Lost and Founded Series - Emi Takemura

Unique events define who we are. So says Emi Takemura, co-founder of Peatix, who wants to help shift the next generation from an object based economy to an experience based one.


Author: DBS BusinessClass, Administrator of DBS

She comes from a line of doctors but being the rebel that she is, she chose the startup path instead. She is a strong believer that experiences define who we are, and she wants to make it easy for anyone to create these life-changing moments. She went on and co-founded Peatix, the global registration platform that provides event organizers with the tools to do just that. We speak to this globetrotter on how her experiences have made her the person she is today.

People say you are "Emi Takemura, Co-Founder of Peatix". Who do you say you are?

I am an eternal learner, a creative thinker, and a doer with a passion for improving our way of life by leveraging the power of the Internet and scalable technology.

Our generation has shifted from an object based economy to an experience based one. I would like to empower people to be who they are by making it super easy to create special experiences (i.e. events) or to join unique events that help define who they are.

We spent years finding ourselves and trying to figure out who we want to be. We are no longer defined by what we own (e.g. own a Gucci bag) or the title we have, but rather in this new economy, it's about who we're friends with, our passions, and what we choose to dedicate our time to like in supporting a special cause. I love being a part of fostering this shift and I believe that the next generation really does have the capacity and capabilities to take our humanity to the next level!

Best moment in your startup life. It was so good you wanted to fly BusinessClass somewhere with someone, and pop open the most expensive bottle of champagne there.

Prior to starting the online ticketing platform, Peatix, we had multiple services such as a social publishing platform that was aimed at supporting creative types, authors, artists, and designers. However, none of them took off like the startup products headed for exponential growth should have. For years, we survived by doing some part time consulting and project works. Then, the mobile and cloud era arrived, which revolutionised how startups build and deliver products. When launching Peatix, we incorporated all the learnings from our past mistakes and fully leveraged on mobile and cloud technology. And voila, when we launched our ticketing platform in May 2011, we saw an immediate, positive reaction from event organisers. The growth curve that we'd been dreaming of. Yes, we finally got the right idea and execution in place. That was the best moment in my startup life that I will never forget.

The second best moment was when we started our event organiser community event series in Singapore called Backstage Pass. When I arrived Singapore in April, 2013, I did not know anyone. It was like starting all over again, and this time with no pre-existing friends and network. The Singapore startup community and the Hub Singapore community have been amazing for me to start anchoring my roots here, although it was not easy to have our first 10 events in Singapore. As we grew with an awesome community in Japan, I really wanted to build one in Singapore too. It was the best moment in Singapore, when we had a vibrant, passionate group of organisers participate in our community events, and find value in what we do for the community here. 

Have you ever cried? Or what was the lowest, crappiest moment in your start-up life. You wanted to give up everything. You wanted to kill someone. (During your startup career of course) Tell us more!

We like being on the ground to connect with and understand the needs of our users, so this means working in a very distributed environment with offices in Tokyo, Singapore, and New York (and soon in Kuala Lumpur). When I moved to Singapore on my own, it was very challenging for a while, as I felt very alone when trying to address challenges and opportunities for Singapore. When working in one office, it is much easier to stay in sync by having small water cooler chats, but when you work in a distributed environment, these small opportunities get lost. So, it was tough to communicate the situation in Singapore to our team in Japan at the beginning, as 99% of people's attention was focused on growing business there. For a few months till I built a local team in Singapore, I felt like I hit the biggest wall and had an urge to give up a few times. But that seems like such a distant past now!

What secret did you hide from your co-founder or partner or parent for the longest time? Why?

I am not good at keeping secrets! If anything, I am probably annoying my co-founders by over communicating. However, I tell less to my parents, when it comes to work matters. My parents are doctors, running an OBGYN hospital in Japan, and they come from generations of doctors. They really do not know how non-medical companies work, let alone, how tech startups work. I really respect them, as they fully trusted me to do what I wanted to do. However, I know that they are always worried and question "How is Emi going to survive with 2 kids?", or "Is it safe traveling to XXX?" In Japan, one of the values that we love is "doing before telling". I share what Peatix does when we see results worth sharing to give them comfort for my crazy, startup life!

What's the most eccentric thing about you? If VCs found out, they won't have signed the term sheet then. But hell with that now.

Growing up in Japan, a super homogenous, safe, and highly cultural country, I've developed a passion to explore and see the world. So, I travelled a ton in my 20's and early 30's.

With a passion to broaden my horizon, I've visited many exotic and/or risky places in my life, like crossing the Egypt - Israel border by land, sleeping amongst animals in Tanzania, visiting Haiti, traveling across Jamaica by taxi with a driver who was taking drugs concurrently, and staying at someone's house in Prague by myself. I've stopped counting, but I think I have visited over 30 countries so far. I do less of that super adventurous (or reckless!?) travel now, as you rightly pointed out, I have a responsibility with our investors as well as kids! But this experience has helped me better connect with and understand anyone from diverse cultures. Hence my love for Singapore!

What are you up to today? What gets you up in the morning?

Every morning, I am excited to wake up and discover what awesome, new events people have come up with around the world. Every day, I discover something new, whether it is a new club in town, an inspiring speaker I didn't know about, or artists that I wasn't familiar with. Feeling the pulse of what's happening on the Peatix ticketing platform really gets me going every day. It is just very inspiring to be a part of an ecosystem that empowers great people trying to deliver great experiences.

I try to prioritise my main goals for the day in the morning, as it is easy to lose focus when wearing many hats in the company, from hiring great talents, planning a new market expansion, working on business development, and working with some of our organisers. 

How do you keep yourself physically and mentally fit for start-up life?

I believe that our body and mind are connected, and being physically fit is critical in building great relationships with people, developing strategies, and working on projects without compromise. Guess you can pull all nighters when you are in early 20's, but being in my 40's with 2 kids, I consider good nutrition, decent sleep, and fitness as critical investments to our success. Having said that, finding time to do all three is tough. For good nutrition, I have been on a green smoothie diet for the past 2 years, and that has kept me pretty healthy with the power of green and ginger! And it is not cheap, but I try to have a one-on-one weekly Pilates class for effective results, run on weekends while kids are taking classes, and work on my core when relaxing at home! My goal for 2015 is to find enough time to sleep, especially during golden hours between 10pm-2am!

Offer a life hack (or two) to a young founder.

Do not be afraid to roll up your sleeves. When running a tech startup, there is a temptation to do everything "online", without really engaging people one on one. Until you build traction within your target audience, building great feedback iteration is crucial. Doing sales work can be intimidating for some people due to fear of getting hurt. When you are starting a business, take on the full risk, including exposing yourselves to some tough feedback. By building a great relationship with your initial group of fans, you will set yourselves up for the right growth track!

Balance your conviction and in listening to others. When you are young and an aspiring entrepreneur, there will be many who will try to give you their opinion and advise. It is great to listen to others, but do not be pulled in too many directions and lose your product value propositions. At the end of the day, you need to have your vision, mission, strategy, value propositions, and how you enable them in sync. Make sure that you can always be aligned on those, even when other caring people try to tell you many things that could affect some of these elements.

Movie or song that best describes you.

No Woman, No Cry - Since young, I have been a big fan of Bob Marley, as he represents integrity, freedom, and putting up a fight against incumbents with uplifting tunes. I am an eternal rebel, trying to change the rules of the game in my own domain!

Favourite quote.

- It always seems impossible until it's done. Nelson Mandela

- Good artists copy, and great artists steal. Pablo Picasso

- A ship is always safe at the shore - but that is NOT what is is built for.  Albert Einstein

Who and what inspires you?

As part of the benefits of doing what I do, I get to meet a lot of inspiring people who are trying to do good for the world motivated by a cause and passion, and not for commercial or selfish interests.

But above all people, my parents inspire me. They are almost 80, and they are still working full-time doctors and love doing what they do! Retirement is not a word in their dictionary, and I love that!

Nature and landscape inspire me as well - beautiful cloud formations, city landscapes filled with lights, and plants growing resiliently. Finding beauty in daily life is not only inspirational but also gives me inner peace and a sense of freedom that brings happiness, optimism, and a positive energy!

Tell me about Emi Takemura in 2030.

Wow, that is a question of tall order! Right now, my energy is focused on Peatix and raising kids, but I am playing a casual role in mentoring and advising young, aspiring professionals.

By 2030, I would love to be running projects that focus on green issues and helping young, aspiring entrepreneurs and change makers. Especially since I believe that we do not yet have enough female role models and we need to change that drastically by 2030. The more change makers we have, the better chance we have in curbing our imminent and serious green issues.

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