Announcing our Investment in Kaminashi and the Deskless Workforce
We’re excited to announce that we’ve co-led a JPY 1.1 billion (~$10.3m) Series A into Kaminashi with our friends at ALL STAR SaaS Fund. Since seeding Kaminashi in 2017, we’ve gotten to know the team, market, and opportunity well, and have built enough conviction to 8x our previous investment into the company.
Kaminashi provides a one-stop cloud-based solution to manage workflows for factory, restaurant, retail, and other industries that represent the “deskless workforce.” Most of today’s SaaS companies have been built by and for white collar workers that sit at a desk. But most of the world’s workers don’t fit that profile. They are working on the frontlines, and have completely different needs that are not yet served by the tech industry. While the desk workforce has moved to Zoom, Asana, and other collaboration tools, the deskless workforce has mostly been left behind using paper and clipboards to get their work done. Digitalization of this category is not only important, but inevitable.
The proliferation of smartphones, tablets, and wearables has set the stage for change to finally happen. These form factors are essentially portable desks that can integrate seamlessly into deskless workflows. Kaminashi, for example, enables frontline workers to follow customized workflow instructions on the go, while managers can make changes in real-time that update across the workforce instantly. For tasks like inspections, management can require photos to be taken and uploaded, increasing transparency and accountability. And if there are inconsistencies, or items are not properly entered, they can be flagged. The confluence of these features and more significantly improves efficiency while reducing errors.
Of course, smartphones and tablets have had widespread adoption for over a decade ーwhy isn’t there a deskless SaaS category leader in Japan yet? The reason is that people in the tech industry tend to build solutions that solve their own problems. There are very few tech entrepreneurs that truly understand the needs of those on the frontlines.
This is where Kaminashi truly shines: Morooka-san, the founder, worked on the frontlines at his father’s company, which provides the meals for airlines at Narita airport. He worked at their factory for years, experiencing how analog the operations were firsthand. He then went to programming school and did everything he could to get a thorough understanding of how to solve these problems through technology. He now has a great team of engineers and designers building solutions for these deskless workers, but that commitment to deeply understanding their users on the frontlines is baked into the culture. So much so that one of their values is being “frontline driven,” and their development team regularly visits customers onsite.
When investing, we look for great surfers (founders) riding great waves (market opportunities). We’ve known Morooka-san for 4 years, 3 as investors in his company. We know him to be a smart, thoughtful, and charismatic founder that attracts great people. And his unique background makes him the epitome of “founder-market fit.” As fate would have it, the wave he is surfing also happens to be an enormous, untapped opportunity that we believe can produce a multi-billion dollar outcome.
Thank you to Morooka-san and the Kaminashi team for choosing to partner with us once again. We are truly honored to continue this journey with you, and help you build one of the most important companies in Japan.