It is a rarity for a young person to turn a startup into a corporate success story in Japan, but the nation’s future growth may in fact depend on such youthful entrepreneurs.
Unlike in the United States, where Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates serve as shining examples of such success, Taichi Murakami is not the stereotypical 25-year-old genius. Unlike many his age, he’s had only one dream since he was a child: to become a company president.
The dream came true when he founded Livesense, a job-information service, while a freshman at Tokyo’s Waseda University.
Last October, he listed the firm’s shares on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, becoming the youngest entrepreneur in Japan to do so. His actions stood in clear contrast to the behavior of the nation’s usual 20-somethings.
Due to the lingering economic slump, many new graduates feel inclined to work at blue-chip companies that they hope can weather bad times, instead of starting up their own businesses.
“I never had fears about starting a new company,” Murakami told The Japan Times in a recent interview. “I rather have fears about not doing what I want to do.”
Another factor that makes him stand out is the speed of his company’s growth. It took merely six years for the new firm to acquire the financial credentials needed to list on the TSE’s first section.
Livesense has logged constant profit growth since its start in 2006 and expects further growth in the coming years. For 2012, it expected to log a doubling of sales to ¥2.3 billion from 2011. The 2012 figure would amount to 580 times what it made in its first business year, with operating profit also projected to double to ¥1.1 billion.
A total of 21,353 companies had used Livesense services as of the end of September, more than tenfold from the figure three years ago.
“I don’t think my company has achieved success yet,” Murakami said, noting it is still growing.
The young president attributed the speedy growth not just to his business model but also to efforts to improve marketing and services, including cash rewards of up to ¥100,000 for those who land jobs using his services.
“Because of the efforts, we are winning even after more than 100 companies started up similar businesses after our launch,” Murakami said.
He said he is not worried about reports that Internet portal Yahoo plans to offer similar job information services. “We have knowhow and experience. What we will do (to win) is just improve our services,” he said.
Livesense introduced the “affiliate marketing” method to its help-wanted ad portal Jobsense. Under his business model, job-offering firms don’t have to pay an advertising fee unless they succeed in hiring. That translated into sharp cost cuts and boosted the number of companies advertising via Jobsense.
Murakami came up with the idea after having a hard time acquiring part-time jobs while in high school. That was because all of the job information data available was not yet online or listed by magazines, which usually charge a hefty price for advertising such information.
Murakami said his two grandfathers, one of whom runs a print gallery in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, while the other was an executive at a logistics company, played big roles when he became interested in starting his own business.
Asked whether young people today face too many hurdles in launching new businesses, he said starting an Internet company is easier than ever and no longer requires a huge initial investment. He also said young people can solicit funds from venture capitalists looking to be “angel investors.”
“The thing is there are few entrepreneurs here in Japan with good business ideas,” he said.
Murakami aims to expand his business further, but not just for the money.
“I have always hoped to be happy by making other people happy,” he said. “I want to work until I am 80. I just want to work as long as I can.”
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