Thirty ideas from people under 30: The Entrepreneurs

They are explorers and activists, artists and educators, farmers and faith leaders – even mayors. And they have trenchant suggestions on how to improve the world.

Akiko Naka: Japan's high-tech recruiter

Yuka Yamaguchi
Akiko Naka, founder of in Japan.

In Japan, 27-year-old Akiko Naka is a triple threat: an independent IT entrepreneur in a culture that prizes conformity, a successful young professional where status is still rooted in age-based hierarchies, and a fluently bilingual and bicultural businessperson in a mono-ethnic and largely monolingual nation.

Oh, and she's a she – a successful female in a corporate culture that remains very much a man's domain.

Ms. Naka was born in Japan but spent part of her childhood in North Carolina, where her mother was teaching at Duke University. In her mid-teens, she went to school in New Zealand for three years. She returned to Japan to study economics at Kyoto University. A stint with Goldman Sachs followed – and turned her off to the sclerotic financial industry for good.

"Lehman Brothers went bust, and so many of my colleagues left the company," she says. "I realized that I wasn't happy anyway. I wanted to do something more creative, to go from zero to 100 on my own."

Naka left Goldman and devoted six months to launching her own website, Then she met Taro Kodama, in charge of starting Facebook in Japan. He recognized her talent, but she wasn't ready to commit.

"We agreed that I'd spend 50 percent of my time on Facebook and 50 percent on my own site. I learned so much from Facebook about leveraging social media and financial stability."

Now she has created, a bilingual social recruitment service. "I believe that people are becoming free agents, working as a group on small projects, then leaving and working on other projects. My idea is to promote a new lifestyle based on projects, rather than recruit for companies. I think that's how people will start working."

– Roland Kelts, Tokyo

4 of 4

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.