Meet the French Entrepreneurs with a Revolutionary Take on C to C Business
The crowdsourcing company ikkai connects businesses and students. While the company plans to release their full scale services in the spring of 2016, currently individuals and companies are able to offer students one time job offers through an internet marketing platform. The company has made headlines by being chosen as one of the top ten finalists in the “Startup Battle of Skyland Ventures Fest Tokyo”. Associate partners Yasmine Djoudi and Thomas Pouplin were interviewed on topics ranging from the services’ features to the benefits of using Fukuoka City Startup to further propel their business.Can you tell us a little bit about the overall services and features of ikkai?Thomas: ikkai is a website based service that is mutually beneficial to both parties as companies or individuals are able to outsource work for required jobs; and students, after signing up by entering their skillset online, can choose which jobs to take on based on their interests and schedules and receive compensation for their work. Jobs that can be outsourced on the website vary widely and include; going shopping on an individual’s behalf, babysitting, logo designing, and being an event companion. The idea for it came from being able to assist busy individuals or companies by delegating jobs using an online platform that ensures a peace of mind through the motto “strangers whose face you can see”. On the other hand, for students the largest benefit is being able to work around their schedule. Part time jobs normally require students to commit to a fixed amount of days in a week which make it difficult to manage their studies and after school activities. However with ikkai, students are able to complete individual jobs when and where they like, while receiving compensation for their time. Another attractive feature of using ikkai is that it allows students to build skills and experiences for future jobs.ikkai provides three key features to ensure smooth service. The first of these features is that since the amount of compensation is determined by the client, this allows students to feel a sense of satisfaction knowing they can get paid more than they would at a part time job. The second feature is the “Mutual Review” which allows for both the client and the student to evaluate each other on a satisfaction rating. This allows for accuracy and a sense of security in the match making process. Finally the third feature is that clients can stipulate the area in which they want the job to be completed, for example outsourcing only to students living in Fukuoka city. “Strangers whose face you can see” is a significant building block of the network. What inspired you to create this service?Yasmine: As international exchange students, our study abroad experience happened in Fukuoka. During this time we witnessed the problem of students working long hours at regular part time jobs which resulted in them not having time for studies or leisure. Moreover, we encountered news that companies desired to contact students to outsource specific jobs and promote employee task awareness which led to our idea to start this business. We believe ikkai creates a win-win situation in which students are able to enjoy campus life and companies and busy individuals are able to build a relationship with students by outsourcing jobs that appeal to certain skillsets. Do you think that as a non-Japanese in Japan, C to C businesses like this can succeed?Thomas: If anything I think unlike B to C businesses, the C to C platform minimizes the barriers raised by being non-Japanese. Since ikkai takes 20% of the compensation fee as their brokerage fee, as a business there is very little need to directly mediate negotiations or adjustments. Of course there are times when the communication barrier has made explaining the services difficult, but this language and cultural barrier is minimized thanks to our excellent Japanese translation interns. Can you explain a little bit about the advantages of using the Fukuoka City Startup Café?Yasmine: At the beginning we encountered the obstacle of not knowing the legal procedures of opening a business in Japan and did not know who to seek help from. However the Fukuoka City Hall employees connected us with the Fukuoka City Startup Café which aided our application process for the Startup Visa (*1) registration process. The Café has resident lawyers, tax accountants, and judicial scriveners who are specialized incumbents in the field. For example, to acquire the Startup Visa you have to prepare a solid business plan, the concierge at the Café will give careful feedback along the points that will be judged such as “does this business offer value to the society” and “is there probability for the realization of this business”. They offer their advice free of charge. This process paid off as we were able to acquire the Visa quite quickly, and was then able to focus on developing an App and other operations. More than anything, the benefit of this Café is that you can start a Japanese Policy Finance Safe and connect with important people who play a role in the Startup organization. Moreover, there are staff who are fluent in English which was incredibly helpful as a non-Japanese entrepreneur. I can’t thank the staff at the Fukuoka City Hall and the staff at the Startup Café enough.As a non-Japanese hoping to succeed as an entrepreneur in Japan, it is important to connect with business professionals who can promote businesses, connect and network with the right people, build connections with students who are passionate about entrepreneurship, and to persevere no matter what. Moreover, I feel that there is added benefit of having done this in Fukuoka. There is an atmosphere of support for entrepreneurs and Startup businesses, and since there are plenty of students interested in entrepreneurship, I’m so happy that we choose Fukuoka as our base. Lastly, what is your vision for the future?Thomas: In the near future we hope to increase the usage of our services among our members. Eventually we also hope to add a messaging function as well. In the long run, with Fukuoka as our base, we hope to expand to cities in Japan outside of Fukuoka City and eventually to Taiwan, Korea, and South East Asia as the sharing economy expands. (*1) Startup Visa: Overseas entrepreneurs who wish to start a business in Japan must meet the approval requirements for the “Administration and Management” visa status which is the policy of Fukuoka City (National Strategy Ward Area) for foreign nationals to promote and startup a business.