Entrepreneur at 17: “Spacework” (Part 2)


Reo Taniguchi

Founder, Spacelook

The app “Spacework” helps you find one-day jobs. It was officially released in September 2017, and registrations have exceeded 10,000 as of August 2018. The app is run by the company Spacelook. Representative Reo Taniguchi found the company when he was 17, and continues to take on new challenges to achieve his mission of "promoting a new way of working to the world". Spacelook itself is a pioneer of a new corporate structure. (Part 2)We interviewed Taniguchi about what made him decide to start Spacework, and what values he wants to establish through his company.(Read Part 1 Here)

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-Spacelook is diverse in nationality and age range, and there is no management or chain of command. Instead, your stance is to trust and leave it to the staff members. How is such an independent corporate structure made possible?

To be honest, we’ve been on the edge of our team collapsing multiple times. Staff members changed almost monthly. Since I have no co-founders, I had to acquire users, manage the company, and fundraise all on my own. Through this, I learned to face my weaknesses and trust my colleagues. This allowed me to reveal my weaknesses to others and create a united team based on trust and not on a hierarchical relationship.We currently have a coworking office, but all work is done remotely. Because we don’t often see each other face to face, we developed a habit of actively asking each other if there’s any help required. We don’t copy other companies. Instead, we flexibly adapt our structure and roles according to the changing environment. When asked, "What kind of organization is Spacelook?" I think “an organization with freedom” is the most accurate response.

--So Spacelook itself is a pioneer of a new corporate structure.

--You became an entrepreneur at 17, and that’s very rare in Japan. Did you have any hesitations?

I had no hesitation to start my business, because I had a role model. That role model was Che Guevara, the leader of the Cuban Revolution. I watched a video about him during my junior high school years, and was greatly impressed by his way of living. Even though Guevara had a high social status, he volunteered to toil together with the residents in construction and agriculture, ultimately leading the agrarian land reform. The purpose of his life was to live for others.

-- So, Che Guevara was your role model! You made the choice to start a company very early in life, but what was the specific trigger for this choice?

I’ll start by talking about a personal experience. During the summer vacation of my first year of high school, I flew to Senegal in West Africa, with a passion to end poverty. What moved me was that people were willing to help each other despite their poverty. Even though we are materially rich in Japan, we are still failing to help each other. I came back to Japan, hoping to change our society of pretending not to notice homeless people, but I came to a dead end when I realized that my approach did not offer a fundamental solution.So, I decided to broaden my horizons by hitchhiking around Japan. That’s when I met some IT managers and realized that the choice of entrepreneurship was more feasible than I had imagined. I had an intuition that I could change Japan through the IT business, when thinking about sustainability and creating an impact. I applied for an internship at an IT startup which ran a food app. I took time off my high school studies and fully committed to my internship.

--How did your experience help you when starting your business?

The experience gave me a lot of hints when I was working on the business model for “Spacework”, but most importantly, the friends I gained during my internship, who now support Spacelook, are my greatest treasure. In fact, the employee in charge of business development is the person who recruited me for the internship. We felt we were very compatible when working together.I also met members of my development team through this IT startup. They are currently developing a revamped version of “Spacework”, which is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2018. The development team consists of is engineers with unique talent. They have been developing iPhone apps since the arrival of the first iPhone, and specialize in payment systems and security. At the IT startup, they were creating systems that were compatible with a variety of payment services, such as Alipay and WeChat Pay. I’m fortunate to meet friends I can completely trust.

--Finally, please tell us about your vision.

My immediate quantitative goal is to increase the number of users. At the same time, I want to also focus on the qualitative goal of raising the satisfaction and expectation of users and registered companies. Currently, most people use this app to earn money using their spare time, and to earn money quickly. In the future, I wish to diversify the available job types and industries in order to encourage users to choose companies based on their desire to try out new jobs or work at particular companies.Flea market apps like Mercari have popularized the idea of “sharing” in various markets. In the same way, I hope services like “Spacework” will gather momentum, making side jobs, part-time jobs, and choosing how to work, a realistic option for everyone. Ultimately, I hope that this will lead to greater education and broad-mindedness in young people.

Misato Matsuo.JPG

Misato Matsuo

Japan Interviewer Association certified interviewer/writer. Beyond creating original content for Wahl+Case, such as this piece, she interviews executives or authors for Flier, Inc.

She is currently working on her life’s-work, “A Career Interview Service”, interviewing people who are leading interesting lifestyles. She also has a blog for Education and Career Interviews.