Game Changers of Japan: Takayuki Hoshino, founder and CEO of Your mystar Inc., on How a Near-Death Experience Changed His Perspective Towards Career
Takayuki Hoshino, founder and CEO of “Your mystar”, joined Rakuten as a fresh-graduate shortly after he graduated from Keio University. Among his achievements at Rakuten, the giant E-commerce company, include becoming the No.1 sales representative at Rakuten and becoming the youngest candidate for the executive position. However, he did not choose to become the executive member of Rakuten, instead he started his own company, “Your mystar, Inc.”, in 2016. In fact, he has overcome difficult challenges such as being inflicted with a life-threatening illness during college and adoption of English as the official language at Rakuten despite not having any English ability at the time. Read on to know more about his experience as a former member of Rakuten and as the current CEO of Your mystar, Inc.
Written by: Tatsuro Sakamoto | Date published: 30th July 2020
20xx- Graduated from Keio University
2010- Joined Rakuten as a fresh-graduate. Became the top sales representative and the youngest candidate for an executive position
2016- Founded Your mystar Inc. (Founder/CEO)
Present- Currently active as CEO of Your mystar Inc.
Turning Point of his Life
Takayuki spent his university days at Keio University where he was the captain of the tennis club. He had a very fruitful college life, however, he suffered from a life-threatening illness in his fourth year. His life completely changed from that point on, going back and forth through a series of treatments. He was on the verge of death, yet the fear of facing death was nothing compared to what he had encountered in his entire life. Despite his condition, he tried his best everyday to endure the fear and pain, and fortunately recovered from the illness. During our interview, he recalled the medical situation he was facing and stated:
“This experience completely changed the way I was thinking, which was something that I had cultivated for 20 years of my life before falling sick. I started reading many books while undergoing treatment and learned about a variety of perspectives. It was an opportunity to look back and reconsider about who I was and who I wanted to become in the future.”
After his battle with the severe illness, he understood the “limitation and preciousness of one’s life” and started to think things differently. Takayuki had always wanted to be a politician since he was young, thus, he decided to intern at the House of Representatives in order to deepen his understanding of politics and to closely interact with other politicians. Throughout his internship experience at the House of Representatives, he understood that it was more viable to have real working experience first instead of trying to be a politician right after graduating college. Shortly after, he chose Rakuten as a place to start his career. He decided to work at Rakuten because there is no strict seniority system and the working environment was also suitable for those who want to grow their career quickly not to mention the chance to increase one’s people skills in a short amount of time.
Ups and Downs at Rakuten - Discovery as a Professional
When Takayuki joined Rakuten as a fresh-graduate, he was assigned to the finance department where employees worked closely with executive members in top management. Looking back at his days in that department, he said “It was really fun to work with proactive people even though my main job was to assist in running errands and executing tasks for other people. I definitely had a lot of learning opportunities from the top management team.” However, he could not fully prove his full potential in the finance department and was transferred to the sales department located in the Kyushu region. He was disappointed about this relocation in the beginning but he worked hard in Kyushu as a sales representative. As time went by, he became aware of the market size and Rakuten’s strong presence in this distant island of Kyushu, miles away from Tokyo. In fact, there were numerous growing companies using the online shopping platform that Rakuten provided. Some of the growing companies in Kyushu were owned by young talents who had implemented the IT knowledge that they had learned in urban cities like Tokyo.
Some of Takayuki’s clients grew to become publicly listed companies on the stock exchange market. Takayuki, the young sales representative, had witnessed how these local growing companies had given tremendous social impact on society. With a remarkable turn of events, he finally realized the potential that businesses to change the world. Ever since then, his drive to strive for better got him to work even harder, eventually earning the spot of #1 salesperson nationwide within the Rakuten organization three years after he was relocated to Kyushu. This achievement was highly evaluated by the headquarters in Tokyo, and he was offered to come back to the Rakuten headquarters to be trained as an executive candidate. He had made a promise to himself to prove his mettle there this time round. The young motivated professional was then to be the youngest employee listed as an executive candidate in the company’s history.
New Challenges in a New Department
Takayuki was thrilled for the new challenge since he had been relocated from Tokyo to Kyushu before. He says “I was really happy that my work was finally recognized by the higher ups and my colleagues.” At that time, Rakuten, one of the largest e-commerce platforms in Japan, had approximately 120 executive members but none of them joined the company as a fresh-graduate whereas decision-makers at Rakuten had always envisioned a “bottom-up” corporate culture, thus the company had aimed to train the top 5 talents who joined fresh out of tertiary education to become future executives. Takayuki was selected as one of those 5 candidates. Another key change in Rakuten happened around the same time which was to make English as the official corporate language.
Takayuki was not fluent in English back then, but realised that his skill in his field of expertise was not enough, thus, began to put much effort into mastering English. Through his studies, he recognized the importance of English as a means to access more information about the world when equipped with proficiency in another language, granting him a different perspective about the world. Mastering English was not the only task that he had to acquire to become an executive member. Knowledge of finance and investor relations (IR) were also one of the requirements, thus he worked in the IR department in order to gain more hands-on knowledge and practical skills.
In his third year at the IR department, he was responsible for nearly 40 team members which put him under much pressure. The young leader at the IR department had struggled to organize his team the way he wanted to. In the midst of difficulty, he started seeking for other things that he could contribute to meet the company’s standards. Back then, one of the company’s troubles were premature employee retention. Takayuki proactively took the initiative as leader to solve this issue and then persuaded executive members and the human resource department for their cooperation.
Takayuki, as the member of the IR department, was in charge of dealing with shareholders and investor financial statements. He mentioned “Rakuten was founded by people who had a background in the banking and financial industry, thus it is to no one’s surprise that their financial strategy was impressive.” However, working with executives who had years of working experience in finance put the 27-year-old executive candidate under much pressure. Despite the difficult situation, he tried to keep up with his seniors and continued to learn side-by-side with the president and the vice-president of Rakuten. Takayuki, kept on brainstorming on how he could demonstrate his value and what he could do more for the company. He later realized that through his journey and training, the company had already nurtured him to become a distinguished businessman. He came to the conclusion that his core value to the company was in revitalizing the organization by actively giving opinions from a young employee’s point of view while staying humbled and learning from all of the members working at the company.
Starting a New Chapter as an Entrepreneur
One day, Takayuki was having dinner with the president of Rakuten and others from the company at a Chinese restaurant in the UK. He was paid close attention to the president, and he realized that the president was not exceptionally intelligent. The president was the kind of person who would get nervous easily. However, there was something unique about him and it was that he was talented at attracting highly talented people into his team.
There were always highly skilled people who had graduated from the best schools all over the world surrounding the president of Rakuten. Takayuki always wanted to become the best as much as he respected the president of Rakuten, and he feeling of wanting to explore the world beyond Rakuten began to grow. The future game changer started to look for other ways to grow more as a business person. He did consider switching jobs, yet it was impossible for him to find a more talented CEO than the president of Rakuten. While he was looking for a new environment to venture out into, a recruitment agency introduced him to a venture capital called Incubate Fund which is actually the current investor for Your mystar Inc.
Takayuki had a series of discussions with the people from Incubate Fund, and they proposed to invest 100 million yen for him to start his own company. He never thought of starting his own business as he was afraid of taking risks, but he decided to take this opportunity to start a new chapter of his life by founding his own company Your mystar, Inc.
Being a CEO
“Working as a CEO and leading a company is totally different compared to the time I was working at Rakuten. I often face difficulties due to my lack of knowledge and experience as a CEO. ‘What do I need to prepare for an IPO?’, ‘What even is an auditor, anyways?’ and so forth. There have been millions of questions ever since I started my own business.
But my favorite thing about starting up my own company is the ability of acting fast and executing decisions swiftly. In a large enterprise, it is not easy to bring an idea to action as quickly as you would like. At a start-up like “Your mystar”, when we come up with an idea, we execute it right away. Moreover, members at start-ups are given more autonomy, so individual work can be influential and be directly linked to the result that meets our company’s goal.
We are trying to learn from the advantages about large enterprises such as its capabilities in attaining generous resources to grow the business and recruit members.
As a CEO, I have been trying to create an environment where all stakeholders such as supporters, current members, future members and others will be motivated, so we can build a great team and a successful business.”
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