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Takahiro Hayashi won his first nationwide title in shogi while still in high school and by the age of 22 he was the world amateur champion. His coaches were urging him to turn pro.

But Hayashi wanted to be an entrepreneur, not a shogi player. So in 2009, he found himself in a room with local venture capitalists, presenting a 120-page pitch about his social game firm. The financiers tuned out.

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