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Kenshin Thoughts Posts

Founder Institute Officially Launches First Japanese Chapter in Kansai

The Founder Institute, the world’s largest startup accelerator, is proud to announce that it is launching its first Japanese chapter in Kansai. The first ever semester in Kansai begins this Spring and is currently accepting applications. With plans to run two semesters annually, the program aims to launch over 20 meaningful and enduring home-grown technology companies per year in Japan.

The news of the Kansai Founder Institute launch was covered by Ken Nishimura of TechCrunch Japan in an article titled, 会社を辞めずに参加可能、アクセラレータ「Founder Institute」が日本初の支部を関西に設立.

In the Founder Institute’s four-month, part-time program, promising startup entrepreneurs “learn by doing” and launch a company through structured training courses, practical business-building assignments, and expert feedback from a large network of business mentors. Plus, aspiring founders are not required to quit their day job to participate, so they can begin building a business around their ideas without putting their livelihood at risk.

Leading the Founder Institute’s efforts in Kansai are Ichiro YasuiNarimasa Makino, and Kenshin Fujiwara. Ichiro Yasui is the Founder and Managing Director of HIG Associates Ltd, which specialized in the strategic management and investment consulting for early stage companies in Japan and beyond. Narimasa Makino is a manager at Sunbridge StartUps LLP, where he invests in IT and service companies. Kenshin Fujiwara is a Venture Partner at Miyako Capital, a university-backed VC fund based in Kyoto, Japan, is a founder of coworking space search engine Coworkify, and a chairman of

In Kansai, I see three major issues working against startups. First, people don’t know the best practices for building a startup company. Second, there is cultural fear of failure. Third, there is no supporting ecosystem in the city. I believe the Founder Institute can solve all of these problems in Kansai.” – Ichiro Yasui

If you would like to learn more, then please join us for a free, upcoming event: 

In only 5 years of operation, over 1,116 graduate companies across 61 cities have used the Founder Institute to validate their idea, develop their plans, refine their product, build an advisory board, prepare for seed funding, and more.

Summary of 2013 and What’s Ahead

2013 was the year of transition in my career. I was just lucky enough to be involved with the formation of new university backed venture fund. I’m totally excited about things I’d be helping my hometown foster its startup ecosystem through this fund in the future. I’m 100% certain that my knowledge of building and running many web startups can contribute something to it and my experience of failures can help aspiring entrepreneurs stay away from making same mistakes I made.

However, having infusion of risk money via VCs is only solving one side of problems to create sustainable startup ecosystem. Due to the nature of venture capital business, VCs are often challenged with fundamental difficulties such that they cannot make an investment in the companies that don’t meet their financial criteria, even if the companies are considered remarkable by them. After all, VCs make an investment using someone else’s money and they are obligated to yield financial return. Thus, financial criteria comes first. Few exceptions are like a corporate venture capital where it puts more weight on strategic alliance between portfolio companies and the company operating the venture capital than financial return.

Because of this, only select group of companies can receive investment and most of the time the companies must 1) tackle a problem that millions of people face and those people willingly pay for its solution. 2) position themselves in high-growth market, and most importantly 3) be able to liquidate its assets through IPO or acquisition.

It’s obvious that not all remarkable companies meet those conditions and VC isn’t the best form of institution to build such companies in the long-run. This is the reason why I recently started talking about importance of community driven startup accelerator. In my opinion, sustainable startup ecosystem requires special type of people whose main objective is purely to build remarkable companies for the community they belong to, not to extract maximum financial result from portfolio companies.

I understand YC and 500 Startups have a similar objective and they are successful but I’m not referring to that kind of accelerators. I’m talking about raise of different breed, more individual driven accelerator/investor/supporter like Gotham Gal being a good example. As her husband explains, Gotham Gal invests in businesses that make sense to her, and decision isn’t based on financial expectation. If we could institutionalize those type of people and turn them into some sort of accelerator form, we can build remarkable companies in a slightly different way and do it in the long-run.

I do not have a concrete idea for what it is just yet, but I will have better understanding as I gain my experience at VC. So expect me to come up with some accelerator-ish experiments this year.

Startup Weekend Kyoto Kickoff

Startup Weekend Kyoto is officially kicking off. This time the SW event is happening in Fukuoka, Sendai, Okinawa, and all participants are eligible for larger Global Startup Battle. What’s even more exciting is a list of benefits given by the SW as below.

The Computer Science Education Fund

The Computer Science Education Fund

Although it’s not entirely required for startup entrepreneurs to learn how to program, I believe it’s a huge plus for them not only that they can more efficiently communicate with programmers and engineers but also that doing so could be the only choice to survive a crisis like CTO leaving. I really think this kind of movement is important and wish other cities follow the trend.

Startup Weekend Kyoto


Startup Weekend is coming to Kyoto again!

This time we’ll be giving discount to students. I will participate as a mentor (as always) so register and get your ticket at Doorkeeper now.

Startup Weekend Kyoto Nov 2013 – Schedule

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Nov 15
  •  Registration Starts
  •  Dinner & Networking
  •  Welcome & Speakers
  •  Pitches Start
  •  Attendees vote for the top ideas
  •  Teams start forming and discussing ideas
  •  Start to formalize teams and take an inventory of skills. Be honest, and direct about what resources and skills are needed for the weekend. You may stay and work as late as the venue will allow


Nov 16
  •  Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee
  •  Teams formed and setting up workspace for the weekend
  •  Lunch
  •  Call for needs & skills
  •  Coaches help teams one-on-one. They are here to help!
  •  Dinner
  •  Mid weekend check-in, status reports, call for help
  •  Finished for the day. You may stay and work as late as the venue will allow


Nov 17
  •  Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee
  •  Call for help (this is self motivated, so don’t be shy)
  •  Lunch
  •  Coaches arrive… ASK QUESTIONS
  •  Gut check. Start prepping for presentations
  •  Dinner
  •  Judging & awards
  •  Wrapup
  •  Go home!

If You Aren’t Technical, Get Technical

If You Aren’t Technical, Get Technical

I know a couple of non-technical founders who were forced to learn how to code when their CTO left company for unfortunate reasons. Those founders not only kept existing service up and running without any downtime but also rewrote code from scratch if necessary.

Some even did entire migration from on-premise hardware servers to AWS cloud just by himself, which includes Linux configuration, application deployment and so on. Again, those founders are not technical, but they did it anyway just to keep their company alive. So nothing is impossible.