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Cloud software unicorns boost Japan's digital economy

Billion-dollar valuations for startups reflect investor and customer appetite

Daisuke Sasaki struggled to find investors when he founded cloud-based accounting software company Freee in 2012. (Photo by Manami Yamada)

TOKYO -- When Daisuke Sasaki quit Google to start an accounting software company in 2012, he struggled to find investors who would back his idea: that small businesses would ditch traditional packaged software for a tool delivered through cloud computing, a business model now widely known as software-as-a-service, or SaaS.

"Japanese venture capital funds did not believe in cloud or SaaS models," he recalled in an interview. "They said, 'Others failed in the past. Why would you succeed?'"

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