Tetsu Yamada

Back to Contents of Issue: December 2000

CEO, DealTime.com K.K.

Photograph by Andrew Pothecary
Thanks to his father working for a Japanese shipping company and taking his family around the world, Tetsu Yamada had an international childhood. Born in Tokyo, Yamada spent two years of his childhood in Indonesia, where he learned to speak English and Indonesian. For junior high and part of high school he was in Chicago, and then it was back to Tokyo to finish high school and enter university. He's been here ever since, but the globetrotting childhood served him well, as he now speaks and acts like a native on both sides of the Pacific. Yamada launched his professional career at the Bank of Tokyo, serving there for 13 years before moving to Coca Cola Japan, where he worked first in corporate planning and then in consumer marketing. After four years in sugar water, Yamada got the tech-venture bug and accepted a post as CEO of DealTime.com K.K., the Japan offshoot of the US startup. DealTime is an online price comparison service. In the US version, users indicate where they wish to search for a particular product -- classifieds, auctions, or Web shops -- and receive price info via email, Web site, or the DealTime app. I wondered what kind of adjustments to DealTime would be needed for the Japanese market and hooked up with Yamada at his office in Yoga, where his neighbors are Sun and Oracle. -- Steve Mollman

How do you market DealTime to the Japanese online market?
In Japan, we really have to take care of the consumer. If there are any online shops that are not reliable, then our approach is to not search those shops. So we'll search the whole Internet, but in our own definition -- the online shops that will provide service. There's more than just price. We want to be the best source for where to buy, what to buy, and how to buy.

So since you can't ensure quality you exclude auctions and classifieds?
Exactly. In Japan, they're really picky on the quality. If the results are lousy, they'll never come back.

Will you ever offer those options?
It depends on the consumers' learning curve, on how consumers become aware of the realities of those options. Online shopping itself is still new. It will probably take time. People in their late 40s and above will never change, but younger people have experienced getting things off the Net. It's almost like a game for them, like hunting something.

Why are you in Yoga, not in Bit Valley?
I didn't want to be part of Bit Valley. I think the people who started it are really smart, but everyone kind of rallied to the fad. That's a bad thing about Japanese culture, I guess. We deal with the Internet, but we're just using it as a means. We're the shopping navigator for consumers. The Net just happens to be the best means of doing it. We want to be around for a long time.

Do you have B2B intentions?
We believe our future major source of revenue is real-time demand information that's been aggregated for each of our categories. We'll provide that to shops or manufacturers.

So what are your sources of revenue? One is highly targeted ads. Do you charge shops to be included in the search?
No, that'd be more like an online mall. The default is that their name shows up in black and white. But if we enter into an agreement, we'll charge them a click-through fee, and in turn post their logo so they have more exposure.

Which shopping categories are popular?
Our current statistics say computers, home appliances, and audio-visual equipment. Next year it will probably be software, PDAs, and food and beverages.

There's a site called kakaku.com that compares prices in Akihabara. How do you perceive them?
I think we're playing in a different field. I get asked that question a lot. Their company name is basically saying "price.com," and considering the nature of Akihabara, where people really shop for price, I think their focus is price, and basically computers. Our service is expanding more to different categories, not just focusing on the price, but kind of doing a product comparison, guiding the Japanese consumer. Also, given our expansion in Europe and our base in America, we'll be able to let shoppers look for certain products anywhere in the world.

Are you doing anything in wireless?
We already have an interface under development for all three mobile carriers.

With the cellphones, are you going to charge consumers?
This year we'll just give users the search results, and if they want to buy a certain product, then we'll let them transfer the information to their PC email addresses. I understand that some people have only a mobile phone, but given the current stage, cellphone shops may not have sites for the small screen.

Any plans for location-based services?
Eventually. If you're in Shibuya and are tempted to buy this product, you might want to check if something else is nearby. Bringing in the offline shops, we can tap into a lot of opportunities. There are a lot of shoten gai in the small commerce districts of each town. They're like an association that kind of bundles the shops together, and they're really fighting against the big discount stores. My thinking is to target certain towns. The stores don't necessarily have to put their whole inventory online, but can post a few items. They don't have to sell online. They can just use the service as a marketing tool and let the consumers go to the store. We're looking into that arena and trying to expand it.

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