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Buddhist monk who spent years in seclusion seeks IPO for his startup

(Bloomberg) – Kazuma Ieiri was bullied at school, had no money to go to college, and spent years locked in his room. More than two decades later, he wants to list his startup on the stock market at a valuation of more than $ 1 billion.

Campfire Inc., which helps individuals and small groups raise funds online, is seeking an initial public offering this year with a valuation of up to 200 billion yen ($ 1.8 billion), Ieiri said in an interview. It’s a long-awaited IPO for the popular crowdfunding operator, the largest company of its kind in Japan.

Ieiri, 42, is one of the growing number of CEOs who strayed from the typical path to success in Japan but are now making their fortunes in the tech startup arena. Campfire, the third company founded by the Buddhist monk and former Tokyo gubernatorial candidate, has funded more than 50,000 projects since its founding in 2011.

It’s an impressive turn for a man who learned to code in his bedroom during the years he spent there as a teenager and suffered from anxiety problems.

“The internet saved me,” Ieiri said at the company’s Tokyo headquarters. “I was able to get my voice heard through him.”

The pandemic increased demand for sites like Campfire, as cafes, restaurants, and small businesses facing a customer recession accessed the platform to supplement revenue. People who lost their jobs also took advantage of the site to advance new ventures. The company’s gross merchandise volume more than tripled in 2020 from the previous year to 20 billion yen ($ 180 million), according to Campfire.

Ieiri also helped set up Base Inc., the operator of the e-commerce platform founded by one of his former interns. Base went public just before the pandemic began, and its shares have since risen more than 500%.

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Ieiri’s success in starting businesses (he’s Campfire’s main shareholder and has a stake in Base) means his poverty days are behind him, but the entrepreneur says he’s not in it for the money. He says that growing up in poverty shaped his desire to help others in financial need.

Original Note: Buddhist Monk Who Spent Years as Recluse Targets IPO for Startup

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