Kenjiro Yamamoto is the co-Founder of Aster, Grand winner of the 2018 Hello Tomorrow Japan challenge.

Yamamoto-san has a PhD of Engineering and is now project assistant professor in University of Tokyo.

He has 7 years of experience in the research of urban earthquake disaster mitigation at Meguro Laboratories, University of Tokyo, where he has in particular developed seismic retrofitting of masonry houses by painting with Aster current CEO, Suzuki-san.

He shared with us his experience of creating a startup and winning the Hello Tomorrow Japan Challenge.

Hello Tomorrow Japan : Can you please explain in a few words Aster technology and business model?

Kenjiro Yamamoto: “Our technology is seismic retrofitting of masonry houses with painting. Currently we sell the seismic houses under the collaboration with new masonry housing developers.”

How did you take the decision to bring this technology from the laboratory to the market?

“The lab where this technology has been verified is doing many kinds of researches for the masonry disaster management. However, the problems in real scene are not solved well because of the lack of people and systems that propagate them. Therefore, we decided to be a player spreading our technology.

What major difficulty (or difficulties) did you have to overcome to do so?

“So far not many. What we shall overcome in the future is mainly the difference of the sales customs and cultures of each countries.”

In which ways participating to the Japan Challenge helped you?

“This challenge was the first contest whose scale is worldwide. Therefore, as we have been nominated and also selected as a winner, we could surely clarify our technology is sympathized by business side in the world. Our business is rather a social business, therefore, we needed to be evaluated as one business. Hello Tomorrow is a good place for social entrepreneurs.”

Why would you recommend to other startups to join the Japan Challenge?

“I’d rather recommend this contest to social entrepreneurs because the style of judging and the investors assembling here are more interested in social business and they can evaluate definitely both sides.”

What are your future plans for Aster development?

“Currently with COVID-19 our project has been stopped. To start again we need to do some pilot project to clarify whether local contractor can use our material well and whether they cheat for coating or not. We are going to do that experiment and after that we are launching the project to re-start remotely.”