A Japanese millennial could soon be a billionaire after shares of his AI-powered matching service for companies surged nearly 50% this year

Shunsaku Sagami, founder and CEO of M&A Research Institute Holdings.
Shunsaku Sagami, the founder and CEO of M&A Research Institute Holdings.M&A Research Institute Holdings
  • Shunsaku Sagami, the founder, and CEO of M&A Research Institute, is worth $950 million as of Tuesday.

  • He founded the brokerage in 2018 to help match sellers of smaller firms in Japan to interested buyers.

  • Many smaller businesses in aging Japan are forced to shut down each year due to a lack of successors.

A Japanese millennial who uses AI to help solve a problem in the rapidly aging society has hit it big.

Since its debut on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in June 2022, shares of M&A Research Institute — a company that matches business owners in Japan with successors using AI — surged to over thrice its opening price.

The stock rose 47% this year alone.

Thanks to this surge, 32-year-old entrepreneur Shunsaku Sagami — who owns a 72% stake in the company — is worth $950 million as of May 16, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Founded in 2018, M&A Research Institute aims to help the aging owners of small and medium-sized businesses whose businesses are forced to shutter when there's no one available to take over. The company said in April that some 620,000 profitable companies in Japan risk closure due to a lack of successors.

Sagami told Bloomberg in a recent interview that he found the inspiration to start this business from his grandfather, who was forced to shut his real estate agency in the 1980s when he retired because he was unable to find a successor.

"In his office, there was a license for real estate agents framed up on the wall," Sagami told Bloomberg. "Seeing that taken down and thrown away was sad."

Sagami's company can close M&A deals within six months — a process that typically takes over a year.

M&A Research Institute, which currently employs about 160 people, focuses on companies with annual sales of up to 500 million Japanese yen, or $3.7 million.

Powered by AI and its proprietary data, the company can close M&A deals between 49 days to six months, it said on its website. These deals typically take over a year from request to completion, the Tokyo-based company added.

M&A Research Institute doesn't charge any fees until a transaction is closed. It bills up to 5% in fees for a successful close.

Other M&A consultancies charge retainer fees that can reach tens of millions of yen — even if the deal doesn't eventually close, M&A Research Institute said on its website.

The company said closed 62 deals in the six months through March 2023 — more than double the 26 it closed in the same period a year ago.

The M&A brokerage isn't Sagami's first business venture. A biology and agriculture graduate from Kobe University, he was a designer, software developer, and marketing officer before he struck out on his own, per Bloomberg.

In 2017, Alpaca, a women's fashion and makeup company he founded, was acquired by a Japanese public relations agency.

Sagami found the deal process inefficient, so he set up a system with an AI algorithm that would simplify the flow of the business, per Bloomberg.

M&A Research Institute's share price closed 0.4% lower at 9,270 Japanese yen on Tuesday.

The company did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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