Hiroshi Takatoh of Teatis: “Never say never”

Never say never. Whenever you are faced with a difficult situation, the last thing you should do is give up. There are always many challenges in the beginning stages of a startup, but it would be a shame to immediately throw in the towel on a task that you feel you could spend a lifetime on. […]

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Never say never. Whenever you are faced with a difficult situation, the last thing you should do is give up. There are always many challenges in the beginning stages of a startup, but it would be a shame to immediately throw in the towel on a task that you feel you could spend a lifetime on.

Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their lives. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.

How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?

In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Hiroshi Takatoh.

Hiroshi Takatoh is a tech and nutrition serial entrepreneur based in Tokyo, Japan. Hiroshi is best known for the success of his first company, Momentum, which sold to Japan’s second-largest telecommunications company in 2017. Since this success, Hiroshi has spent his time working as an angel investor and building his new US-based nutrition company, Teatis, a maker of superfood teas for low-sugar dieters and diabetics. Hiroshi is a father to three daughters and serves as CEO of Teatis.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born and raised in Japan as an only child. Growing up with my father, a scientist and college professor who was always eager to learn new things, instilled the importance of curiosity within me, which in turn, became one of my strongest assets throughout my education. While studying literature at university, I immersed myself in the traditional Japanese art of Noh, and learned even more through practicing with my master. In Noh, which requires a high level of self-discipline, my master taught me to look at myself objectively. Through this practice, I gained the ability to step away from my own emotions and perspective to see the bigger picture in my business ventures. Noh is a beautiful art, and I hope that readers will have the opportunity to learn more about it someday.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?

In 2014, I founded a company called Momentum in Japan. With the internet becoming the main battleground for advertising, and a vast number of people buying and selling ads through auction-based transactions, I felt that there was a risk of fraudulent ad transactions occurring. Around 2017, ad fraud became a major issue in the advertising industry. My company had grown quickly as major advertisers and advertising platforms began to take advantage of our services. In order to help solve the issue of ad fraud faster, I chose to sell my company to a major Japanese telecom group. As the company’s growth increased with the use of the telecom group assets, I started to feel a strong desire to help solve bigger problems and move on to my next business venture.

And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter and why did you want to?

Through the acquisition of my company, I learned that the size and importance of the problem to be solved determines the company’s value. Therefore, I was deeply introspective about what I considered valuable in my life. I wanted my next challenge to be meaningful.

Through a personal experience of my own, I found a worthwhile challenge.

While running my last company, my late ex-wife was diagnosed with cancer. We found her cancer in a very late stage, so it was difficult to cure by medical treatment. I researched other options through using food as a medicine. From there, I reformulated her meals to be healthier to ensure she was getting the proper nutrients as she fought her illness. Acting as her caretaker, I recognized the need for convenient, nutritious food, suitable for people who are critically ill.

Knowing there are a huge amount of people suffering from Diabetes that have to deal with this their whole lives, I teamed up with an impressive list of prominent doctors and began crafting a product for diabetics who didn’t have the time to cook but longed for natural, nutritious ingredients that helped with carbohydrate digestion and release of glucose.

I spent the early days of my new career path researching the health value of foods that were not yet widely available. I traveled all around the country and met with multiple food producers. One day, while on a fishing boat for an interview, I stumbled upon a powerful potential ingredient, seaweed. I researched the nutrients in seaweed to see if there were any nutritional elements that could be of value to specific customers. Seaweed polyphenols have clinical evidence for inhibiting digestive enzymes from digesting food into glucose, which means seaweed can help reduce the amount of sugar in the body and prevent blood sugar levels from rising. This mechanism is also used in medications to control high blood sugar levels with diabetes. From this discovery, I finally found the key to creating a product that could easily provide the blood sugar control value of seaweed for people with diabetes. This experience is what led to the creation of Teatis.

The name “Teatis” comes from the Greek goddess “Thetis”, who is portrayed as the goddess of the sea and the savior who saved the gods from suffering. Also she is the mother of Achilleus and she gave him immortality.

We want our brand to become a sort of savior of people with diabetes. As it’s made from seaweed, we wanted to include the image of the sea in our brand name.

What did you do to discover that you had a new skill set inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?

I have overcome many barriers by asking the right people the right questions. The right question is the one that is connected to your ultimate goal, and one that you ask over and over again. Once you pinpoint that important question, you then do your best to find someone who has the answer. For example, when I was starting to formulate Teatis, I asked a range of different doctors many questions. When the specifications of the product were finalized, I started asking customers questions about their needs and consumption habits.

In addition to asking good questions, I always had a deep motivation to stay focused on my goals.

How did you overcome any limiting beliefs about yourself? What was the biggest one? And how did you overcome it?

I used to believe that the best and brightest individuals would be the only ones to reach their goals and find success. This belief led me to always compete with someone else and try to make myself look smarter.

When I founded my first company, I was still holding onto this limiting belief, and I wasn’t able to find what truly mattered to me during that process.

It wasn’t until I challenged myself to find an issue that I was passionate about and devoted my efforts to create a solution for customers in need, that I was able to free myself from limiting beliefs on success. If I had set a goal of building larger market capitalization, or having a larger team when I started my second company, I would not have been able to free myself from this limiting belief and discover a higher purpose in my work.

How did you create support for yourself while you were moving into your 2nd chapter?

In the startup ecosystem, there is always a cycle of people willing to take on new challenges and help newcomers overcome their own obstacles. After I sold my company, I invested in about 10 startups related to health and food as an angel investor. Interestingly, I invested in a company that uses AI to help with food as a medicine, and the CEO of that company helped was one of my advisors in the beginning stages of Teatis. I feel that this cycle, which can be seen everywhere, helps startups grow. One of the unspoken rules of this ecosystem is that the more people who take on big challenges to make the world a better place, the more people will help them. I think the most important thing in gaining supporters is to tackle meaningful issues that others can find reason to devote time and resources to.

How is your new initiative doing today?

Teatis, which specializes in the creation of nutrition and food solutions for diabetic consumers, recently announced the close of its seed funding round. Our science-backed brand that specializes in sugar-blocking teas accrued 700,000 dollars from high-power angel investors, bringing Teatis’ total investment to over 1 million dollars. The seed round will help us advance production and marketing in the U.S., where 122 million diabetics and pre-diabetics live, and where researchers continue to work towards greater prevention and treatment against the wide-spread disease. With diabetes impacting a large portion of the population in the U.S., there is significant demand for diabetic-friendly foods that are nutritious, convenient, and functional. Our team of doctors have worked for years to perfect our product line, and this is just the beginning.

We’ve launched our Teatis plant-based powders, containing no chemicals and no sweeteners, but instead, utilizing a special Japanese-inspired ingredient, seaweed extract (Arame), that is proven to suppress the absorption of sugar from the intestinal tract and moderates blood sugar levels.

Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Tips” you wish someone told you before you embarked on your new chapter?

1. Find a cause that you can work on for the rest of your life.

The environment surrounding startups is fast-paced and ever changing. While that can be exciting, if you are easily bogged down by changes and challenges, you will not be able to find and help solve meaningful issues. Remember that the problems you need to tackle are always within your own experiences.

2. When you need someone’s help, find someone who you can help first.

Sometimes it is difficult to find someone who can help you. In such a case, try to think of someone you can help first. By doing so, you may form new relationships and meet other people who can support your goal.

3. Be consistent and persistent.

Consistency and persistence can be the most powerful tools in generating support from other people from your story and cause. These are some of the greatest traits that anyone can achieve through hard work and focus.

4. Always take care of the people closest to you.

Founders of startups are sometimes lonely and overwhelmed by the work required of a new company. In order not to get lost in loneliness, you need to take care of your family and friends who will always shine a light on you. The people who are closest to you know where you are coming from, where you are going, and can guide you through difficult periods.

5. Never say never.

Whenever you are faced with a difficult situation, the last thing you should do is give up. There are always many challenges in the beginning stages of a startup, but it would be a shame to immediately throw in the towel on a task that you feel you could spend a lifetime on.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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