The rest of the 50 (in alphabetical order): Shinji Asada, head, Salesforce Ventures Japan

Shinji Asada is head of Salesforce Ventures Japan, the US-listed enterprise software producer Salesforce’s Japan-based corporate venture capital (CVC) arm. The unit helps Japanese startups to leverage the Salesforce ecosystem.

Asada’s role involves sourcing new deals, conducting due diligence and providing thought leadership in portfolio companies’ board meetings.

Asada started his career at trading group Itochu where he spent more than a decade in different roles ranging from new business development and mergers and acquisitions to system integration and software-as-a-service (SaaS) sales, before joining trading group Itochu’s CVC unit, Itochu Technology Ventures, in 2012.

“Since I joined Salesforce Ventures [in 2015] I have been actively investing in emerging enterprise software startups and built a portfolio of more than 40 companies to date,” Asada said.

Salesforce Ventures Japan’s current portfolio includes business card management platform Sansan, accounting software producer Freee and human resources technology provider Bizreach.

“After much success in the region, Salesforce Ventures launched a $100m Japan Trailblazer Fund in late 2018 to continue its investment momentum,” Asada added. “With this new capital, we will be more active than ever before to cultivate the SaaS market here in Japan. Our $100m commitment strengthens our mission to help startups grow and drive customer success.

“With this fund, Salesforce Ventures strengthens its position as the most active foreign corporate venture capital arm in Japan and deepens its commitment to creating the world’s largest ecosystem of enterprise cloud companies to fuel customer success.”

Japan is not the only country in which the unit has established a specialist fund. It has formed Trailblazer Funds in Australia, Canada and Europe, having already fully deployed a $100m earlier vehicle directed at Europe and the Middle East.

Japan-based VC investors and corporates do not tend to focus on SaaS as it is still an emerging market in the country, said Asada. Apart from receiving capital, portfolio companies also gain credibility as they form strategic partnerships with Salesforce.

“Each portfolio company receives an executive sponsor that commits to working with the startup,” he said. “This ensures the startup receives specialised attention from company leadership and maintains a tight alignment with Salesforce goals.”

Asada holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Keio University and an MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management.