Posted by: viaprograms | April 8, 2011

Japanese Entrepreneur & VIA alumnus: Ichizo Yamamoto

In summer 2002, as a student of KEIO University in Japan, I attended VIA’s American Language and Culture program at Stanford University. The one month on ALC challenged me academically and socially. However, the most important lesson I learned during the program is that entrepreneurial attitude should be practiced and developed.

For the required ALC research project, I investigated why there are so many great start-ups like Yahoo, Google and HP around Stanford. I interviewed an entrepreneur who went to Stanford Graduate School Business, and he told me that “finding big problems” and “making meaning” are the core concept of entrepreneurship and that Stanford welcomes people who made hard failures. After that conversation I vaguely started thinking becoming an entrepreneur.

I graduated KEIO University in 2004 and co-founded Sow Experience, Japan’s first experiential gift service. The company provides opportunity for consumers to purchase experience-based (versus material) gifts from outdoor adventure to music lessons. Sow has spurred the entry of more than 20 similar start-ups since our founding. If I had not been to the ALC, I would not have started my own business and perhaps many of those 20 similar business would not have started either.

These days, many foreign media have reported that poor output figures for the Japanese economy and stagnation. We, Japanese young people in our 20’s, have to go abroad and bring back something new to our country. ALC program is mere a one month program, but it definitely has the potential to inspire and ignite your hidden entrepreneurial spirit.

If you are interested in Ichizo Yamamoto or his company, please contact him at

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