Updated: Dec 25, 2019
Written by: Neil Eichenberger
Publish Date: 17th December 2019
Get to know Jordan Fisher, an American who used to be vice president at JP Morgan Japan but decided to create his own company, Zehitomo (https://www.zehitomo.com/), with Co-founder James McCarty to enhance the way of the Japanese working style more freely and richly. We got the pleasure to meet with Jordan and ask him why Japan and how Zehitomo came to be. #jportlibrary
Why start a start-up in Japan?
Even though some aspects of creating a start-up are a lot easier in the US than in Japan and he speaks the language, he decided to start in Japan because there are a lot more opportunities in Japan. And so because he loves problem-solving so much and he found a huge problem in Japan which he wanted to solve. He wanted to build something bigger than himself, which would impact all of Japan. There are companies across the world that are doing exactly what we are doing and trying to solve this in each of the domestic markets, but globally this is seen as one of the last large consumer sectors to come online. He thinks that services in Japan are not that great. They are rather inefficient, and so solving that would make life in Japan a lot easier and more comfortable.
“You have really talented people all across the country. And people who have money to spend on those services. So you have all the ingredients here. Just the challenge is that things are offline.”
He had a safe and stable position at JP Morgan, so you might wonder why he decided to leave his job and build Zehitomo, which he started in 2015 while taking a parental break at JP Morgan when his first daughter was born.
His thoughts on challenging himself:
“Once you feel confident that you’re able to do something, you lose a little bit of the challenge, lose a little bit of the motivation. And once I felt confident that “hey I was able to continue to have a good career”, that’s not so much fun right? I always wanted to kind of push myself and challenge myself to the extreme.”
Zehitomo is a service that should solve the problem of talents being left behind while the world shifts to a more digital space, which is often the case in Japan. As opposed to big companies - small, but great companies are often missing in search results. So Zehitomo would become a platform to connect clients and local services in Japan. Both Jordan and James wanted to change the way you find and hire local service professionals in Japan and thus teamed up to build up this start-up.
He gave us one example, which some of you might have had a similar experience with:
“When my first child was born, we wanted to sound-proof the windows and went through the concierge, a mansion in Japan. And of course, we could take care of everything. So the process takes like one month for them to come back with a quote. They go through their approving vendors, then their approving vendors. Nobody wants to take the risk, of course. So they were based in Tokyo, we are in Tokyo but they send somebody down from Osaka to measure the room. The Approve-process work is so inefficient. So ultimately they come back with a price of around 40000$ for a few windows and high-quality glass. Is this really a fair price? Nobody was trying to be evil, nobody was trying to rip me off – it was just the process they went through. And I am sure it would’ve been a very good high-quality experience and everything. But being the stubborn foreigner I am, my wife and I decided to call up every single place we could find “can you do this? Do you have this type of glass?”. Within one week we found this very small three-person shop based in Kanagawa that does this professionally. They carry all the soundproofing glass, they carry the same maker-items, and they do the isolation for us, one week later, for a tenth of a price. 4000$. Because we went to them directly without going through such a troublesome process.”
In the future his vision is to kind of have something like “OK GOOGLE”, just with “OK ZEHITOMO, change my Tatami” or whatever your request would be. To explain the name of the company quickly, Zehitomo (jap.: 是非とも) means “by all means”, also in a sense “not taking no for an answer”.