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Marketo Expands Cloud Software Into Japan With SunBridge/Dentsu Venture

By Dina Bass March 24, 2014

Marketo Inc. (MKTO:US), a maker of Internet-based marketing software, will make its first push into the Japanese market through a venture with Dentsu Inc. (4324), Asia’s biggest advertising company, and SunBridge Corp.

Marketo will also start selling its software, which helps create, track and target online ad campaigns, in a Japanese-language version, Chief Executive Officer Phil Fernandez said. The efforts mark the company’s first major international expansion since its initial public offering in May 2013.

The San Mateo, California-based company is trying to capitalize on rising demand for cloud versions of software for handling business tasks like finance, accounting, human resources and customer management. To make the most of their marketing spending, companies are seeking the ability to track all their digital ad campaigns and how well they are doing. Marketo’s software also automatically shows ads tailored to consumers’ interests and past behavior.

“It’s like ‘Moneyball’ for marketing,” Fernandez said in an interview, referring to the Michael Lewis book that chronicles how the Oakland Athletics baseball team used statistical analysis to select players on the cheap, enabling it to trump better-funded rivals like the New York Yankees. “You can do a better job when you are analyzing the right set of metrics.”

SunBridge, a venture capital firm that helps U.S. companies move into Japan, was started by Allen Miner, the founder of Oracle Corp. Japan.

Following Demand

Marketo’s stock has more than doubled (MKTO:US) since its May IPO at $13 a share. It fell 4.9 percent to $34.38 at yesterday’s close in New York. The company’s venture with Dentsu and SunBridge, called Marketo KK, and the new version of its software are being unveiled today at a press conference in Tokyo.

Marketo regards the Japanese market as underserved. Digital-ad spending is forecast to top $11 billion there this year, according to EMarketer Inc. Using its own technology, Marketo can spot demand for its products by geography, and there was a lot of interest from Japan, Fernandez said. The software maker already has customers among Japan’s multinational corporations, such as Sony Corp. (6758) and Toyota Motor Corp. Google Inc., another customer, wants to use the software in Japan to get local support, he said.

Marketo plans to have about 40 people working in Japan by the end of the year. The company also wants to expand to other countries and areas where demand is showing up, such as Brazil, Hong Kong and southeast China, Fernandez said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dina Bass in Seattle at