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Internet seer: Former Buddhist monk preps IPO for
Campfire helps individuals and small groups raise funds online, making it the biggest such business in
Kazuma Ieiri was bullied at school, too poor to go to university, and spent years in his bedroom as a recluse. More
than 20 years later, he’s aiming to take his startup public at a valuation of more than $1 billion.
Campfire Inc., which helps individuals and small groups raise funds online, is seeking to list shares this year at a
valuation of as much as 200 billion yen ($1.8 billion), Ieiri said in an interview. It’s a long-anticipated IPO for the
popular crowdfunding operator, the biggest such business in Japan.
Ieiri, 42, is one of a growing number of chief executive officers who fell off the typical path to success in Japan but
are now making their fortunes in its tech startup scene. Campfire, the third company founded by the Buddhist
monk and onetime candidate for Tokyo governor, has funded more than 50,000 projects since it started in 2011.
It’s a remarkable turnaround for a man who learned to code in his bedroom during the years he spent there as a
teenager with social anxiety issues.
“I was saved by the internet,” Ieiri said at the company’s headquarters in Tokyo. “I was able to make my voice
heard through it.”
The pandemic increased the need for sites like Campfire as cafes, restaurants and small businesses facing
downturns in customers used it as a way to supplement revenue. People who found themselves jobless also
tapped it to get new ventures off the ground. The company’s gross merchandise volume more than tripled in 2020
from the year earlier to 20 billion yen ($180 million), Campfire said.