Makoto, a social venture fund for the recovery after Fukushima

Tomohiro Takei is the founder of MAKOTO, an entrepreneur-supporting association based in Sendai, in the Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. MAKOTO was established in July 2011 after the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, and aims to raise a non-profit venture fund for the revitalization of the disaster area.
“I earned a PhD from the Tohoku University, specializing in biology. After working as the Technology Transfer Coordinator at University, I was later in charge of sales & marketing at biotech startup. In 2007, I joined a local venture capital firm: Tohoku Innovation Capital Corporation (TICC).”
When the earthquake hit, Tomohiro, survivor himself, immediately left his job at TICC and decided to contribute to the revitalization of Tohoku, his hometown. The earthquake and tsunami wiped out lives, families, cities. And with that devastated local communities and the local economy. With the principle that entrepreneurship empowerment is the key to accelerate revitalization, Tomohiro’s vision is that MAKOTO will be supporting entrepreneurs with high aspirations to start and expand their businesses while connecting them to the global market.
“Ever since my undergraduate days I have been engaged in many activities, with a passion for contributing to the Sendai, Tohoku area. I have worked on various projects such as establishing ‘The Supporting Fund’ for the disaster area and organizing the ICT International Forum on reconstruction assistance. I have chosen to leverage my experience in order to the re-activate the local economy and create jobs. We can’t guard families without jobs. We can’t be happy without a family. Therefore I think that creating jobs plays a key role in making people happy. Which is my objective. The disaster killed too many people, devastated homes and families. Too many people are still unhappy now and I fell I must find a way to solve this problem. Human life is short like the blink of an eye. I would like to spend my life for meaningful things.”

People are forbidden to work for around 20km area from the Fukushima nuclear power plant still now. Radiation level is high, over 1.0 microSv/hour. Most of parents in Fukushima don’t let their children play outside the house even out of 20km area.
Everybody is under a lot of stress and apparently the divorce rate is increasing.

MAKOTO is a non-profit organization supporting active entrepreneurs and startups, with a total of five staffs (including Tomohiro) and many volunteers that support the firm.

“Our Corporate counsel is a Partner at Anderson Mori & Tomotsune, one of the top law firm in Japan. We are planning to have a non-profit venture fund. We’ve started fundraising activities. Our fund preparing now has five features: 1. Nonprofit 2. Project finance (the exit is not IPO or M&A) 3. Hands-on support before investing 4. Dedicated to young entrepreneurs 5. For people with a passion and ethics to help people. There are more than 150 thousand jobless workers in the disaster area. It is important to not only restore the area, but also to create strong businesses and long lasting jobs. I think empowerment of entrepreneurs is the key to accelerating revitalization, but more importantly,we must bring hope to the area and give the people their dignity.

Makoto is a real challenge: the disaster area is in countryside. There are few talents, few high technologies and little risk money there. In addition that, there is of course no venture ecosystem. Therefore common profit oriented venture capitalists can’t invest companies in the disaster area.

“I thought that I can’t solve the problem by the logic of the capitalism and the best way is a venture fund as a non-profit and a project finance. I think that our activities will be interesting case for fostering entrepreneurs in the countryside.”

Tomohiro is not alone in this effort to restore a future for his communities. After the earthquake, many young people with strong aspiration are emerging and gathering to the disaster area. Some of them quit their job, even with big global companis such as McKinsey and AGC (Asahi Glass Co). People with a strong passion and excellent ethics to help others.

Normally Japanese people are risk adverse, however many share a strong aspiration to help at such extraordinary situations like this time. Historically, Japan has had many difficult times. But was always able to overcome again and again.

It’s because of people like Tomohiro.

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