2015 40Under40 Winner: Justin Yoshimura

Justin Yoshimura, SVP, Loyalty Services Group, Merkle Inc.

Starting as an entrepreneur at 16, Yoshimura learned early the value of customer retention and lifetime value versus pure acquisition marketing. After convincing teenage friends to invest in his cell phone marketplace startup, he grew the company into a $10 million eBay cell phone reseller.    

His entrepreneurial vision grew beyond cell phones as he brought together companies from different businesses to build 500friends, a company he cofounded. Over the course of four years, Yoshimura convinced 50 retailers to launch loyalty programs using his SaaS platform and enabled 40 million customers to receive benefits for joining these programs. To date, more than $2 billion has flowed through the platform—now a part of Merkle.

Defining moment: When I was starting my first company, a marketplace for cellphones, I was able to convince my friends to invest their bar mitzvah money. I told them the worst thing that could happen is that they would lose their money. The best thing that would happen is that they would make two or more times their money. Since then, I’ve always been an entrepreneur.

Words to live by: You can’t think and talk at the same time.

Strategy shift: Early-stage companies can’t do everything they want to do. When we started 500friends, we tried to be a loyalty platform for everyone, but we learned that each company is very different. Based on customer feedback we changed the categories that we approached.

Phil Britt

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