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Fighting Against System Bugs

We have already helped 17 global tech startups and venture companies enter the Japanese market. Including my previous experience at Rakuten: LinkShare, we have partnered with 23-27 companies and have conducted Proof-of-Concept (PoC) and trials in Japan. In other words, in the digital marketing technology area, we probably have the most experience working with global tech startups and venture companies in Japan, with the exception of Dentsu.

In such a situation, what separates the initial speed of sales that I often feel these days is the “number of bugs”. Basically, global tech companies that are still in the early to mid-stage of their startup phase are developing innovative technologies and functions that are not available at competing startups, ventures, and large & established companies, and therefore, compared to established products and services (which have already gone through numerous bug outbreaks and fixes), the number of bugs in their service offerings is much higher than that of companies that are still in the early to mid-stage of their startup phase. It is natural that bugs may occur during the process. However, depending on the nature and frequency of these bugs, even a tech company with excellent potential can lose the trust of the domestic market and even our own company.

We try to classify bugs into different categories and deal with them accordingly. At the same time, these categories are closely related to the importance and urgency of our response.
(1) Bugs related to optimization (both importance and urgency: highest)
The digital marketing technology solutions we handle “optimize” something. It could be allocating an advertising budget, or displaying the best search results for a specific long-tail keyword on a landing page. We perform a wide variety of optimizations on a daily basis, hourly, minute-by-minute, and second-by-second basis for each product. However, if these optimizations stop or fail to work normally due to some bug, it is the most fatal bug that can lead to a complete contract termination with a customer or a complete loss of trust.

(2) Bugs related to data retrieval (importance and urgency: Highest, High)
The next most important and urgent bug is “not getting data properly and correctly.” If data is not taken properly and correctly, the question is, “Is optimization being done properly?” Not only does this lead to a sense of anxiety and distrust, but it also makes it impossible to download raw data and evaluate tool ROI. It does not immediately lead to a complete trading halt or a complete loss of trust, but if it continues two or three times, I have the impression that we are already out of the game.

(3) Bugs related to display (importance and urgency: High, High)
And the next bug that comes after this data retrieval is “data is not displayed properly and correctly.” Although data is being taken properly, it is not being displayed properly on the tool’s dashboard. If even just a part of the screen display has been faulty for a long period of time (one month or more), this is a bug that could lead to trading halts or a major loss of trust.

(4) Other function-related bugs (importance and urgency: Medium or Low, Medium or Low)
In addition to 1) through 3), there are various other types of bugs, such as temporary inability to log in, inability to load pages, etc. These bugs are considered to be below medium in both importance and urgency because they do not lead to trading suspension or loss of trust, especially if they occur once every few months or so. However, of course, if they occur frequently in a short period of time (more than two or three times a month), clients will see these bugs every time they try to log in, and they will wonder if the solution vendor is thinking about usability seriously. The client’s impressions will become a like “oh, this is hard to use,” which will gradually lead to suspension of transactions and loss of trust.

Compared to advertising agencies and advertisers in Japan, many of our clients (sales agencies and advertisers) have a relatively good understanding of bugs. They are more understanding of bugs than our Japanese clients (sales agencies and advertisers). However, I often think that tech companies need to keep in mind that if they take advantage of this tolerance and fail to build a system to deal with bugs and develop and implement measures to prevent their recurrence, they will completely lose the opportunity to enter the market. For us, it is also important to keep in mind the following: “Are you sure about this solution vendor, bringing a product with so many bugs? This is a serious reputational risk. We would like to share this point once again with tech vendors and provide Japanese companies with technology that is unique not only in Japan, but also in the world.

Masaki “Mark” Iino
Founder & CEO
P.S. A pic with John, former SVP of Sentient Technologies, my dear friend from my Rakuten days, which I miss now. He is the one who taught me a lot about customer support and product development, not to mention how to negotiate.