Business / Corporate

After dropping finance for social media, Wantedly CEO eyes IPO

by Shigeru Sato

Bloomberg

With experience at Facebook Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Akiko Naka’s resume at 26 already read like that of a corporate veteran. Then she decided to add entrepreneur to the mix.

Wantedly Inc., the recruiting and social networking platform she started in 2010, now has 600,000 active members who use it to expand their contact list and find jobs. The company has made a profit over the past two years, Naka said in an April 21 interview. With continued growth, an initial public offering may come in four years, she said.

“Going public is not that hard and making pretax profit of several hundreds of million yen isn’t difficult either,” she said. “The hardest thing for a company is to increase its profit to more than tens of billion yen.”

Naka, now 30, said Wantedly doesn’t disclose earnings figures. She aims to increase the site’s number of active monthly users to 10 million, partly through expansion in Southeast Asia, before considering an IPO.

Still, a delay may risk missing one of the hottest periods for Japanese IPOs in almost a decade. Last year, 83 companies completed initial public offerings in Japan, raising a combined ¥1.24 trillion ($10.3 billion), the most by deal count since 2007, according to Bloomberg data. Thirty-five companies have already held IPOs this year, for a combined value of ¥143.4 billion.

Wantedly now gets revenue from posting job ads from among the 8,000 clients, including Accenture PLC and Suntory Beverage & Food Ltd., that are looking for employees or contractors to hire. About half of the customers are fellow startups, and many are looking for engineers, Naka said. The company also has funding from investors including Shogo Kawada, co-founder of Japanese Internet technology firm DeNA Co., and Internet advertising firm CyberAgent Inc.

Naka, who attended high school in New Zealand, can trace the roots of her entrepreneurship to her time as a student at Kyoto University. There she started a free campus newspaper that sold ad space to area shops and restaurants.

Naka’s switch from investment banking to social media was a result of attending the kind of event her platform now promotes. While at a seminar for startups in Sapporo, she met the then country manager of Facebook and eventually joined the company’s Japan office.

With Wantedly’s slogan, ‘Find jobs that will set your heart on fire,” Naka said she encourages clients to emulate her experience in seeking job satisfaction.

“We don’t allow our clients to describe salary or job conditions on their job listings,” she said. “It sounds crazy, right? But we want our clients to focus on the vision of the companies.”

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