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Workshop At Kyoto Startup Summer School

Kyoto Startup Summer School (KS3) is the program offered by Kyoto Institute of Technology Design Lab (KIT D-Lab). I’ve been teaching the students at KIT since 2016. This is my second time conducting an Arduino workshop at KS3.

You must be wondering why CEO of AI startup is teaching hardware stuff. For those who know the history of Hacarus, it’s no wonder. For those who don’t, let me explain a bit.

Hacarus was founded as a hardware/IoT startup in January 2014. The company used to make a smart kitchen scale product back then. We shifted our focus to software/AI at the end of 2016. Our knowledge about hardware is still fully utilized when we develop AI solution for embedded system (ARM based computer) and FPGA today.

Plus, my engineering background is somewhat a mixture of hardware and low-level software programming. When I joined Sony as a freshman out of college, I was assigned to work on development of the graphics library for PlayStation GPU, which requires a deep knowledge about hardware, particularly how GPU works, and programming with microcode.

Long story short, I’m glad that KIT D-Lab asked me to do another workshop this year as well. The students were quite diverse in terms of nationality just like last year. Many from Europe, some from SE Asia and Middle East, and the rest from Japan. I’m always happy to teach students where Japanese are minority.

Students running their first Arduino program using LED. (Credit to KIT D-Lab)

The content of workshop is similar to previous year, but I added a couple of new contents as below because I wanted the students to not only know how to make things with Arduino but also understand the impact it can make in the real world.

  1. Introduction (60 min)
  2. Impact of IoT & Arduino (30 min)
  3. Arduino workshop (90 min)
  4. Real examples of hardware startup (30 min)
  5. Q&A (30 min)

As you might guess, delivering 4 hours lecture just by myself requires a good amount of preparation. At the same time, the reward you get from the students is overwhelmingly satisfying. There is nothing more satisfying as a lecturer than seeing people say “Oh, it worked! Now I understand how to make things. It’s easier than I thought. I get it.”

For the past 3 years teaching at KIT, I’ve already seen a couple of students who started a hardware & IoT startup or joined a startup working on them. Few explicitly said to me it was my lecture that triggered their jump into startup world.

Starting a company or joining a startup involve a different class of risk (I wouldn’t say it’s a greater risk) as compared to joining an established corporation especially when you don’t have any prior work experience. However, I’m a big believer of “Fail Fast, Fail Cheap” concept.

When you are in early 20’s, technically there is nothing you could lose but there are plenty of stuff you can learn even if your first startup fails. You failed on your first startup? So what? You have 70+ years to experiment different startup ideas. Just keep trying until you hit a working idea. Oh, by the way, I’m assuming you will live and work until 100 years old. 🙂

I’m 42 years old. Hacarus is my 4th startup. I finally feel like I know what I’m doing now. It took me 16 years to get there since I co-founded my first startup when I was 26.

Kenshin Fujiwara

CEO of Hacarus. Holds a Computer Science degree from California State University. Joined Sony Computer Entertainment and worked on graphics library development for PlayStation GPU. Because Hacarus develops Sparse Modeling based AI, which does not rely on GPU, my knowledge about GPU is not fully utilized. Interested in adopting AI to medical and manufacturing industries.