“GameWith”, the largest game app website in the country, has become a platform with over 600 million PV per month in just one and a half years from its release. The website is popular because users can find practical information on video games that they are looking for. The name was inspired by the creator’s philosophy, “standing with gamers who enjoy video games”.
The founder of this website and CEO of the company is Tatsuya Imaizumi. He also has somebody who he “needs next to him”, his name is Yusuke Murata, Incubate Fund. “If we didn’t work together, we would not be here today” says both parties. They met about 5 years ago. The path they walked together was nothing close to smooth sailing. “Investor and entrepreneur”. The two reflect on their humane drama that cannot be imagined from these two words.
Thank you for joining us today. First, please tell us about how you two got together.
Murata: Ok. We first met at the second Incubate camp (training camp for entrepreneurs and investors) in 2011. Imaizumi-san was still in college, developing services of his own.
Imaizumi: Yes. The service allowed users to chat in real time while watching videos. So on YouTube, you can let others know you’re “watching the 3 second mark” right on the browser. It’s close to “Nikonama” we have today. You can visualize who is watching a specific page and communicate accordingly.
Murata: I remember the capitalist you were paired up with was Imano-san (Globis Capital Partners COO: Minoru Imano) from Globis. He was pushing you so hard. He made you pitch when people were laughing. I remember thinking, wow, he probably didn’t get any sleep, poor him (lol).
The rule was they were going to commit to the winners of the camp, and our pair came in 2nd place. And so after the camp we started talking about putting a company together, and when we thought about who to do it with, we thought about Imano-san.
We were like, “Hey, we’re thinking about putting a game creator company, can you help us?”.
Imaizumi: “At the time, I was the only member in development. It was pretty hard. It was constantly “right before the release” for about half a year…”
Murata: People were like, “We can’t get a hold of Imaizumi!” (lol). I thought he was going to fall apart, so I convinced him to “take a break” and had him come back again.
Imaizumi: But ultimately the company did not do well. 2012 was the year that app games started to flourish and the company only made browser games, so things were hard.
Murata: We talked about making native games, or making the team with 20, 30 members. At the end it was pretty chaotic. At the end, even when we got people to come, they would cheat on us and leave and some of them even “escaped”(lol).
Imaizumi: So, we decided to put down the company.
Murata: We thought our lives were at risk if we kept going. So we wrote out the procedures to settle the company on the whiteboard and sold all the furniture to my other project company… Then, we were like, “that’s a wrap!” at the empty office.
Imaizumi：I remember it like it was yesterday.
Murata：Then after that, we got out of the office and started smoking, saying things like “This sucks”, “Let’s do a revenge match”, “Ok, let’s brainstorm and share ideas next week”. By the way, the Wednesday meetings that we hold to this day was inspired by this. We shared ideas at the meeting and there was an idea about “Tips and tricks Wiki”. We thought this could be it.
“Pitch book”, packed with ideas
So then you guys finally start heading towards launching GameWith.
Murata:At the time I had an offer from Ozawa-san (Executive member of Yahoo: Takao Ozawa) to launch a gaming company together. So the 2 of us went to Ozawa-san and showed him a simple proposal and said, “We want to make a company like this!”.
At the time did you pitch The image of the Q&A and the article contents we see today?
Imaizumi:Not at all. We didn’t have a logo or any ideas about the service. It was just basic information about the market and background like, “we need a tips and tricks website for smartphone games”.
Murata: We made mistakes before. But when we look back at it, we were pretty rough (lol). We said some big things too and told him, we want to do this with Ozawa-san! Then he said, “Ok, let’s do it”.
But then, GameWith reached 10 million PV in 3 months. Was it smooth sailing afterwards?
Murata: Actually, right about then, the service slowed down. We hit 10 million PV in January, then got more funds in February – March, but the service wasn’t growing. We didn’t know what to do. We hit a stage that required a change of service.
What did you do next for further growth?
Imaizumi: That’s when we came up with rethinking the Q&A system. We realized that, being gamers ourselves, we rarely use the conventional Q&A. So then we got inspired to do the “articles”.
So that’s how the current GameWith came to be. By the way, you two were involved in both companies. Did your relationship change as the company grew?
Murata: In terms of policy, we shared a common experience of failure. So it was about how to make use of it. We both knew, “this is a trap”, you know (lol). I remember when we got funds, I said “Let’s hire engineers”, to which Imaizumi-san replied, “No”. But this was because of our past experience.
How did you see it Imaizumi-san?
Imaizumi: At first, it was more like using Murata-san’s game company connection to survive than growing the service. Then that started to change and we were forced to choose between “running a gaming company” or “creating our own service”. Then Murata-san said, “What do you want to do Imaizumi-san?” I said “I want to create values on my own”. That’s when I thought, I need to start making decisions on my own.
Murata: When the service just got released, I had connections in the gaming industry, so that kind of backfired (lol).
Imaizumi: No, that’s not true (lol).
So, Murata-san trusted Imaizumi-san and let him make the call.
Murata: I trust him and we both agreed that we needed to “improve the product”.
Tell me about how you see each other. Murata-san, how do you see Imaizumi-san?
Murata: We have a long history, so that depends on when. People who knew him from his last year in college and don’t see him every week says “you’ve totally changed”. I think so too, compared to the first time I saw him. But he is a sharp entrepreneur. He is a very hard working person. I don’t think that will ever change. He knows what it’s like to be at the bottom. But by experiencing many things, he learned to make reasonable decisions. And he can act on those ideas and make things happen.
How about you, Imaizumi-san?
Imaizum: It depends on when for me too, but he has the strength to breakthrough obstacles. If you ask Murata-san to do something, he will somehow take care of it (lol). With our first company, he took the risk and made a decision. If I was him, I wouldn’t say “Let’s do it, I will fund you” because there wasn’t even a business plan. He has the courage to trust people. When we went to Yahoo, I got the impression that people get involved because of him.
What is your future vision of the company, what can we expect in the future?
Imaizumi:I want to grow it into a global IT firm. I want to become the top player in Japan in terms of “scale”. As far as business goes, I like games and I provide tips and tricks articles as the service. I want to make a society where gaming leads to legitimate work. To do that, I need to become the bridge between regular users and professionals as well.
Murata： Wonderful. I think we’ve come a long way together. Our common experience of failure is a much bigger asset than experience of success. We never want to go back to those dark days (lol).