Internet Legend Speaks at UWC ISAK

In late December, our Grade 10 students welcomed a Japanese Internet legend into their classroom. Masayuki “Masa” Watanabe, who built his name as a co-founder of DeNA, one of Japanese leading online service companies, before going on to launch education technology company Quipper, visited our campus as a guest lecturer in our core leadership course Learning With Others.

As the founder of multiple successful businesses over the past 20 years, Watanabe-san knows first-hand what it takes to be an effective leader and he was happy to share his wisdom and insights with our students.

One area Masa-san touched on was failure, or more specifically, learning from failure. This is a common refrain among successful entrepreneurs, and Watanabe-san is no exception. He shared with our students several personal experiences with failure and how he and his colleagues were able to recover and even translate those failures into successes.

These experiences resonated with Christine (Class of 2021, India), who commented, “I learned not to be afraid of failure. Failure is a part of life and if you are constantly running from it you will never learn how to succeed. I was also interested to see how Masa-san has applied many of the same concepts we are learning in our leadership courses to the real world. They really work!”

Why we love hearing from entrepreneurs at UWC ISAK

Brendan McGibbon, who leads UWC ISAK’s Leading With Others course and is a former entrepreneur in his own right, explains the value in exposing our students to entrepreneurs:

“The more guest speakers that we have the more students can recognize that entrepreneurs are regular people who accept a position to create positive change, conceptualize failure as welcome information and purposely step forward when things are unclear. Guest speakers, like Masa, bring energy to our program. In a classroom setting, and in working with youth, it is sometimes hard for students to connect practices and mindsets we extoll at UWC ISAK Japan with what the future ‘may bring’. Storytellers like Masa help bridge the gap and help create connections.

As with Christine, Masa’s experiences with failure left an impression on Mr. McGibbon, who commented, “Masa shared that failure is expected and welcome in entrepreneurship. Most approaches fail and by not giving up and learning you can find better ways to meet the needs of users.”

In total, Masa visited our campus as a guest lecture on 3 different occasions and his commitment and interest in supporting our school and students clearly impacted Mr. McGibbon, who wanted to add the following message:

“We are very happy to have Masa work with our students. His down to earth and realistic portrayal of modern entrepreneurship was very revealing and entertaining. He was able to relate the UWC ISAK Japan leadership practice to his own work and, to be honest, I was humbled when he said that he wished he could have been a student at ISAK.”

As a school, we are thrilled to have had the opportunity to welcome Watanabe-san and look forward to more interactions between him and our community. Until then, our students are looking forward to interacting with another of Masa-san’s passion projects during the upcoming Spring Project Week— his curry shop in Tokyo.

Getting to Know Masayuki Watanabe

What is Masa-san known for?

  • Co-Founder of DeNA (1999-2010)
  • Founder of Quipper (2011-Current)

Leadership role models?

  • Tomoko Namba. My co-founder at DeNA and first boss. We worked together for 15 years.

Why is it valuable for you to speak with young people?

  • There are a lot of reasons. Speaking with students is always invigorating, but if I chose one point, it is because it reminds me of the vivid feelings, expectations and ambitions of my younger days. This really motivates me and gives me a positive outlook.

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UWC ISAK Japan
5827-136 Nagakura
Karuizawa, Kitasaku-gun,
Nagano 389-0111
0267-46-8623

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