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Business that changes society! A Better World for the Next Generation, Aims of Asuene Inc's Nishiwada, who Achieved Series B in Less Than Two Years, Driven by Decarbonization

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This website has been translated into English using automatic translation. Please note that the translation may not be entirely accurate.

With the "Decarbonization Declaration" in October 2020, an era has arrived in Japan where CO2 reduction and renewable energy are valued as business. Around the same time, there are startups that have planted their flag and are moving forward at breakneck speed. With the aim of "creating a better world for the next generation," we provide "Asuene" (formerly known as Aszero), a cloud service that visualizes and reduces CO2 emissions for companies and local governments. Asuene is.

The company reached the Series B level two and a half years after its establishment. Boasting an average monthly increase of more than 150% in contracted orders and phenomenal growth of five times the number of contracted companies and five times the number of employees compared to the previous year, Kouhei Nishiwada, CEO of Asuene Inc. is straightforward, honest, and expresses gratitude in his words. We asked him about the trajectory of the company's growth.

Use all the energy you receive as a source of growth

Mr. Nishiwada please tell us about your career so far.

After graduating from Keio University, I joined Mitsui & Co., Ltd. in 2009, sensing the business potential of renewable energy. After approximately 11 years of involvement in new business development, investment, and M&A in areas such as solar and wind power generation both domestically and internationally, he left the company in September 2019 and founded Asuene the following month. We launched our first service, ``Asuene,'' in May 2020, and while building a team, we launched our second service, ``Asuene,'' in August 2021. Although both services are currently doing well and growing rapidly, we believe that ``Asuene'' has a high potential when considering how to win as a startup, and we plan to make `` Asuene'' our main business in the future.

Why did you focus on renewable energy? What was the motivation or reason for this?

During my university years, I began to research environmental issues, and renewable energy was the only area in which I strongly felt the potential to balance the environment and the economy. In my job search, I looked for a company where I could take on challenges overseas and do business that would have a social impact in the area of growth industries.

But there is a further reason for this. It is a long story, but looking back on it now, I have always had a very strong sense of purpose since childhood, I was good at math and other subjects, but at the time, when I asked my teacher what it would be useful for in the future, I was never convinced. I could not get a satisfactory answer, so I was not interested in it. Then, when I was in junior high school, I went to a live concert by Mr. Sakurai of Mr. Children and was impressed by how music could move so many people and change their behavior. From there, I decided that I wanted to be on the side of those who can be moved, and in fact, I was seriously aiming to become a musician, but I failed to achieve my goal and fell behind in my second year of college. When I was thinking about what I was going to do after quitting music, I went to a live concert of Mr. Sakurai's Bank Band, and during the MC of the concert, Mr. Sakurai told me that he was financing and investing a part of his earnings to companies and organizations working on environmental issues. I was again impressed by the fact that it was possible to create a mechanism to change society through business, and that is when I first became interested in business and started researching environmental issues and social problems.

Mr. Sakurai would be surprised to know that he had such a strong influence on you. So, what made you want to become a business manager?

I had an important experience in my senior year of college when I launched a student international cooperation organization from scratch with my classmates from Mitsui & Co. but, the most important was my original experience when I was seconded to a Brazilian energy-saving and renewable energy venture company called Ecogen, where I was greatly inspired by the management.  

At the time, my respected ace boss at Mitsui was on secondment as vice president and CFO, and I was also on secondment in a position to do everything as his associate. I was overwhelmed by the speed of decision-making and the number of hands involved, with discussions on whether or not to do something and why it should be done being decided at high speed through on-the-spot exchanges, whether in meetings or by e-mail. It was also a very valuable experience for me to be able to study and analyze the situation at hand while asking questions about how work can be done so quickly. At the same time, I felt the fun of being involved in the business as a manager and began to strongly consider taking on the challenge of management myself. I was often allowed to sit in on interviews with the president and vice presidents, but no matter how thoroughly I prepared in advance, the speed at which the conversation was exchanged and turned around was so fast that I was often only able to ask the last question I had prepared. It was truly a valuable experience for me to witness a world where you have to be on the same playing field to be able to fight. I believe that my ideal image of a manager and the guidelines for Asuene Inc's actions were deeply shaped by my experience in Brazil.

Please tell us what has been particularly difficult since you started your business.

Even now, every month is a challenge, but looking back on the start-up period, it was very difficult to gather new colleagues. We have now grown to an organization of over 50 people, and professional personnel have come together because they share Asuene Inc's vision of MVV, but we spent a lot of time looking for our first engineer. I had been doing business development and investment for a long time, so I had no experience in system development at the time and had never talked to an engineer before, so I desperately searched via friends for an engineer who I could trust as a comrade. Even when I searched through agents, all I found were people who even my intuition was suspicious. At the time, I read dozens of books on system development and Blockchain and compiled summaries, which I used as a basis for discussions with potential engineers, gaining knowledge in my own way. Then, in January 2020, I met Lakma, the co-founder and Tech Lead, through a friend at a cafe in Roppongi. At the time, Lakma was working full-time at a mega-venture company, but I was happy when I presented Asuene Inc. to him and persuaded him to work with me on the development of Asuene Inc. and he said yes. From there, through the development process of requirement definition, design, design creation, and development implementation, I was able to launch the product and handle the development meetings because Lakma taught me engineering knowledge and skills.

Talking about gathering colleagues, you have another co-founder, don't you?

That would be Iwata, the COO, and Director. At the time, Lakma was still involved, and I was starting to get contracts with more than 10 companies while doing everything on my own, including sales, development management, back office, investment, and loan negotiations. However, I felt that what I was good at was the " zero to one breakthrough" of conceiving and launching new business models and that we needed people who could turn 1 into 1,000. In such a situation, I was looking for someone specializing in Keyence personnel who could create a strong structure in sales, with a market capitalization in the top 5 in Japan, and I met Iwata. When he joined our company, our business accelerated at once.

But more than that, I realized how much I appreciated the presence of my colleagues who fought together with me since I was working alone with investors for the first year of the project. I still feel this way about all the members of the team.

How was your funding?

I originally worked in venture investment and M&A during my time at Mitsui, so understanding how investors feel was a positive function. I rather viewed the negotiation process positively because I believe that the DD process, in which we brush up on the market, business model strategy, competitive advantages, and issues together through discussions with investors, is a place where entrepreneurs and management teams can be trained.

With regard to the first seed round, while preparing to start my business, I attended an event for startups in the medical industry, which is also a regulated industry, where I first met Mr. Homma, the managing partner of Incubate Fund. At the time, I still had no team or product, only market knowledge, a business model proposal, and commitment. After the event, we were standing around talking about our concept, and he told us on the spot that he would love to invest in us. I was honestly surprised at the speed of the decision-making process. However, because I did not know the details of the incubate fund due to my lack of study at the time, we were unable to make a decision on the spot and started discussions, asking for additional discussions. After that, I felt especially valued that Mr. Homma himself was an entrepreneur who had launched a VC fund and that he would seriously commit to us while understanding the essence of risk-taking for entrepreneurs. We then had a series of strategy discussions and raised 75 million yen in a seed round in December 2019. We are very grateful to Mr. Homma for his continued hands-on, weekly MTG after that, and for the three consecutive investments in Series A and B. He has been a very encouraging partner to work with.

[Asuene Inc. Financing Information]

  • December 2019 Seed, 75 million yen raised
  • March 2021 Series A, 300 million yen raised
  • April 2022 Series B, 1.6 billion yen raised

You have reached Series B in two and a half years of establishment. How does this compare to your original plan?

The speed of business growth is a little faster than we had originally anticipated. Series B emphasizes performance, but we were able to achieve more than our business plan. To be honest, the fact that we were blessed with members who could produce such results was a big factor. We have received a total of 2.2 billion yen in investments so far, and we are also working on an additional extension round, so we would like to go on the offensive even further.

What are the current conditions for Asuene Inc. and ClimateTech companies? Are you working with tailwinds or against headwinds?

We believe there is no doubt that a tailwind is blowing. A few months after we launched our product, former Prime Minister Suga made a "Declaration on Decarbonization" in his policy speech. The wave that we thought would come only to a few people turned into a big wave that took all of Japan by action taken by Japan's top leaders. Japanese companies are watching the government closely, so the change in national policy and law has changed the atmosphere among companies in a big way. The number of industry associations and other groups taking the initiative has also increased. I believe that this trend toward a decarbonized society is a global trend and irreversible.  

As for the headwind, opposition to the introduction of CO2 regulations has arisen from some industries and companies, since almost all companies are not unaffiliated with regard to decarbonization. From the perspective of industries that are subject to carbon taxes, it is understandable that they would like to postpone the visibility of their CO2 emissions, but it is also true that such industries are under more pressure from investors to decarbonize.

How do you perceive the increase in competition over the past few years?

  The number of competing startups is rather positive from the point of view of investors and entrepreneurs since there will be no competition if the market is not growing and has potential. In fact, the market size of our ClimateTech business model is huge, with over 130 trillion yen worldwide.

The contents of an organization where excellent human resources gather and produce results

Members with abundant business experience are gathering at Asuene Inc. one after another. Can you tell us about the organizational culture?

Our members are truly talented people who have achieved results in their previous jobs and also have a strong spirit for challenges. I feel that many of them have the same desire to work hard with a great deal of their own discretion in a venture company that does not have the constraints of a large corporation. My own experience from my time in Brazil is also a reason why our company focuses on speed anyway, and I advise those who don't to increase their speed.​ ​

Can you tell us about your MVV (Mission, Vision, Value)?

Our mission is "A Better World for the Next Generation". For us, the mission is of utmost importance. We believe that even a small organization like a startup can lead to actions that can change society. On a personal note, I have a 9-year-old daughter. Compared to before she was born, I now think more proactively about her and her child's future. When I thought about how I could leave behind a better society, as I mentioned earlier, I have a strong sense of purpose, and I thought that if I could do something for the next generation and feel that I had done my best to accomplish it, that would be happiness for me.  I think this is reflected in our mission statement.

Next, we have established 10 values, the three core values being Integrity, Ownership, and Go Fast. In fact, we did not have values at the beginning, but when a mismatch occurred in the hiring process, the entire team defined and decided on the values. Changing jobs to a startup should have been a big decision, but if there are many areas where the values of working do not match after joining the company in the first place, there will be a mismatch, and this will lead to more work for us and for other members of the team. We believe that this is not good for either of us, and that the number of mismatches has been greatly reduced since the establishment of the new value system.

What kind of people would you like to see join your group in the future?

We are looking for talented people in all areas of development, sales, customer success (CS), and international expansion. We are growing every month, so every department is looking for motivated people. If you are interested in joining our team, please contact us through our recruiting page.

What are your thoughts on global expansion?

We are working not only in Japan but also with a view to future overseas expansion. As a climate tech company, I would like to challenge the world and create new value in the 21st century.

Finally, would you like to say a few words to our readers?

I am sure there are many difficulties in the early start-up phase, such as gathering colleagues, fundraising, PMF, etc., but the only way is to make your own way through these difficulties. I am still in the midst of the real growth phase, but having experienced the hardships of the startup phase, unfortunately, there is no secret to growth. 
In my case, I was aware of the need to involve many people. You can have a hypothesis about an issue or solution and then interact with others based on that hypothesis to test different responses. If you take the first action and feel that this method might not work, pivot and try another method or action. The biggest breakthrough is to not give up.