A grateful employer
UWC ISAK Japan is still a young school, with our first class graduating in 2017. As such, all our alums are at the beginning of their careers. But take a glance at our Leaders Beacon Blog, and you will read post after post of a thriving group of young people who are continuing to write their own stories after UWC ISAK.
Early in 2022, Mr. Max Kinoshita, founder and CEO of Skyland Venture Capital, contacted us regarding two of his employees, So and Takeru (Class of 2020 / Japan). Mr. Kinoshita’s expectations were so exceeded by So and Takeru as interns that he wanted to know what in our education model made UWC ISAK alumni such good employees. “They self-taught themselves the crypto language and mastered it at a native level. They taught me a lot.”
Daring to pursue their passion
So’s knowledgeable Twitter feed impressed Mr. Kinoshita, and that’s how they met. So is now starting his second year at Rotterdam School of Management Erasmus University after a gap year dedicated to working in 2021-2022. “At UWC ISAK Japan, I learned that doing what I liked was fine,” recalls Takeru. It may sound pretty basic, but at high school age, it isn’t always easy to discover and follow what one likes.
“I also learned to challenge what I thought I knew. Before UWC ISAK, I was the type of person who wouldn’t have tried something I didn’t understand. At UWC ISAK Japan, curiosity is so high. It stimulates you to learn as much as you can and follow your passion.” Takeru is also studying Business Administration Honors Program at the University of Amsterdam.
So is sure that he wants to build his start-up one day. In contrast, Takeru is mainly interested in learning how things work, notably the economy. He is interested in cryptocurrency applications that directly impact people’s lives. Lately, he has become fascinated with how cryptocurrency creates the possibility of opening a bank account for people who traditionally do not have access to it.
“I was impressed with their curiosity,” expresses Mr. Kinoshita, “and the dedication So put into watching podcasts and videos about crypto in English to translate them into very instructive essays.”
A uniquely diverse school experience
One of the experiences that deeply resonated with So was living in UWC ISAK Japan’s on-campus residences. “It has nothing to do with a ‘normal’ high school life where you see friends during lunch and go home after classes. Here, you live with people worldwide, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. It stimulated many late-night deep discussions precious to me because people come to UWC ISAK Japan from diverse backgrounds.”
So also really enjoyed his Grade 10 “Leading with Others” class. He still uses these skills daily: “I learned how to understand what another person was feeling.”
“Now I can understand where people are coming from, what’s their background,” added Takeru.
At UWC ISAK Japan, students have daily opportunities to practice leadership. Takeru engaged with the Kamaishi Project while So’s CAS focused on recycling clothing. He started a pop-up recycling shop in one of our on-campus buildings, which is still used today as a place to exchange clothes.
This project helped connect So with Jeplan, who earned raves for creating the Tokyo 2020 Olympic medals from recycled metallic waste. Their pitch convinced Jeplan’s CEO, and the company agreed to have them send 500 kilos of waste clothing to their factory for free.
The importance of networking
So became fascinated with the start-up world in high school. However, he didn’t know anything about it. So’s parents own a small local English school where he sometimes works. At UWC ISAK Japan, So met CEOs and founders of big start-ups and general managers of international corporations. It showed him that they were not so different from him.
So used to separate himself from this sphere of society, but a summer volunteering at the G1U40 Summit inspired him. There, he met Anri Samata, founder of one of Japan’s most prominent venture capital firms. He was among the first to invest in companies now listed on the stock market, such as Hey, Rkusul, Uuum, Coincheck, etc.
So and Mr. Samata hit it off and had many long discussions on UWC ISAK’s campus. “At only 16, we have the opportunity to meet and build relationships with professionals. I learned that it was ok to dare reach out to important people and anticipate receiving a response … and then actually meeting them. Maybe without this experience, I wouldn’t have contacted Mr. Kinoshita or influencers like him with tens of thousands of online followers.”
Special thanks to Mr. Kinoshita for supporting UWC ISAK Japan alums like Takeru and So. We are proud to see them contributing to society and continuing to reflect on the lessons learned during their time as students.
“Looking back on my time at UWC ISAK Japan, I think they were the best moments of my life. In 50 years, I’m sure I will say the same thing,” So concluded.