Building an AI Sales Enablement Startup in Japan (Japanese)

Building an AI Sales Enablement Startup in Japan (Japanese)
May 22nd, 2023

Eight Values interviews Ryoma Inose, CEO of amptalk. We talk about starting a business in Japan and getting his first few clients at amptalk.


Graduated from Waseda University in 2010 and worked in sales and marketing for a major chemical company. 2 years as Product Marketing Manager for a US medical device company in Pennsylvania, where he was in charge of DX using Sales Enablement tools for 500 sales people. He received his MBA from Spain IE business school in 2018.


00:12:52 - "I think the culture is the most important thing."

00:15:01 - "The mission of a CEO is to create a great environment for everybody, our employees to work."

00:18:33 - "It's just good timing."

00:23:39 - "When you talk to software engineers, say potential employees of amptalk, what do you stress about working here, apart from salary? What are the benefits of working at amptalk? I don't know. Ask our engineers. But everybody seems fine. Everyone seems like they're having fun. Yeah, having fun. The culture is good, I think."


Ryohei Watanabe: Hello, so welcome to the 8 values podcast. Today I am talking with Ryoma Inose. He is the CEO and founder of amptalk. Inose-san, thank you for coming on today. So for the listeners who don't know what amptalk does, what's the 30 second elevator pitch, the introduction of amptalk for the listeners who don't know?

Ryoma Inose: Hello, nice to meet you. Nice to meet you. I am amptalk Inose. So for amptalk, simply speaking, for example, Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, online video conferencing tools, Zoom phone, Dialpad, IP phone, and so-called CTI, which is a software that allows you to call with a computer, by connecting with the software, by writing it down or analyzing it, the bad efficiency of Sales Rep, for example, because you can't talk very well, or because Sales Force is connected with that, it's a company that makes products that solve the problem of being lazy to enter. It was founded in 2020, in May 2020, and now it's the third generation.

Ryohei Watanabe: Thank you. Okay, so what's the biggest use case? For customers that come to amptalk, what is the number one problem that amptalk solves for them that you hear back in terms of feedback the most?

Ryoma Inose: Well, for example, the sales process right now is divided into segments like inside sales, field sales, and customer success. There are many of them. Especially for big companies like SaaS startups, the process is divided like that. For example, inside sales calls the customers that have entered as a lead. After that, if the customer gets an appointment, the field sales will consult with them, and after the call, customer success will be the main focus for retention. There are many cases like that. In these cases, what is the content of the call? If the customer can't get the call through, it can be a bad experience for the customer. We have to reduce the cost of communication. That is our task. I'm a little bit too close. Right before our current product? Oh, right before amptalk.

Ryohei Watanabe: My job? What was the environment that you were in where you thought of amptalk as a possible business?

Ryoma Inose: Even just simply, what were you doing before amptalk? I don't know. I was doing a very inefficient business. For example, I had to go to the customer's place and greet them and go home. It was really meaningful. I had to do a lot of business. I felt quite painful there. After that, I went to the US for about two years. While I was in the US, I didn't have a new business that was divided into processes. But in the US, we use sales tech. The market we are in is called sales enablement. The sales enablement market in the US is growing very fast. For example, if you search for the person who is in charge of the title, the number of people is increasing. The market is getting very popular in the US. So I was confident that there would be a lag in Japan for about five years. The sales market in Japan is still inefficient. So we are working on a mission to do something about it.

Ryohei Watanabe: When you first started amptalk, did people understand the product immediately after you started amptalk?

Ryoma Inose: The way we marketed the product was to sell press releases first. We were able to sell press releases in the first place. We were able to sell press releases by writing and copying the zoo. And then we were able to sell it to the sales source automatically. This was the first time in Japan that we released a product like that. That was the only thing that became a topic. We were able to market it in a way that it was automatically automated. After all, we received a lot of questions. It was a relatively easy product to understand. There were two co-founders. One was CTO and the other was the head of AI. We started with these three teams. In the first six months, we had two engineers plus two engineers. I was the only business side. I was the only business side. I was the only business side. I was the only business side. I was the only business side. We were able to do all of the work by ourselves. The good thing about this was that we had to improve the product. We had to get feedback from the product and I was the product manager. We had to change the function and discuss with the team to create the product. We were able to create a product that would solve the issue. I think that was great.

Ryohei Watanabe: I'm curious about some of the feedback that you got from the early stages of the AmpliTalk product. How has it changed until now with all the customer feedback that you've received?

Ryoma Inose: The very first product until now, how has it evolved? We didn't have a connection with the company. We had to download the recorded product from the local MP4 and upload it. Nobody uses it. We had to upload it automatically because we thought it was a hassle. That's how we started as a beta version. We've evolved and we can connect automatically and upload everything automatically. We also had to analyze the product. We connected with Zoom phones and started from the phone. That's how we started. The big thing is that even if the UX is not good, we can fix it.

Ryohei Watanabe: The product has evolved.

Ryoma Inose: The CTO, I think Ryohei-san knows, is my wife's friend's friend's friend's friend. At the time, we were looking for engineers and we couldn't find anyone who could do the same. So we were looking for people who could do the same. We were looking for people whose friends didn't have engineers, and we got a chance to meet my wife's friend. We went to meet a movie director who didn't have engineers. We talked to an engineer who was working at Google and I was like, I'm going to introduce you to a friend. We went to meet the person we met. We met at the CTO. The engineer at AI, the co-founder, was at LinkedIn and asked if he could be the co-founder. He sent a lot of questions to the AI engineer. He probably came back about 10%. We met again. The reason I chose this person is that many people like technology. Of course, it's not a bad thing to like technology, but I wanted to use AI as a way to solve business issues. I clearly said that I wanted to work with a co-founder because I was a member of the Takanobu team. I was really excited. I didn't see any difficulties so far. It's growing gradually

Ryohei Watanabe: without any problems, I think. If that's the case, what is the most difficult part of your job right now as CEO? Hiring. What have you learned about hiring in the past couple of years that has led to good outcomes for amptalk?

Ryoma Inose: I think the culture is the most important thing. Even though somebody has adapted some technology or engineering, if he or she doesn't have a good personality, we shouldn't hire that person. That's our conclusion. We haven't failed, though. The team culture is really good right now.

Ryohei Watanabe: When you think about the kind of team that you want to build and the kind of culture that you want to build, what are some things that come to mind when you think about the team culture?

Ryoma Inose: I think we have currently six values. The first is issue-driven. We should focus on issues that our users have. The second one is exclamation mark. We have to surprise our users. The third one is blameless. This is what Xunji actually came up with. We cannot say be careful or something like that. If you make a mistake, the system itself has some issues. We have to fix the system and avoid making the same mistake again. Something like that.

Ryohei Watanabe: What has been your learnings for amptalk so far? What it means to be a good CEO? In your mind, what does that look like? What is the goal or the ideal traits that you're trying to cultivate here?

Ryoma Inose: I think the mission of a CEO is to create a great environment for everybody, our employees to work. The office is one of the factors. Things that I have to tackle and I have to work on. Things that I have to tackle and people have to communicate openly. At the same time, when we give feedback to our employees, we try to give them critical feedback. We maintain and maintain our employees.

Ryohei Watanabe: Also, we hire. What do you look for when you're hiring? When you go to meet somebody or you talk to somebody, what are the traits that you look for when you're hiring? What's the priority? What's the priority? I assume when you meet somebody, a potential candidate, there's maybe a list of 1-5 in terms of the priorities of what you're looking for. Of course, culture is in there as well. Skills, salary, culture. I think for everybody it's different. For you, what are you looking for when you judge candidates?

Ryoma Inose: The first one is if he's nice or not. Yeah. We want to work with somebody nice or easy to communicate at least. The second one is skill, probably. I think that's it. Maybe salary next. Yeah. I think just going back a little bit, you said... I think... I would say the third one is if he's good at learning. If he's good at learning. The first one should be culture or personality. The second one is probably if he's eager to learn or grow. Then the third one is

Ryohei Watanabe: You said earlier that from the very beginning you found it easy to grow, to get new clients and to continue growing the user base pretty consistently. What do you think it is about the amptalk product or the amptalk business where it has been so easy to grow?

Ryoma Inose: Because it's not always easy to grow like that, right? Okay. It's just good timing. The strategy or the product itself was great because we have great engineers. Yeah, simply that's it, I think.

Ryohei Watanabe: When you think about the strategy, how do you think about the amptalk strategy? What is the amptalk strategy in terms of the product and in terms of how you're increasing the market share here?

Ryoma Inose: Sure. What we decided at the beginning was there were some transcription surfaces or products in the market. What we decided to do was most companies did create some communication tools on top of the transcription surfaces. Let's say that you think it's more profitable to add video conferencing tools on top of the transcription surfaces. They sell those tools together. I think that was an issue. We decided not to do something wasteful because we didn't want to fight with Zoom or Teams because it's dangerous. We decided to do transcription or analysis or that kind of thing. We decided to integrate with all the tools that are available in the market. That was the core of the strategy.

Ryohei Watanabe: I see. Why is that better for the customers that you have? To be able to integrate with all of them instead of the other alternatives? What is it about the customer or the user that's better for them?

Ryoma Inose: First, they're already using Zoom. It's more natural for them. I guess it's easier for them. Plus, we cannot create Zoom. We cannot be better than them.

Ryohei Watanabe: I guess for the salespeople that use amptalk's product, it's not so much a change in their patterns. They don't need to learn a whole new software. They use the existing software that they have and then everyone else gets the benefits of the amptalk's software if they use just the integration. I see. What is the highest priority for the customer when it comes to amptalk's software? Is there a set of things that they really care about in terms of what your product has? I would say accuracy of the transcription must be one. Is there anything else that comes to mind about what the customer really wants in this product?

Ryoma Inose: Yeah, definitely the accuracy is one thing that they care about. What else? I think integration is the core. For example, we integrated with Slack earlier. So when users add some comments and sell scroll, users will be notified on Slack. That kind of integration is really valuable for them. Not so many products do that. That's one differentiator.

Ryohei Watanabe: Going back to the early times than now, in the beginning you said you did all the sales, all the customer success, all the product, and then just quite a lot of stuff was just you were the guy to do that. Now as the team has grown, I guess you've hired a lot of people now. How has it been making the transition from doing all the work to learning how to manage and learning how to create the teams? Has it been an enjoyable transition?

Ryoma Inose: Yeah, definitely. I just delegate everything to them now and I do nothing.

Ryohei Watanabe: Is there something you miss from the early days of doing all the sales and all the product?

Ryoma Inose: I don't know. It was good that I could get feedback from customers directly. But now our team members are doing it. But the good thing is we have amptalk, so I just watch all the sales calls.

Ryohei Watanabe: Oh, you're using the product amptalk as well. Yeah, no problem. That's amazing. When you talk to software engineers, say potential employees of amptalk, what do you stress about working here, apart from salary? What are the benefits of working at amptalk?

Ryoma Inose: I don't know. CTO should answer this question. As somebody who is not an engineer, I think our development process is cool. I don't know. Ask our engineers. But everybody seems fine. Everyone seems like they're having fun. Yeah, having fun.

Ryohei Watanabe: The culture is good, I think. For the last couple of questions, when you look back on the stuff that you've learned as CEO since you've started, do you have any advice for anybody trying to start a company as CEO? What kind of advice do you have for what you've learned in the past few years?

Ryoma Inose: I think it's a good question. I think it's a good question. What advice have you learned in the past few years? Like what I did, at the beginning, he or she should do all the business side. If he or she is not an engineer. It's really important to get users' feedback directly. I would recommend that. But at the same time, the biggest mistake I made was I should have hired one or two people earlier than what I did.

Ryohei Watanabe: When did you start hiring? You said you had closed a few customers. I don't know how many customers exactly. Do you remember when you started hiring for these roles?

Ryoma Inose: Six months after we launched the product. So it's too late.

Ryohei Watanabe: I see. Would you prefer that you had done it three months in?

Ryoma Inose: I mean, right after we released the product. I see. I'm not sure if I can do it. I mean, it was used by a lot of users. But we couldn't expect that. I think, yeah, much. I don't know. Anyways, yeah. If the product is good.

Ryohei Watanabe: I mean, if you think your product is good, I think it's a good thing. And do you have any advice for anybody applying to amptalk about getting past the interview process at amptalk?

Ryome Inose Okay. If... I don't know if I can speak for, I don't know, engineers. I guess... We are focused on, like, culture and the culture and the... Maybe, like, if the candidates are wanting to grow. So I guess show that in the interview. Show that you're a nice person and that you want to grow. If you have to show it, then it's probably... If I say this to... If I say this to a video, like, maybe everybody will pretend.

Ryohei Watanabe: Well, I feel like it might be pretty good practice just to pretend in all of your interviews that you are a nice person and that you want to grow, you know? Yeah. So I don't think it's super insider information. I think it's pretty general, you know, like, good advice for everything. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for talking to you. Best of luck with amptalk, and thank you so much. Thank you.

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In this show, Ryohei Watanabe talks with founders and engineers in Japan's startup ecosystem. We talk about their journey, their products, and their learnings.

Ryohei Watanabe