This is a guest post written by Jacinto Roca, Founder and CEO of Wuaki.tv (third from the left in the picture above).
I am honored that recently I have been appointed Rakuten Executive Officer. I hope I can deliver to the expectations. At least I will do my best…
Becoming an entrepreneur was a difficult decision for me. After being a consultant and venture capitalist with a very comfortable lifestyle, I left my job and invested all my savings in a crazy adventure to try to change the TV industry. I felt that the traditional Pay TV services were not user friendly and customers were charged for many things they were not interested in. I was convinced that the internet on TV could change that but the stakeholders were so powerful that most people thought I was crazy. My wife’s support and the “if you want you can” education that I received from my parents were the key for taking the decision to go ahead. And then I was lucky I met my partner, Josep, and a group of people that believed in our project and we started the crazy adventure to change a multibillion dollar industry driven by Hollywood from a small apartment in Barcelona. We spent more than 2 years without a single day of vacation. Josep was sleeping a few days per week in the office. We made some very difficult personal choices, but in December 2010 the Wuaki baby was born and our service was launched to the market. I still don’t know how we did it but we managed to launch the service with all Hollywood Studios on board and our app in the main Smart TV brands, including LG and Samsung. The first month our revenues were 11€…
After 18 months of the service up and running in Spain we were happy because our customers kept growing very fast and enjoying more and more movies with us but also concerned because the players were becoming global very fast and the level of investment required was very high. Then in the spring of 2012 I met Hiroshi Mikitani (“Mickey”) through a common friend. He was in Barcelona for business reasons and we organized a meeting and dinner. I liked the fact that he came to visit our small apartment in an old neighborhood of Barcelona, and he came into the apartment through the window… he liked that… I was really amazed at how as an entrepreneur he had built such an incredible group of companies, starting everything from scratch. Then he invited me to Japan, took me to his home town of Kobe and introduced me to his parents. I simply loved that! I still keep my “katana” in a special place at home.
For me it was a difficult decision to sell Wuaki. It had been very difficult to become an entrepreneur and selling the “baby” after 3-4 years was painful, but at the same time we realized that for our “baby” to grow into healthy a young adult and compete in the world we needed a grandfather like Rakuten. We made the right decision. At the end of this year Wuaki will be present in 12 countries and we will have more than 3 million customers. Our revenues have been growing more than 100% YoY for the last 4 years and we now have over 150 employees of 14 different nationalities. And even more importantly I still feel like an entrepreneur. In my opinion, the key challenge for big companies is to keep that entrepreneurship spirit even when they grow. In Rakuten we have managed to keep that spirit and I think this has been one of the keys for the current success of Wuaki. Rakuten has an amazing opportunity to change the world beyond Japan and I think we can do it if we keep that spirit of entrepreneurship and strong corporate values.
I am honored and excited that I can contribute to this mission in the digital content area and really thankful to have the opportunity to see how the TV industry is changing from a small apartment in Barcelona.
Sorry for my long post but I am Spanish! You know we talk a lot… but I would like to finish by sharing my enthusiasm for the opportunity we have in front of us to make an impact on the world and contribute my view on the importance of keep promoting entrepreneurs experiences within Rakuten, promoting our corporate ethical values and working all together like a big family.