TOMODACHI Alumni Join the 25th Business Advisory Board Meeting Featuring Ms. Kathy Matsui and Ms. Yumiko Murakami, General Partners of MPower Partners
On October 26, 2021, four TOMODACHI Alumni from different programs were invited to attend the online 25th U.S.-Japan Council Business Advisory Board (BAB) Meeting. The event featured a fireside chat by Ms. Kathy Matsui and Ms. Yumiko Murakami, General Partners of MPower Partners. Joined by Mr. Martin Fackler, Adjunct Fellow of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies of Temple University as a moderator, the dialogue, titled Bringing up Japanese Ventures to Global via ESG Investing: New Endeavors of MPower Partners, attracted over 40 industry leaders from diverse fields. This was the fifteenth time TOMODACHI Alumni were invited to join business executives as representatives of the future of the U.S.-Japan leadership.
Ms. Matsui and Ms. Murakami first shared how they came to launch MPower Partners, the first ESG-focused global venture capital fund in Japan, leveraging their extensive financial and global backgrounds. They also introduced participants to the idea of investors as change agents in the Japanese economy, which has one of the lowest growth rates among OECD countries over the last 30 years. They target middle- to later-stage venture companies in Japan as they believe that there is not enough risk capital to support passionate and innovative entrepreneurs in Japan.
They engage with the companies that make up their portfolio extremely closely. As investors, they provide not only the capital, but also hands-on support as startups prepare to go public. Drawing on their experience working with large institutional investors, they assist organizations in a variety of ways including identifying areas of focus that can be different in every enterprise, introducing companies to environmental issues, and diversifying the organization’s leadership structure. Ms. Matsui discussed the factors behind the rising interest in ESG investment, and then Ms. Murakami concluded the dialogue by expressing their desire to see many other investors who employ non-financial risk metrics and more female venture capitalists following in their footsteps.
During the Q & A and networking session following the talk, the speakers and the audience enjoyed a lively discussion. Lisa McGovern, a 2017 alumna of the TOMODACHI Summer SoftBank Leadership Program asked to hear more about how they interact with their portfolio companies. Ms. Matsui responded that giving venture companies guidance and advice is similar to “being a parent.” She said, “They are not perfect; they are still growing. You are there to provide some guardrails to help them along as they make their own mistakes and find their way.”
Nanami Yamada, an alumna of the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program expressed her desire to become “a female leader like (Ms. Murakami and Ms. Matsui) in the future” and asked for advice on the importance of mindset while building a career. Ms. Murakami advised her and other young leaders to refrain from putting themselves into small boxes and to try to accommodate for the unpredictability of life by trying not to time everything perfectly. Ms. Matsui encouraged them to find and seek advice from mentors and advocates in order to make difficult decisions in their personal and professional lives.