Trillium, which is based in Japan and Silicon Valley, offers security solutions for autonomous/connected cars, protecting them from cyberattacks. Standing out prominently among Japan’s many traditional car manufacturers, in 2018 the company managed to raise $15 million during their series A2 round.
Today, we’re proud to present an exclusive interview with the CEO of Trillium, David M. Uze, who’ll talk about the challenges of his company’s aggressive, global expansion strategy, as well as the things he’s learned by participating in the X-HUB program in 2018.
- It’s been five years since the company’s been founded in 2014. Could you tell us again what is it that Trillium does?
- At Trillium, we’re developing and offering security solutions for cars, making sure that our users have nothing to worry about while operating their vehicles at every turn, from the moment they first get them to when they scrap them.
When we were first founded, we made money by selling security programs protecting cars from cyberattacks. Nowadays, though, we operate by using proprietary technology to record and aggregate large amounts of data which we then offer to other companies that need it for machine learning of market analyses. We also pride ourselves on our End to End services and patented advanced encryption technology.
- Trillium is known as a hybrid company centered around Japanese and American employees. Could you tell us how did such a company structure come to be?
Right now, a third of the Trillium staff is Japanese, a third is American, and the remaining third comes from other countries. However, I think that the very Japanese ideas of “improvement” and “mutual prosperity” have by now managed to infiltrate the company at every level.
At the same time, some of our employees have managed to inject this Silicon Valley-esque mentality that it’s OK to fail, and the DNA of “nothing is impossible” into the company. I think that this kind of hybrid company culture is one of Trillium’s biggest strengths.
- Is it true that you are currently active in Japan and the US?
While growing a business, you need a period where you explore your various business needs by scattering “bullets” on a widespread area, like a shotgun. But you have to keep it as short as possible. Once you’ve identified your target, you need to switch to a rifle and concentrate on just one spot.
Currently, we are in the process of changing to a rifle. In other words, we’re preparing to concentrate our business in one place. Currently, we’re waging battle in markets that we’ve identified as being the most beneficial to us in the short term, such as Japan, Michigan, and Silicon Valley.
That being said, all of our executive officers, save for the CFO, are based in our headquarters in Silicon Valley because they thought that “in order to become innovative SaaS providers, we should be based somewhere where innovation is created every day.”
- What do you think is the key to a successful overseas expansion?
At Trillium, we only ask ourselves one thing when determining whether we should expand to a new market: “Is the demand there?” If the demand is there, there’s no reason not to expand. That’s why we wouldn’t expand to a place where we cannot foresee a demand for our services in the future. We say: “don’t invest where there’s no demand.”
Adding to that, you need to also look for markets that are facing some kind of a problem. Trillium cannot make confusing programs that only make engineers happy. We want to offer real solutions to the numerous problems faced by markets everywhere to help build a better society. That’s what I believe in.
That’s why, at Trillium, we’ll continue to offer products and services that meet the customers’ needs. If we made something the customers didn’t need or something that wouldn’t solve the customers’ problems, then that would be very foolish of us. I believe a company that puts their customers first is on the road to success.
- Where do you think your customers’ needs lie now? In other words, where do you hope to expand to in the future?
- We don’t have a specific idea yet but I think the Southeast Asian market, especially Singapore, would be a great opportunity for us. You can tell because a lot of Japanese financial institutions are heavily investing in the region.
You also cannot discount the large European market: it’s matured, it has steady demand, and it also has the GDPR Use Case. Take all of that together and it looks like a great opportunity. And do I even need to mention China?
Of course, we’re not planning to abandon our current bases in Japan and Silicon Valley. However, Japan has a very Japanese way of doing business. It tends to take a lot of time to get things going there. There’s also the issue of balancing our portfolio. In order to do that, I think we’d need to invest in Southeast Asian, European, and Chinese markets.
2018 was when we sowed the seeds and 2019 is when I want to invest heavily in places that have started to sprout.
- Speaking of Europe, why did Trillium participate in the 2018 X-HUB Germany (Berlin, Munich) Program?
- As everyone knows, Germany is a “country of cars.” It’s also the perfect starting point for breaking into the EU market. Above all else, though, if you want to establish an ecosystem for self-driving vehicles, it’s crucial that you first succeed in Germany. By making it in such a mature market, you’ll eventually be able to pivot to the North American or Japanese markets. We participated in the X-HUB program because I thought that it will be a big help to us in breaking into the German market.
- What did you get out of the program and what did you think about it?
- Actually, a member of my company traveling to Munich next week to negotiate with large car manufacturers I met through the X-HUB program. This was only possible through the various matchmaking opportunities offered by X-HUB’s networking sessions. We are actually already negotiating with local insurance and telecommunications companies. For a firm like ours that’s trying to expand to a new market with their own product, the program has been a huge help.
- Finally, what would you say to people considering joining the X-HUB program?
If your product or service has been recognized in Japan for its innovative technology, perhaps you should consider going beyond the boundaries of Japan and scaling up your operation.
Japanese managers have this tendency to avoid overseas markets based on this vague reason of “I just don’t know” but that is why X-HUB is there. It’s a great place to help you get your “Made in Japan” products all around the world. It just provides you with so many amazing opportunities. If anyone out there is thinking about expanding their Japanese startup overseas, there is absolutely no reason not to use X-HUB. Plus, the course also reminds you how important it is to always keep on learning, making it an opportunity you simply cannot miss.