The Right In­gre­di­ents

Forbes - - Richest By State New Billionaire -

Akim­itsu Sano has whipped up a bil­lion-dol­lar for­tune by teach­ing younger Ja­panese how to cook.

EN­JOY­ING A HOME­MADE MEAL in the Land of the Ris­ing Sun? The recipe prob­a­bly came from Akim­itsu Sano. His Ja­pan-based Cook­ en­ables its 58.8 mil­lion users to share and fnd recipes to pre­pare at home—2.1 mil­lion recipes in all, from tra­di­tional re­gional Ja­panese spe­cial­ties like grilled-squid pan­cakes to ex­otic Western recipes for pasta Bolog­nese and cheese­cake.

Cook­pad has ex­panded its user base twelve­fold in the past seven years, making it the 55th-most-viewed web­site in Ja­pan; more than half of all Ja­panese women in their 20s and 30s visit it. Sano, who founded the com­pany in 1997, took it pub­lic in 2009. Rev­enue has soared 80% since then to $65 mil­lion last year (net­ting a proft of $19 mil­lion), and the stock is soaring. Shares have risen 20% in just the past month, making Sano’s 44% stake in the com­pany worth more than $1 bil­lion.

Sano, 42, rarely speaks to the press, and few per­sonal de­tails about him have emerged. What is known is that af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Ja­pan’s pres­ti­gious Keio Univer­sity, he started work on Cook­pad. He left the CEO role in 2012 to con­cen­trate on ac­qui­si­tions, buy­ing up Min­nano Wed­ding, a Ja­panese wed­ding-venue re­view site, and Cu­cum­ber­town, a U.S. food-blog­ging plat­form, ear­lier this year for undis­closed amounts.

An­a­lysts ex­pect Cook­pad’s rev­enue to hit $112 mil­lion this year and in­crease to about $150 mil­lion in 2016. With plump mar­gins close to 30%, they see proft top­ping $40 mil­lion next year. Takahiro Kaza­haya, a Deutsche Bank an­a­lyst in Tokyo, looks at Cook­pad’s im­pres­sive growth as an an­swer to a fun­da­men­tal prob­lem in Ja­pan: “Many Ja­panese house­wives have a lack of con­nec­tion with so­ci­ety”—and Cook­pad ofers the link—“so there are a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

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