Aiming to be top in Asia with an insatiably hungry spirit AnyMind Group CEO and co-founder Kosuke Sogo
Advertising technology company AnyMind Group, Inc., was established in April 2016. After successfully raising US$12 million in Series A funding, just one year after its launch the company expanded rapidly into other Asian markets, including Thailand, Indonesia and Japan, fast gaining the spotlight as a venture company to watch. In this series of articles, we talked with AnyMind Group CEO and co-founder Kosuke Sogo, a leading young global entrepreneur, about what he considers to be key points for rapid growth.
Are you capable of maintaining unwavering self-confidence, no matter what the situation?
――What in your opinion are the three most important things for an entrepreneur?
The most important thing is to have “baseless self-confidence.”
The second thing is to have the “ability to draw in others” among those around you, and the third thing would be a “hungry spirit.”
In terms of why “baseless self-confidence” is so important, any person setting up a new business needs a strong sense of purpose, because you have to start out not knowing whether the business model you have developed will definitely go according to plan 100% of the time. You need the strength of self-confidence to push through.
In our case, we started with a concept that looked good on paper, and it was my “baseless self-confidence” and that of all members of the team, who all thought “this is definitely a winning idea,” that helped to power our business growth.
Entrepreneurs are leaders and so they need to maintain self-confidence, no matter what the situation. That is essential to any venture company.
Kosuke Sogo/ Born in 1987
As the CEO of AnyMind Group, Kosuke Sogo is leading the way in global expansion. In his previous position as the CEO for Southeast Asia of MicroAd, he expanded business throughout the APAC region. Sogo has received many awards and has been recognized as ”Asia’s Most Influential Digital Marketing Professional”, and in 2016 as one of the “Most Influential Global Marketing Leaders 2016” and was awarded the “Under-30 Achiever of the Year” at the Mumbrella Asia Award in 2017.
――Is having “baseless self-confidence” something that stems from your own personal character? Or is it something that you have acquired from some kind of experience?
When I was growing up both of my parents were from families with a history of working as managers.
So one influencing factor for me from a very young age could have been seeing at close quarters my two grandfathers, both of whom were company presidents. My grandfather’s managerial style was always brimming with self-confidence. That has undoubtedly influenced me in some ways.
Also, both my grandfather and my parents were very good at giving praise, so from being a child I thought that I was probably some kind of genius! (laughs). Whatever influenced it, I don’t know, but the fact is that in my elementary school days I used to declare to everyone, “It’s because I’m a genius!” (laughs)
My high school days were around the time when famous entrepreneurs started to emerge, like Masayoshi Son, and Hiroshi Mikitani. Looking at them, it seemed natural for me to want to someday become an entrepreneur in this industry.
As a new university graduate I joined MicroAd, Inc., one of Japan’s largest internet advertising distributors, and right from the start when I joined the company I had a strong sense that “I can do this!” It was this self-confidence that also led to my good sales figures.
If you truly believe and communicate that belief, others around you will follow
――The second factor you mentioned was the “ability to draw in others.” Could you be a little more specific about what you were referring to?
One thing I realized very keenly when I set up the company was that it is important to quickly set up “support groups,” or in other words develop a fan base of people who will support the company’s activities.
Most immediately, what was needed was to involve all top management and employees, and get them on board and believing in what the company is doing. The same of course goes for investors and clients.
As you are limited in what you can do as an individual in order to grow the company, it is therefore important to draw in a variety of people, bring them on your side and expand business in this way.
――So how is it possible to draw in people to such a great extent?
One of the things I am good at is raising people’s expectations.
I’m a very direct person, and always clearly say when I think something is good or bad. So when I really and truly believe in something and want to take it forward, it is my enthusiasm and sincerity that other people can sense.
You need to truly believe in what you want to do and communicate that belief. That’s all there is to drawing in other people.
――So it’s probably the case that your “baseless self-confidence” is a part of what helps to get other people involved, isn’t it? Have there been times when you have failed to bring other people on board?
I’m basically a positive person, so even if I make a mistake I don’t think about it in those terms! (laughs)
Of course, there are probably many mistakes that I simply haven’t noticed, but even if an issue emerges, I usually try and turn it into a positive from which we can pursue further growth.
The key point about bringing in people to your plans is to always be positive and look onwards and upwards, even at times when things go wrong.
――So what do you mean when you talk about a “hungry spirit” as the third factor for success?
The reason that AnyMind Group has continued to grow up to now is that we have kept alive our “hungry spirit,” no matter how much praise we may receive from those around us.
Once you’ve achieved a certain level of profit, you can then slack off if all you want to do is just keep things at the same level. Even if you choose not to take on any particular challenges, you can still make a living.
At AnyMind Group, however, we all have a mindset that is never self-satisfied, and always wanting to achieve continuous growth. The key point is not to slow down, but rather speed up business.
My impression of an “entrepreneur” is someone who is quite aggressive, with just such a “hungry spirit.” As for myself, I come to work every day myself firmly believing that we can make the AnyMind Group the biggest company in Asia.
You need to be true to yourself, have high aspirations, and never forget your “hungry spirit.” If you have these qualities, even if someone tells you, “You’re really achieving fantastic results,” you can stay humble and simply say, “No, no, we still have a long way to go.”
Interviewer Takuma Ogata
Chief editor of Venture Navi a media resource for entrepreneurs. After time spent working for toy manufacture Tomy Company, Ltd., I joined DI. As a business producer I am responsible for investment, business support and strategy proposals aimed mainly at domestic ventures. When working for Tomy on the Transformers line of toys, the slogan used in promotions was “More than Meets the Eye,” or in other words, don’t simply take things at face value. That is the thinking on which I want to base my articles.