The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Project Forte CEO Abhishek Sharma

Project Forte CEO Abhishek Sharma

With each generation comes a renewed energy to solve the world’s problems, powering fresh ideas in the minds of young innovators.

On April 8, the American School in Japan, in collaboration with peer schools from Singapore and Taipei, kicked off a special weekend for startups with the Engage Innovators and Entrepreneurs Forum at the Tokyo American Club.

Phinix Footwear’s Pamela Mejia

Phinix Footwear’s Pamela Mejia

During the two-hour event, seven young entrepreneurs from fields as diverse as immunology, aging, music therapy, energy, fashion, and microfinance shared their stories.

WisdomTree Japan CEO Jesper Koll kicked off the evening with a keynote. After outlining the potential for success that business conditions in Japan offer young entrepreneurs, the economist concluded that he wants to be reincarnated as a 23-year-old Japanese person.

Following the keynote, ASIJ Class of 2010 graduate Abhishek Sharma, founding CEO of Project Forte, spoke about bringing music and medicine together to help patients in Rochester, New York.

Laura Deming, a Thiel Fellow, scientist, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist focused on aging, was unable to attend in person but spoke to attendees via pre-recorded video. Deming talked about how the real world differs from what you’re taught in school, and outlined her Partner Longevity Fund, which identifies and finances companies that aim to extend the period of healthy human life.

Attending from the Philippines was textile/fashion designer and social entrepreneur Pamela Mejia, whose company Phinix Footwear turns old clothes and fabric scraps into trendy, comfortable, and durable shoes.

Another Thiel Fellow, Riley Ennis, delivered an inspiring story of determination in the face of scientists who didn’t believe. Ennis’s fresh ideas about how to treat cancer by “educating” immune cells has grabbed the attention of companies like Novartis, and research that may one day change the world continues at his company Immudicon.

Impact HUB Tokyo Co-founder Shino Tsuchiya

Impact HUB Tokyo Co-founder Shino Tsuchiya

Next, Shino Tsuchiya and Shingo Potier de la Morandière, co-founders and directors of Impact HUB Tokyo, explained how each individual can create a shift in society by questioning the status quo, and taking action to effect change.

Impact HUB Tokyo Co-founder Shingo Potier de la Morandière

Impact HUB Tokyo Co-founder Shingo Potier de la Morandière

The final presentation was given by Taejun Shin, a microfinancer in developing countries and CEO Gojo & Company, whose experiences with financial inequality—and struggle to pay for graduate school—moved him to create opportunities for others to realize their potential regardless of their economic situation.

Closing out with delicious food and an opportunity to network, the entire evening was inspirational and highlighted how social and entrepreneurial thinking—spearheaded by youth—is reshaping the world into a better place.

Christopher Bryan Jones is Editor-in-chief of The Journal. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he has lived in Japan since 1997.
The entire evening was inspirational and highlighted how social and entrepreneurial thinking is reshaping the world into a better place.