I caught up with Akemi Tsunagawa, the Founder and CEO of Bespoke, a real-time engagement platform for tourists and the tourism industry. When we last spoke in September 2018, the team had no intention of expanding to the United States. However, after being introduced to Gabe Klein, now and advisor to Bespoke, all of that changed. Notably, Gabe has been the Director of the District of Columbia Department of Transportation and the Commissioner of Transportation for the City of Chicago. These roles, along with myriad other experiences, gives him connectivity to United States based clients that would not have been possible previously.
Making further progress and seeing strong interest from US potentials, led Bespoke to open an office in San Francisco and set up a proper entity to operate in the United States. Akemi had been following the career of Tobias Wessels for a while now. She noted jokingly that she had been ‘cyber-stalking’ him since they met at a conference almost three years ago…and when the timing was finally right, she offered him the role of running Bespoke’s international business and Akemi was happy when he accepted. Tobias also came with a great client list which is helping to accelerate the growth of Bespoke’s business.
Akemi noted that even just a year ago, it was difficult to explain what a chatbot was. Fast forward a year and the world has caught up to the notion of what a chatbot is and how they can be useful. One of the places where the Japanese government is working with Bespoke is during crisis management. This is a place where this type of engagement platform can be super useful.
Bespoke’s growth has clearly entered a new phase, which means that the staff make-up has to change as well. Akemi and I talked about how this growth requires a different mindset and skillset from her management team. This is one of the new challenges that Akemi is encountering.