Disrupting Japan: Startups and Innovation in Japan

Disrupting Japan: Startups and Innovation in Japan

How Snack Smuggling led to millions in VC funding

May 16, 2022

Subscription boxes can be a tough business.

Most of these startups shine brightly as they burn through investor capital and flame out well before becoming profitable.

But there are exceptions. So today we sit down with Danny Taing, the founder of Bokksu, to learn what he and the team did differently, how they obtained substantial VC funding, and where they are going from here.

We also talk about Japan's unique snack culture and the surprising insight is has to offer about Japanese culture in general.

It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.

Show Notes

Why the world needed one more subscription box startup
What Japanese snacks (and food in general) are different
Strategic storytelling: aka "When you are talking about snacks, you are not really talking about snacks."
Meet the world's happiest QA team
Why Bokkusu could succeed when so many subscription-box startups ad failed
Growing from zero to 1,000 and then 1,000 to 10,000
What really goes into the box
Which Japanese snacks are most loved overseas
The strategic expansion to Bokksu Market and Bokksu Grocery
How a food startup can raise real money in a world of software-focused VCs
Why "Japanese culture" startups almost always fail


Links from the Founder

Everything you evert wanted to know about Bokksu
Check out some amazing snack pictures
Follow Danny on Twitter @dannytaing
Bokksu's amazing Maker Videos (seriously, these are great)

Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs.
I’m Tim Romero and thanks for listening.
Now, I'm going to warn you in advance. This episode is going to make you hungry. Danny Taing founded Bokksu to sell unique Japanese snacks to the world. And we spent a lot of time talking about sweet and savory snacks and all of the unique cakes and the baked goods so be ready for it.
Now, both subscription boxes and e-commerce from regional foods are both very hard business models for startups. They're popular but almost all of them fail and fail fast.
Danny explains that when he started, almost everyone was highly skeptical. And by the way, that includes your humble narrator as well. I knew Danny when he was just starting. Well today, Danny explains what he did differently. How he evolved from skirting the law as a snack smuggler to growing a trusted consumer base to receiving $22 million in investment to building $100 million dollar company.
This episode is a masterclass on how you need to change not only your strategy, but also change who you are at every step of your journey. But you know, Danny tells that story a lot better than I can so let's get right to the interview.

Tim: So we're sitting here with Danny Taing Bokksu, who is delivering tasty Japanese snacks to the entire world. So thanks for sitting down with us, Danny. 
Danny: Thanks for having me, Tim. It's a pleasure to be here. 
Tim: That was a really simple introduction of Bokksu. I'm sure you can explain it much better than I can. So what exactly is it that Bokksu does? 
Danny: Yeah. So our mission is to kind of bridge cultures through authentic Japanese food and snacks and products. We do this by, as you just mentioned, delivering these delicious Japanese snacks worldwide in our monthly curated snack subscription box. We have a whole lot of products from there but I'm happy to get into that later. 
Tim: Yeah, and I do want to dive into it. You guys have come a long way. It expanded a lot since you started, and you've delivered over a million boxes of snacks, which is awesome. So what exactly is a subscription box? 
Danny: Many people already know about subscription boxes out there. But what makes box really special is that we directly partner with the centuries old family snack bigger businesses throughout Japan, everything from Hokkaido red bean buns to Kyoto matcha cakes and Okinawa chinsukos.