We interviewed exclusively Sébastien Béal, French founder & CEO of Locarise, company based in Tokyo, Japan that offers solutions for retailers.
1. Could you briefly introduce your business?
Locarise’s mission is to make physical spaces intelligent – to raise the satisfaction level of those who visit them and increase their value for those who operate them.
By connecting different sources of existing and new data into one AI based platform we present unique insights to the space managers in real time.Delivering this level of insight traditionally took a lot of time and manual effort of surveying, collecting and analyzing the data. One type of space where we have a huge impact is retail store where we quantify the user journey from before it enters the store to the POS. One other is shopping mall where we bring new data based approach to tenant mix, rent optimization and customer engagement.
2. How and why did you start your business?
I started Locarise 4 years ago after working 4 years in a Robotics Research Laboratory in Japan. Some of our research there have have laid the foundation to the business problem we wanted to solve: how to make retail stores have the same data available to them than the e-commerce websites?
3. How is it to be an entrepreneur in Japan?
In one way, it is very similar, I imagine, than everywhere else: there are a lot of obstacles to overcome at the beginning to find a good team, product-market fit, first customers etc…
Compared to the country where I am from, France, there are certainly less government support and investor money available to entrepreneurs. However, we believe in the Japanese market, the infrastructure for doing business, appart for Banking, is really good and a less dynamic startup environment means more opportunities for risk takers.
4. Who is your typical client? How do you attract new clients?
Our typical client in the retail sector is a multi-stores brand or mall operator who is looking into making better decisions in a difficult and competitive environment.
5. How did you finance your business? How much capital was needed at the start?
As “newcomers” in the Japan startup ecosystem, we decided to join a local incubator called Open Network Lab to support us at the beginning. After our first successes, we raised additional capital to accelerate our growth from angels and later Venture Capitalists.
6. Do you plan to develop your business outside of Tokyo/Japan (other Asian countries)?
We currently have operations in France for 1 year and customers are using our solution all across Asia.
7. What are the challenges you have faced or are still facing in your business?
With the help of our investors we decided to enter Europe very early, one challenge that we faced at the beginning was to grow both geographies together.
8. Did you require special set of skills as an entrepreneur in this industry?
Having a mix of knowledge between retail and technology is a good thing to have in our industry where the digital transformation is happening very fast.
9. What would be your best piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs that want to set up a business in Japan?
First, if you really want to do it, just go now and be ready to change your idea or model on the way! Don’t wait for the ideal timing because it doesn’t exist. Then once you started, give yourself the time to succeed: things can take longer to happen but if you always spend time with your customers and understand them, you will succeed.en but if you always spend time with your customers and understand them, you will succeed.