Azoom (TSE: 3496), Japan’s #1 Monthly Parking Lot Search & Asset Management Platform – H.E.R.O. Innovators Insights from CEO Yoji Sugata | H.E.R.O. HeartWare | 24 December

A lot has – and has not – happened in the 10 years since the trauma of the 2008-09 global financial crisis. A clear closure has not happened and we still seem to be grasping with complicated ambiguity and unease. A lot of disruptive innovation has also happened, which brings a paradoxical and transformational calmness into the motion of the world for the farsighted open-minded investor.

Consider these difficult-birth cases: Airbnb, Github (acquired by Microsoft in Jun 2018 for $7.5bn at a 37.5x revenue multiple) and Jeff Lawson’s Twilio (NASDAQ: TWLO) (the platform-as-a-service communications engine that powers WhatsApp, Slack and the communication functions on Uber and AirBnB) were born in the midst of the crisis in 2008. These exponential innovators went on to solve high-value problems and create new value for their target customers and society – and also create new cheap-gets-cheaper value traps. Twilio has also compounded over 400% since its June 2016 listing to a market value of $7.5 billion, while disrupting the telecoms industry players and retaining its frugal humble culture that was forged from the crisis.

Dr. Koh Kwang-il, Masaya Suzuki and Norio Shiraishi are also amongst a selected group of under-the-radar exponential innovators in Asia who have leaped ahead in the 10 years since the gloomy days of the 2008-09 crisis:

  • Koh Young Technology +1,720% since June 2008: Dr Koh’s Koh Young Technology (KOSDAQ: 098460), the world’s unrivaled leader in 3D AI ultra-precision automated test inspection equipment with over 52% global market share for clients such as Bosch, saw its market value jumped +1,720% since June 2008 to US$977m (sales +904%, operating profit +808%) as electronic devices from smartphones and automobiles become more sophisticated in circuitry which demands more powerful inspection solutions to identify defects in advance. Koh Young has also developed a FDA-approved medical robot for brain surgery that displays the environment in the brain based on its high-precision 3D vision technology in navigation software and sensors and the miniaturized equipment can be attached to the operating table for the first time in the world. Currently, micro-area surgery in the field of otolaryngology and neurosurgery diagnoses lesions based on pre-operative medical image information. It is impossible to completely avoid excessive incision or radiation exposure. Koh Young’s surgical guide robot system solves these high-value problems.
  • MonotaRO +9,330% since Sept 2007: CEO Suzuki’s MonotaRO (TSE: 3064), Japan’s largest B2B ecommerce platform handling 15 million MRO (maintenance, repair & operations) items and serving over 2.8 million cost and time-conscious loyal members making regular purchases who are mainly SMEs, has soared +9,330% since Sept 2007 to US$5.9bn in market value (sales +848%, operating profit +2,750%). MonotaRO’s exponential edge lies in its expertise in using sophisticated data analytics to understand customer buying behaviors which help drive its growth, including Network-Detection Technologies to find customer communities that share common purchasing patterns, to detect self-forming product sets to market to those communities, and to use predictive modeling to assign new customers to communities. MonotaRO achieved sales of over 103 billion yen with an operating margin of 13% and a ROE (= EBIT/Equity) of 49.1%, and still has a large fragmented domestic total addressable market in indirect materials purchase of 5 to 10 trillion yen to keep serving and growing.
  • Benefit One +1,125% since Sept 2007: CEO Shiraishi’s Benefit One (TSE: 2412), Japan’s “Internet Costco in Services” and leading online matching platform operator for employee welfare services with over 7.8 million paying corporate and individual members as the foundation for stable earnings & recurring cashflow, has rose +1,125% since Sept 2007 to US$2.1bn (sales +214%, operating profit +390%). The comprehensive “Benefit·Station” platform allows paying members to use more than 1.4 million facilities and services at a cheaper member’s price.

Market positions are not redistributed during sunny and calm times, but during times of crisis. A common thread across Airbnb, Twilio, Koh Young Technology, MonotaRO and Benefit One is that the specialization and innovative force of H.E.R.O. Innovators makes them indispensable for their customers and they have stood the test of time in facing crises, proving themselves to be adept consolidators in snatching market share from unfocused rivals to achieve market leadership and create new categories of growth. High-quality exponential innovators are also the strongest and fastest rebounders to emerge from gloomy crisis episodes, while “defensives”, dividend-type companies (like the telecom/utilities AT&T disrupted by Twilio), and seemingly cheap bargains become increasingly disrupted to become cheap-gets-cheaper value traps with Asian-style misgovernance and accounting tunneling fraud risks when times get tougher.

Similarly, for this week, we will be briefly highlighting the profitable Azoom (TSE: 3469), Japan’s #1 monthly parking lot search & asset management platform under the website ( which was founded by Yoji Sugata nearly ten years ago in Oct 2009 in the aftermath of the crisis. Azoom focuses on the monthly parking lot segment, entering into a long-term master lease agreement with the owner under a fixed rental guarantee and becomes the asset manager in subleasing to longer-term users to generate stable recurring monthly subscription-like revenue with over 90% occupancy rate. By purposefully avoiding the competitive time-based hourly & on-demand parking lot segment, Azoom solves the tricky and unique social concern of the specific target group of owners who want to monetize their idle real estate to earn additional stable rental income instead of fluctuating time/hourly-based/on-demand fee but do not want multiple unspecified strangers using the parking lot since monthly users are verified, reviewed and screened using external systems to “avoid contracts with anti-social forces”. Azoom is at least 60% larger than its next biggest competitor in a still fragmented but large addressable market where information asymmetry has not yet been resolved. Azoom targets a near tripling in its asset management base of monthly subleased parking lots in the next three years from the present 8,000 to 11,000, 16,700 and 23,300 for 2019/9, 2020/9 and 2021/9 respectively, driving its operating profit up over 6-fold from the current 165m yen to 1.1bn yen.

In a sign of the dangers of chasing richly-valued loss-making and cash-burning private tech startups with impunity and the grossly mispriced valuation gap to higher quality profitable publicly-listed innovators, ParkJockey, a Miami-based parking startup with fewer than 3,000 downloads per month for its app, was recently valued at over a billion dollars in a news announcement on 3 Dec 2018 despite generating US$5m in revenue (Source: Crunchbase) and is probably loss-making and cash-burning before its planned acquisitions of physical parking lot operators Impark and Lanier. In contrast, Azoom generates US$16.6m in revenue with EBIT margin of 9%, positive free cashflow margin of 9.8%, and ROE (= EBIT/ Equity) of 19.9%, and is valued at US$89m.

There is no sense of light without darkness. This idea of holding two opposing ideas in your mind at the same time – e.g. ambiguity/loss and progress/growth – is said by the ancient Eastern philosophers to be useful for stress reduction and in dealing with ambiguity. The search for meaning is critical in situations of loss, clear or ambiguous, and in situations of trauma. By re-framing uncertainty and ambiguity in the cadence of years, rather than days or weeks, we are better able to look even further and reach a “telescopic view of time” – how much has happened, and still how much has yet to unfold. Discoveries of the true exponential innovators happen not through method or magic, but from being open to discovery.

We wish you and your loved ones a blessed Christmas and fulfilling New Year 2019 ahead as we continue our H.E.R.O.’s Journey together to discover exponential innovators creating value with a bigger Purpose. Thank you for being with us on this adventure.

“Our job is to connect the parking lot owned by the real estate owner with the user who wants to use it. The parking lot business is a very niche, but the scale of the market is large, and information asymmetry has not yet been resolved. So, we operate a site called and develop it into the largest portal site in the parking lot category to enable the search for the best conditioned parking lot easily on the Internet and smartphone. Because we believe that stable business is impossible with general intermediation or search introduction with ‘flow’ revenue fee, subleasing business with recurring monthly ‘stock’ revenue is carried out in parallel to strengthen the foundation of the company. Unusual sense of stability is our strength and it is also an element that will lead to future business development. Expansion of the business model in parking lot attached to office buildings, condominiums and private home is expected to eliminate the chronic parking lot shortage in urban areas,” said Yoji Sugata, founder and CEO of Azoom.

Azoom (TSE: 3496) is Japan’s #1 monthly parking lot search & asset management platform under the website ( in terms of sales, number of search inquiries and number of parking lot postings that are at least 60% larger than its next biggest competitor in a still fragmented but large addressable market where information asymmetry has not yet been resolved. Azoom focuses on the monthly parking lot segment, entering into a long-term master lease agreement with the owner under a fixed rental guarantee and becomes the asset manager in subleasing to longer-term users to generate stable recurring monthly subscription-like revenue with over 90% occupancy rate. By purposefully avoiding the competitive time-based hourly & on-demand parking lot segment occupied by companies such as Park24 (TSE: 4666) and startup Akippa, Azoom solves the tricky and unique social concern of the specific target group of owners who want to monetize their idle real estate to earn additional stable rental income instead of fluctuating time/hourly-based/on-demand fee but do not want multiple unspecified strangers using the parking lot since monthly users are verified, reviewed and screened using external systems to “avoid contracts with anti-social forces”.

The parking lot industry’s structural supply-demand gap with chronic parking lot shortage in urban areas and fragmented nature has benefited Azoom whose online platform received over 134,000 search inquiries annually (cumulative total of over 350,000) vs around 50,000 postings and an asset management base of over 8,000 subleased monthly parking lots. As the number of postings increased, the number of inquiries from users who wish to use the monthly parking lot has increased, and the occupancy rate also increased. Azoom’s closest competitors are unlisted Mirai Office’s Chupa website ( with around 31,000 postings and Hatch Work Co’s At-Parking website ( with around 25,000 postings while the fourth largest player has around 11,000 postings. Azoom targets a near tripling in its monthly subleased parking lots in the next three years from the present 8,000 to 11,000, 16,700 and 23,300 for 2019/9, 2020/9 and 2021/9 respectively. Azoom’s stable recurring monthly sublease rental business contributes 86.9% of revenue while its parking lot introduction fee income accounts for 10.6% of revenue. The remaining 2.4% of Azoom’s revenue is generated by its outdoor advertisement search site AdWall (, monthly parking lot search site for motorcycles Bikeru (, vacant house search site Akiya ( and time-base search site Coinpa ( Azoom is also starting Cocomi (, a location-linked crowdsourcing service where users can earn money by gathering information on areas they live in.

With the compellingness and circumspection exponential edge in matching idle parking lot between real estate owners and users, Azoom’s SaaS-like business model generates stable and recurring monthly subleasing revenue, achieving a 130% absolute increase in sales in the recent 3 years with EBIT margin of 9%, positive free cashflow margin of 9.8%, and ROE (= EBIT/ Equity) of 19.9%, propelling a 150% increase in market value since its listing on 19 Sep 2018 at IPO price of 3,000 yen on 20 Sep 2018 to US$92m. On 9 Nov 2018, Azoom announced its FY2018 results (year end Sep 2018) in which sales increased 51.2% yoy to 1.845bn yen, operating profit rose 5.3-fold yoy to 165m yen, and expects FY2019 operating profit to increase 73.3% to 260m yen. In the medium-term to 2021/9, Azoom aims to achieve sales of 6.5bn yen and operating profit of 1.1bn yen and increase its operating margin to 17% with ROE of 36%. Balance sheet is healthy with net cash of 978m yen (29m debt, 690m yen in cash raised from IPO), or 8.9% of market value.

In Oct 2018, Azoom entered into a business collaboration in parking concierge service with SmartDrive Co. which provides the monthly flat-rate car rental service SmartDrive Cars. With new-age car-rental companies such as SmartDrive and loss-making ride-hailing companies such as Grab becoming more asset-heavy in aggressive car fleet expansion, we think there will be an oversupply situation that will spark further demand for parking lot. CEO Sugata commented: “In recent years, lifestyles like using public transportation, car rental and ride-sharing have spread. One factor that we do not have a car is the high maintenance costs such as insurance premiums and various taxes, vehicle inspection, etc. In particular, the rents of the parking lot in the city center are higher than those in the region. In order to solve this problem, we can hold a vehicle without initial cost, enabling SmartDrive to lease new cars on a fixed monthly basis. Combined with our parking lot search & introduction service, we are offering a parking lot concierge service which is comparatively reasonable even in the center of the city and substitutes parking lot closest to customer’s request.”

CEO Sugata also shared his thoughts on the vacant parking lots in condominium buildings & the car-sharing and car-rental trend: “Currently, the parking lot of the condominium has a problem that it does not lead to the initially anticipated operation due to the development of public transportation and the infiltration of car-rental and car-sharing services, so the revenue from the parking lot is less than expected. This trend has resulted in the situation in which the condominium management association run into a shortage of reserve funds for mid- to long-term repairs of the condominium. Partial monetization by external lending out of parking lots to Azoom has attracted their attention as a solution to their problems. By introducing subleases, management associations can expect stable income from the parking lot over the long term. The number of condominium buildings who have entrusted us in the parking lot subleasing have exceeded 200 buildings as at 1 Dec 2018, a doubling from 100 buildings in Apr 2017, which expanded our asset management base of subleased parking lots to over 8,000 units. A similar situation exists for vacant and underutilized parking lots in large-scale and medium-sized office buildings and around 20 such new buildings continue to be added to the supply each year in the 23 wards of Tokyo. We will continue to expand our business in the future so that we can provide assistance to more management associations and commercial building property owners. We anticipate that the demand for the monetization of monthly parking lots in office buildings, commercial facilities and condominium, as well as the demand for safety improvement, will continue to maintain at high standards.”

When asked about the information asymmetry problems in the parking lot information industry, CEO Sugata explained: “Since the information on parking lot does not circulate well, unlike information on real estate which can be searched for in real estate web portals, a management system for information gathering on the specifications of the parking lot is necessary. Specifications are necessary since there are restrictions on the characteristics of parking lot such as total length, full width, total height, minimum ground clearance, vehicle total weight etc. Because the rent for parking lot is cheaper than housing rent, and the owner and the real estate company also need to pay for the publication fee on the real estate website database, there is little motivation to post the parking lot information on the portal site. In addition, fees are also charged for inquiries even if the vehicles do not fit in the parking lot.”

“Real estate is a product that generates value only when someone uses it. If there are users. there will be a higher value than other goods. In Japan’s declining population society, idle and under-utilized real estate will continue to increase in the future. We provide the real estate solution not only to match the needs of both the owners and the users on the website, but also to support each other to get in touch and find out about each other to resolve practical and social concerns. In addition to reviewing the applicant’s information such as their home and workplace address, we conduct screening using external systems and vehicle inspection. We send a list of parking user information once a month to report to the owner (when there is no change in the user, there is no sending) that the parking lot is operating properly. Our information disclosure rate is 100% as compared to around 40% for our peers. Depending on the shape and size of the premises, parking facilities providers may not be able to operate vacant small-scale parking lots due to the problem of profitability, which is one factor of the shortage of parking lots in central Tokyo. Because of inquiries from a wide range of users and our low cost of attracting customers, it is possible for us to secure profitability in a wide range and small-scale vacant plots. We analyze the individual situation of the idle real estate owned by the owner, analyze the market, and we propose a method of maximizing profit by utilizing the know-how of ‘real estate × IT’ which is our strength.”

CEO Sugata added why parking lot owners favor Azoom: “The parking lot industry is divided into monthly parking lot and hourly parking lot, and our service is specialized in monthly parking lot. Azoom’s model is to share the risks associated with the management of real estate with the owner and to maximize real estate revenue while sweating together. The parking lot owner is relieved from complicated and troublesome work procedures such as the time-consuming user recruitment work, contract work, contract cancellation, delinquency reminders, troubleshooting, tax payment etc which are handled by Azoom. Our monthly parking lot subleasing services are attractive to owners because guaranteed rent setting is possible which has a strong appeal of profitability to owners. Owners are able to see the peripheral rent rate of their target area to make an accurate assessment after grasping the market price. After starting the sublease, there were no cases where we terminated the contract halfway or changed the condition from our company side due to shortage of users or under-utilization because we operate the largest parking lot search site in Japan with an overwhelming number of inquiries which is overwhelmingly attracting customers to achieve high utilization and occupancy rate which enables us to secure profitability even for small-scale vacant lots. As a result, we are able to earn high trust from the owners.”

On their edge in tech, CEO Sugata shared: “In addition, based on the needs and knowledge of the parking lot, we have accumulated a lot of know-how in ‘usable IT’ to make business processes in transaction, operation and valuation of the parking lot more efficient and perform highly accurate analysis by utilizing the information of the monthly parking lot. It can be used not only to search for and analyze the latest information but also for future predictions in demand trend analysis because it is possible to catch the trend of data and value ​​every year. In order to grasp the user needs of the monthly parking lots and changes in supply and demand, we visually indicated the vacant space and rent of the parking lot which are real-time data and we also created a ‘parking lot heat map’ which visually displays the inquiries (demand) to the parking lot search site and the number of the parking lots (supply). We also have a mechanism that allows you to calculate appropriate rents and estimate P&L (profit & loss) for each property in subleases with a single button, which speeds up decision-making and reduces management costs, and a mechanism that instantly shares availability information when cancellation occurs to prevent the loss of business opportunities. The rent setting is based on the peripheral rent market which is more likely to appeal to the parking lot owner who places emphasis on profitability. Through these efforts which we incorporate into our daily work, we respond quickly to inquiries.”

CEO Sugata also elaborated on Azoom’s business model in generating stable monthly subscription-like revenue (86.9% of group revenue) and online success-based search fee (10.6%) and how the business model exhibits network effect to extend its market leadership: “If you are looking for a monthly parking lot without using the internet website, It was common to have a trader introduce it or you may wish to seek out recruitment signs on the physical parking lot site, and make inquiries by telephone. By using, the monthly parking lot applicant can save this trouble. Also for the parking owner, publication on the website is free, and there are no obstacles to providing information. The biggest resource is the attractiveness of the database of idle parking lot real estate nationwide acquired through the operation of the country’s largest platform For business owners who operate the real estate business, we believe that our database will be a great weapon in expanding real estate profit and expanding that opportunity. Posting is free. It is a perfect performance remuneration type service in which we will receive a referral or introduction fee (one month’s rent) only when the contract is reached.”

“As a parking lot sharing economy, there is an increasing number of business operators who operate mainly time-lending parking lot, but there are many cases where it is hardly linked to profitability. The main feature of our current main parking lot business is that it is a stable ‘stock type’ business in which sales and profits are accumulated every month. Importantly, since specific users are decided in using the monthly parking lot, unlike the unspecified number of users in time-lending parking which also result in a fluctuating and uncertain income, it is safe for the owner while generating stable income.”

“Our business model exhibits network effect such that the expansion in the number of postings on our databases of the nationwide monthly parking lot search portal site leads to an increase in the number of parking lot introductions and further increase in the number of outsourced parking sublease services. We are able to build a virtuous cycle of increase in inquiries leading to increase in number of introductions, further Increasing our subleases due to the increase in real estate data.”

We were intrigued by the expansion into new services, especially the outdoor advertisement search platform in which Azoom’s is the first and only such website in the industry. CEO Sugata commented: “From the stable foundation, it is possible to challenge new businesses. For example, our company manages ‘vacant house navi’ Akiya and proposes effective utilization of empty houses. It is said that Japan currently has about 12 million vacant homes which will increase to 20 million in 2030. AdWall is an information site specialized for outdoor advertisement that connects owners who owns outdoor advertisement real estate (wall signs, roof signboards, etc) and advertisers who want to use outdoor advertising media. We summarized outdoor advertisement information such as advertisement type and target attribute, and made advertisement information close to the desires of the users wanting easy searching service. The market size of wall advertisement is as high as 300 billion yen and we want to build a similar stable ‘stock-revenue’ business.”

CEO Sugata also shared their plans to start Cocomi, a location-linked crowdsourcing service: “We are also starting Cocomi (, a location-linked crowdsourcing service where users can earn money by gathering information on areas they live in to efficiently collect regional information. Some of these information include photographs of monthly parking lot; collection of monthly parking lot information; photos of office building; mansion photos; photos of building signs, etc.”

When asked about how he came about to start Azoom, the challenges he faced and overcame and the breakthroughs during his early entrepreneurial period, CEO Sugata shared reflectively his entrepreneurial story: “I was born in the Oita prefecture and I am 41 years old this year. I was the captain of the football club in high school. I entered into the department of architecture at the university and my graduation design work won the prize in competition, and I was thinking of becoming an architect. After graduating, I joined Tajima Renovation (now TJM Design) in 2002 doing work from sales to non-sales. We did all kinds of things from creative design to ordering of materials and craftsmen. I realize that not only design but also business is necessary and I feel that it is necessary to design a new strategy and it was around this time that I became more aware of entrepreneurship. Later, I joined a Japanese parking lot development company in 2005. Subsequently, I joined Works Media in January 2009. I think that some people lose confidence as they take inventory of their life and face their strengths and weaknesses. There are also people who do not really know what they really want to do. Either way, I was around 29 years old and I faced with the difficult decision on what to do for the rest of my life. The sharing economy has just started with Airbnb founded in August 2008 and Uber in March 2009. In October 2009, I established Azoom and we are the pioneer in the sharing economy of vacant parking lot monetization. Our mission is to utilize idle real estate in the world with active management. From 2 inquiries per day at our site, we now received over 134,000 inquiries.”

CEO Sugata summed up on his management philosophy, the corporate culture and the Azoom Way: “We value the idea of ‘making the people involved happy’, building a work environment where people want to join our company and will grow and shine through work. There is no bigger happiness than seeing the growth of people. I want to raise entrepreneurs who can add value wherever they go. This is a way of thinking about our human resource development. In order to grow, it is necessary to experience things first-hand, make mistakes, feel the pleasure to overcome the obstacles and succeed. The job is left to the person who ‘want to do’ and we support them. There are no employees who has the way of thinking that ‘I will do because I was told’. That is our company culture. How much you do is up to you. I am conscious of creating an environment where the result of my work is self-responsibility. Azoom is a company where you can introduce innovation and create new things speedily. One big advantage is that the IT development and engineering team exist within the company. And it is a culture that anyone can freely give opinions and ideas, including new graduates who join, if they feel that the website should be more like this while responding to customers. If the idea or content is good, the development team can immediately started improving. Such speedy response not only provides better service to customers but also leads to the revitalization of the company.”

“The Azoom way is to be an open and fair organization while always accepting diverse values and keep working in a pleasant environment. I will not do any work that I cannot tell my family and friends. Regardless of how profitable it seems, we will not take any actions that cannot keep the laws and regulations. With sincerity, we will grow on a sustainable basis in a real business. Let’s take a small step first in innovation. It is faster to jump directly to the market and listen to the direct talk rather than to spend time analyzing with Excel. Analysis should be done after grasping the overview of the market to a certain extent. Let’s sweat our head and body and meet customer expectations. Let’s make customer’s wishes come true by rotating the head thoroughly without falling into the trap of daily routine work. Let’s take the reality as it is and see the essence. When confronting things, let’s throw away all prejudice and face it with a stoical feeling. We will decide the essence of why this is the case with regard to the facts that came out of it and think about fundamental improvements and carry it out. Let’s think about a possible way if reason is not possible. The time I spend thinking about why I cannot do things is totally useless time. Let’s take advantage of finite time to think positive. Let’s wear our pride as a professional. Having a strong awareness of ourselves being a professional acquiring advanced expertise, we will always provide optimal solutions for customers. Always ask yourself what you are professional in and let’s evolve day by day.”

Intrigued and want to read more? Download this week’s H.E.R.O. HeartWare: Weekly Asia Tech News with brief highlights of the inspiring entrepreneurial stories of tech leaders in Asia whom we have been monitoring over the past decade in our broader watchlist of over 300 listed Asian tech companies and our focused portfolio of 40 HERO Innovators who reveal their problems and successes behind building the company. Inspired by Brandon Stanton’s photo-journalistic project Humans of New York which collects and highlights the street portraits and moving stories of people on the streets around us who were doing things that changed lives and made a difference in the city but often went unnoticed, we have curated a collection of Hear the Heart of the H.E.R.O. stories on our website which we aim to update with refreshing and uplifting new stories weekly. Please check them out and give us your valuable feedback so that we can improve to make them better for you.

It started with rethinking a few questions. Question No. 1: Can the megacap tech elephants still dance? Or is this the better question: Is there an alternative and better way to capture long-term investment returns created by disruptive forces and innovation without chasing the highly popular megacap tech stocks, or falling for the “Next-Big-Thing” trap in overpaying for “growth”, or investing in the fads, me-too imitators, or even in seemingly cutting-edge technologies without the ability to monetize and generate recurring revenue with a sustainable and scalable business model? How can we distinguish between the true innovators and the swarming imitators?

Question No. 2: What if the “non-disruptive” group of reasonably decent quality companies with seemingly “cheap” valuations, a fertile hunting ground of value investors, all need to have their longer-term profitability and balance sheet asset value to be “reset” by deducting a substantial amount of deferred innovation-related expenses and investments every year, given that they are persistently behind the innovation cycle against the disruptors, just to stay “relevant” to survive and compete? Let’s say this invisible expense and deferred liability in the balance sheet that need to be charged amount to 20 to 30% of the revenue (or likely more), its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lurks and lies in wait. Would you still think that they are still “cheap” in valuation?

Consider the déjà vu case of Kmart vs Walmart in 2000s and now Walmart vs Amazon. It is easy to forget that Kmart spent US$2 billion in 2000/01 in IT and uses the same supplier as Walmart – IBM. The tangible assets and investments are there in the balance sheet and valuations are “cheap”. Yet Kmart failed to replicate to compound value the way it did for Walmart. Now Walmart is investing billions to “catch up” and stay relevant. Key word is “relevancy” to garner valuation.

We now live in an exponential world, and as the Baupost chief and super value investor Seth Klarman warns, disruption is accelerating “exponentially” and value investing has evolved. The paradigm shift to avoid the cheap-gets-cheaper “value traps”, to keep staying curious & humble, and to keep learning & adapting, has never been more critical for value investors. We believe there is a structural break in data in the market’s multi-year appraisal (as opposed to “mean reversion” in valuation over a time period of 2-5 years) on the type of business models, the “exponential innovators”, that can survive, compete and thrive in this challenging exponential world we now live in. Tech-focused innovators with non-linear exponential growth potential are the most relevant multi-year investment trend and opportunity.  

During our value investing journey in the Asian capital jungles over the decade plus, we have observed that many entrepreneurs were successful at the beginning in growing their companies to a certain size, then growth seems to suddenly stall or even reverse, and they become misguided or even corrupted along the way in what they want out of their business and life, which led to a deteriorating tailspin, defeating the buy-and-hold strategy and giving currency to the practice of trading-in-and-out of stocks. On the other hand, there exists an exclusive, under-the-radar, group of innovators who are exceptional market leaders in their respective fields with unique scalable business models run by high-integrity, honorable and far-sighted entrepreneurs with a higher purpose in solving high-value problems for their customers and society whom we call H.E.R.O. – “Honorable. Exponential. Resilient. Organization.”, the inspiration behind the H.E.R.O Innovators Fund, (surprisingly) the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry.

The H.E.R.O. are governed by a greater purpose in their pursuit to contribute to the welfare of people and guided by an inner compass in choosing and focusing on what they are willing to struggle for and what pains they are willing to endure, in continuing to do their quiet inner innovation work, persevering day in and day out. There’s a tendency for us to think that to be a disruptive innovator or to do anything grand, you have to have a special gift, be someone called for. We think ultimately what really matters is the resolve — to want to do it, bring the future forward by throwing yourself into it, to give your life to that which you consider important. We aim to penetrate into the deeper order that whispers beneath the surface of tech innovations and to stand on the firmer ground of experience hard won through hearing and distilling the essence of the stories of our H.E.R.O. in overcoming their struggles and in understanding the origin of their quiet life of purpose, who opened their hearts to us that resilience and innovation is an art that can be learned, which can embolden all of us with more emotional courage and wisdom to go about our own value investing journey and daily life.

As the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused listed equities fund in the industry, we believe we are uniquely positioned as a distinctive and alternative investment strategy for both institutional and individual investors who seek to capture long-term investment returns created by disruptive forces and innovation without herding or crowding to invest in the highly popular megacap tech stocks, and also provide capital allocation benefit to investors in building optionality in their overall investment portfolio.

The H.E.R.O. HeartWare Weekly highlights interesting tech news and listed Asian emerging tech innovators with unique and scalable wide-moat business models to keep yourself well-informed about disruptive forces and innovation, new technologies and new business models coming up, and the companies that ride on and benefit from them in some of the most promising areas of the economy in Asia as part of our thought leadership for our ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund to add value to our clients and the community. Hope you find the weekly report to be useful and insightful. Please give us your candid feedback and harshest criticisms so that we can improve further to serve you better. Besides the BATTSS (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, TSMC, Softbank, Samsung), do also tell us which Asian tech entrepreneurs & CEOs whom you admire and respect and why – we will endeavor to do up profiles of them for sharing with the community. Thank you very much and have a beautiful week ahead.

Warm regards,
KB | | WhatsApp +65 9695 1860


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: