Haruki Atarashi never thought his company's flagship software, Recog, which fosters communication between employees within companies, would ever evolve beyond just an internal project.

A cross between an internal communication service and a video game where points and rewards are earned, the software began as a way to improve the work environment at Atarashi's own company, Cinqsmile Inc., an operator of beauty care websites.

However, Atarashi, the 46-year-old CEO of the company, soon realized he was on to something when his employees started using Recog, with staff earning points the more they praised and messaged each other, making communication more enjoyable and helping employees see eye to eye and recognize each other’s hard work. That gave him the idea other companies might be interested in buying his software.