By Akihiko Izu
In May 2022, I completed my life-changing years at one of the most innovative places on the planet: MIT Sloan School of Management. While working as an M&A lawyer in Tokyo for six years, I realized that good business lawyers have an in-depth understanding of how companies make decisions and also can imagine what will occur after transactions are concluded. My goal was to cultivate these capabilities to help companies make appropriate decisions and protect them from potential problems.
As MIT is recognized as one of the most entrepreneurial environments in the United States, I leveraged its entrepreneurial ecosystem throughout the MBA program. At business school, I took many entrepreneurship classes, such as New Enterprises, Entrepreneurial Strategy, and Entrepreneurial Founding and Teams. In particular, New Enterprises is the most famous entrepreneurship class at MIT, and is taught by a serial entrepreneur, Bill Aulet. In this class, teams of students are guided through a 24-step process to build a startup. The most valuable thing I learned from this class was how to identify pain points and resolve them, as without paying customers, startups cannot succeed. Our team conducted over 200 interviews to identify real pain points, and eventually discovered that US law enforcement agencies are struggling with inter-agency collaboration.
By taking Entrepreneurial Strategy, which is a class that focuses on startup strategies, I learned that the key to success in startups is how to determine which path to take. Since startups do not have enough resources to try multiple options, they often need to make tough decisions. With this mindset, I became more serious about the choices I made for my startup.
Through Entrepreneurial Founding and Teams, I learned how early-stage startups handle issues among co-founders, investors, and employees. In early-stage startups, there often is a lot of drama between stakeholders, and as such, identifying the criteria for how to make difficult decisions involving stakeholders is of critical importance.
Alongside my academic learning, I received a lot of valuable advice from my mentors at MIT, and I also started a company with two MIT students, one of whom I met at an entrepreneurship event at MIT. Our later startup received $20,000 in non-dilutive funds from MIT Sandbox which helped us get off the ground, and our startup later won second place at $100K Accelerate (a pitch competition). In addition, our startup was selected as the 2022 cohort of MIT delta v (an accelerator program). In combination with academic knowledge, the MIT ecosystem has supported both myself and other students who seek to develop a strong foundation in business.
After spending two years in such a robust entrepreneurial environment, I have decided to continue developing my startup in Boston after graduation, with the mission of making communities safe and connected by deploying cutting-edge tools for public safety stakeholders. In the course of establishing my startup, I have had to make countless important decisions and have become able to imagine new business strategies. Without MIT’s ecosystem, I would not have developed the skills to do so.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Ito Foundation U.S.A. and Friends of UTokyo, Inc. for supporting my entrepreneurial journey at MIT. By leveraging this invaluable opportunity, I hope to develop my capabilities further and contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Japan in the future.