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Profile
Masato Kakamu was born in 1973 in Gifu Prefecture and graduated from the University of Washington School of Business. After joining UBS Securities as an engineer, he served as a system analyst and derivatives trader at Deutsche Bank. In 2001 he transferred to webMethods (currently known as Software AG), a leading company in SOA products. In 2005 he left webMethods to establish Globalway, Inc., where he currently serves as President & CEO.

Business Profile
Globalway, Inc. https://www.globalway.co.jp/
Globalway, Inc. was established in 2005 with the philosophy of “Delivering dreams and excitement to the world through our service”. The company name originated from the idea that “New Technology + New Business Model + Global Market = Globalway”. Thus far the company has developed “Career Connection”, a review site for working people, as well as “Voxer”, a cloud service that supports the development and introduction of business applications for corporations. In April 2016, Globalway was listed on the MOTHERS (market for high-growth and emerging stocks) section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, and is now aiming for further growth.

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Mr. Kakamu, you went independent and became an entrepreneur at age 30. How long had you dreamt of starting your own company?

Both my father and my grandfather ran companies, so of course I knew in my heart from the time I was a kid that I would run a company when I grew up. However, I literally gave everything I had to baseball until high school. I played first baseman on the 3rd batting order in my junior high school team, and we won the championship for Gifu Prefecture. I was also the team captain and student council president. I knew I couldn’t just cut short my passion for baseball, so when it came time to choose a senior high school, I ignored academic prep schools and instead enrolled as a baseball scholarship student at a private boarding school that would give me a real shot at baseball. My goal was to make it to the Japanese High School Baseball Championship at Koshien Stadium, but I couldn’t make that dream come true, and felt very frustrated. I saw this as a milestone in my life, and switched over to the goal of becoming a businessman.

Yet, I had also entered university by way of a baseball recommendation, and worried endlessly that “This isn’t right, I need to change.” That’s when I picked up a biography of Dr. Hideyo Noguchi that I had read many times as a child. His experience studying abroad and conducting research in the United States inspired me, and I decided, “I’ll cut a path to the States, just like Dr. Noguchi.”

So you transferred to the University of Washington School of Business, didn’t you?

That was right at the time when excellent IT companies like Microsoft and Dell were making a name for themselves, so I thought that if I became an entrepreneur I should go into IT. That’s why I enrolled at the University of Washington, where I could study finance and computers. From the time I reached the States, I was totally focused on my studies. I always had a textbook in my hand, even during meals, and I studied constantly, grabbing a bit of sleep from time to time. I even tried to earn a little money to fund my future company by purchasing vintage clothes made in the United States and exporting them to Japan as a side business while still in school. More than a few vintage Nikes and Levi’s that I exported ended up on the shelves of stores in the backstreets of Harajuku. When I look back on this, it’s really impressive that any buyers were willing to pay a poor student like me in advance.

After graduating in 1997, I came back to Japan and joined UBS Securities as an engineer. You might be thinking, “Why did you become an engineer?” It’s because I thought that getting experience as an engineer, as well as practical experience in advanced mathematical analysis at a securities company, would be beneficial to starting an IT company in the future.

At UBS Securities I developed applications to analyze stocks, but the real stars in the world of securities were the traders. I thought that I couldn’t really say I had experienced this world until I had become a trader, so I changed jobs to work at Deutsche Bank as a trader. There I worked as a trader who could understand IT and was responsible for algorithmic trading.

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So after working as a trader at foreign financial institutions, you gave it all up for the glamorous life of an entrepreneur, is that right?

Not exactly (laughs). My annual income as a trader was ¥14 million. Yet when I finally decided to become an entrepreneur at age 26, I had only saved ¥3 million. What’s more, when I showed my business plans to my friends, they told me frankly, “This will never work.” They thought I didn’t have what it takes.

Basically, I had no funds and no business plan, let alone any expertise or personal connections. There was no way I could become an entrepreneur in a situation like that. So I set my goal to acquire funds, a business plan, expertise, and personal connections by age 30, and changed jobs again to work at the software venture company webMethods, which was attracting attention in America at the time. It was a small company, but they said they would let me work in sales, where I thought I could study how to really make money and develop some expertise. My income was ¥6 million, less than half of what I made as a trader, but I had no doubts about my decision.

You must have earned a lot and learned so much after putting yourself in such a harsh environment.

Of course the world of foreign financial institutions is extremely harsh, so you could say I improved pretty quickly, especially because you must thoroughly test how far you can think your way forward in order to monetize ideas. It’s a process of trial and error, and anyone who can’t do this, anyone who makes mistakes that hurt the company, will be told not to bother turning up for work the next day. In that environment, I got to the office at 6 AM every day and gave my everything.

I kept up that work style even after joining webMethods, and it wasn’t that different from my time as a trader in terms of working my fingers to the bone. As a regional manager, I sold software worth tens to hundreds of thousands of yen, and worked my way to the top of sales in the company, including overseas and interoffice. Thanks to that, my income surged, and by the time I was 30 my annual income was ¥75 million.

However, upon reflection, I regret working my body to breaking point. Once, when I forced myself to go on an overseas business trip with barely any sleep, I picked up a malignant bacterial infection. I had a high fever of over 40°C, and was horrified when the doctor said that he nearly had to amputate one of my legs. You really mustn’t push yourself too hard. When it’s time to sleep, you must sleep. Your 20s are a time when you must sometimes push yourself really hard, but it’s not good to push yourself too far.

So you really worked increadibly hard. And did you earn the capital you needed?

Yes, I did. I also got myself a business plan, expertise, and personal connections. The biggest factor was the palpable feeling that my chance had finally arrived. My aspiration to become an entrepreneur had really solidified inside me. So I invested all the capital I earned through hard works and decided to start a business.

Everyone around me was amazed, saying, “What are you, an idiot? Quitting a job that earns so much?” Indeed, in my first year as an entrepreneur I had no salary, so it was a tough start. I was astounded at how fast my funds disappeared. Yet I was determined to realize my original attentions, so I had no regrets about starting a business.

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Listening to your stories, it seems that your purposes and actions are clear, as in “Do A to get B.”

I think it’s very important to set proper goals in your life. First set a goal, then consider what you need to do, and by when, to achieve that goal. Even better, draw up a road map toward your destination. In other words, work backward from your goals and you’ll see what needs to be done.

When you became an entrepreneur at age 30, what kind of road map did you have for your future?

I wanted to become an entrepreneur at age 30, have an impact on society by age 40, and make world-class social contributions by age 50. That vision was where I got the name “Globalway”. Now that I am 43 (interviewed in 2016), I think that by getting my company listed on the stock market, I have finally reached the start line.

Your corporate philosophy is rather unique; “Be a Maverick Innovator”. What does that mean?

Creating a business is a lonely thing. Nobody understands you at first. But I think it’s fine to be a grand fool. The praise will come eventually if you don’t succumb to the solitude, but instead grit your teeth and find a way forward where once there was none.

Could you give a message to young readers of this article who are in their 20s?

I recommend that you draw up a vision of yourself when you are 30, 35, 40, and 50 years old, then work your way back from that.

If you can’t see what age you’ll be at a certain point, the idea you have may not be what you really want to do. In that case, try considering what is the next best thing you’d like to do. Of course, don’t leave your road map as it was when you first wrote it. It’s important to go back and revise it a week later, a month later, six months later.

If that road map is clear, you can make a career shift even in your 30s. I think your 20s are a time to develop your basic skills. What’s really important when doing this is to keep an attitude of studying for yourself. If you keep going to school forever, you won’t develop real skills. Rely not on school or society, but your own head, and give priority to the attitude of studying for yourself.
Finally, no matter where you are, or what circumstances you are in, there is always something you can do. I am absolutely certain that an attitude of thinking about what you can do for yourself, and tying that to your future will lead to success.