I have had many opportunities to learn about the challenges facing small businesses firsthand through my experiences as the CFO of a startup company and working in SMB marketing at Google Inc. (currently Google Japan LLC), as well as through my family's experience running a hair salon that has been in business since my grandparents' generation. I noticed again and again that small businesses were failing to effectively use technology and struggled with back office work such as accounting and payroll calculations, and that these roadblocks were holding them back from running their business.
To address these challenges, I founded freee in 2012, and we soon after released Accounting freee (currently known as "freee Accounting") as a unique, integrated accounting software designed with small businesses in mind. That was the point when we began our mission to empower small businesses to take center stage.
At the time, the launch of accounting and payroll software that was designed to be a cloud-native and integrated ERP platform for small businesses and that aimed to automate the overall operations of a business was a novel and innovative idea. Since then, we have continued to refine our solutions with the support of like-minded innovators who were inspired by our original idea, and we have grown into a highly unique platform serving more than 290,000 paying customers including sole proprietors.
With our mission described above, we will continue to develop and provide an integrated management platform to create an environment in which anyone can freely manage their business in their own way. In growing our business and working to deliver even greater value to society, the following three areas have been and will continue to be key priorities.
Mission and Vision
At freee, we place high importance on our mission and vision. We believe that small businesses are a catalyst for creating diverse values, ways of life, and new innovations that have never been seen before. With our mission to empower small businesses to take center stage, we will develop and provide an integrated management platform to create an environment in which anyone can freely manage their business in their own way.
The integrated management platform enables small businesses to automate and streamline their entire operations. Moreover, by visualizing the entire business, small businesses can take smart and best actions like never before. In addition, to respond to diverse business needs, we will create the platform as an open platform that works with external services. We also will make mutual transactions within user networks more active.
We will encourage small businesses to inspire large companies to make society more interesting and make the world a better place. Accordingly, we are focused on decision-making that prioritizes bringing us closer to achieving our mission and realizing our vision over short-term profits, which we believe will result in maximizing our growth and profitability over the medium to long term.
True Customer Value
At freee, we have a strong commitment to society to deliver true value to our customers. We also have a strong culture that is united around the concept of "true customer value" and taking action to promote this concept.
In order to deliver true customer value, we believe that it is critically important to develop services that identify and address fundamental problems in the best way by applying technology and a broad range of other perspectives without being bound by conventional thinking.
So far, we have launched a number of leading-edge services that did not previously exist in the software industry of Japan that address underlying customer demands and needs that were not widely recognized at the time. For example, we have released integrated accounting software designed to automate the entire operations related to accounting, an accounting mobile app with solid investments, chat-based customer support, a public API enabling our customers to connect external services with freee, and a payroll calculation software that can fully automate all operations related with human capital management by allowing employees to fill out data such as employee information and year-end tax adjustment.
While some of these services did not immediately achieve success in the short term, they have gained supports from customers step by step by asking customers to understand the value of our services through our continuous efforts and repeating product improvement with measuring how much true customer value we can provide such as the amount of time saved in performing manual tasks, etc.
In the future, we will continue to look at the fundamental problems our customers face and invest in technologies that will enable us to address such fundamental problems, and focus on creating value to customers in the medium to long-term.
Our Organization, People, and People's Growth
Since our founding, we have been a unique organization with each person taking action both independently and with a strong sense of unity. While our organization has grown rapidly as our business has expanded, we continue to operate an open and flat organization to leverage the strengths of our bottom-up management style. We believe that this has allowed us to achieve a highly unified organization that is making a big impact on society while enabling us to be recognized for our workplace environment, including being ranked by the Great Place to Work Institute Japan within the top ten companies within our peer group for the past seven consecutive years (for small enterprises in 2015 and for medium-sized enterprises from 2016 through 2021).
In addition to being strong as an organization, we place significant importance on the undiscovered strengths and growth potential of each person on our team, and we strive to run an organization that provides an environment where our people can challenge themselves, learn from each other and help each other grow. While our organization continues to expand, we will continue to value our organization, our people and our people's growth.
We have been a pioneer in the Software as a Service (SaaS) segment, a new segment of the software industry in Japan that has been underdeveloped until now. We have pushed traditional boundaries with our leading-edge approach not only in our technology and service development but also more broadly across our operations, including sales, marketing, administration, and financial strategy. We believe trying these advanced approaches contribute to overcoming difficulties, showing the development of new models in Japan, and cultivating an environment in which new industries can develop.
In order to make starting up a business or growing it more attractive and easier, and enabling all people involved in small businesses, such as sole proprietors and small and medium companies, to run their businesses in their way and with confidence, we have a deep awareness and responsibility as one of the leaders of the software industry in Japan. We will continue to invest in developing innovative services as well as day-to-day improvements to our services to create meaningful value in society.
I hope that we can count on your support as we continue our work to deliver value to our customers and society at large.
Basic Stance on Corporate Governance
Our mission is to "empower small businesses to take center stage" and we aim to create a platform that allows anyone with ideas, passion and skills to build a strong business in a smart and efficient way. By developing and providing such services, we aim to achieve sustainable growth and contribute to society.
Based on our basic policy of placing emphasis on shareholders, we will establish a management control system to enhance the efficiency and speed of management in order to increase earnings as a going concern and increase corporate value.
We recognize our corporate responsibility to society, and we will make social contributions through various services and strive to realize a harmonious profit among our stakeholders.
In light of these factors, we will establish a monitoring system for business execution and disclose information in a timely manner in order to ensure transparency and objectivity in its business activities in the development of its business management system.