After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, a group of entrepreneurs got together and worked out what they could do to help in the recovery effort. The result was Project KIBOW, an initiative to bring about immediate assistance and promote change for the future. KIBOW is a coined word combining the Japanese word “kibo” which means “hope,” and the English word “rainbow.”
The person who thought up that word is Kiyoshi Nishikawa, CEO of Internet business incubator company Net Age, which he established in 1998. Born in Tokyo, Nishikawa graduated from Tokyo University with a degree in international relations. Before establishing Net Age, he worked at KDD, Arthur D Little, Budweiser Japan and America Online (AOL).
GaijinPot, together with the Japan Today editor, visited Nishikawa at his office in Daikanyama to hear more.
Tell us about the origin of Project KIBOW.
A few days after the earthquake, a group of us met to decide how we could best help. You’re not going to believe this but we actually met in a wine bar called Earthquake. The members of our group are all powerful and influential in their various fields. KIBOW has been formed to immediately raise money and build a bridge to the world for people who wish to help, but my idea is that KIBOW will be the basis of a vision for a new Japan over the next 20 years.
What is this vision?
I think we will learn to change our lifestyle. In fact, we are already seeing it due to power shortages. I myself already changed and use less lighting and heat and I am still comfortable. After the immediate conservation of power, I see a migration from the country’s current power policy to a new policy to match the lifestyle of the people.
What do you see for the economy?
In the short-term, the economy will be bad. However, I don’t think we will see huge numbers of small and medium-sized companies go bankrupt, as some people think. I believe the government will step in to help those struggling companies.
In the long run, I believe Japanese society can change; the will is there. Japan has been stuck in a rut for two decades. Now, we have a national common goal to rebuild and reform Japan. Young entrepreneurs have a very important role to play in the recovery and revamp of Japan, and this is something I am fostering at Net Age.
How do you go about this?
Net Age is an Internet business incubator. I fund young entrepreneurs who want to start an Internet business. They are typically in their early 20s, university students or new graduates. A successful applicant gets 3 million yen and we receive 15% of that company’s shares. Net Age also provides space in Ebisu and I offer my personal connections and advice.
In March, I met 50 would-be entrepreneurs. Of those, I chose three. By the end of this year, I aim to create 10 new businesses. My criteria are simple – it must be someone who I believe will be a good entrepreneur, and they must have an innovative business idea. I am very direct and honest in turning someone down if I think it is a ridiculous idea. My meetings usually last only 10 minutes. If I’m not convinced by then, I end it.
For more information, visit www.netage.co.jp