Living in a car and earning $1.4M in 5 months

From Tokyo, Taro Fukuyama travelled to San Francisco with two of his buddies. They were forced to sleep in a car. Their level of English was poor. However, they were able to generate $1.4 million in just 5 months, $20 million in just 3 years, and establish the top-tier business.


Here is how they accomplished this:


  1. In 2011, three Tokyo-based friends were reading tech blogs, listening to tech podcasts, and daydreaming about starting their own business (albeit they had no products).


  1. They made the decision to travel to the United States from Tokyo, rented a car from a friend, and stayed in it.


  1. The team was operating out of a cafe, with Taro cold contacting potential investors while the other two men built a straightforward dating website.

Results: 3.1. 100 investor meetings over a two-month period.

3.0 They received no funding from investors.


  1. After two months of hustling ineffectively, they made the decision to return to Tokyo.


  1. TechCrunch Disrupt was a conference that was held on the final day. However, a ticket cost $2,000, and they lacked that cash. So, in exchange for free tickets, they offered their translation services between Japanese and English. The planners concurred.


  1. Taro called out to Y Combinator founder Paul Graham as he walked by at the conference, “Hey, Paul. You stated in a blog post that San Francisco is where you must go if you want to accomplish great things. I arrived here with my startup for that reason.

Paul subsequently invited them to present their product at Y Combinator.


  1. Taro compiled over 500 questions from Paul’s blog that he may ask him, and he then prepared succinct, one-sentence responses that Paul could find appealing. Taro simply memorised all the solutions because at the time he was unable to speak English fluently.

As a result, YC accepted them.


They afterwards enquired as to “why you guys accepted us.”

“We weren’t impressed with the notion,” they replied. However, we were aware that you guys travelled all the way from Tokyo. That proves your genuine commitment to taking action in this situation. And the main cause of many startups failing is when the founders quit pushing the concept forward. And we had the impression that you guys had travelled all the way from Tokyo and were living in a car, so we knew you wouldn’t give up until you were successful.


  1. They made the decision to pivot and locate a new idea that would allow them to show investors growth over the following three months.


  1. For a month, they posed the question, “What’s your biggest problem?” to the CEOs of other businesses.

9.1 “Hiring people” was the most frequent response.

9.2 According to studies, 87% of workers are dissatisfied with their employers, and every two years, people start looking for new jobs.

9.3 They looked into the Japanese market and discovered two publicly traded businesses that were offering businesses employee incentives as a way to solve this issue (discounts, free samples, etc). Additionally, each of them was bringing in $300 million. A market leader or publicly traded corporation didn’t exist in the United States yet.

9.4 They made the decision to adapt what had been effective in Japan for the American market.


  1. They worked on creating a new product for a month. While doing this, Taro cold-emailed Y Combinator partners, asking them to provide the same offer to his nonexistent clients (50% agreed).


  1. They introduced the product 30 days before the demo day.


  1. Taro sent an email with a free trial offer to the CEOs he had previously surveyed. The item began to expand.


Taro memorised every word of his proposal on the demo day, focusing on three important points:

13.1 The strategy has previously been successful and proven because there are two public firms in Japan.

13.2 Being Tokyo natives, they are aware of the factors that contributed to the success of those local businesses.

13.3 They already had a small number of clients who were making use of their benefits.


  1. They received numerous cheques and raised $1.4 million on demo day.


P.S. They raised $20 million more over the course of the following several years, becoming the market leader globally.


Source: mixergy

Scroll to Top