Fostering a Culture of Innovation: Incubit (Part 1)
CEO of Incubit, Naoki Kitamura“Changing imagination into influence by using cutting edge technology and design”. With this mission statement as its backbone, Incubit, founded in 2014 by CEO Naoki Kitamura, supports IT Startups using various Web technologies and techniques like Deep Learning. They have since become the official partner to IBM Watson, and have helped develop Web and Mobile Apps as well as Chatbots and AI services.In this interview, we asked Mr. Kitamura about why he decided to become an Entrepreneur and how he hopes to create an innovative society. His underlying principle to “live life according to what you love to do, that can also significantly impact society” comes from his experience of being a high school dropout and fighting through depression. We find out his secret to success.
―― Incubit is described as a “Startup aimed at supporting IT ventures” - what does this mean?Incubit is comprised of a group of engineers that are eager to create “new and interesting products that have value”. Therefore, instead of creating a product solely based on client instructions, we view our clients as “partners” and work together to start a new business based on their product. Our company name “Incubit” comes from the term “incubate” in which ideas or products are “incubated” through IT.――Can you tell us about one specific example?Right now we are working towards developing an automated motion editor, which entails creating software for the robots operating screen. We received a request from a robot venture company that wants to make a user friendly UI design. It is our mission to create an interesting, practical and exciting processor.Another project we are working on is a video streaming service, similar to “Netflix”, specifically for elderly people. It is said that talking about the past helps stimulate the mind and therefore aids in the prevention of Dementia in older people. Therefore, by creating a hub of older, black and white films, our goal is to have elderly people reflect and remember their past and as a result stay mentally healthy. In order to create this service, we have visited retirement homes with the Entrepreneur to constantly review and refine the prototype, which has been an extremely interesting process. Our mission is to “change imagination into influence by using cutting edge technology and design”, and so we are not interested in only producing profit, we are passionate about producing products that will significantly influence society. We have been consistent in choosing to partner up with clients that we believe offers such products.―― What led you to start Incubit?The main reason was because my friend and I both found ourselves trying to help another friend resolve an issue, which led to the idea to create a service that would help others resolve similar issues. But my journey as an Entrepreneur actually started back in my High School days.I started to question why people worked so hard at school or at work to be evaluated against some arbitrary standard. I dropped out of high school after 3 months and battled depression for the following year and a half. After a year and a half I decided to attend a university abroad, but as a high school dropout and without any scholarships, financially it was impossible. I started to feel insecure about my lack of financial stability and my lack of academic accomplishments. Somewhere during that time, my insecurities turned into motivation, and I started working 3 part-time jobs to save enough money to pay for my own tuition.―― You had quite the unique experience of going from battling depression to saving enough money to go to a Canadian university. What kept you motivated?Since I was already so far gone from the “norm”, I figured I could do anything. I decided to try and do everything I wanted to. So long as I gave everything and anything a try, I figured I’d eventually find where I belong. This mentality is what kept me motivated. While I was studying computer science and business, even though I was doing really well, I realized that I could not see a way to continue to grow after this, so I dropped out of university after 2 years. I returned to Japan when I was 20, and decided to start my own company.In fact, I already had some experience as I had previously been outsourced to develop new computer systems. When I was working part time at a bowling alley to save up for my tuition, after my manager asked me to play around with Excel, I started learning Excel and Access on my own to revitalize the stores system. Eventually my location started experiencing an increase in productivity, and the head office asked me to undertake an engineering project to implement the system I created into all locations. During this time, I was able to save enough money to start my own company, but I hadn’t yet figured out what kind of company I wanted to start.―― How did you develop such a strong sense of purpose between then and now?When I was 22 years old, having rid myself of my insecurities, I was able to objectively contemplate my purpose. I realized I will never be happy if all I have is a competitive spirit and a sense of inferiority. I guess at some point I came to this realization in my heart. I realized that only when I am full of life, am I able to make others happy. And so the missing piece was to figure out what I could do to make others happy.At first I played with the idea of philanthropy and the idea of changing the world like Steve Jobs did. But nothing quite clicked when I focused only on something that would benefit “others” or “society”. I realized that the missing piece was that I needed to focus on what I was curious about. I needed to be true to what I felt was valuable, to what I felt curious about, passionate about, and so on. Ever since this realization, this has been my guiding principle. Continues in Part 2.