From studying in the California State University to beginning his career at Sony Computer Entertainment, we’ll be interviewing none other than Hacarus’s CEO, Kenshin Fujiwara. Sharing experience of more than 10 startup companies and culminated years of business knowledge, both domestic and international, today we are hoping to further deepen our understanding of Kenshin’s values and beliefs.
ITALIAN QUATRO is an izakaya/restaurant that serves Italian cuisine, ranging from pizzas, kinds of pasta, lasagna, fried chicken, salads, etc. It is known for its freshly baked pizzas at reasonable prices which are cooked in a kettle pizza stove giving the crust a smoky flavor.
If you’d like to visit the restaurants yourself, please see further information regarding the restaurant at the end of our interview!
On Living and Learning
How do you learn from being a CEO?
Well, from making mistakes of course! I made hundreds of mistakes both big and small. That’s the only way you can continually learn how to become a good CEO. It’s a process. It’s like Ichiro (Famous Japanese baseball player). You need to be in the box and keep swinging.
That’s how you get on the path to becoming the best baseball player – that’s his saying right?
If you count all these companies that I co-founded, actually, it’s more than 10 companies. So I’m only picking up the good, successful ones- Hacarus is my 4th success. This is something I don’t talk about very often!
Speaking of failures, what do you think was the biggest failure you had in your career so far? A sort of story that you would present at FailCon if you had the opportunity?
Hiring. It’s always bringing the wrong people to the company. It’s very hard to fix if you have these kinds of people on board. So I always say, my biggest mistake is not running out of money- because you can always get money from somewhere else right? But if you bring the wrong people to the company, it’s very difficult to fix later on. With the wrong people, you never get the right business nor the right customers. The company starts moving in the wrong direction.
Hiring. It’s always bringing the wrong people to the company.
ーKenshin speaking on the topic of failure
What made them the wrong people?
I didn’t take a good look at whether or not there was a culture fit. That was the number one reason. I was hiring people and just looking at their skillset and work history – that’s only half the story.
Honestly speaking, I didn’t think the culture mattered much when I started out as an entrepreneur. I understand the importance of company culture now, but when I was doing a startup in my 20s I didn’t think of it even a bit.
So how about now that you’ve had that experience and how you choose employees- what do you think has changed comparing those experiences? In your process of choosing people?
These days, I always put the cultural aspect as the most important part of the startup as a CEO. I always choose people or talents who can contribute something to the corporate culture that I think is right so that’s the highest priority to me at the moment.
These days, I always put the cultural aspect as the most important part of the startup as a CEO.
What made you come to that decision?
The reason this came to be is, I’m getting old. If you get married, have a family, you start paying attention to what is surrounding you at home and at work- the things that really matter. Culture matters a lot. It’s one of the reasons why I came back to Kansai to start Hacarus.
Kenshin’s Values as CEO
Now that we’ve talked about failures, what are some of your accomplishments? Let’s put a number on it, top 3!
My number one accomplishment is that I’m a lot funnier now. I’m trying to be a funny guy and I think I’m doing alright! I say this because I really wasn’t funny at all before. When I was doing my startups in my 20s and 30s I was a CTO. I was a tech guy…. and not fun. I changed my personality a lot to become more funny and charismatic in some way. That’s my #1 accomplishment over the past 20 years.
My number two accomplishment would be that now I can tell for sure what kind of things can make or break you- what can make you a failed CEO or startup, I don’t know how to become super successful, but I know how to be a failed person. I know where the holes are. Because I can see the holes in front of me, I can avoid it. I know how to navigate my ships and see the iceberg from a far distance without using a captain’s telescope.
Number three, well, it’s not exactly an accomplishment, but a change in vision that I am now working towards. In the beginning, I was only working on tech stuff and not thinking about the impact which I- or a startup can make to society.
Of course, I have an interest in life sciences, medical, biotech and AI for medical purposes. I’d consider that my third achievement, putting the focus on a serious topic for the benefit or society and future generations.
I think our audience would really appreciate the trials and tribulations you faced before coming to where you are now and how that’s influenced your present and accomplishments! Thank you.
I think all successful CEOs are crazy to some extent – and they’d have to be.
What word describes you best?
Crazy. You have to be crazy enough to make new things. I think all successful CEOs are crazy to some extent – and they’d have to be. The career path of a CEO is a tough one. And many people have this infatuation with being an entrepreneur not understanding what it takes that not everyone can be one. It’s not considered a typical “normal” job and a lot harder than one would expect. Normal persons can’t be a CEO. You have to be crazy enough to make disruptions to any society. Take a look at Elon Musk and his Neuralink plan. In comparison, I’m not as crazy so I have to be crazier!
More about Kenshin
What is your one day schedule like? With having to have a wide range of knowledge and so many responsibilities? How do you learn as a CEO?
Being a CEO for the past 5+ years, one thing I enjoy the most is the fact that CEO needs to be good at everything ranging from product development, marketing, legal to sales, hiring and even firing.
My work schedule for a typical weekday goes like this:
9:00 – 10:00 Read online news and share a couple of important ones with the team
10:00 – 11:00 Get updates from the technical team about ongoing projects and give feedback
11:00 – 12:00 Write follow-up emails to prospective customers
12:00 – 13:00 Lunch with teammates
13:00 – 14:00 Face-to-face meeting with a prospective customer
14:00 – 15:00 Review legal documents and important contracts
15:00 – 16:00 Face-to-face meeting with another prospective customer
16:00 – 17:00 Work on proposal materials for new customers and partners
17:00 – 18:00 Skype interview with candidates
18:00 – 20:00 Dinner with candidates or customers (rarely)
The same story goes to sales, HR, marketing, leadership, etc. Therefore, I have at least one or two books I always refer to- or, a couple of mentors I can talk to whenever I face my lack of knowledge. I believe an excellent CEO is an excellent learner who has the willingness to become a master at everything.
What other CEOs or other people do you look up to?
At the moment, they are founders of CEO of Kyoto based company who are running the same companies for more than 100s of years – such as prior CEO of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata. He’s one of the people I always looked up to because he’s always thinking different ways trying to be unique and not chasing competitors like Sony and Microsoft.
I mean look at the product coming from Nintendo all of them are super nice! I always looked up to the CEOs of local companies here. Kyocera. Omron, Shimadzu, and Nintendo.
How do you prepare for industry market change?
Well, you just adjust yourself to a new environment. It just keeps changing right? You know that we’ve been through 2 pivots, major changes at this company already. If the industry changes and the climate changes you just adjust yourself to the environment by introducing new product or services or bringing new talent to the company- that’s the only way to survive.
Vision for the Future
What motivates you to succeed?
Since starting the company my goal has been to extend the human lifespan to 120 years old. And following the birth of my son, I am as motivated as can be to make it a reality. AI is an excellent tool to help us realize this.
One way you can hibernate and just keep sleep for 1000 years and wake up one day with an end up somewhere in space. You’re sleeping for 1000 years without seeing the processes that took place. It’s not fun. You ought to see what’s happening out there, right? To enable that kind of space trip we need to expand our lifespan beyond 120 years old.
Above all, that’s my true motivation. So physical transportation is done by space tech and Elon Musk, but I’m particularly interested in extending human life in space to explore the vastness that is the universe.
ITALIAN QUATRO 四条烏丸店
Media Joy IT Bldg. 662, Karasuma- dori Nishikikoji, Teshimizu- cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8152
Everyday of the week 11:30 am – 2:30 pm; 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm