In the 23rd ICONfront interview, we interviewed Taiga Ogusu of ID23, who is the founder and an active member of ENTREP.
He told us what entrepreneurship is for him, what motivated him to found ENTREP, and how he got to where he is today.
Q1. Could you tell us little about yourself first?
I’m currently studying abroad in the UK as well as being the representative of a student organization, called ENTREP! In my study abroad program, I am studying entrepreneurship education. Entrepreneurship education is about thinking how to help people acquire the mindset and spirit of an entrepreneur and what entrepreneurship should be like. While the word “entrepreneur” is often associated with “monetizing” and “making money,” my idea of entrepreneurship focuses on the foundational concepts such as passion and creativity and how these ideas can help people achieve self-actualization. Just to clarify, I don’t think everyone has to be an entrepreneur! However, I believe that we should develop an entrepreneurial mindset. This idea also became the core mission of ENTREP later on.
Q2. You are currently studying in the U.K. Could you tell us what made you choose to study in the U.K. and how you feel about your study-abroad experience so far?
I am studying at UCL (University College London) in the U.K., and one of the reasons why I chose UCL was because it is the world’s best university in the field of Education. Specifically, to experience and gain the knowledge to deepen my understanding of pedagogy and curricula creation. Half of my classes are elective classes, so I am taking courses in Business Management and Education. There is a business course where aspiring entrepreneurs get together and devise their startups and products. In this course, we also learn how to monetize for startups, so I believe that this content is useful for the activities of ENTREP.
One thing I feel when I am in the U.K. is that there is a difference in attitudes towards entrepreneurship. Some people started their own companies when they were in junior high or high school, and some are running their businesses to pay off their tuition. In other words, entrepreneurship was a clear career option for a handful of students!. There are people around me who are running exciting businesses. For example, one of my friends works as the middle-man between the government and vaccine suppliers. I was pretty surprised to see that some people are starting their businesses just like how part-time jobs are seen in Japan. I feel like most university students walk the path laid in front of them; getting into a good university and working at a good firm. Of course, there are advantages in the Japanese career-making practices, but ideas and values associated with careers in the U.K., including entrepreneurship, are different from the Japanese ones and I found them very new and interesting to me!
Q3. What does ENTREP do specifically?
First of all, ENTREP has its core values and sub-values that form our activities. Based on these values, we organize events, conduct interviews and podcasts, and write articles. The core value is “Delivering Entrepreneurship as a liberal art,” which means that, by acquiring the mindset of entrepreneurs –knowing what you want to do, turning failures into positive opportunities, etc. – we create the foundation for making your dreams and ideal self a reality.
There are four sub-values.
The first is “I think, therefore I do” (a person who turns their ideas into reality)
The second is “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” (the spirit of learning from the failure, bounce back, and progress).
The third is “Be a comple-mentor” (A word we created that expresses our ideal relationship with one another; to complement and mentor each other, in order to create synergy.).
The fourth is “Reveal your true art” (accepting and embracing each individual’s uniqueness).
I’ve hosted all sorts of events so far! I personally love how ENTREP is vague, and doesn’t limit its activities. We’ve made various content based on various but vital themes, such as mindset, mentorship, and mental health, which cover multiple aspects of entrepreneurship. The most memorable was the first one, “The mindset of a successful entrepreneur.” We organized this event in February 2020 and invited the board members of 500Startup from Korea and an entrepreneur-veteran who had started her own business in the U.S. as guests to give a lecture at the ICU Alumni House. This event gave me the idea to create ENTREP.
At the time, the word “entrepreneur” was unfamiliar to me. But when I volunteered at Slush Tokyo, an event that connects startups and entrepreneurs, I was shocked by creativity and sparkle in the eyes of the young entrepreneurs. That’s when the notion of entrepreneurship first struck me.
There was another episode that got me interested in the mindset of entrepreneurship. When I asked her what entrepreneurship was while discussing the details of the event, she said, “THIS is it. Entrepreneurship is what you are doing right now: giving shape to your ideas and enjoying the process is entrepreneurship itself.” I was inspired by her words.
I learned that people don’t have to be entrepreneurs to be entrepreneurial. After meeting people interested in entrepreneurship through events, I started thinking about creating a community. So, I asked my sociology professor, Kim Allen, to become my advisor, and we made ENTREP together. The way I met Prof. Kim Allen was surprisingly simple: I went to his Office Hour in the spring term of my freshman year, we hit it off about entrepreneurship, and we started talking about creating a community on campus.
Q4. When did you start ENTREP’s activities?
We started discussing our first event in October 2019, and we started creating the event in the next month. We also applied for the JICUF grant at the same time. After November, we received the grant for our activity, and ENTREP started its journey from then. In March 2020, ENTREP became a group and started its activities officially.
I was not working alone from the beginning; three members including myself got together. Three of us as a small but skillful team were the first members to hold an event and it went successful. After that, when we created the group, we invited new members from people we’d known instead of openly recruiting new members. Minako-san (https://iconfront-icu.org/2020/08/09/hultprize-icu-socialbusiness/) was also one of the first members. Now we have 13 members including ID 23 to 25 students: five ID23 (3rd-year students) members, one 24 (2nd-year student) member, and seven 25 (1st-year students) members, and we are working every day to become a Teal organization.
Q5. How did you feel when you started your activities?
When I started it, I just felt excited. It was the first time for me to hold an event on entrepreneurship at ICU, and the first time for me to think from scratch about what to deliver to whom. I was happy to receive positive feedback from the event participants, as I worked together with the guest speakers to develop the direction of the event, execute it, and deliver something meaningful.
Q6. When do you feel motivated?
I think I feel rewarded in three ways: when I have an extraordinary experience, when I do something hands-on, and when I create new value and deliver it. This idea is also what I came up with based on how an entrepreneur plans his own life.
As for the first one, extraordinary experiences, when we get used to everything, we lose the ability to take things for granted, so I try to have some kind of fresh experience every day.
As for the second point, “hands-on,” I feel more joy when I am working with my hands to create something rather than when I am working at a desk. Whether it is something you can see or touch, I like the process and output of creating something, and I find it rewarding.
The third, when I create and deliver new value, is a common one, but I find the process of creating and delivering something that other people find valuable rewarding.
Q7. Is there anything that is important or non-negotiable in your activities?
What we cannot compromise as an organization is our core value. I have seen many organizations fall apart, and what they all have in common is that they do not have their core values of their activities, or they start out on a whim and disappear on a whim. In light of this, I think it is important to clarify what the organization does and that the aim of the organization should be updated every now and then.
Personally, as students and the content creator, we value excitement and joy in our work too. We simply love what we do and hope that the audience feels the same way, too.
Q8. What have you learned or realized through your activities?
There are few people around me who have experienced starting a business, and information about starting a business is not widely available. Until recent years, starting a business has been seen as a big burden, like “leaving your job to become a baker,” but now even students can start a business, and I would like to lower the standard for starting a business. It is less risky to fail when you are young and there are more people who can help you. I also think that many ICU students are vaguely thinking about starting a business. I am very happy to see that entrepreneurship is starting to be seen as an option. On the other hand, there are only a handful of students who are actually studying business in order to start their own passion. Also, there is still a lack of opportunity for self-reflection and actual action in ICU, and I think there is a tendency to dislike business.
But I don’t think that everyone should become an entrepreneur. I think the process of deciding on a career is more important than the end result of what your job title has become! If you choose not to start a business after considering whether to do so or not, it means that you are weighing up what you want to do against the current state of work in Japan. I believe that in today’s Japan, “job hunting” is the go-to route, and it is up to you whether you want to take it or not. What I mean by that is that it is important to determine the best option for you without rushing. As a result, I believe that this will gradually change the way job hunting is done in Japan.
I would also like to tell people that even if you don’t start a business, it is easy to achieve self-fulfillment if you have an entrepreneurial spirit. I think that in Japan, we have two major opportunities to think about ourselves in our lives. First, at the age before entering university, you think about where you want to go and what you want to do. Secondly, when you are job hunting, you think about the same thing. But at the same time, I don’t think you should rely heavily on those two opportunities, and should always be thinking about them. When I attended an event once, one of the entrepreneurs on stage said, “Everyone makes travel plans, right? So why don’t they make plans for their lives?” I was so moved by this that I thought that if we decided what to do like a travel schedule, we would be able to live a more enjoyable life, and I feel that it would be a good idea to think about what we want to do on a daily basis and share it like a travel schedule.
Q9. Do you hold any business study sessions?
We intentionally do not hold study sessions. The reason for this is that our target audience is not the top 2% who actually want to start a business, but rather the middle 50% who are interested in starting a business. What we want to deliver is to cultivate the entrepreneurial mindset, not to make profits from entrepreneurship. Therefore, we don’t do anything related to monetization or profit as an event.
Q10. Please tell us about your own plans after graduating from ICU.
Personally, I have a vague idea right now. I haven’t narrowed it down to one thing. My life has been a blur every year, and before I entered university, I thought it would be a good idea to become a teacher, but after working part-time as a tutor and talking with professors on campus, I realized that this was not the only way to express my passion. I’ve been going through a process of opening and closing doors like this, so I haven’t decided on anything at the moment. However, I do want to be involved in education! The reason for this is that I like to see people grow through “education” like I do as a teacher, and I believe that education, no matter what form it takes, is important in developing people.
Q11. What do you mean by “embodying entrepreneurship” and what elements are included in it?
I haven’t really conceptualized yet. I don’t have a single answer, but I would like to decide after hearing about the possibilities from people around me, and I have been asking around for the past two years. I am continuing to explore what entrepreneurship is, and I am even studying abroad to do so. However, the elements of entrepreneurship are pretty well defined: leadership, creativity, grit, resilience, and passion, as evidenced by a European study called EntreComp.
Q12. What is the message you want to convey to society?
It’s something that I personally would like to tell people around me, rather than the society as a whole, but the message is that it’s important to spread the entrepreneurial spirit. People who understand who they are and what values they have are very passionate towards living each day. I think people who have their own “self” embrace themselves, too. In today’s society where we are often compared, and where we tend to confuse what we want to do with what others want to do, I think it is important to pursue our own happiness.
_____ (ICONfront member) I realized that entrepreneurship is not just about businesses, but also has that aspect of pursuing our own way of being.
I also want to convey the importance of responding to changes in the way work is done. A long time ago, it was unthinkable to have a second job, but now there are many options such as changing jobs or having a second job, and it is becoming more and more accepted. Change is inevitable in life, and you have to keep changing, and I think it’s important not to reject change.
Q13. If there’s anything you’d like to do in the future, tell us about that.
As an individual, I would like to systematize entrepreneurship even more than I already have done, so that more people can learn it. As an organization, I would like to turn ENTREP into an organization that can deliver value to many people inside and outside of ICU, to the point where people say “ICU is known for ENTREP.” I think it would be fun to be able to have people think, “When it comes to entrepreneurship, that’s the organization! I think we are making small steps toward that goal. I would also like to systematize what I have learned from my university activities so that it can be meaningful to many people. However, even if the entrepreneurial spirit is systematized, it is ultimately up to the individual to decide what to do afterwards, which is a big blur that I have right now.
Q14. Are there any challenges that you have found in the process of achieving these goals?
One of the biggest challenges for ENTREP is building a community. First of all, the number of ICU students is small, and there are only a few people who are interested in entrepreneurship, and even fewer who are truly interested in entrepreneurship among them. Since we have a wide target audience, the issue we want to solve is how to create events and contents that apply to everyone.
Thank you for reading our articles on Taiga Ogusu!
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