Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Meet Akiko Naka, Japanese IT entrepreneur @ 27!

Modestly hopeful profile for The Christian Science Monitor:

Thirty ideas from people under 30: The Entrepreneurs

The Monitor interviewed young artisans, politicians, educators, entrepreneurs and faith leaders. And they have trenchant suggestions on how to improve the world. We'll serve this smorgasbord in bite-size servings of 3 to 7 profiles per day. Today's lineup of entrepreneurs includes a Mexican rain man, an Indian bike rental exec, and a Japanese web business recruiter.
Akiko Naka, founder of wantedly.com in Japan. (Yuka Yamaguchi)

Akiko Naka: Japan's high-tech recruiter

In Japan, 27-year-old Akiko Naka is a triple threat: an independent IT entrepreneur in a culture that prizes conformity, a successful young professional where status is still rooted in age-based hierarchies, and a fluently bilingual and bicultural businessperson in a mono-ethnic and largely monolingual nation.
Oh, and she's a she – a successful female in a corporate culture that remains very much a man's domain.
Ms. Naka was born in Japan but spent part of her childhood in North Carolina, where her mother was teaching at Duke University. In her mid-teens, she went to school in New Zealand for three years. She returned to Japan to study economics at Kyoto University. A stint with Goldman Sachs followed – and turned her off to the sclerotic financial industry for good.
"Lehman Brothers went bust, and so many of my colleagues left the company," she says. "I realized that I wasn't happy anyway. I wanted to do something more creative, to go from zero to 100 on my own."
Naka left Goldman and devoted six months to launching her own website, magajin.com. Then she met Taro Kodama, in charge of starting Facebook in Japan. He recognized her talent, but she wasn't ready to commit.
"We agreed that I'd spend 50 percent of my time on Facebook and 50 percent on my own site. I learned so much from Facebook about leveraging social media and financial stability."
Now she has created wantedly.com, a bilingual social recruitment service. "I believe that people are becoming free agents, working as a group on small projects, then leaving and working on other projects. My idea is to promote a new lifestyle based on projects, rather than recruit for companies. I think that's how people will start working."
– Roland Kelts, Tokyo

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