title_willfu_2A

PROFILE
Kentaro Kuroishi is managing director of WILLFU, a company that provides a support service for students wanting to open their own business with ‘QAGO’, an entrepreneur talk event, ‘WILLFU STARTUP ACADEMY’, a business school for students and ‘WILLFU STARTUP VILLAGE’, a share house for student entrepreneurs.

A platform to support serious student entrepreneurs is essential

‘Student entrepreneur’ is a word I’ve been hearing often lately.

News of Mr. Murakami, head of LIVESENSE, starting up his business while he was a student to be the youngest man to list his company on the stock exchange may be still fresh in your mind.

 

However, generally speaking the success rate of student entrepreneurs is still quite low, and it is difficult for large-scale business ventures to be cultivated.

 

Today I interviewed the managing director of WILLFU, Mr. Kuroishi, the man who created his system in order to solve this problem.

His ‘WILLFU STARTUP VILLAGE’ is a concept share house created with the objective of giving support to student entrepreneurs, and operates the house with various entrepreneur and investment advisors including those with stock exchange experience.

Today I spoke to the project and business manager Mr. Kuroishi and 2 tenants living in the house.

 

If you’re a student thinking about opening your own business, please read on.

 

willfu-interview003 

Student entrepreneur share house manager Mr .Kuroishi (right), and tenants Mr. Osawa(middle) and Ms. Okubo (left). I was impressed with Mr. Kuroishi’s attitude towards the students throughout the interview.

 
---Firstly, why did you want to help student entrepreneurs?
Mr. Kuroishi 

I started WILLFU because I felt it was necessary to increase the number of entrepreneurs in Japan in order to achieve national growth. When researching the pasts of entrepreneurs who have succeeded in business I noticed that a large number of them had started their companies while still students, and I decided to support student entrepreneurs because I believe that such experience when younger leads to successful careers. 

 
---So why did you start a share house?
Mr. Kuroishi

There are 3 reasons. Firstly, because the success rate of student entrepreneurs was low compared to those with more experience. I want to increase this statistic by creating an environment in which students can periodically get feedback from managers and investors already in the business. Secondly, while they are student entrepreneurs, there are many costs involved in establishing a company such as office and tax consultant fees. I want to cut costs by providing a share house that comes with office space for 37,000 a month. Furthermore, with the cooperation of the tax agents we are able to offer cheaper consultations. Lastly, there still aren’t many serious student entrepreneurs out there. If you start your own business your school friends might think you’re pretty amazing, but within the student entrepreneur community you’re more likely to be asked, ‘Man, you’re still messing around with that stuff?’. By making a place for serious students only I hope to raise the bar and stimulate their growth.

---I see. What kind of people can students get feedback from specifically?
Mr. Kuroishi 

The share house was created with an investment from CyberAgent boss Susumu Fujita, so we receive feedback mainly from the CyberAgent Group company president and also often from successful entrepreneurs like President Tsuruoka from BASE, which recently experienced rapid growth with funds of 200,000,000 yen; Mr. Suda, the CFO of AERIA who has had 3 companies on the stock exchange; Mr. Ijichi, the CEO of Creww, who experienced rapid growth with his 5th company by a capital alliance with Nippon TV. Students can also get feedback from investment bankers such as Mr. Ono, the man in charge of CyberAgent’s Fujita fund; Mr. Kinoshita, Skyland Ventures’s partner and Mr. Shimizu from Nippon Venture Capital.  

 
---What kind of support do you provide specifically?
Mr. Kuroishi

Once a month we invite an established entrepreneur to the house to check out the student’s state of progress and share their worries and concerns about opening a business, with the student’s being able to freely ask for advice on any matter.

 
---It sounds like a great program! It must be reassuring to the students to have such support.
Mr. Kuroishi 

That is true. With this environment in place I’d love for students who are thinking, ‘I seriously want to open my own business!’, ‘I want to make the most of this service!’ or even ‘I want to start a business that will solve society’s problems!’ to drop by. 

 

I want to create a service that is used worldwide

 
---Mr. Osawa, you’re a student at the moment and you’ve already launched your own service. Can you tell us little more about this service?
Mr. Osawa

I created a Q&A mobile application called aorb. It’s a simple application where one can answer a contributor’s 2-choice question posted with their photo, so it’s fun to ask questions you don’t usually get to ask people and because it’s anonymous you’ll definitely get a response. It’s also easy to collect responses. At the moment we have a 100% response rate within 24-hours so it’s an application for quickly getting responses. You can even ask questions you can’t ask Google (laughs).

---That sounds really interesting! Why did you decide on a web-based business?
Mr. Osawa

Ever since I got hooked on NicoNico Douga as a teenager I was really into the internet and it started from there I guess. I thought of the idea last summer, found like-minded friends on vidicon and it took 4 months to develop. This job involves playing with the same application day in and day out, so if I didn’t have an abnormal fondness for it I wouldn’t be able to continue doing it.

 
---Have you always wanted to start your own business?
Mr. Osawa

Rather than starting my own business, I wanted to create a service that everyone would use. Starting a business is one way to do that, and I started to become aware of the entrepreneurial world. My new objective is to make it into application that is used worldwide.

 
---Why are you living in this share house?
Mr. Osawa

I actually found out about it from a post made my Mr. Kuroishi on Facebook. Because I’m an entrepreneur I really liked the idea of an environment in which I can work for 24 hours without separating my work and private life. The house mentors was also a large appeal to me, so I moved in.

willfu-interview003

Tenants Ms. Okubo (left) and Mr. Osawa (right) say things you wouldn’t expect from students.

I want to solve world poverty through social work.

 
---Ms. Okubo, what kind of business are you working on?
Ms. Okubo 

I actually spent time volunteering in an orphanage in Vietnam. From there I went on to university, then worked as a Cambodian health and education aid worker. I wasn’t building schools or anything, which can be built straight away if you have the money, but working at creating a better life for these children through knowledge and wisdom, teaching them how to wash their hands and other ways to ward off malaria. It grew from there and now it’s become my main objective.

---You are currently taking leave from university and have moved from Kansai to Tokyo to live in this share house. What lead you to do this?
Ms. Okubo 

In order to investigate what I wanted to do, I thought Tokyo would be the best place to get money, information and other people on board. I moved into this share house more for Mr. Kuroishi than its facilities or anything else. He really helped me by looked over my ideas and I was able to organise my own thoughts and a business plan to go with it.

---It’s amazing that you’ve taken leave from school. It’s quite difficult to get into uni life, how did you fare?
Ms. Okubo

I’ve always had an interest in the way society works and studied properly. Test grades in the Law Department are really important so I turned up to every class. Also university was so different from middle school and high school. I was able to come in contact with many different sets of values and my mind was stimulated so much. I was a very important place to me.

willfu-interview001 

Everyone was at ease and had a good time during the interview.

---Lastly, a message to our readers?
Mr. Kuroishi 

Students in university thinking about starting up a business, or those who already have, should at least come over and check the house out. Whether you move in here or not, I want to support student entrepreneurs as much as I can.

Mr. Osawa 

I want someone really passionate about their goals, whatever their field, to move in. I think that such enthusiasm can encourage new motivation.

Ms. Okubo  

It’d be so much fun with people of different fields living here, whatever that field may be.

willfu-interview004

Mr. Osawa and Ms. Okubo spoke so steadily about their ideas it was hard to believe they were still students, and this left a deep impression on me. Mr. Kuroishi was also impressive with his passion for wanting to provide a complete program for these students and his realistic, objective ideas.

 

WILLFU STARTUP VILLAGE boasts an environment in which tenants can get motivated in their abilities and make use of the share house facilities. There are currently 7000 students trying their hand at business, and 140, 000 students thinking about it. It would be a waste to keep your bright ideas all to yourself.

 

I, the interviewer, am also a student myself, and throughout the interview I found that I could empathise with these students a lot. Talking with them made me realize that having courage to take the first step is essential in achieving one’s dreams.
 

 

It’s no dream that one day this house will raise an entrepreneur onto the world’s stage. This a a place that makes hearts beat in hope and expectation is right here.
 
 
1175356_624575644248826_372582432_n 
Author/Yuta Emoto
Tokyo Sharehouse editor. Loves new things and experiences personal growth everyday. Growing a little too much upwards and stands at 188 cm in height.
 

Related Post
PROFILEDaisuke Miura of Share Design. Former rugby man who has played at Hanazono stadium, an opportunity every high school rugby player longs for. Currently working mainly in share house man...
A day in a share house “First house Mizonokuchi 100+a” Where should I live next year? It is a season to prepare a coming year, and not only from Tokyo, people from outside Toky...
Lives interwoven We live in an age where it’s easy to travel anywhere. I believe that this is because we do not have to jump over the same hurdles to get to other places in the world as ...