AnyPerk CEO Taro Fukuyama made a major decision in August 2011.
He and his co-founders decided to leave Japan to seek investment for their dating startup, Mieple.
Their first stop: Silicon Valley.
“I felt like if you come to Silicon Valley, you can raise any money you want,” Fukuyama tells Business Insider.
They eventually did raise money, but it didn’t happen overnight.
When the Mieple team arrived in the U.S, they spent the first three days sleeping in a minivan in a Taco Bell parking lot in Redwood City, Calif. They would have stayed longer, but a Taco Bell employee eventually told them to leave.
So Fukuyama and his co-founders rented a cheap motel in San Francisco. and stayed there for three months. But there was only one bed, and no one wanted to sleep on the floor. So they succumbed to squeezing in to bed together.
“We had no idea when we could raise money or start making money so we wanted to save as much as possible,” Fukuyama says. “I mean, it’s doable but I don’t want to do it ever again. It’s funny because if you start a company, you feel like you can change the world in the future. Anything you are doing, you feel like it’s worth it. Even if you’re living in a car, you feel like some day it’s going to be worth it.”
Despite their less than ideal living situation, Fukuyama and his team met with hundreds of investors, but couldn’t get anyone to bite. After a couple of months, they were almost ready to call it quits and head back to Japan. But then something life-changing happened.
When TechCrunch Disrupt rolled around in September 2011, Fukuyama knew that he had to be there. But tickets for the esteemed startup competition and tech conference cost nearly $3,000. Fukuyama says he explained to TechCrunch that he was running a bootstrapped startup, so they let him in for free. And it was at TechCrunch Disrupt where everything started to turn around.
Fukuyama spotted Paul Graham, founder of the prestigious Silicon Valley startup factory Y Combinator, while at Disrupt. He asked if he could pitch him Mieple, and Graham said yes. Graham, who was intrigued by both Fukuyama’s product and his story, decided to introduce Fukuyama to investors and advisors.
“That changed our lives,” Fukuyama says.
A few months later in January, Fukuyama and his team entered Y Combinator as the program’s first-ever Japanese startup.
But just three days in, the Mieple team decided to pivot because their numbers weren’t improving. Fukuyama says he was inspired by companies in Japan working on products with similar ideas. So he saw an opportunity to bring that type of business to the U.S.
AnyPerk officially launched in March 2012 to provide employees with perks in fitness, entertainment, travel, team building, and much more.
The platform is designed to save employers money, while also increasing productivity and employee happiness in the work environment. The goal is to help startups and companies retain and attract top talent by providing high-quality perks that employees at companies like Google and Apple get.
AnyPerk is still a long way from success. A similar company, Betterworks, raised $10 million at a $100 million valuation and failed 16 months later. But initial signs for AnyPerk look good. So far, AnyPerk has 250 partners on board offering perks including Equinox, AT&T, Verizon, and AMC. It currently has 2,500 customers including Pinterest, Quora, and Hulu.
AnyPerk has raised $1.4 million from Digital Garage, Ben Lewis, Michael Liou, Cyberagent and Shogo Kawada. Fukuyama would not specifically comment on revenue, but he says the company is making money and is nearly profitable.
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