Pivots to English tutorial

Coming back from my trip to China and Mexico, I started to work as a management consultant for Monitor Group, a US-based firm with a global branch network.

My first project was headed by a German manager and a Korean leader, with a Chinese and a Korean member. With still limited English proficiency, I, if not my coworkers, had a hard time. But it was also exciting to work with brilliant people around the world. I learned how the firm tried to manage diversity. It was a good opportunity for me to improve not only my English proficiency but also my problem solving skills, which help to logically separate tough issues into actionable sizes.

When I belonged to certain projects, I needed to work from 9am to 1 or 2am everyday. Since I was a slow worker, I needed to spend my Saturday and sometimes even Sundays working. When there aren’t any projects, then there’s nothing to do. I would spend my time in preparation for my own start-up.

Initially, I ran occasional events inviting fresh grads for dinner with entrepreneurs. One of the fresh grads was Gaku Nakamura, who was my high school classmate and is a CEO of RareJob group. Since he could do coding, I offered him to do some side business with me. He accepted it.

We initially tried an aggregation of job ads. When there was any successful staff hiring from a recruitment agency, companies usually pay a certain percentage of the yearly income of the staff. Back then, the cost for Google Adwords were so cheap. Expecting the recruitment agency fee must be much more the cost for Google Adwords, Gaku and I launched a website , after getting the domain “rarejob.com.”

However, we didn’t take long to realize that an arbitrage business didn’t work. We decided to pivot the side business into a Chinese tutorial business. Using Skype, Chinese tutors taught Chinese to Japanese students in Japan.

After a few months, we realized that the Chinese tutorial also didn’t work. Most Japanese can say simple English words such as “this is a pen,” while only a very few can say “this is a pen” in Chinese. To have good lesson with beginner Japanese students, we needed Chinese tutors who could speak Japanese, which cost a lot. And more importantly, it was difficult to find Japanese friends who wanted to learn Chinese. Many friends refused to use it, saying “I would do this if it wasn’t Chinese tutorial but English tutorial.”

Gaku and I decided to pivot our side business into English tutorials. As Gaku almost finished his development of the web application, he asked me “How are we going to source English tutors? Who’s gonna teach English to the Japanese in Japan?”

We had two choices. The first one was to recruit Western people. We needed to pay as much labor cost as we would in Japan. The second one was to let English speakers in developing countries teach English online. The latter idea appeared exciting to me. I answered Gaku, “I’ll pay a visit to the Philippines.” “Have you ever been to the country?” “Never. Even no friends at all.”

A few days later, I was onboard on a flight from Tokyo for Manila.

[Series]
1) How I ended up to aim to be an entrepreneur

3) How I tried to break through my limit, JPY 10M as gross profits? 
4) Pivots to English tutorial (You’re here!)
5) How I got a co-founder in a foreign country alone