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Friday, December 8, 2023

Never give up, even in adversity. A culture of co-creation with startups created at Marubeni

A woman is working hard to introduce an accelerator program to Marubeni's Domestic Power Project Department to create new businesses and generate synergies with startups. She is Mika Yoshino, a member of the project team. Currently, the company is conducting demonstration experiments with 10 startups. However, since joining the company, Ms. Yoshino has experienced a number of setbacks before coming to this accelerator program. What changed her? We interviewed her.

The dilemma of getting a chance to work in the Middle East but not being able to take the plunge

When I was in college, I spent a year studying abroad in the Middle East on a scholarship from the Kuwaiti government. The reason for my stay in Kuwait was the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I had a strong sense of justice and wanted to contribute to world peace since I was a child, so I decided to study political science at the Faculty of Law to learn why such things happen.

Fascinated by the beauty of the Arabic language, I wanted to work in a job related to the Middle East and contribute to its development, so after returning to Japan, I started job hunting. I joined Marubeni Corporation with the keywords of "Middle East expatriation x electric power.

After joining the company in 2011, I was assigned to a department in the Power Division that oversees the Middle East region. That department was responsible for power plant investments in the Middle East region. However, although I joined the company with great enthusiasm, developing large-scale projects was a world beyond my imagination, and I was far removed from the intensity of the senior staff working hard on the front lines.

I was not good at communicating and always looked at the faces of those around me. Even if I didn't understand something, I was afraid to ask for fear of being disliked, so I couldn't move things forward successfully, and it was a vicious cycle. Moreover, I could not accumulate steady efforts.

At the end of his second year as a "new hire who can't do his job," he turned down an opportunity that he had hoped for. He was offered an opportunity to be stationed at the newly established Dubai office, but he turned it down.

To build a power plant on the ground, you need to maintain a strong mentality and take command on the front lines, but I fundamentally believed that I was incapable of doing so.

In the midst of all this, there was a change in the company's organization and I was transferred from one department in charge of the Middle East to another. Looking back, this series of events became a major setback for me.

Her approach to work changes after giving birth. Volunteered for a transfer in search of what she could do.

The turning point for me was when I returned to the department in charge of Europe after a childcare leave in my fourth year with the company. I was faced with the need to work efficiently in a limited amount of time, and I worried about my working style and the path I should take.

He came to realize that he needed to increase his own value by taking the initiative and creating achievements through proactive communication, rather than by looking at other people's faces. While in Tokyo, I was searching for ways to add value through logistical support work.

Around the time when the constraints were created, what we could do became clear, the direction of our efforts was set, and we managed to produce a little output, coincided with the period when the global power and energy industry was undergoing major changes, and around 2016-17, we began to explore new business development in Europe. In 2016-17, we began to look for new business development opportunities in Europe.

In Europe, we saw that the major local electric utility companies were implementing accelerator programs.

Then I began to think that there might be something I could do for the Japanese market, and I volunteered to be transferred to the Domestic Power Project Department.

The challenge of becoming an accelerator that turned opposition into a force to be grasped.

After the transfer, we considered an accelerator program and were able to move forward with the encouragement of those around us and the support of our supervisors. However, you never know what the accelerator will produce until you try it.

Successful examples in the world are still limited. It is challenging for startups and large companies to work together on a high-speed PDCA cycle in a small organization. That is why the accelerator initiative is expected to generate a chemical reaction.We cannot meet the needs of the current era unless we are prepared to take on challenges while drawing a bigger picture, rather than being afraid of "failure" and not starting anything.I was aware of this.

We consulted with various people inside and outside the company to gather evidence and to get a chance to start the accelerator.

I also appreciate the opposing view. At first, the accelerator's objective was to "create new businesses," but that is not always achievable, and other means are more promising for large companies if that is what it is in itself. So,The three pillars, in order of importance, are "acquiring know-how for new business creation," "effectively and efficiently creating new business," and "reforming the organizational culture.I believe that this has allowed me to take the plunge with a sense of accomplishment.

Started demonstration experiments with 10 startups while increasing the number of friends

Thus, I, who had once been frustrated on my own, became the flag bearer for the Accelerator. Of course, I was not able to do it alone at all; I was surrounded by friends who always voluntarily helped me.

Everyone, including myself, had a day job, and there were many different ways to get involved, but at most we had about 30 people helping us. After we opened the recruitment page, we received applications from about 100 companies, but when we narrowed it down from there, I was worried about whether we had the right discernment, and I was experiencing urticaria while making my selections (laughs).

As a result, we narrowed it down to 35 companies, and are currently conducting demonstration experiments with 10 companies, each of which has assembled excellent and passionate staff.

Although we have yet to decide whether or not to commercialize our efforts with the 10 companies, I am a little relieved to be able to say that the program itself was worthwhile and that we now know that we can achieve certain results through collaboration with startups.

A "ring" that is not an existing rule is a life-changing breakthrough.

I think I have gained a little more confidence through the Accelerator. More and more people told me that I was like a "bulldozer," laying the groundwork, getting others involved, and moving forward anyway, and I was able to make that my selling point.

What I also learned through this project is that I prefer to start a new business from scratch, without knowing who and what I will be working with, rather than working within a fixed framework to reduce costs and improve efficiency. By receiving a new playing field that was not based on existing rules, I realized a side of myself that I had not recognized before.

This was made possible by an organizational culture that supported my individual challenges as challenges for the company. Above all, I am grateful to the people around me who supported me and made this possible.

Not just accelerators,Being in charge of a new business means you have to keep running.I believe it is. Perhaps like pregnancy, childbirth, and child rearing, once you start running, you can't get off the roller coaster. You have to climb up and down and push through. How far we can develop the results of the accelerator in the future is up to us and unknown, and we won't know until we try. We want to keep running so that we can create discontinuous innovation and value through exciting co-creation with startups.

Ms. Mika Yoshino Planning Team, Domestic Power Project Department, Marubeni Corporation
He joined Marubeni Corporation in 2011, and after investing in power plants in the Middle East and European markets and in the electric power retail business, he is currently planning and promoting new businesses in his current position.
writing (e.g. as a profession)
Tomomi Tamura 
He joined Snow Brand Milk Industry in 2000. He then worked for an advertising agency and as a sole proprietor before joining BizReach in 2012. Engaged in content creation, he joined NewsPicks in 2016 as an editor on the BrandDesign team, and is now a freelance writer and editor.
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Tomomi Tamura
He joined Snow Brand Milk Industry in 2000. He then worked for an advertising agency and as a sole proprietor before joining BizReach in 2012. Engaged in content creation, he joined NewsPicks in 2016 as an editor on the BrandDesign team, and is now a freelance writer and editor.


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