#Asia #Japan Show 42: Winning When Everyone Tells You to Quit – Yuki Ito

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Over the last 25 years, both Zest and Yuki Ito have been through several different incarnations. Interestingly, these incarnations perfectly mirror the changes we have seen in Japan’s startup scene in that time.

Today Zest makes cloud-based, field-service software, which is used to dispatch expensive resources for complex jobs, but they started out years ago as a software outsourcer when that was almost the only option for a small technology startup.

We talk about Zest’s products and plans, of course, but Yuki’s own story of becoming a programer when Japanese girls simply did not do that kind of thing, and how she grew her business even in a time when Japanese women simply did not make sales calls, is an amazing one.

It’s a great conversation with an incredibly resilient entrepreneur, and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Show Notes for Startups

Sometimes only a disaster can force a change in Japan
Why Japanese schools don’t produce enough programmers
Turning rejection and denial into an advantage
The difference between relationship and product companies
The long-term danger of just making employees work harder
How the role of women is changing in small business
Japan’s unique business-process risks
What the Japanese government should be doing to help startups

Links from the Founder

Zest’s homepage
Check out Yuki’s personal blog
Friend Yuki on Facebook
Yuki at the Swedish Chamber of Commerce
Yuki’s book on founding a company in Japan. (in Japanese)

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Transcript from Japan
Disrupting Japan. Episode 42.

Welcome to Disrupting Japan. Straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’m Tim Romero and thanks for joining me.

Yuki Ito has been running a technology start-up long before it was cool or even practical for that matter. The latest incarnation of her company, Zest, sells cloud based field service software, which is used to dispatch expensive resources for complex jobs. We talk about Zest itself, of course, but we also talk a lot about Yuki’s rather incredible journey to become a programmer and a start-up founder, when seemingly all of society was conspiring, with the best of intentions mind you, to prevent her from doing that. When she was starting out girls just didn’t do that kind of thing. Yuki’s an amazing, resilient woman with a great story to tell. But, I don’t want to give too much away. So, let’s get right to the interview.

 

[Interview]

Tim: I’m sitting here with Yuki Ito of Zest, who makes field service software. Rather than have me explain about Zest and what field service software is, Yuki why don’t you tell us what it is.

 Yuki: Field service is actually people who go outside. It’s field servicemen.

Tim: Ok.

Yuki: And they all have different kind of skill sets. Somebody has to make the schedule for them. And, all the work has different conditions.

Tim: So, for field service, are we talking about building inspectors, or people setting up cable TV installations? What sort of work?

Yuki: It includes everything; a lot of things. It doesn’t include something like just a truck driver. But, when you say “building inspection”, one thing like elevator, escalator that is one thing too. Like Sunshine 60 elevator, that is very fast. That is different from a department store elevator. So, you have to send different kind of people for inspection.

Tim: So, if I’m understanding it right, field service software, it’s different from scheduling in that you’re setting up very expensive personnel to complex jobs that might involve multiple people and coordinating it all.

Yuki: Yes.

Tim: So, it’s not a simple scheduling solution.

Yuki: No.

Tim: Ok. So, tell me a little bit about your customers.

Yuki: Currently, it’s all building inspections. And,

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