A look back as Nulab celebrates its 10th anniversary

Nulab is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and what better time to look back at all the wonderful and challenging things that got us here. To share our story, we have to take you back to the beginning: March of 2004.

Nulab in 2004

Nulab came to be thanks to the collaboration of three talented, young programmers: Masanori Hashimoto (today’s CEO), Toshitaka Agata (today’s Product Manager), and Shinsuke Tabata (today’s CMO.)

From the beginning, the founders felt solidarity in their vision towards both their business and their software. They didn’t want to approach software like any other ordinary tool. The founders thought of their work as more than a product, to them “Software is art.”

People use all kinds of software in their daily lives—some more helpful than others—but what the Nulab founders set to build out was a set of products that were not only useful and functional but beautiful, “like a classy piece of Scandinavian furniture.” They wanted to provide customers with something better and with style. 

This grand vision started with a humble beginning: they rented out a small office and installed an over-sized, handmade wood desk to work on. They were starting from scratch.

Fun fact: You can still see this piece of Nulab history in use at our headquarter office in Fukuoka.

2004-1The desk in 2004.

The desk today.The desk today.

Nulab in 2005

After countless hours building their first product, our project management tool Backlog, they released the Beta version, and unexpectedly, it caused a bit of controversy.

Starting an ASP service as such a small company was unheard of, and it was not common practice at that time in Japan for most businesses to feel comfortable depositing their highly private information into the systems of an external vendor.

It was criticized on a few prominent software forums, but eventually, the shock of their product seemed to wear off, and people started to see the vision they were creating. On the upside, all the talk about their product brought in a lot of traffic, and their company began to have some name recognition in the local tech community. 

Nulab in 2006

Backlog got a redesign before being officially released in 2006. The Fukuoka Office continued to grow and thrive, so much so that we opened a new location.

An office in the Yaesu area in Tokyo served as our 2nd branch. As with our first office, this one started from modest origins. It was small. So small, in fact, it could only fit three people. Until desks and chairs arrived, staff made due working on the floor.

This particular office location moved to Shibuya later on in 2014, and now we have five staff working there (with as many desks and chairs as they need.)

Fukuoka Office, 2006 【当時はマンション内だった福岡オフィスの様子】Fukuoka Office, 2006

Fukuoka Office, 2006Fukuoka Office, 2006

Nulab in 2007

In 2007, we began to see the value in tapping more outsourced development talent to help build up our Backlog product. At the time, Backlog was still being supported by only one in-house developer.

Our board meetings were intensely focused on how to grow and develop Backlog’s functions and features to be the best product it could be.

Tokyo OfficeTokyo Office

Tokyo OfficeTokyo Office

Seasar ConferenceNulab attending the open source conference Seasar Conference

Nulab in 2008

It was our 5th year in business, and the number of Backlog users was steadily increasing.

We held our first in-person meetup for Backlog users this year in Tokyo. During the event, attendees shared with our team real-world examples of how they use Backlog day-to-day. We also hosted a “World Cafe” event, in which attendees exchanged ideas and best-practices about Backlog together. It was the first year we started sitting down with Backlog users face-to-face, and it was an invaluable opportunity to get to know our clients more deeply.

2008:1World Cafe at the Backlog User Meetup

2008:2Business meeting at Abby Inc.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURENulab’s end-of-year party

Nulab in 2009

2009 was a big year for Nulab, filled with change and progress. 

In January, we held our first company-wide General Meeting at our headquarters in Fukuoka. Since its inception, we have held an annual General Meeting every year at our headquarters, inviting all of our staff members from around the world to gather in Fukuoka to discuss the future of the company. Nulabers from Tokyo and Kyoko to overseas travel in to attend this event each year. 

2009:1社員総会Nulab’s first General Meeting

2009:2社員総会Nulab’s first General Meeting

That summer, our office also moved to our current headquarter location, giving us much more space to grow internally. 

2009: moveingThe office move

2009:afterOur new/current office headquarters

That winter, we released the Beta version of our second product: Cacoo.

Our three co-founders visited New York to participate in the “WordCamp NY 2009” conference to exhibit the new product in the US. 

2009-_1Nulab showing off Cacoo in WordCamp NY 2009 Conference

2009: nyWordCamp NY 2009

2009-ny1Sightseeing in NY

2009-ny3Sightseeing in NY

Nulab in 2010

After our servers began struggling to keep up with the tens of thousands of users trying to log into our beta version of Cacoo, we decided to move to AWS. Cacoo was then officially released in 2010.

We started hiring more developers for both Backlog and Cacoo. And we set our sights on a 3rd office branch, which we eventually opened in Kyoto, Japan.

2010 kyotoKyoto office

We also held an event called “The Collaboration Conference” in both Tokyo and Fukuoka.

2010:1The Collaboration Conference in Tokyo

2010:2The Collaboration Conference in Tokyo

2010:4The Collaboration Conference in Fukuoka

2010:5The Collaboration Conference in Fukuoka

Founder/CEO Masanori Hashimoto also took a trip to the United States to meet with various tech entrepreneurs as well as companies like Google and Apple.

2010:tripKenji Hiranabe (CEO of Change Vision, Inc.) (left) / Masanori Hashimoto (right)

2010With Yoshihiro Kuranuki (CEO of SonicGarden Japan) (left) / Masanori Hashimoto (right)

Nulab in 2011

2011 was the year we made a big effort to develop our business overseas in both Asian countries and the United States. We even established a sister company “Nulab Asia Pte. Ltd.” in Singapore.

We attended an event called SF New Tech Japan Night in San Francisco where we exhibited the Cacoo Store and gave a presentation about Nulab and Cacoo, introducing our product in a big way to the US market.

2011Lunch in the General Meeting

Nulab in 2012

We welcomed our first employees to our sister company “Nulab Asia Pte. Ltd.” in Singapore, Indonesia, and Taiwan. We expanded our business and market overseas, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

Also in this year, we launched Backlogtool.com for overseas users to get to know our product. We launched several integrations, including Cacoo for Google+ Hangouts.

As the number of employees and customers outside Japan grew, we decided to start using English more as a company, including using English in our annual General Meeting for the first time.

2012:1Established Nulab Asia Pte Ltd, in Singapore


2012:3Group photo in the General Meeting

2012:4Nulab Night

2012:2Nulab Asia Pte Ltd, office under construction

Nulab in 2013

In 2013, we added our third product as we launched the beta version of Typetalk, our team chat app.

At our NUCON conference in Tokyo, we also announced the “Nulab Account” which is a single sign-on to all of our products—Typetalk, Cacoo, and Backlog.

2013:1General Meeting


2013:2General Meeting

2013:3General Meeting

2013:4Nulab Night

2013:5Nulab Night

Nulab Today – Join us in celebration!

This year’s NUCON party will be extra special in celebration of our 10th anniversary as a company. Join us on Friday, October 10th in Fukuoka, Japan. You can contact us for info here.

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