asked by a team member if something was ‘truly something that the company wants to do’. At the time I was really quite troubled.”
The other side of the coin to EDOCODE’s continued and steady growth, being forced to spend days on end mulling over the company’s raison d’être. Throughout this process, Tamura happens upon a certain “strength”.
Tamura: “Since the company’s inception, we had transactions with countless clients, many of which included large-scale financing companies. I realized that this, alongside the fact that the business was self-funded and that, in addition, we had developed a robust point mall business that not only generated a steady flow of revenue but was poised for future growth, served to separate us from the rest. You don’t see many startup companies that can make those sorts of claims.
Consequently, I realized that one of our competitive advantages was that we “can make mistakes” — in other words, we are positioned to repeatedly take on large challenges.
I then thought to myself that if I was able to envision the possibilities as well as what it is I truly want to do whilst leveraging this particular strength, then I should be able to adequately convey this to the rest of the team. I then engaged in self-reflection and thought what would make me happy. Through this exercise, I came to the conclusion that I would feel happy seeing a product that we had created being used throughout the course of people’s every day be it domestically within Japan or overseas, and that our product served to enhance the quality / overall convenience of people’s lives.”
Let’s forget about the revenue and instead, strive to achieve our goals — so resolved Tamura.
Tamura: “It goes without saying that there are times when companies in the same space which brandish the newest and edgiest technology like AI and VR catch our attention. However, to us, technology is nothing more than a means to an end. We will focus on whatever is deemed to be necessary. So, if AI is seen as a technology required for our continued success, then we will implement that as one of our tools. I decided to make our company one that follows this mandate when approaching the task of creating new things.”
The mantra “one will not truly find meaning and be able to dedicate themselves to mere ‘accumulation of wealth’ unless the work that they are involved in is deemed meaningful and of significance by others” that is found on the company’s corporate website. Within these words lie Tamura’s beliefs.
A product that “brings about progress” and which can only be designed and manufactured by EDOCODE
We defined the reason for the company’s existence and the direction in which we want the company to grow — in other words, EDOCODE’s vision — as “creating products which bring about progress” and set off to make this a reality. Tamura states that amidst the wide variety of services that are used every day across the globe, he wants to “create something that could be viewed as the infrastructure and backbone to a company”.
Tamura: “In the past it would be electricity, nowadays web-based services such as social media and messaging applications serve as basic infrastructure. The world around us continues to grow increasingly convenient as technology progresses. Our daily lives have changed drastically when compared to just a few years ago. The speed at which change is taking place, too, is getting faster. I understand that this is no easy task, but it is a challenge I want to take on, nonetheless.
Actually, Wano developed a messaging application back when email was still the primary medium of interpersonal communication. We developed a prototype but the rate of sending and receiving messages just didn’t line up with what we had in mind.
Upon looking further into the matter, I learned that one needed to build enough servers to cause a company to go bankrupt if one wanted to make rapid back-and-forth messaging a reality. At the time, Wano was also involved in its TuneCore Japan business and so, we decided to bring the messaging application initiative to an end at that particular junction.
Shortly thereafter LINE launched its messaging service and its commercials which cost millions of dollars in advertising fees took the world by storm. While I do feel a bit of regret, I do think that we made the correct decision.
Even though we were unable to bring the product to market, the experience that we gained through trying to create something which had the potential to bring about change for the better serves as the base for our current undertakings. More importantly, regardless of the company behind the service, the approach that we took when attempting to realize the convenience experienced by the end-user as a result of messaging applications that have taken hold in the market continues to guide and inform all that we do. Or rather, it did. Going forward, I would love to see one of EDOCODE’s products make the world a more convenient place and bring about a positive impact on a global scale.”
The target that Tamura has set his next goals on is the “management of personal information”.
Tamura: “It’s still in the conceptual phase… While password management tools have recently come to market, I think it would be more convenient if personal information wasn’t managed individually by the services that people are registered for or the organizations which provide said services; but rather, by managed centrally by the registrant themselves.
Take for example the case where one is deleting an online shopping site account or is changing addresses because of an upcoming move. In such instances, one needs to modify or delete their information at the point of service. Even though the information belongs to the registrant, the registrant is unable to exercise full control over that information. It would be so much more convenient if bulk management could be applied to things of this nature, don’t you agree? I am sure, however, that Japan isn’t the only place in the world thinking about this.
EDOCODE does not prioritize profitability but rather, views whether our products can bring about some form of value to society, or whether they are capable of effecting positive change as being of the utmost importance. The more challenging an idea is, the greater the possibility to effect real, meaningful change. This is even more so should the idea be a new and novel one. I want to keep these ideals at heart all the while continuing to strive towards our mission.”
When EDOCODE was established, Tamura was troubled by the fact that the company did not have clear cut plan for the future. However, because he took the time to re-examine the company and identify its core strengths, and then took that understanding and applied it to where the company currently stood so as to formulate a vision, he was able to envision a future for the company — the essence of this particular thought process laces the words spoken by the Tamura of today.
As of March 2019, the Wano group is comprised of six companies which have a loosely defined corporate vision of creating something and giving it a shape or form. As a member of the ever-evolving Wano group, EDOCODE continues to look out to the world and provide services that bring about positive change to society.