Supporting Tech Startups in Japan: An Interview with Chad Lafferty of Wahl+Case

This is the first of three interviews with Chad Lafferty, Managing Director of Wahl+Case and Board Director of EQIQ talking about the tech start up market in Japan and how they have diversified their businesses to support clients better in the new economy.


Watch the full interview here or read the interview script below.

BRAD:  Hi this is Brad from Coffee for Closers. Today my guest is Chad Lafferty, Managing Director of Wahl + Case, and Board Director at EQIQ. Chad, thanks for joining us today and making time.

CHAD:  Thank you very much for having us.

BRAD:  Today I wanted to focus on telling us a little about what Wahl + Case is doing these days. Obviously, the brand is pretty strong but tell us a little about what’s going on at Wahl + Case and how you entered into this role there.

CHAD:  Sure. So, first of all, just to give a brief introduction of Wahl + Case, we focus on technology recruitment primarily with startups. About 70% of our clients are startups, both international and domestic. Within that we cover sales and marketing and engineering. What we don’t really do that much of are things like HR, finance, or other back office type positions. And this is a specialization that we’ve developed over time.

When we first started as an agency over 10 years ago. We did cover different areas like retail and things like that but, as we figured out what we were best at, we gradually narrowed that down. And that’s something that we’re very happy with now and something that is… and thank you very much for pointing out we have developed a very strong reputation in this area of the market.

So, as I said, we’ve been doing this for over 10 years. I joined about 3 years ago with a kind of background in contract recruitment. And so I’ve sort of adapted to the environment here focused 100% on permanent.

BRAD:  It’s interesting that you focus on kind of two areas tech and also startups, right? So…there’s probably a big need for startups coming over. I guess some of them are domestically in Japan and some are overseas but what do you see as their biggest headache or their biggest pain points that you can help them with from a startup point of view?


CHAD: So, for international companies it’s really understanding of the Japan market. There’s a lot of different ways you can enter the market. And what you really have to do is figure out what’s right for your brand, for your product. And it’s usually a pretty big learning curve for companies and what we commonly see is the first year or two they kind of get it wrong. And that’s where a company like ours, our experience we can consult on those kind of aspects to help them understand, what their different strategies might be. And that’s learned through a lot of great pain of working with many different startups and seeing both successes and failures.

For domestic companies it’s usually about product and so it’s engineering a lot of the time. With the shortage that the current market has there is a really high need for engineers of a very very high quality to produce these products and to write the code and all of those things. And so, the more flexible these companies are to hire people from either overseas or talented people that are here but maybe don’t speak Japanese will really help them launch their product. So, these are the kinds of things that we help with quite a lot, and I think that we’re quite good at it.

It’s usually a pretty big learning curve for companies and what we commonly see is the first year or two they kind of get it wrong. And that’s where a company like ours, our experience we can consult on those kind of aspects to help them understand, what their different strategies might be.

BRAD:  Can you talk a little bit more about the brands You mentioned it’s one of your titles which is Board of Directors at EQIQ. And you also have another brand as well. Can you expand a little more about the brand differentiation?


CHAD:  Certainly. So, aside from the recruitment business we also have 2 digital businesses. One is Justa, which is an online job platform for early stage startups to hire most commonly engineers from overseas is kind of the core business but anybody can sign up and register. And the other one is Attuned, which is HR tech that’s built around intrinsic motivators and particularly how they pertain to motivation in a professional sense and engagement.


What it enables people to do is understand on an individual basis, on a team basis, on a company wide basis, what the core intrinsic motivators are and how to get the best out of them. And just to give you a quick example: My number one motivator is competition. And so, my default setting is going to be like, “Ra! Ra! Ra! Let’s go! Let’s win!” I have team members that are not at all motivated by competition. So, when I do that “Ra! Ra! Ra!” speech They’re not going to feel that the way that I do. They might be motivated by altruism. They might be motivated by progress in their professional lives. And so I have to learn how to adjust the way that I speak so that they are also responsive to that, feel engaged, are united in that vision to accomplish what we need to accomplish as a business.

But there’s more than one correct answer to that problem, right? And so, it helps people to understand that. It helps people to understand themselves. And if you’re looking for a job or you’re looking to hire you also want to know understand what the potential culture add will be. What that person is bringing to the culture, but also how they fit into the culture.

So, Attuned is run as a completely separate business within EQIQ but it does have that relationship to the recruitment side as well, even though their clients are often very different and the targets look sometimes very different.


BRAD:   Yeah, it sounds like you guys have a really good team and are on a good path. What’s ahead for you guys now at Wahl + Case?


CHAD:  So, having that focus on growth and continuing to improve on what we do,  I think is very important. We’ve also had to change and we’ve got some strategy from more community and events to digital.

We’re going to be putting on a lot of webinars. We’re reaching out to a lot of clients to see if they want to participate in different aspects. Things like onboarding I think is maybe the next topic that we’ve got coming up.

So, if people want to follow us on LinkedIn then they can kind of keep track of the different kinds of things that we’re doing from those angles as well.


BRAD:  Great. Well, hey thanks again for your time today and all your insights. And definitely for any viewers out there that are interested feel free to reach out to Chad directly or the people at Wahl + Case. And again, thanks for watching. Chad, thanks for joining us


CHAD:  Brad, thank you very much. It was great.


BRAD:   So, thanks for watching and stay tuned for more great content from Coffee for Closers. Take care.


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