Domo Arigato: Terapeak Strikes Deal with E-Commerce Giant

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Victoria-based tech firm Terapeak has entered into a strategic alliance with Yahoo Japan — a dominant e-commerce platform in the Asia-Pacific region with 2010 revenues of nearly US$3.5 billion.

It’s been a year of extremes for Japan. Laid low in March by an earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, the nation’s sunken spirits were sent soaring this month when its women’s soccer team pulled off a dramatic upset of the United States in the World Cup.

Less than 260 kilometres from the stricken power plant in Fukushima, site of the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, is Morioka, Japan, one of Victoria’s four sister cities. Thousands of evacuees were housed there in the aftermath of the crisis, a link Mayor Dean Fortin acknowledged at the July 14 signing of the partnership agreement between Terapeak and Yahoo Japan.

Terapeak, formerly known as Advanced E-Commerce Research Systems, was founded in 2004 by brothers Anthony and Andrew Sukow. Today, it employs nearly 50 staff, creating software that provides detailed transaction information to sellers using online auction sites like eBay — another client — helping them “sell faster, sell smarter, and sell better,” says president Colin How.

Thanks to its lucrative partnership with eBay, Terapeak currently aggregates 20 per cent of the world’s online commerce sales data. Yes, you read that correctly.

“We do one thing very well,” says How. “We ingest e-commerce data and we develop insights out of it for merchants. It’s not complicated. We try not to do anything else. In being focused, in focusing on the one thing that we’re best at, we hope that we can maintain an unassailable position.”

Terapeak’s services cost sellers anywhere from $10 to hundreds of dollars depending on the amount of data they require.

“You have people selling $100 per month worth of inventory, and you have others selling $1 million per month,” says How, “so the challenge for us is to build the right tool for each segment, and understand their needs.”

{advertisement} Terapeak’s new partner, with more than 21 million monthly auction listings attracting 230 million unique browsers, is bigger than eBay and Amazon.com in Japan. Its vice-president of e-commerce, Koichi Imamura, and four other executives travelled from Tokyo for the signing ceremony.

“This is just the beginning,” Imamura tells Douglas. “There are so many things we have ahead of us. We strongly believe Terapeak and Yahoo Japan will be able to work effectively as partners and grow together.”

The alliance with Yahoo Japan represents Terapeak’s first international partnership outside of its relationship with eBay.

“For the first seven years of the company,” says How, “we were predominantly focused on one marketplace, a very large domestic marketplace: eBay. This partnership … it’s taking us to a global opportunity. We’ve picked the ideal partner in Yahoo Japan, the leaders in auction and search throughout Japan.”

It may be Terapeak’s first international partnership, but it likely won’t be the last, says How. “We have a pipeline of international partners that we’re currently in discussions with, and our goal is to launch several new partnerships over the next 24 months.”

How says despite the geographic distance and language barrier, the deal with Yahoo Japan came together smoothly. “Particularly in the Internet and web-based market space, a lot of cultural barriers dissipate because we’re all kind of on ‘Internet time.’ A lot of the engagement is very natural and comfortable, and I’ve been impressed and surprised by that. There’s a very strong, positive connection between the two companies.”

At the time of the deal, Terapeak planned to immediately add up to eight new staff to get to work on the Yahoo Japan account. More new hires were planned to coincide with its move, in late August, from its 5,400-square-foot headquarters at the Victoria Technology Park to a 9600-square-foot premises near Borden Mercantile in the Quadra and McKenzie area. “We’re ramping up pretty good,” How tells Douglas.

“We had decided to move outside of this deal, but we had a lot of confidence this deal was going to happen. But until the papers are signed, the contracts are signed, you never know. If they go off the rails it’s usually at the 11th hour. But we had a lot of confidence it was going to materialize and so we started scaling up.”

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, speaking at the signing ceremony, crowed about the partnership.

“I’m so proud of the agreement between these two firms,” he said, “which is going to create more employment, more jobs, more economic activity, and quite honestly, more taxes. If you’re growing and you’re profitable, our community is that much better off.”