May 3, 2020

EP7 - Taking Rakuten Kobo Global with Michael Tamblyn, CEO Rakuten Kobo

CEO of Rakuten Kobo, Michael Tamblyn, sits down with me to talk about his experiences leading and growing a Toronto startup through a global expansion and acquisition by a not so likely suitor. Not a venture fund, not a valley power-house, not a wealthy family...but the largest e-commerce player in Japan, Rakuten.

It was 1999 and I was early in my career, VERY early in my career. I had started as a product manager at a "stealthy startup" and found myself working for a really smart and charismatic individual, Michael Tamblyn. Michael was in charge of product and I was there to learn.

Flash forward a decade or two, and I now sit at my computer with a microphone and headphones, and in my screen is a slightly more mature Michael Tamblyn in a much different role. This time, as the CEO of Rakuten Kobo, Michael and I sit down to talk about his experiences leading and growing a Toronto startup through a global expansion and acquisition by a not so likely suitor. Not a venture fund, not a valley power-house, not a wealthy family...but the largest e-commerce player in Japan, Rakuten.

Michael gives some great tips for leaders in any business to consider. First, use your competitors as your distribution channel. Imagine, books being sold electronically through retailers that sold the traditional print versions of the same product. Second, remember it is a lot easier and cost effective to find a market adjacency for your existing customer base than to build a new customer base from scratch. Third, taking the physical out of the mix of your business can simplify and create new opportunities for expansion. And fourth, if you can get your customers to build your product and content...well the outcomes are obvious.

How would Michael's tips from his experience at Kobo apply to your business? Why not listen and try to figure it out.