Yolo Japan helps foreigners in Japan secure job; mom serial entrepreneur joins board

From left: Yolo Japan CEO Taisuke Kaji, COO Naoko Tsubaki, CFO Kensuke Akagi
Image credit: Yolo Japan

See the original story in Japanese.

Foreign labor prospects are prompting great expectations in Japan, well known for its employee shortage. The recent introduction of a new bill in the Diet concerning foreign labor remains fresh in our memories. While the use of AI, and the social participation of women, the elderly, and young people is also expected, its influence is limited because, in the end, it does not increase the population. Which brings us back to our last hope: the foreign worker.

Yolo Japan carries out employment placement and training for these foreign workers. Founder and CEO Taisuke Kaji experienced a near-death traffic accident 3 years prior that became the catalyst for moving away from his English conversation school business to starting a business that assists in creating a better society; and so, Yolo Japan was born.

The biggest concern for foreigners staying in Japan is how to secure employment. As such, the company introduced unique short-term part-time job opportunities for foreigners such as drinking beer for 150 minutes and earning 13,000 yen (about $115 US) or shaving beards/trimming nose hair with trial razors/nose hair cutters for 8,000 yen (around $71 US).

Image credit: Yolo Japan

The company’s services are popular among the foreign community for ensuring a simple source of income that is not bound by time constraints, and within the first year of beginning services it welcomed 10,000 registrants (Yolo Japan calls them Yolars). Today that number has reached 52,000 people from 217 countries, which is more than the participating country members of the UN.

As the number of Yolars increased, Yolo Japan began to handle not only short-term part-time work, but also more sophisticated long term positions. Here the new problems of foreign work visas and Japanese language ability emerged. For the former, Yolo Japan acts on behalf of the client for some interviews to reduce the risk to the client.

Diagram originally created by Yolo Japan, translated and arranged by The Bridge

However, the latter problem is difficult to solve. No matter how refined a person’s business skills are, they cannot get a job in Japan if they cannot handle Japanese satisfactorily. Therefore, Yolo Japan initially got involved in businesses that were not asking for high Japanese language skills, and from there it developed a system that allows for career advancement based on language acquisition progress. For example, having them start on a factory line, and gradually stepping up to the food industry and office work.

Naoko Tsubaki, who joined the team as COO, was until recently an intrapreneur with Japanese internet giant Voyage Group. She married a man from Brazil, had two children, and left Voyage three months ago after having spent many years with the company. At that time she had no clear plan for her next career move, but she decided to become a member of the Yolo Japan team after realizing her desire to support working mothers and foreigners.

Yolo Base, a lodging and co-working space expected to be set up in Osaka next year.
Copyright (c) AIM Inc.

In May of 2017 Yolo Japan raised a total of 100 million yen (about $882K US) from Gurunavi (TSE: 2440), Mizuho Capital, and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital. In September of 2018 the company procured 300 million yen (around $2.6M US) from Tokyu Land Corporation (TSE: 3289), Taisei (NSE: 4649), and Nankai Electric Railway (TSE: 9044). It was the first investment in a startup for Nankai Electric Railway. In September of next year, with the cooperation of Nankai Electric Railway, the company plans to open an inbound work training facility called Yolo Base which will be equipped with lodging and co-working space near Osaka’s Shin-Imamiya station.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda