Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nikola Pavesic (Croatia)
Startup for startups
We found a unique recruitment service on Twitter. They provide their services mainly to Japanese startups, and most of its staff members are non-Japanese. In other words, non-Japanese recruiters support Japanese startups. We wanted to thank them and got really interested in their idea. The name of the recruitment service is called “JUSTA”, which was launched by a gentleman from Croatia with the support of Red Brick Ventures, a venture company from Tokyo.
We tweeted that we want to interview them and shared the URL of the article which covered their activities. Soon after that, we received a “mention” from their Twitter account and it said, “Please interview us!”
Then we met at a cafe in Harajuku and had a lot of fun together because he is a really fun guy with a great team. And we felt hugely cheered up by his words.
What did he say? – Let’s have a read!
Changing recruitment system, supporting ecosystem
Startups are very dynamic. All the startups come up with very useful things to make our life easier and often they need to hire people instantly. But the recruiting process in Japan is quite slow so we wanted to change the recruitment system in Japan and we wanted to support startups and co-build the startup ecosystem here. We want to be the person that adjusts the room temperature to make the plants grow well. That’s our goal.
I started to support Japanese startups more than a year ago, in April 2014. And we launched our product last August by allowing people to apply for jobs and allowing companies to post their job openings. It’s now out of beta version, which means we’re done testing it. We recently introduced our full product with payment options and plans which make it possible to promote your jobs, promote your communities and build up new startup communities.
Now, we have over 100 clients. Those are mostly Japanese companies. On the other hand, our candidates are mainly Japanese and some of them are bilingual in Japanese/English. We also have foreigners who live in Japan and are already very integrated within the culture. They know the Japanese language and they are very skilled engineers, designers or product managers. They’ve been in Japan for a long time and they want to work in the Japanese startup environment so we want to promote it to them as well.
One of the reasons I launched JUSTA is because, in my personal job hunts throughout my life, I used to get emails from LinkedIn or other similar services that would say, “This is the perfect opportunity for you!”, but actually it wouldn’t be a good opportunity for me at all. So we wanted to improve the process of targeting and matching the right jobs to the right talented people.
The most important thing is: we allow you to do that at a very low cost with JUSTA. Recruitment is very expensive in Japan, but we are finding ways to lower the cost for the startups who usually don’t have enough resources for hiring the traditional way.
I used to run a startup in the United Nations
Our main goal is to encourage young people to work at startups, consider working at startups or consider alternative careers to traditional expectations in Japan. Big companies are great, but it would be a wonderful opportunity for young people, students, people who get their first job to try and work in a very dynamic atmosphere, in a very fast growing environment where they can learn a lot of different skills. We believe it will be very helpful for their future career.
I used to be an attorney, then I started to work for a big project management initiative at the United Nations’ office in Tokyo (UNU). It was 2011 and I stayed there for 2 and a half years. When I was working on this huge IT initiative for the UN, I learned how much you can do with technology, how amazing it is. I wanted to change how the UN works and bring concepts of real-time accountability and total transparency to life in that organization. I always think how I want to improve everything and challenge everything.
Actually my job at the UN was a bit like running a startup in a particular environment of this huge bureaucratic organization. Building a small team to work on big projects, working on very dynamic issues and trying to create something revolutionary. That’s how I got involved in IT. I’ve learned that you can grow faster and you would be able to compete with big companies even if you have a very small team. It’s very hard, but it’s possible for you to do it. This is the beauty of technology and startups. The gap between big and small is actually very easy to bridge.
After the UN experience, I entered Tokyo’s startup community and learned about many possibilities to improve the community and that is exactly how I decided to support startups here.
There is a lot of capital in Japan and it is still a very rich country, still the third biggest economy in the world. There’s a lot of venture capital, a lot of money to invest in great ideas. There’s a lot of great ideas because of the Japanese education system and the great tradition of invention. In addition, for example, the salaries of Japanese engineers are quite low compared to those of engineers in Silicon Valley, which gives Japan a good competitive advantage.
We want to bring all these things together and enable people to find each other. VCs to find startups, talented people to find startups, startups to find capital and people… There is a great possibility to connect all of them. As I told you, everything’s going to grow faster if you build the ecosystem. And the startup landscape in Japan will be very different a year from now; hopefully also including many more women. This aspect of Japan has to rapidly improve.
Japan is still GREAT
I guess Japanese people don’t realize how good their image in the world is and how good of a reputation Japan has. For example, in Europe, everyone thinks that everything coming from Japan is great; cameras, cars, mobile phones, fashion, design… everything from Japan is just great quality and this is the image that was built in the last 50-60 years.
Every time, when I go to San Francisco, everyone is asking me about Japanese startups. Like “How many venture companies are there in Japan?” “What products are created in their market?” “Are there any startups in Japan?” “How is their community?” “Are there any venture capitalists and angel investors?”. They know the Japanese are very innovative because of its history. But they don’t know anything about NEW startups and new products. They can find some articles in “Tech In Asia” or similar English-speaking media, but there is no place where they can see everything about what’s happening on the Japanese startup scene.
That’s why JUSTA offers full bilingual service – even though most of our clients/candidates are Japanese – to showcase the Japanese startups to the world.
People in the world think Japan is “crazy” in a good way. Japanese arts, fashion, design and culture are unique. They want to know more about those things. So they expect Japan to produce crazy things because Japan is the future. Japan has been always a place where other people look up to as an example of the country of amazing success and transformation.
But Japanese companies are very modest. They don’t realize their value. So there should be a better way to show what’s happening here, all the good things happening in Japan, to the world. They would have huge success abroad. If you show it outside of Japan, then suddenly it would be booming because of its good quality and usefulness. That is why we are trying to showcase what’s happening in Japan to the world. Promotion is important. We want to show good Japanese products and ideas to the world.
No excuse for failure in foreign market
There are always obstacles to promoting your product in different countries and every obstacle has to be surpassed. Some of our Japanese clients are not so good in English and we want to support them, as maybe, they want to go out to the world. They have to find a structure to promote themselves which will help them to find partners in Silicon Valley, Berlin, Tel Aviv, or wherever. And this goes both ways as the companies and startups abroad, who want to come to Japan, need to find people who have vast knowledge about the Japanese market.
We don’t think language is so big of an obstacle. It would be an obstacle, but it’s not an excuse for not to be successful abroad.
For example, 500 Startups, a famous seed accelerator from Silicon Valley, invested in a few startups in Tokyo already. If there’s a good product, it will eventually come out.
An obstacle can easily be turned into a big business opportunity. You can see that the translation is a very big factor in Japan and that’s why some Japanese startups that work in translation – “Gengo” comes to mind – have a sizeable success. They just think of the translation industry opportunities for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
It’s not a goal to build empire companies anymore. Even if you build big companies, the goal is to build new type of companies like Google or Facebook that reinvest in the community. You grow a company and invest in new companies and that’s how the ecosystem is created. It happens in Silicon Valley, but in Japan, sometimes you see cases where people who have succeeded don’t support new ideas. But the situation is getting better. We’re on the good way.
Have passion, believe in yourself
It’s interesting to see how different people have different reasons for joining startups. But there is always the similar element that everyone has – it’s PASSION. Passion for what they do and what they make. Whatever you do, you have to believe in it and think that you will definitely make the best product ever. And you always have to keep changing and improving it. I want to share my passion with people in these fast growing environments. You have to keep going. It’s hard but it’s good. And don’t be scared of risks, believe in yourself.
If we build and run startups and a strong, connected startup ecosystem here, things may change. They may change rather fast.
Multinational team gives support to startups!
What is Tokyo to you?
Tokyo is my home now.
I’ve lived in six countries so far – Italy, England, Switzerland, Tanzania, Croatia, which is my home country, and Japan – in past 12 years, but I’ve never been anywhere so long as I live in Tokyo now. I go home on holidays but I feel “I’m coming home!” when I fly back to Tokyo. It’s a really strange feeling for me.
Tokyo is a good place to run a startup from, but we want to make it even better. We want to make Tokyo the best place to run startups from!