After resigning from a start-up he sold to gaming company Zynga, Japanese tech CEO Shintaro Yamada spent six months backpacking abroad. When he returned to Japan, he founded a company that this year became Japan's first and only unicorn.
Backed entirely by Japanese venture capital, Mercari is now valued at more than $1 billion and is building an e-commerce empire in Japan to rival the likes of Amazon, eBay and domestic Japanese giants like Rakuten.
In just three years, the flea market app has raised 12.6 billion yen ($122 million based on Nov. 3 exchange rates) in funding, grown to 35 million downloads and now generates monthly sales of 10 billion yen ($97 million) and became a unicorn. Since becoming a unicorn, downloads of the start-up's app have increased from 30 million to 35 million in Japan.
Mercari, which also has offices in the U.S and the U.K., has seen U.S. downloads jump to 20 million, doubling since March. The start-up says it is focusing on the No. 1 economy, where it has been charging 10 percent commissions on sold items since Oct. 19. A Mercari spokesperson said its U.S. earnings have risen sixfold since 2015, though it declined to be more specific.