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Entrepreneurship

Takayuki Miyauchi, Co-founder of Sassor

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With interaction design, service design as his area of speciality, Takayuki has always approached product, software and hardware development from a design perspective. Takayuki co-founded a company, Sassor, which actively develops mobile services along with other products, that caters a user’s characteristic traits or behavior record.

The Asian Entrepreneur is joined by Takayuki today, as we talk about his experiences as an entrepreneur and what he hopes to achieve with Sassor.

What exactly is Sassor?

We are a service design company working in the Internet of Things.From design to hardware engineering we design services for attractive and new user experience.

How did you come up with the idea of Sassor?

Originally, I had been interested in creating the lifelog at home in line of my researches. I had been living with other persons in the form of room sharing, but the power consumption was considerably high although we were either at the laboratory or the office for almost whole day. This was the reason that we created the prototype for analyzing what was caused to make the power consumption very high. Finally, we found out that the server installed at home was the root cause of the high power consumption.

Could you walk us through the process of starting up Sassor?

My co-founder, Shiuchi Ishibashi, was my high school classmate and and we went to the same graduate school and at that time we thought to create a startup. But at the beginning we were just talking that we hoped to do something after the graduation. About few years ago, we applied to the E-idea competition (British Council) for a trial to explore some possibilities, and that resulted in the prototype of Energy Literacy Platform. After that, we brushed it up to become our present service by joining with another program (Open Network Lab) and taking advice from them.

How has it been like managing the business since?

At first, we were planning to release a product for consumer. But we had a big earthquake in Japan, we faced serious shortage of electric power. At that time, our product’s prototype were brought up in media, we were going to product them small-scale and sale it for a limited time by advancing the schedule of development. There were many contacts from restaurants after marketing, we got to know that visualization system of electricity for store takes many costs for implementation and operating, to make matters worse, it has poor usability. So we observed the operation of the staffs at the stores which had given us inquiries, performed hearings among them, made prototypes for the stores for testing and verifying, and repeated several times such processes to finally produce the current shape of service.

Did you find anything particularly difficult during the startup?

We had to develop a prototype of our service without any income, but we were very much supported by our friends around us.

How was the initial reaction from the consumers?

The reaction of the market was very positive. Actually they got a system of visualization less expensive and easier to use which had been conceived to be very expensive. Those who inquired in th early stage promptly introduced it.

 Do you face a lot of competition in this industry?

There have been competitors, however, the existing system is expensive and inconvenient to use. What we will do is to enhance the quality of daily services and to achieve the reduction in operating cost for the customer satisfaction.

What can you tell us about the industry?

We have been providing the market of IoT with the services but are still in the early stage. Hardware and net gadget are getting increased, however, there have probably been a few which are absolutely necessary services for daily life.

How have you managed to stay relevant in this industry?

The prospects of IoT are still young and can be expanded in the future. We see making things will get closer to your life, and you’ll be surrounded more and more by various loT devices. Because it is simply exiting for us to put ourselves in such an environment.

If you could, would you change anything about your approach?

If so, what?We actually began to learn manufacture after we started, so we had hard times before we successfully made a product. I wish I would have learned more about the manufacturing methods much earlier.

What do you think about startups in Asia?

Recently, We feel start-up venturing abroad aggressively and the team also has become international, so we perceive that nationality of the founding of the company has been unrelated.

What are some personal principles or personal values that guide you and your career?

We do every work from stylize to hardware design by ourselves, carry out service development with taking care about usage of the entire service design.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

Originally, we were studying into the loT field. But if you stay within the laboratory and just keep on studying, you seldom have a chance to have somebody use the stuff you’ve made up.We started to think we should make the stuff into products that can be used by many people; the products we made as we thought them fun and useful, that is why we decided to startup a business.

What do you think are the most important things entrepreneurs should keep in mind?

To believe my own vision no matter what the others may say about it.

In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?

To materialise your own vision, to believe your own instinct and to have a trustful partner.

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there?

When you have a vision that you want to materialise, you can even enjoy difficulties. When you have a trustful partner, your agonies would be halved. smarter than you are. However if you keep an open mind, listen to as many smart people, and then act on it, then you will succeed.

One common trait of very successful and smart pioneers is that if you can get timeshare with them, they will impart invaluable advice freely. Accept the advice with humility. Note they are most likely smarter than you are. If they affirm what you sense then you are on the right track. If they do not, then something needs to be re-callibarated. Do this soon. And succeed.

 

Connect
Website: http://www.sassor.co.jp
Personal Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/takayuki.miyauchi
Twitter: www.twitter.com/t_38
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/takayuki-miyauchi/1b/586/b4b

Entrepreneurship

The 6 Habits of Amazing Leaders

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Great leaders all seem to have this commanding and magnetic force about them that follows them in and out of each room they enter. It’s that something that you can’t quite put your finger on. Maybe it’s charisma, ambition, drive or personality. In many ways, it’s probably a little bit of all those things, which is why great leaders always seem to be the total package.

But it’s also accurate to say that these effective leaders didn’t just wake up one day with all of these skills and expertise. On the contrary: any good leader knows that, in order to be effective, you need to make time for personal growth and develop good habits that hone these skills.

There are many lists out there with great suggestions, but we’ve put together the six most important habits of truly effective leaders.

1. Lead without title.

Some of the best leaders out there got themselves started by stepping up in the work place and self-leading. Having personal initiative is the key to personal professional growth and turning your methods and attitudes into a productive and, at times, commanding presence. This doesn’t mean arrogance. In fact, it really means the opposite.

As you continue to grow and develop as a leader — and actually gain titles — it’s important to remember where you came from. In this way, you can identify other individuals under your leadership that exhibit the same type of self-motivation you did. Be understanding and welcome failure as you lead. If you don’t get caught up on your title in the workplace, you’ll foster an environment that encourages inquiry and innovation.

2. Take responsibility.

And when failure does indeed happen, don’t create a scapegoat. You’re the leader of the group, and you are responsible for that group. Take this moment as an opportunity to teach and mentor those around you instead of assigning blame. You’ll keep the work environment productive and positive this way, and encourage more and better dialogue between your team members.

Remember: failure is ultimately necessary for truly great success, because it serves as one of the best teaching tools out there. Knowing you support them, no matter what, will allow your team to really get creative.

3. Think outside the box.

Leaders are innovators — there’s no question about it. Really effective leaders tend to look at things in very different ways than most people, and they encourage those they work with to do the same.

This also means reframing an idea once the first attempt has failed. If you can continually inspire flexibility, invention and adjustment — and treat them as positives — you will sit among truly world-class leaders like Steve Jobs of Apple, Sheryl Sandburg of Facebook or Reed Hastings of Netflix.

4. Have a vision and objective that’s shareable.

Nevertheless, this innovation and out-of-the-box thinking has to be easily communicated to your team. You not only need to be clear, organized and honest, but you also need to be a persuasive communicator that’s adept at listening to grievances, questions and feedback (without arrogance).

If your grand vision can’t be shared and adopted by the team you’ll be working with, the likelihood of success is virtually non-existent. There’s a reason why leaders have a team: people are stronger together.

5. Don’t be afraid to delegate.

Working together with others means that, as a leader, you recognize you can’t do everything by yourself. The best leaders learn to delegate and the most effective daily habits of business leaders focus on ways to involve the whole team. Accounting for the importance of effectively organizing and delegating tasks not only makes others feel included, but is essential for the daily functioning of your business.

6. Find time for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Finally: remember that all this talk of productivity is useless if you’re feeling burned out, or less than 100%. It’s extremely important for strong leaders to make sure they maintain a work/life equilibrium. Don’t shy away from physical activity or time off. These two things are extremely important for maintaining your sanity and health.

Practice daily meditation exercises, and make sure you take time to disconnect. This also sets a great example for your entire team and has a ripple effect. If they understand that you place importance on self-care, then they’re likely to practice the same methods — which will make everyone more productive in the end.

If you’re toying with the idea of a leadership position, take the plunge! Be a self-starter and inspire others. Leadership can be difficult, it’s true, but the results of carrying a team successfully through a project and inspiring them to step into new roles themselves is extremely rewarding. It will also give you the opportunity to push your limits and grow personally and professionally.

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About The Author:

This article was written by Kayla Matthews, an editor of Productivity Theory.Kayla is a freelance writer, blogger and topic researcher and, because I want to churn out tons of articles and blog posts every week, I have to manage my time as efficiently as possible. I use lots of Google Sheets, Google Calendar reminders, tons of apps and lots and lots of personally cultivated habits to stay on top of everything.

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Callum Connects

Andrew Schorr, Founder of Grata

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Taking a different route throughout his life, Andrew Schorr ended up in China and started several businesses.

What’s your story?
I moved to China after I graduated from college in 2004. English teaching was the easiest way to get there, so I looked on a map and picked a small town in Hubei, because it looked to be more or less in the middle of China. I was the only foreigner there.

Back then, everything was about the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, so I moved to the capital after my year of teaching. Pretty soon after arriving, I met the co-founder for all three of my companies. We decided to start a company together the first day we met. He has now moved back to the US and builds flight software at SpaceX.

Our first company, an online city guide, was re-purposed into our second company, GuestOps, a web concierge platform. We sold GuestOps to most of the major international hotel brands in China and still operate it. The genesis of our latest company, Grata came from looking at the intersection of hotels and WeChat in 2012, when WeChat was just starting to blow up. Grata expanded from hotels into a live-agent customer service console.

What excites you most about your industry?
Our thesis with Grata has always been that what is happening with WeChat in China is the future of messaging platforms globally, and as an international team building on WeChat, we would be well-placed to capitalize on that trend. It’s taken longer than we expected for the industry (and us, for that matter) to get there, but finally, we’re starting to see messaging as a platform to get better traction in other markets.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’ve always been a bit of a contrarian. I grew up in Texas, where all my friends studied Spanish in school. I studied German for no reason in particular. I took a similar path in college: Chinese and Japanese seemed like languages that not a lot of people who look like me studied. I was one of only two students in my third-year Chinese class.

Concur conference in San Francisco, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013. (Photo by Paul Sakuma, Paul Sakuma Photography) www.paulsakuma.com

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Shanghai. I should live there, but Beijing has been home for so long. I take the night train down to Shanghai every two-three weeks to meet with clients. Domestic flights are way too unreliable here.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Don’t plan too far ahead; otherwise, you plan yourself out of good opportunities.

Who inspires you?
Has anyone said “Elon Musk” yet? Barack Obama would be another.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The gravitational waves recently detected from neutron stars colliding, were so subtle as to only affect the distance from earth to our closest star, Alpha Centauri (4.24 light years away) by the width of a human hair. Perhaps in another life or in the future, I’ll be an astronomer, but a telescope doesn’t do me much good in Beijing.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
When I give advice to students looking to get into entrepreneurship, I advise them to work for a post-Series A startup first and learn from a company that’s already doing things well. I learnt everything on my own, which is slower and you pay for your own education. If you work for a startup that’s small in the beginning, you risk learning bad habits.

How do you unwind?
I Hash! The Hash is a drinking club with a running problem. The Hash attracts good people from all walks of life and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a great way to meet fun-loving people all over the world. It’s also how I met my co-founder, our first lawyer, and my girlfriend.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Pulau Perhentian, Malaysia. A fantastic beach and where I first learned to scuba dive.

Everyone in business should read this book:
For business in China, Tim Clissold’s, Mr. China.

Shameless plug for your business:
Grata does WeChat contact centers for many top-tier brands in luxury retail, travel, financial services and hospitality. We started developing on WeChat before they even had an open platform. Grata provides the most value for large enterprises with complex routing and content demands for their contact centers.

How can people connect with you?
Check out www.grata.co or email me: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
My personal handle is @andrew_schorr and we tweet about messaging from the company handle @grata_co.

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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