What motivated you to become a startup mentor?
Actually, Fukuoka City Government asked me to be a mentor! But, I have always been involved in the startup community in Fukuoka. I like to help others in the community and help spread startup culture. I also really enjoy working with Taiwanese Startups, and my company ("Nulab") has users there too. This has given me a chance to be a bridge between Fukuoka and Taiwan’s startup cultures.
What field(s) would you consider your area of expertise?
My assistant tells me it is my communication style with others. I try to create a fun space wherever I go, and wherever I am speaking. A lot of CEOs in Japan don't have a "fun first" attitude, but I think it is important, and it creates a connection with the people around me.
What part of startup life do you think you could help with the most as a mentor?
After a product has been created, I can help with sales and growth strategies, as well as company structure organization.
Which Fukuoka coffee shop is your favorite for out of office meetings?
The 7th floor of Nulab is a cafe. That's my favorite for sure!
How did you get your initial investment or funding?
We went to the bank, and bowed many, many times. We have not yet accepted any outside funding.
How did you find your current office? Any advice for entrepreneurs going through the process?
A family member runs a cleaning company, and so they know a lot of office spaces downtown. Combined with a realtor, we were able to find our space. Because office space is expensive for startups, I'd suggest trying to get space in Fukuoka Growth Next!
What surprised you most about starting a company?
Turning a profit was more difficult than I thought. Especially when you are creating your own products.
What differences (if any) do you notice between conducting business in Japan and other countries?
Business culture is very different. How to hand out business cards, and how to act when you first meet someone is very different outside of Japan. A lot of things we do in Japanese business culture don't have much of a purpose, I think. Try not to get tired, even when spending too much time in meetings that don't have much purpose!
How do you manage bi- and even trilingual communications in your office?
At Nulab, we try to use English whenever possible. We make a chat tool called "Typetalk" that we use for communication, and in most channels we have a English-only rule. That way, every employee can understand, including people at our New York office. If you want to improve your English, Nulab also offers free lessons for our staff.
When you need a break from the startup grind, what refreshes you?
Sleep. And taking my dog for a walk. Her name is Love, and I like making videos of her with my gopro! It is very cute <3
Do you have any preparation advice for pitch contests?
Don't drink too much before you start. A little helps though! ;) A lot of Japanese people are shy, so some social event or a drink before can help break the ice.
Is there anything else you think new startups should know?
A lot of people might think that because of Nulab's success that I know all the answers. The truth is that no one does, and I am learning and growing everyday, with each new experience. Startups should do the same, never stop learning and growing.
What's the easiest way for people to reach out to you?
You can always reach out to me via my assistant. Drop him a line at email@example.com, and try not to use too much keigo.