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A startup is like an RPG. Meet Mr. Koya Iwasa of Cloudbase, the platform which is making rapid progress in cloud security SaaS and which came to fruition after 6 failed attempts

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Public cloud services such as AWS, GCP, and Azure serve as the foundation for building various web services and applications. Currently, the domestic public cloud service market continues to expand. According to a research release by IT research firm IDC Japan Co., Ltd., the domestic public cloud service market in 2022 will grow 29.8% year-on-year to 2,159.4 billion yen, and will triple in 2026. expected to do so.

Although the market continues to grow rapidly, these services also carry security risks that can cause serious accidents. Compared to a private cloud built in-house, it is possible to maintain a modern development environment at a lower cost, but it is more likely to be exposed to security risks if the settings are not properly configured. We have developed a new service "Cloudbase" to deal with such risks. Cloudbase, Inc. Mr. Koya Iwasa. This time, we interviewed Mr. Iwasa about his programming experience, which he started at the age of 10, and the development story of "Cloudbase", which he arrived at after six pivots.

What is "Cloudbase" to prepare for public cloud security risks?

First of all, could you tell us what kind of service "Cloudbase" is specifically?

"Cloudbase" is a platform that can automatically diagnose security risks such as configuration errors in public clouds such as AWS, GCP, and Azure. It scans the cloud configuration used by companies in just 5 minutes and displays misconfigurations on the system by risk level.

Credit: Cloudbase, Inc.

Regular scans can also be performed, so even if there is a change in the cloud configuration, new configuration errors can be detected early. If a mistake is found, we also have a document on how to correct it, so the person in charge of the company can easily and smoothly correct the settings.

Please tell us about the background behind the need for such a service. I thought that the security of a cloud like AWS would be guaranteed by the service provider, but...

Cloud service providers do not address all security concerns. The public cloud adopts a "shared responsibility model", and although security measures are taken for the basic part of the cloud, security measures on the side of the company using the service such as customer data and applications, firewall settings, and server-side encryption are also taken. is usually not supported.

So that's it. So, what security measures should companies that use cloud services take?

90% of security incidents in cloud services are caused by human error in settings. For example, there have been cases in the past where unauthorized access occurred and personal information was leaked because the port of "SSH", which is a means of safely connecting to a server, was set to public. In order to use the cloud while ensuring security, it is important to constantly check for such misconfigurations and quickly correct them.

AWS, GCP, and Azure are highly customizable cloud services. While we can create various things using these, many of the various items that we set ourselves can increase security risks if we make a mistake. As the amount of cloud usage increases, the number of items to be set also increases, so security measures become more complicated. The reason why large companies do not use cloud services is that they cannot overcome such security risks.

"Cloudbase" makes it possible to identify such security risks in a short period of time and take countermeasures.

That's right. We believe that through "Cloudbase" we can create a driving force to greatly advance corporate DX. For example, in domestic companies, permission from the security department is required to tamper with the server, and it often takes 3 to 6 months. However, such a sense of speed cannot win against Western companies. If they have that period, they will update the service over and over again to accurately grasp user needs.

If we can greatly reduce security risks and lower the hurdles for building environments in the cloud, Japan should be able to compete in the same arena as Western companies. "Cloudbase" is often seen as a "defensive" product, but we think it is also an "offensive" product. If domestic companies can take on more and more challenges using the cloud, a company like Tesla may someday emerge. I see great potential in this business and am very excited about it.

Self-taught programming at the age of 10, wanting rare items for games

Please tell us how you came up with the business idea of “Cloudbase”.

It's the result of six pivots after the founding. I think the reason I came up with the security field was because I had been rewriting my own game software programs as a hobby since I was 10 years old. I deciphered the programming language of the game, rewrote it so that the enemies would self-destruct, and tried to make it move automatically even when I wasn't playing, playing by myself. Now that I think about it, I was hacking a security vulnerability.

Rewrite the program at the age of 10! Are you all self-taught?

it is. I had researched and learned everything myself, including communities on the Internet. Once I understood how the game works, I gradually began to want to create something useful myself. Until I was in junior high school, I enjoyed creating simple 2D games, portal sites that let me quickly jump to sites I often visited, and programs that allowed me to change game behavior with a single click.

When I think about it now, I may have found joy in being able to realize "automation" with my own hands that led to my current business. I found it interesting that the program allowed me to do new things and see different scenery.

At the root of starting a business is the desire to "make someone happy"

Mr. Iwasa, how did you spend your time after high school?

When I was in high school, I took a break from programming and devoted myself to club activities and studies. After I entered the Faculty of Engineering at Kyoto University, I was exposed to programming again, spending days implementing while learning technology. During my studies, I worked part-time as an engineer and worked as an intern.

Why did you start your business while in college?

While gaining practical experience as an engineer in college, I wanted to take on the challenge of creating services that many people would use.

While working part-time and as an intern, I realized that in the world of engineers, once you reach a certain level of skill, there is no big difference in the ability of each individual, and it takes 3 to 5 years to fill in the slightest difference. It's becoming a world like a professional athlete. When I saw such a world, I felt a certain sense of frustration, not knowing if I could go that far.

In addition, engineers often think that they can satisfy users if they create good products with high technical skills, and they often improve performance such as speeding up loading as much as possible. The improvement itself is useful and wonderful, but I personally want to create an impact on society in the form of creating new services that are in demand by many people, rather than improving services that are already in demand. thought. That's why I chose to start my own business.

You moved from being an engineer to being an entrepreneur because you emphasized the impact you have on society.

I agree. I love making people happy. I'm often told that I'm lying and that I'm beautiful, but as one of my philosophies, I live with the feeling that I want everyone who has been involved with me to go home with a smile on their face. It was an extension of that that I wanted to create something that would be used widely in the world.

Did you have the desire to "make someone happy" since you were a child?

There are several reasons why I came to like making people happy, but I think one major reason is that I was originally shy and gloomy. When I was in elementary school, I used to go home alone from school and find what I didn't like about myself. I still vividly remember the scene when I was counting on my fingers that I didn't have many friends or that it wasn't fun.

Because I have such a side, I try to be considerate of others, and it leads to great joy when someone is happy with my actions. In the sense that I could make people happy with my own creations, I also admired artists.

The Importance of Market Understanding Learned Through 6 Pivots

Earlier, you mentioned that you experienced 6 pivots before arriving at "Cloudbase". What kind of products have you actually created?

Actually, when I was in college, I declared that I would start a business without any business idea. At that time, I met Mr. Kaneko of East Ventures and he said, "If you come to Tokyo from tomorrow, I will invest 10 million yen." I was finally able to start a business in October 2019, when my home and office were ready, but at that time, I had only my computer and my body in my office in Roppongi. It all started with thinking about what to do next.

Mr. Kaneko also gave us various business ideas, and among them we developed an app using AR technology. Based on this app, we were able to do business with the marketing department of a major telecommunications company, but with the outbreak of the new coronavirus infection, we decided to pivot because it would be difficult for the AR business to interact with the real world. bottom.

What kind of product did you develop next?

Since "Zoom drinking" was popular due to the corona sickness, we developed a video chat where you can play the werewolf game. After completing the development and releasing it in about 3 weeks, it was used by more people than I had imagined, but it was difficult to monetize it, so I decided to pivot to the next business.

After that, I developed and released a voice SNS that allows you to connect with friends for only 3 minutes after 8:00 p.m., and an SNS that disappears after 24 hours. I gave up.

It was very sad to see the things I made go to waste. Every time I failed, I kept looking back on my life and wondering what I wanted to do and how I could create something that would be used. That's when I came up with the idea of developing a service for toB.

What kind of service did you develop?

Initially, I developed a service to automate testing of iOS apps. When we started pre-registering for the service, we received inquiries from about 20 companies. Since I started a business as a student, I was not able to use honorifics in business very well. I didn't even know what words to use to explain our company's services at the time of sales, and even though I was able to meet with companies, I couldn't get any contracts. Therefore, I gave up on this business and moved on to the security education service.

This is where your experience in rewriting game programs will come in handy.

That's right. Looking at the engineers around me, I got the impression that very few had a proper knowledge of security. Therefore, I prepared an environment where hacking can be done legally, and created teaching materials that allow people to learn about security vulnerabilities by actually working with their hands.

I thought this business would be successful, but when I researched the security education market, I began to see the limits of growth potential. Considering the fact that the number of engineers in Japan is increasing by only 30,000 each year, we realized that selling educational materials at 30,000 yen per person would only grow into a business of 900 million yen per year. I thought it would be difficult to focus on security education for engineers when I was in a VC.

But this is what I knew before I actually created the service. I was able to give shape to my ideas immediately, but I didn't have enough preliminary research to create a business. Hokuto Igarashi, a senior entrepreneur and representative of HOKUTO Co., Ltd., pointed this out to me, and I was finally able to realize it.

What kind of communication did you have with Mr. Igarashi?

Just the year before, around the fall of 2021? When I was writing code until midnight in the East Ventures shared office, Mr. Hokuto came over to me. I was asked, "What are you doing?" I answered, "I'm growing my business." Do you know how many companies there are and how big the target company is? Write it on the whiteboard."

At the time, I wasn't able to give an accurate answer to Mr. Hokuto's question. I didn't know how many listed companies were among my target companies, and I didn't know the sales figures of my competitors.

It was then that I realized for the first time that everything I had done up to this point had been in vain because I had not grasped the market. After that, I stopped writing code and spent three months doing exhaustive research. The idea of the current "Cloudbase" came up while searching for the best business in the security field.

Cloudbase has been expanding its business at a tremendous speed since its beta release in March 2022. Perhaps the reason for this is that they took a different approach to business development and were confident in their services.

I agree. By researching a variety of information and asking people what I didn't understand, I was convinced that I could do well in the cloud security field. I wanted to experience failure as soon as possible, so before releasing the beta version, I also conducted test marketing to see how many companies would gather through pre-registration. About 20 companies applied for it, and about 80% of them positively considered the contract, so I finally decided to use this service. We were able to release the beta version in March and the official version in August.

I seized a chance in a chain of possibilities. Until American VC Arena Holdings decides to invest

I would also like to ask about funding. In this seed round funding, it became a hot topic that American VC Arena Holdings invested in Japan's first seed stage startup. Where do you think the points scored by Arena are?

I believe that the public cloud security SaaS market in Japan has potential for growth, and that we were the first to cut into the market. In the cloud security field, the pain and market is large overseas, but there are still no proper players in Japan, and some companies are using overseas products. Many overseas security services are expensive and difficult to use. We provide a service that is easy for anyone to operate at a reasonable price. I think it was.

Did the decision to invest in Arena go smoothly?

A few hours after we announced the beta version of Cloudbase, we received an inquiry. Before we decided to invest in Arena, we were also talking with Mr. Kurabayashi of DNX Ventures, who co-led the funding. This time, it seems that Arena has carefully examined our business content, and DNX has decided to invest in the flow of checking our character image.

So that's it. This time, you have announced that you will be raising funds from a truly outstanding group of members. How do you feel about this situation, Mr. Iwasa?

Around this time last year, I was single-handedly working on a security education service, so I really couldn't imagine the current situation. The fact that Arena attracted attention is also the result of luck. Arena has also invested in SmartHR, and Mr. Miyata from SmartHR spread the news about our company on SNS before. Without it, it is highly likely that I would not have been able to connect with Arena. In the first place, I met Mr. Miyata when I attended a New Year's party for entrepreneurs on behalf of him. I believe that the current situation is due to a chain of various possibilities.

Mr. Iwasa, are you always conscious of building connections with people in order to grasp such possibilities?

I try to actively visit places where I feel that the future is about to change dramatically, such as meetings where investors and entrepreneurs gather. Especially when it comes down to it, you may be boldly attacking.

For example, I proactively approached Mr. Miyata of SmartHR, who invested in us this time. When I asked for an investment, it was turned down once, but I didn't get discouraged and told him, ``I just want an excuse to talk to Mr. Miyata. If it's 100,000 yen," Miyata said softly. Without failing to hear what he said, we shook hands on the spot and decided to invest. In the end, I am very grateful to Mr. Miyata for putting out a considerable amount of money.

Working at a startup where the situation changes every moment is like an RPG

From here, please tell us about your company's corporate culture. I heard that the company name was changed recently.

That's right. Originally, the company name was Levetty Co., Ltd. with the idea of ``I want to do something different (meaning a different level),'' but on November 8, 2022, the company name and service name were unified, and Cloudbase, Inc. transformed into a company. Now is the time to move the company to a new phase, the office has just moved, and the values have been considered internally and recreated.

What did you decide on for the new value?

“With Clients,” which means “Let’s learn and grow together with our customers,” “Unlock,” which means “unlock our thoughts and find out how we can do it.” We have set three new values, “Be an Entertainer,” with the message “Let’s excite ourselves and the world.”

Credit: Cloudbase, Inc.

In deciding on this value, we also discussed with eight full-time members of our company. It was very interesting that these words came out as something that all members could embody. I think we were able to set values unique to our company that other companies do not have.

What kind of person would you like to join in the future?

Whether you are an engineer or a business person, we would like you to join us if you are able to catch up on new situations and learn. This is because startups in the security field have almost no players in Japan. Also, it is rare to see startups that sell SaaS to large companies. It is no exaggeration to say that the combination of the two is a completely undeveloped field. That's why we continue to create services by discussing the fundamentals every day, such as what kind of product should be and what kind of problems should be solved and how. I would be happy if people who want to create new things without being bound by assumptions would join us.

Please also tell us about your future prospects.

In the future, while aiming to be the most used service in the domestic cloud security field, I would like to eventually challenge the American market. The US market is large, and there are almost no successful cases of Japanese startups entering the US market. I think it would be ideal if we could create a successful case for expanding into the US for the sake of the domestic startup ecosystem.

Do you have a message of support for entrepreneurs who have just started their business?

We are still in the seed stage of a startup, so it might be presumptuous to give a message in a place like this, but I think it's important to acknowledge your own inadequacies immediately after starting a business. On top of that, listen to people and incorporate the opinions of seniors. Doing so will open up new avenues and seize opportunities.

There are many senior entrepreneurs who want to support their juniors because they have been indebted to them in the past. The information you really need for your business is not on the internet, so I would like you to actively interact with people and listen to what they have to say.

Finally, please give a message to our readers!

I think the real thrill of a startup lies in the fun of the ever-changing situation. Even just adding one more member can make a big difference to the atmosphere in the company, and just getting a contract with one company can make a big difference to the business situation. If you compare it to a game, working at a startup is like an RPG. If you get strong allies and weapons, it will be easier to defeat the enemy, and as you continue fighting, your level will rise and you can challenge even stronger enemies. I think that you can enjoy such a feeling every day.

Of course, startups don't have a definition of "clear" like games do. There are many divergences in management decisions depending on the situation, so there are also difficulties. However, if you continue to take on challenges within the company, it will lead to your next career, and I think there is less risk than people say. If you want to change jobs to a startup, I would like you to take on the challenge.

Cloudbase, Inc.
Address
JP-BASE Kyobashi 6F, 3-10-3 Hatchobori, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
CEO
Koya Iwasa
Website
https://cloudbase.co.jp/
Careers
https://cloudbase.co.jp/recruit
Mitsuko Ichioka
Freelance writer and editor. After working as a public relations officer at a university, a PR company, and a start-up creation venture, became an independent writer. Writing for books, corporate owned media, and major media. Also engaged in public relations for startups.

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