Media & Entertainment

Mercari hires John Lagerling from Facebook’s management team to guide its U.S. strategy


Image Credits: Bloomberg (opens in a new window)

When Mercari became Japan’s first startup unicorn with a $75 million round last year, the funding was earmarked to fuel its goal of becoming the top secondhand marketplace app in the U.S. Now Mercari is doubling down on its efforts to succeed where no other Asian e-commerce company has. Today it launched a refreshed version of its American app and announced the hiring of John Lagerling from Facebook’s management team to serve as its chief business officer.

Though Alibaba and Rakuten have struggled to make an impact in the U.S., Lagerling says that doesn’t scare Mercari. The app has been downloaded a total of 25 million times so far, compared to 10 million a year ago, and it currently claims $100 million in transactions per month worldwide. But Mercari has to fight for American shoppers with a host of secondhand marketplace apps (including OfferUp, Letgo, Poshmark, and Depop, to name just a few) and, of course, all of them are up against eBay and Amazon, which have had two decades to define the U.S. e-commerce landscape.

Lagerling, who was vice president of business development, mobile, and product partnerships at Facebook and previously held several leadership roles at Google, tells TechCrunch that Mercari sees the U.S. as a top priority, instead of secondary to its domestic market.

“If you are too mature in your home market as a company, investing resources elsewhere always becomes a second priority, and unless you can make it a top-level company priority to become successful in a new market as a challenger, it’s really hard to make it,” he says.

Mercari views its U.S. business as a crucial stepping stone for success in other countries (it also launched in the U.K. recently).

“If Mercari can make it in the U.S., I’m sure we can make it elsewhere, too. It forces companies to go up to global standards quickly and I think the U.S. is one of the most competitive markets globally. That will basically build muscle to be competitive elsewhere,” Lagerling says. “It’s a bold move, but I think it will pay off.”

In San Francisco, Lagerling will be in charge of a fast-growing team. Mercari is in the midst of a hiring spree, with 100 employees in the U.S. now, compared to just 30 people a year ago (it has 400 people in Japan).

In addition to a new look, Mercari’s U.S. app now has a specific codebase, which means new functions will reach American users more quickly. Japanese apps tend to look very cluttered to Americans, so the U.S. app is visually cleaner, and it also makes it easier for people to search for what they want in different categories (Lagerling says Japanese users tend to make purchases by browsing through recommended items).

Mercari will also boost its marketing spending, buying ads in traditional media and other places to increase its brand profile.

The company wants to differentiate from its rivals by creating a user experience that is so easy it becomes the default secondhand marketplace app. This means not only making it seamless for sellers to upload items, but also ship them to buyers.

In Japan, Mercari also had to battle established e-commerce companies, like Yahoo! Japan and Rakuten, after it launched in 2013. It gained popularity by making logistics pain-free and it wants to replicate that experience for U.S. users.

In its domestic market, Mercari integrates with Yamato Transport, one of the Japan’s largest couriers, while in the U.S. it is already working with USPS and FedEx to provide services like automatically calculated shipping labels (it will even print and mail them to sellers who don’t own a printer). Mercari plans to add more shipping companies and work with startups that want to solve technical challenges related to logistics.

“I think there is room for innovation in the U.S. and traditional players, like eBay, haven’t really gone to innovate there,” says Lagerling.

Logistics is harder to manage in the U.S. than Japan, however, and Mercari also has to fight to keep the interest of users who have an increasingly wide array of options for selling their stuff. But Lagerling says the number of people willing to sell goods on Facebook and Instagram, even though those transactions often involve a lot of messaging and in-person pickups, proves that there is still a need that its rivals haven’t met—and room for Mercari to succeed where other Asian e-commerce companies haven’t.

Lagerling conducted his master’s thesis research at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Economics and spent several years working in Japan, first at telecom NTT DoCoMo and then Google. Lagerling says Mercari’s culture is similar to American companies, which he thinks gives it an advantage.

“A lot of the best practices from Google, Facebook, and other companies have already been adopted by Mercari, which was refreshing to see. Silicon Valley companies are surprisingly consensus driven, which is not true for all corporate cultures, and Mercari is similar to them,” he says. “Frankly, that’s one of the reasons why it will be one of the few Japanese companies to be successful abroad.”

More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

16 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

18 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android