APU Startup Program: Alumni Entrepreneurs Return to Share their Wisdom


Oct 22, 2018

To support students serious about starting their own businesses, President Haruaki Deguchi launched the APU Startup Program, also known as the Deguchi School. President Deguchi is himself an entrepreneur, having cofounded the Lifenet Insurance Company, and he personally oversees the program. The APU Startup Program is a practical extracurricular initiative that aims to develop APU students into entrepreneurs who can succeed both in Japan and overseas.

The program’s second event was held on Tuesday, October 2, 2018. President Deguchi opened the event, then handed it over to three alumni that started their own businesses in Oita Prefecture.

First was Sho Sato ’06, the President of Huber., Inc. Huber operates a guide-matching platform that matches overseas visitors who want to learn about Japan and Japanese people seeking international exchange. He talked about the current state of his business since its launch. Sato advised, “Even if you are clear about what type of company you want to build, have a large source of funding, and business connections, you must have a strong anchor that lets you determine if it is really the right move,” and, “I hope that all of you who are currently students are thinking about how to bring joy to as many people as possible and that appreciate the time you have.”

Next to speak was Yuto Kinoshita ’15, President and CEO of IDM, Inc. Kinoshita engages in marketing and promotion research using influencers active on social media and in other areas. IDM also develops education programs for elementary and junior high school students using drones. Kinoshita discussed financial topics key to startups, such as the capital needed to start a business and management funds. Also, he explained how he himself returned to Beppu to start his business to show that there are many different paths aside from getting a job with an already existing company. It was his ambition to set the example of creating a business in Oita as one possible path.

The final talk was from Koji Morioka ’12, the President of Renobeya, Inc. Morioka is involved in real estate, tackling the issue of vacant housing. His company renovates vacant houses into new residences and subleases properties by renovating and leasing them to new residents while paying lease fees to the property owners. Morioka encouraged the students, saying, “The goal is not just to start a business. That is only the means to an end. Think hard about why you want to start a business,” and, “I believe the primary job of a company president is to inspire your customers and employees. If you all start businesses and become business owners, do work that inspires people.”

After the lectures by the three alumni, a special lecture was given by Dr. Daniel Okimoto, the co-chair of the Silicon Valley Japan Platform and professor emeritus at Stanford University. Okimoto talked about the importance of diversity, saying that one reason Silicon Valley succeeded is that it brought in people with talent from around the world. He also encouraged the students by saying, “Do not fear mistakes or avoid risks; taking risks and failing again and again can lead to success.”

A Q&A session with the alumni and Dr. Okimoto ended the event.

The 3rd APU Startup Program event is scheduled to take place on November 6.

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