From Taiwan to 17 Worldwide Locations: Creating a Global “AI x SaaS” Business Appier CEO, Chih-Han Yu (Part 2)
Appier, founded in Taiwan in 2012 and listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Prime Market as an "AI x SaaS" native AI company, is dedicated to advancing the widespread and practical use of easily accessible AI. The company operates globally across 17 locations, providing support for corporate sales and marketing activities. CEO Chih-Han Yu discusses the essential qualities of entrepreneurs and the key factors for business growth on a global scale in an interview with DIMENSION Business Producer, Noriyuki Ito. (Four Parts)
The Depth of Customer Challenges Reflected in the “Market Potential.”
What do you believe is important when starting a business?
First and foremost, the market potential.
A product that genuinely addresses major customer issues and provides real value to customers will inherently have a large market potential. In other words, if you want to create a product that truly matters to people, you should approach areas with significant market potential.
For example, our product CrossX is a marketing automation tool that automates user acquisition by managing customer data and predicting high-LTV users. As these are vital topics for businesses, there is substantial market potential.
“Market potential” should be the most critical factor in product development.
Next, it’s essential to examine your own team’s strengths.
I always believe that everyone should focus on showcasing their strengths rather than trying to compensate for their weaknesses.
As an AI company, our most important decision is deciding where AI is necessary for a certain product.
Understanding your team’s strengths and considering them during product development ultimately leads to differentiation.
The third point is learning from customers and getting feedback from the market.
Engineers often tend to focus on development to the extent that they neglect the connection with the market. It’s essential to continuously innovate the product by incorporating feedback from customers.
Some entrepreneurs may say, “Customers don’t have the answers, so don’t listen too much to their voices.”
Indeed, customers may not know exactly what they want. However, they are aware of the problems and inconveniences they experience in their daily lives.
So, when we talk about listening to customers, it’s not about asking, “What kind of product or feature do you want?” Developing features is our job.
Instead, what we should ask customers is, “Where do you experience problems?” Customers don’t provide solutions; they guide us by sharing their problems and challenges.
The Appeal of the Japanese Market from a Global Perspective
In the face of Japan’s shrinking market, there are prominent voices expressing pessimism about business in Japan and the country’s future prospects. What are your thoughts on this matter?
Certainly, there are both positive and negative aspects to consider, but entrepreneurs are agents of “expanding the positive.” In that sense, Japan remains highly attractive as a market.
Japan is an extremely important country on the global stage and boasts a substantial GDP. Its immense market size means that if you can bring about innovation, the domestic market alone can lead to substantial business. Relatively, countries like Taiwan inevitably have limited businesses because of the size of domestic demand.
Of course, looking at the negative side, the strong focus on domestic demand can sometimes make it challenging for Japanese companies to expand internationally, as they tend to customize their products too much for the domestic market. However, this condition is likely applicable to Taiwan or South Korea as well.
There are very few countries as fortunate as Japan in this regard. Entrepreneurs should be catalysts for expanding the positive aspects. I believe it’s our generation’s mission to use technological innovation to create a brighter future.
What is necessary when expanding business globally?
I think the most important thing is, once again, mindset.
Expanding your perspective and being willing to accept the challenges of operating in different countries and regions can significantly expand the market you can approach. As discussed earlier, having an “open mind” and always looking beyond your current market to see opportunities is crucial.
Next, it’s essential to find common “denominators” that exist across various countries.
Because you cannot build different versions of your product for each country, it’s important to identify the “common challenges” shared by customers in all countries and develop your product according to this denominator.
Identifying the “denominator” to address as a product is crucial in global expansion.
Interviewer Noriyuki ITO
DIMENSION Business Producer: Graduated from Waseda University, School of Political Science and Economics. After working at Rakuten and EdTech startups, he invested in and analyzed domestic startups and provided management support for their IPOs at Dream Incubator Inc. In 2009, he joined Dream Incubator Inc. In 2009, he participated in the MBO of DIMENSION Fund from Dream Incubator Inc. He is working to revitalize the Japanese economy by providing support as a capitalist to ambitious entrepreneurs. He is an outside director of FinTech startup 400F Inc. Also teaches "Venture Strategy Planning" and "Business Analytics" at a business school.