When Loren Fykes decided to pursue an Internet startup called Quchy, he made the requisite rounds by meeting all the venture capitalists in Tokyo. Then, he accepted seed investment from Samurai Incubate. Beacon Reports met with Loren to find out why he chose Samurai Incubate, rather than accept an offer from CyberAgent or other potential investors.
Beacon Reports: How did you come to work with Samurai Incubate?
Loren: I took part at a conference in the Fall of 2011 that was attended by Kentaro Sakakibara, the CEO of Samurai Incubate. Afterwards, Sakakibara-san asked me to facilitate communication between Japanese and English companies at a VC summit his firm was organizing in Silicon Valley. He wanted to show America there are some great companies coming out of Japan. I flew to Silicon Valley to represent Samurai Incubate at that summit as the Master of Ceremonies. We took about 15 Japanese companies with us to present before a panel of venture capitalists.
Beacon Reports: You visited the other incubators and accelerators in Tokyo before accepting an offer of investment. Why did you choose Samurai Incubate over the others?
Loren: Many VCs invest only to get a return. I felt Sakakibara-san was investing in my startup because of me and my idea − not only to get a return. I didn’t feel that he had a hidden motive, that he was going to try to get the biggest chunk of my company or squash me into the ground to get his money back. Sakakibara-san was open, honest, sincere and enthusiastic. I felt his was the most honest, transparent conversation I had with an investor. That sold me.
Afterwards, I learned he had already invested in 20 other companies. They were run by a wide range of different people between the ages of 25 and 40. I felt a sense of community and kinship with them.
At the time, Samurai Startup Island − the communal workspace − didn’t exist. But I knew about the plans to build a space where people could go, work and share information. All of that made me think that I should work with Sakakibara-san. So I pulled the trigger in February 2012. Quchy received a ¥4.5 million investment while I became a member of the third gundan. (Within Samuari Incubate’s culture, a gundan represents the regiment to which an entrepreneur-samurai fighter is assigned. Loren received investment from Samurai Incubate’s third fund, so he is a member of the third gundan.)
I came to Startup Island two or three days a week in the beginning to attend the many events they organize. The events were useful and relevant to achieving my goals. I could also meet other entrepreneurs at the events and bounce ideas off them. The biggest learning has come from the events and from other entrepreneurs from within my gundan.
I’ve also contributed to the community by teaching a pitch course and a business English course. Many Japanese entrepreneurs don’t speak English so well. Some were going to pitch events in New York unprepared. Sakakibara-san came up with the idea of my teaching the pitch course and business English course. So I taught my colleagues how to pitch their businesses (in English) to investors for a year, every Friday night between 6:30 to 9:00 PM. That’s how I got to know closely many of the other entrepreneurs.
Beacon Reports: What mentorship have you received?
Loren: Mentorship comes from the events and from Sakakibara-san. Many outside companies come to Startup Island to make presentations on topics such as how to market, build e-commerce platforms and conduct public relations. Many also provide support services to entrepreneurial startups like ours. One company provides shared-office space, for instance. They provide us with a useful network of companies with which we can choose to collaborate. Here, the mentorship is collaborative: Knowledge is created and shared at events. We also share information through Facebook. That’s a huge resource.
Beacon Reports: How does Samurai Incubate compare with other incubators in Tokyo?
Loren: It would be unfair for me to say as I don’t attend or participate often at the others. I have heard that Movida and Open Network Lab both have a strong community where there is camaraderie as well. But, Samurai Incubate feels authentically Japanese to me. Here there is a samurai spirit. I feel more comfortable with that. It’s more “me”.
Loren Fykes is CEO & Founder of Quchy (Endymion K.K.), a location based social media app service that keeps track of and organizes users’ favorite restaurants into easy-to-reference lists. It also allows restaurants and shops to customize communication with users and create membership loyalty programs. He is a US citizen and Harvard graduate who first came to Japan to attend Tokyo University in the mid-1990s. Before starting Quchy in 2011, he worked for Turner International Asia Pacific (as director for business development), Oak Lawn Marketing, Piku Media and ScreenHits. Quchy is backed by Samurai Incubate and other investors. www.quchy.com
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