Decoding the Entrepreneurial DNA of Japan's Youngest Start-up Founder

Click to read the exhilarating journey of Akiko Naka, from Goldman Sachs to Facebook to becoming a start-up magnate.

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In countries around the world, there is a system of everything happening according to the so-called “biological clock.” A lot of emphasising is laid on everything happening physiologically to be in perfect consonance with time. While there are some who adhere to the rules of the body and the age, there are some who don’t. Akiko Naka is a quintessential example of the latter.

Wantedly Twitter, Akiko Naka Official Twitter

Japan is a country that is obsessed with timelines. Everything in their culture has to be done to the T. Amidst such cultural parities or disparities, Naka hopped and jumped several stones and became the epitome of women entrepreneurship in Japan.

The Japanese Wonder Women Entrepreneur

Born to academician parents, Akiko Naka had a strict upbringing but her parents always encouraged her to follow the chords of her heart. She was always encouraged to indulge in productive activities rather than play video games. She graduated from the prestigious Kyoto University and soon after landed a job in Goldman Sachs in 2008. 2008 was also the time when the stock market saw the worst crash. With high employee turnover rate and companies falling apart, Naka decided to quit her job and then again landed one in Facebook, Japan. Not content with working for the top player companies in the mark, after a while, she even left Facebook and went on to discover her dream of working in the internet industry. It was not an easy decision though. “Loss aversion” was the state of her mind, she said in a speech during Slush 2016. It is the tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses versus acquiring gains.

Entrepreneurial Vacuum in Japan

In India, start-ups emerge every day and the founders are straight out of college or are still studying in universities. However, Japan has a weak entrepreneurial ecosystem. According to the Approved Index, Japan is the 4th least entrepreneurial country in the world. The fundamental trend has always been to graduate from a prestigious university and then look for a job in top-notch companies to give your career a good start. So even though Akiko Naka became an entrepreneur at 34, an age very late to the Indian or American standards since by they have multiple start-up experiences, from the Japanese perspective, it is glorious and revolutionary.

What is Wantedly?

Wantedly, established by Akiko Naka in 2010 was taken to the Tokyo Stock Exchange last year, making Naka one of the youngest women heading a company listed on it. Wontedly Inc. in her own words is a “social network service for millennials.” It can be called as Japan’s answer to LinkedIn which was established two decades ago in the United States. Today, Wantedly boasts of an impressive 20,000 clientele including SONY, Panasonic and IKEA, 1.2 million active users and people in 19 countries are visiting Wantedly’s website.

Naka shared in an event, “If you are gifted, then you need to give back to the society.” She, of course, lives by these words every day.


Bhavya Kaushal

Written By

I am a work-in-progress writer and human being. An English graduate from Delhi University, writing is my passion and currently, I am Entrepreneur India's start-up reporter. I love covering start-ups and weaving their stories into unforgettable tales with the power of ink!