‘Pink-Slip Party’ Organizer Born During Crisis Seeks IPO

  • Online recruiter BizReach seeks Tokyo listing in five years
  • Will select investment bank soon to advise firm, CEO says

Seven years after making a name for itself by hosting a “pink-slip party” for finance professionals left jobless during the global financial crisis, Japanese online recruiter BizReach Inc. is about to start putting some bankers to work.

The career consultant will start looking for an investment bank in August to help it prepare for an initial public offering in about five years, founder and Chief Executive Officer Soichiro “Swimmy” Minami said in an interview. The former Morgan Stanley banker aims to list the company on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and achieve more than 100 billion yen ($936 million) of market value.

Tokyo-based BizReach operates a paid-membership website that started in 2009 to connect job seekers with recruiters and companies. It raised about 4 billion yen this year selling shares to investment arms of Yahoo Japan Corp., Salesforce.com Inc., Dentsu Inc. and seven other companies to expand its business.

“It took me seven years to figure out our mission and vision as an enterprise, and now we finally stand at the starting line to go public,” said Minami, 39, who attended the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, two years after being selected as a “Young Global Leader” of the group.

In Japan, companies that seek to go public often engage investment banks to advise on matters ranging from internal controls to business strategy, years before completing an IPO.

Heartland Bar

Minami organized the party at the Heartland bar in Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills complex in April 2009, connecting hundreds of unemployed people with recruiters after the global crisis sent Japanese stocks to a 26-year low. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. used to have its Japan headquarters in the building, and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. still rents an office there.

Now Japanese people are increasingly turning to the Internet to search for jobs. About 660,000 people, 4,900 local and foreign firms and 1,400 headhunters were registered with BizReach’s main recruitment website as of June 9.

Last year, the company started offering a search engine and job listing service that displays positions geographically. The service, called Stanby, allows seekers to look for jobs by location and plots available positions on a map -- useful for people who want to work close to home, for example.

‘Be Amazed’

“If you input your home address, you’ll be amazed to find the bakery shop you often visit is offering a job,” Minami said. “We bring data and technology into a diversifying job market to help the country improve productivity and economic growth.”

With the population aging and shrinking, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to encourage more women and older people to join the workforce. While the economy is stuttering, Japan’s labor market is the tightest since 1991, with 1.34 positions available for each applicant, according to Labor Ministry figures.

Minami’s plans to wait a few years before going public may be wise. Equity fund raising has slowed in Japan this year as the stock market declines and trading volumes slump throughout Asia. Share offerings in the country have fallen 43 percent in 2016 from a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg that excludes last week’s announcement of an IPO by mobile messaging service Line Corp.

Making Profit

Minami owns more than half of BizReach, meaning an IPO at his desired valuation would make his stake worth about $500 million at today’s exchange rate. The second-biggest shareholder is Jafco Co., an affiliate of Nomura Holdings Inc., followed by YJ Capital Inc., an investment unit of Yahoo Japan, according to the CEO. It has been making money since the year ended July 2012, said Minami, who expects to post a profit for the year ending next month. He declined to give figures for net income and revenue.

The company, which started with two employees, now has 652 staff. It plans to add 150 in the next 12 months and have more than 1,000 in three years, Minami said. It has offices in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Singapore.

Minami joined Morgan Stanley in 1999 after graduating from Tufts University and worked at the U.S. brokerage’s mergers and acquisitions advisory department in Tokyo. He also worked for Hong Kong-based PCCW Ltd. and Japan’s Rakuten Inc.

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