Le Wagon alumni: meet Seira, a former humanitarian worker turned social entrepreneur
Seira’s career at the United Nations and the Red Cross has sent him across the world, helping refugees, migrants and people affected by armed conflict. Thriving to build a better solution for social impact, he learned to code with Le Wagon Tokyo and is now developing Socious, a social networking app for social change.
Hello, Seira! Tell us a little bit about your entrepreneurial journey.
I was born to a Zainichi Korean mother and a Japanese father and raised in the industrial town of Kawasaki. Because of my minority background, I became a target for bullying in school, got depressed and fell into delinquency. After being discharged from a mental institution and losing my best friend, I began to search for a way to improve the lives of people like me. Upon gaining a degree in international law in Geneva, I joined the UNHCR and was assigned to a mission in Lebanon to help Syrian refugees. The next career milestone at ICRC took me to Algeria, Iraq and Bangladesh. After serving for five years in the humanitarian sector, I realized that relying on donations from other countries is not always the best way to create sustainable social impact - that’s when I decided to leave the humanitarian sector to start a social project.
In 2019, I founded my first social venture called Discover Deep Japan. Its mission to build a more inclusive world came from my experience facing discrimination in Japan as a Zainichi Korean. My team aimed to forge a deep connection between locals and foreign tourists/residents through events and marketing campaigns.
Obviously, social entrepreneurs face a tough time raising money. But finding employees who are passionate about our mission turned out to be about as difficult -- so hard, that it prompted me to start building a product called Socious to solve this particular problem in the social impact sector.
Why did you decide to join a coding bootcamp in the midst of your entrepreneurial career?
When I started working on Socious, I didn't know how to code, and my search for the right technical co-founder turned out to be a failure. Co-founding is like a marriage in which you never know whether it will work out or not. I decided it would be faster and cost efficient to learn programming myself rather than trying to find someone for the co-founder role.
Learning to code helped me understand the complexity required to get things done and build a rapport with the Engineering team. Now that I've been through Le Wagon, I know how much time even a tiny function might take and can give a realistic estimate on how much effort and time should be spent working on it.
How did your learning experience go?
To be honest, it was tough yet very fun. Although most of the development at Socious is done by senior developers, I keep studying to be able to test out different solutions and automate some of the mundane tasks.
Please tell us more about Socious.
Our mission is to accelerate social change by bringing people together. The vast majority of people are working in traditional businesses or other sectors, with only 10% of the workforce employed in the social or nonprofit sectors. Human resources required for solving social problems are difficult to find and allocate. Socious aims to solve this problem by bringing people who are passionate about the same social problem together and optimally allocating the human and financial resources needed for social change.
Unlike Linkedin where you can search for people by skills and experience, Socious helps you search for people sharing the same cause, whether it's poverty, sustainability or gender equality. In the near future, we will launch an AI recommendation system that will notify our users every 24 hours if their profile has been matched based on interests and behaviors. After agreeing to proceed, they can connect and message each other. We are also developing a social impact point system to make social impact actions easy, fun and fulfilling.
We are currently focusing on improving the product rather than growing the number of users. We want to have the best UI/UX experience for core users before launching any marketing campaigns. On top of that, I'm also speaking with investors that are interested in supporting our venture.
How does it feel to be a social entrepreneur in Japan?
Although it’s not vibrant like in London, Japan's social startup ecosystem continues to grow, with young people in large numbers continuing to establish path-breaking social ventures across the country. There’s never been a better time to launch a social startup. Learn more about the social landscape you want to work in and start doing exciting things.
Thanks for your time, Seira, and good luck with your social venture!