作者简介：田中章雄（Akio Tanaka），日本顶级风险投资机构IVP（Infinity Venture Partners）董事合伙人，Groupon日本公司投资人。他此前负责Adobe亚洲区的投资业务，加入Adobe之前，曾在Macromedia总部任CEO顾问及Macromedia日本CTO。IVP近年来陆续投资了近十家中国企业，包括热酷、天下网和摩卡等。
Akio Tanaka （田中章雄）
- Managing Partner, Infinity Venture Partners
- Investor in Groupon Japan
I just spent the week at Groupon Japan and returned to Macau day before the earthquake.Online. (Disclaimer, we are investor in Groupon Japan)3/11 was my birthday and was planning to go to a birthday dinner that evening. In the afternoon I had a couple of online meetings that I was attending via Skype.
Then the earthquake hit Japan. My colleagues in Japan said it was the biggest they ever felt but at this point I did not realize the scale of the damage. Then media reports started coming in and we realized that this was quickly developing into an emergency we unheard of. I tired to call my parents but call did not get through, after several tries finally reached them and found out that they were OK.
Generally, phone lines were tough to get through but the Internet was on so we mostly relied on Gmail, Skype, and Twitter for communication which were more reliable.
The COO reached out me and discussed the severity of the situation in Japan and we decided to set up and emergency response team immediately. We were very concerned as we have offices across Japan including Sendai, near the worst hit zone Japan. Since I was the only member operating outside of Japan and I became the communication hub between Japan and overseas HQ (we diid not if the communication may be cut off). I also cancelled my birthday dinner plan as this was not time to celebrate but time to act socially responsible.
There were several things we worked on with the management team:
- exchanging the emergency contact numbers of the key staff members
- checking the safety status of all employees
- setting up a command center at our Tokyo HQ
- figuring out our web site strategy during the crisis.
The first and most important task was ensuring that we verity all of our employee's safety. We organized parallel units relying on sales managers to track down all of our employees across Japan (this was important as we have over 800 employees from Hokkaido in the North down to Okinawa in the South. We were soon able to confirm the safety of all of our employees except one sales person in Chiba, but later we were able to get to him and everyone was fine. We were most concerned about our staff in Sendai that was near the heavy hit area. The office was damaged but luckily no one was hurt. There were also our team members who came to Japan from overseas … we checked their status and they were safe together in a hotel.
At this point, I also remembered that we had a US visitor who was on his way to the Narita Airport that evening and was not on our HR's check list. I was worried that he may be stranded at their airport which was already shut down at the time and all of hotels were fully booked near the airport due to massive cancellations. I asked the Japanese team to help find him a hotel … it was extremely difficult to find a hotel at that time but finally secured a room near Tokyo Disneyland. In the man time I called him mobile several times but could not get through, but finally he responded to my email via his mobile phone. He was safe and already near the airport. In the end he decided to camp out at the airport rather than heading back to the hotel we found. In any case we were all relieved. After all he was one of the founding members of Groupon.
The next issue was making sure that we send all of our staff home. In most parts of Japan public transits were shutdown and roads were heavily congested. The HR ordered our staff to go home early as it is much safer to reach home if you leave during the day light. And we kept the office open as temporary shelter for those people who lived too far from the office to walk home. There was also a team of dozen people who were identified as key staff including our CEO, COO, and CTO who were able to make the critical decisions and able to execute during crisis. Other staff members responsible for PR, social marketing, web development were also there to support the minimal operation.
To make sure that we can survive, the office admin was sent to out secure food (as we expected convenience stores and super markets will be running out of food. We also sent out messages that if employees are having difficulty trying to go home without any transit, they can always come back to the office to spend the night as we had enough food and water and running electricity and communication line. In the end about 50 people were in the office spending the night.
The next came the critical business issues. There were several issues.
We realized that the most of the Internet was full of Earthquake related information and it would be highly inappropriate for our normal ads to be appearing in such context. We shut down all advertising. We also realized that during crisis, public communication infrastructure is under tremendous pressure and we made sure that we do not add unnecessary traffic so we decided shut down our daily email, which is sent out to a large volume of users. In fact many sensible web sites in Japan also followed and shut down unnecessary mass email as to ease the pressure of the potential fragile infrastructure.
Now the basics were covered the team discussed what we as Groupon Japan can do in terms of this crisis? The origin of Groupon was a service called the Point … the spirit behind it was to use collective power to solve a problem that one person cannot solve. The team felt that the best role we can play under the circumstance was to run a fund raiser to help earthquake victims. So the team immediately began their work. We also decided to take off all Groupon deals (at the time there was over 80 deals running so it was a very tough decision but the team felt this was not time to make money but focus on helping others). Fortunately, we had one staffer had an experience working at Red Cross and we were able to contact Red Cross and decided to run the campaign as a donation for Japan Red Cross. We also made the decision that Groupon Japan will mach every donation by the user (so that the total amount given to the Red Cross was double the amount that users donate). Groupon Japan also cover the cost of credit card transaction … so we wanted to make sure that every yen sent by our users went to good cause. We reached out to the head of Groupon International and got an OK for such a fund raiser and it went online.
We were the first site in Japan to take such action and the net community noticed. The majority of netizens were supportive on our action and donations started pouring in. There were some users who misunderstood and questioned our campaign (they though we were making commissions on the charity deal. Of course, we made zero commission,but in fact, we matched the amount donated by users). We updated our web site to clarify our stance.
By now, it was getting late in Tokyo, but Chicago was waking up. I called up Andrew Mason (sorry for waking you up, Andrew) and gave him the status update on what was going on in Japan. He was very surprised by the sudden news but gave us immediate support and promised me that US will also help with the fund raising campaign for the earthquake victims. In the mean time, the Japan team worked into the early hours of morning to make sure that we were prepared for the coming days. The US campaign site also went live in just a couple of hours … we were very impressed by the speed of such action. I think Groupon US was also the first major Internet service outside of Japan to start such a campaign.
On Saturday, day after the earthquake, more supports started pouring in our brothers in Groupon International. Norway was the first. Then came Germany, Hong Kong, Netherlands … and more are coming as I write.
The Japan team was deeply moved by their overwhelming support and impressed by their speed of execution. We have not seen anything like this in the past at this type of speed. We are entering a new era of social campaign. During the worst crisis in Japan, we saw the world has become a little smaller, and a whole lot warmer.
Finally, I like to express my sincere gratitude to my colleagues at Groupon Japan who indeed have they have their own families to look after, yet bravely stayed behind at the company over night and helped us do what was socially responsible. And sincere condolences to the victims of this earthquake.
Thank you everyone for your overwhelming support. We will never forget what we witnessed in the past 48 hours.
(This article written by Akio Tanaka just for Netease，anyone reprint please indicate the source.)