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Author: Kenshin Fujiwara

Lifespan: Why We Age – and Why We Don’t Have to

This is one of the books I recently read and found most interesting. The title is Lifespan: Why We Age-and Why We Don’t Have to. Unfortunately, the Japanese translation has not been published yet, so I listened to it in the English version of Audible.

Why do people age? What is aging?

Even in 2020, the reasons and mechanisms of aging are not fully understood. Aging is an unavoidable event for most people on the planet, and it is natural for them to age and eventually, die.

On the other hand, this book states that “aging is a disease and is a disease that can be dealt with.” If you look at this particular sentence, it sounds like a commercial of a suspicious health product, but the author David Sinclair is a genuine biologist and co-founder of a bio-venture. By the way, I became aware of the existence of Sinclair’s books because of his guest appearance on the podcast that I always listen to.

The points mentioned in this book, along with the scientific evidence, are:

  • Yeast and human cells behave similarly (this is why many Nobel prize winners come from yeast researchers).
  • Sir2 (sirtuin gene) is found to be significantly involved in longevity in yeast.
  • Deletion of Sir2 shortens lifespan, and activation increases lifespan of yeast. (However, some observations deny this fact.)
  • Sir2 is activated by hunger and calorie restriction.
  • The easiest ways to extend human life are proper diet, moderate exercise, and sauna.
  • Sir2, a longevity gene, is activated by dietary restriction and exercise.
  • Sauna generates stress that promotes Sir2 activation when combined with a water bath.

Until now, medical treatment in which humans have spent a great deal of time on research is merely responding to individual diseases, and we have not invested time in research of aging which causes all diseases, according to this book.

As is often said, the probability that a child will get cancer is almost zero. However, due to foods containing additives, radiation falling on the earth, and the effects of stress, the epigenome that determines the function of genes changes with age, and as a result, normal cells become cells that can cause various diseases.

Every day, the human body undergoes an enormous amount of DNA damage, and the body has the ability to repair it. However, as DNA damage increases and repairs cannot keep up, mistakes in DNA replication begin to occur. The substance produced by this replication error is called ERC, and it is thought that the accumulation of ERC leads to aging. Sir2 prevents the formation of this ERC.

Research on ERC and Sir2 seems to be in a state of inactivity as far as this book is concerned. This is because conducting research on diseases that are already prominent is likely to yield short-term returns both academically and business-wise. Because longevity is difficult to set as an indicator of what is to be achieved, it is understandable that research does not progress easily.

As this book repeatedly states, almost all diseases are caused by aging. If you can keep your body condition, the state of the epigenome to be precise, as it was when you were born, you should not be sick except for congenital ones. And if aging itself is regarded as one of the diseases, it should be possible to slow down or stop the progress.

Whether you consider delaying and stopping aging as the world of science fiction or something that can be realized by making use of the knowledge and technologies largely depends on the values ​​of each person. I always want to be the latter.


最近読んだ書籍の中で特に興味深かったものを紹介します。タイトルは Lifespan: Why We Age – and Why We Don’t Have to 。残念ながら日本語訳はまだ出版されてないようですが、自分は英語版のAudibleで聴きました。



一方で、本書では「老化とは病気である。そして対処可能な病気である。」と明言しています。ここだけ見れば、なんだか怪しい健康商品の宣伝っぽいですが、著者のDavid Sinclair氏は正真正銘の生物学者で、バイオ・ベンチャーの共同設立者でもあります。ちなみに、自分がSinclair氏の書籍の存在を知ったのは、いつも聴いているポッドキャストに同氏がゲスト出演したことがきっかけでした。


  • イースト菌と人間の細胞は振る舞いが似ている(多くのノーベル賞受賞者がイースト菌の研究者から出ているのはこのため)
  • イースト菌でSir2(サーチュイン遺伝子)が寿命に大きく関与していることが発見される
  • Sir2を欠損させると寿命が短縮し、活性化すると寿命が伸びることがイースト菌で観測される(ただし、この事実を否定する観測結果もある)
  • Sir2は飢餓やカロリー制限によって活性化される
  • 人で実践できる最も簡単な長寿化は適切な食事制限、適度な運動、サウナである
  • 食事制限や運動によって長寿遺伝子であるSir2が活性化される
  • サウナは水風呂と組み合わせることでSir2活性化を促すストレスを発生させる







CEO Blog: February 7, 2020

Induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells were discovered in 2012 by the Nobel prize winner Shinya Yamanaka, who is a professor at Kyoto University. Despite the option of building wealth by keeping this world-changing invention private, Dr. Yamanaka has decided to open source iPS cell-related technology to encourage researchers and pharmaceutical companies to adopt iPS cells. He thought this was the best option for patients with illnesses that could not be cured with existing treatments.

Almost ten years have passed since, and a number of clinical trials using iPS cells and transplantation into actual patients have been performed. Japan has always been a frontrunner in this field, and thanks to Dr. Yamanaka, the Japanese government has decided to invest $1B in regenerative medicine research in 10 years. While other countries have focused on research on ES cells rather than iPS cells, it was difficult to perform clinical trials and transplantation on humans given the ethical challenge that ES cells can only be produced from human embryos.

Japan was indeed leading the regenerative medicine field. Until recently.

Now, there is a bio-startup that Dr. Yamanaka calls “a threat.” That is BlueRock Therapeutics in the United States. The company has begun a clinical trial to transplant nerve cells made from iPS cells into patients with Parkinson’s disease and is working on treating heart failure with cardiomyocytes made from iPS cells and severe intestinal disease with gut nerve cells. These are completely competing with the efforts of Kyoto University’s CiRA to which Dr. Yamanaka belongs.

BlueRock Therapeutics is a bio-startup that was originally funded by Bayer and other companies and became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bayer in August 2019. The amount raised by the company at the time of its establishment was about $225M, far exceeding the sum of all the funds collected by CiRA in the past. In addition, Fate Therapeutics in the United States has started making immune cells that attack cancer using iPS cells and administering them to actual patients.

Japan wins in technology and loses in business. This composition, which has been often said in the industrial world, has just begun to appear in the field of regenerative medicine. Japan is beginning to lag behind the United States in funding and commercialization. Moreover, the Japanese government announced a $10M annual budget cutoff for the iPS stockpile business, which was withdrawn at a later date, but the fact that the Japanese government once capped iPS cells remains unchanged.

So what should we do in Japan? Moving to the United States and continuing research is one way to do that. Although one may argue about national interests from a short-term perspective, there are patients all over the world who want treatment using iPS cells. For such patients, it doesn’t matter in which country they were made. If human life is paramount, crossing national borders should be a valid option.

Another way is to enter from different industries. A prejudice, which iPS cells and regenerative medicine should be handled only by researchers and companies involved in biotechnology, should be eliminated first. There are many areas where Japan has strengths, such as robotics, FA, and IoT. By having the companies from these fields enter in biotechnology and having them invest in research, at least the funding problem can be solved.

Also, there is “integration” that Japanese people are good at. By combining things originally made for different purposes, Japanese people kept creating a completely new added value. This is the way Japan has come a long way in industry and fought the world. I think this analog tactic is what is needed in the field of biotechnology and regenerative medicine in Japan.











CEO Blog: December 31, 2019

I hope everyone is having a good new year’s holiday. I’m writing this blog post at my home in Kyoto with my family, and this is going to be the last post for this year.

First off, I’d like to use this opportunity to thank everyone for working at Hacarus. It’s been a wonderful year working with you all. Now that my 5th year at the company I started back in 2014 is about to end. I had this mission to make people live longer and healthier, but I wasn’t exactly sure if I’d be able to build a company on top of that mission 5 years ago.

Fast forward to today, we have 50+ people trying to achieve the same mission. That mission is no more just mine. It is the mission we all share and want to achieve. We tried so many different ideas and tactics to execute that mission. Some worked and others did not, but we will keep trying in the future until the mission becomes reality.

I know some of you guys are a bit unsure about the company’s direction given the recent introduction of new services and new ways of doing business as I explained in the previous general meeting. Maybe the company looked like pivoting from the original idea and changing its direction just based on the feedback from our investors.

Let me say that it is not true. Yes, we as the board members take the feedback from the investors very seriously and sometimes change the strategy accordingly. The investors are the ones writing us actual paycheck every month and they are the reasons for keeping us alive. Thus, we need to listen to them. To me, there is no distinction between our employees and investors as they are both important stakeholders.

With that being said, our mission has not changed a bit at all since the company foundation in 2014. Hacarus’ mission is still to make people live longer and healthier. Please remember you joined the company with this mission, not an AI startup. To us, AI is just one of the means to enable our mission.

The business we are trying to build requires a fair amount of investment. Any product and service in the medical field need extensive validation before releasing them to the market in order to make sure they don’t cause harm to human and animal. This is the reason why Hacarus focuses on two primary fields: medical and non-medical. The former takes time to build business much longer than the latter.

Next year, we will be launching new products and services in both fields. They may seem totally unrelated on the surface. However, they are deeply connected and they are considered as necessary wheels to drive the company. We are trying to maintain constant cash flow from the non-medical field and use that cash flow to make an additional investment into the medical field. It’s like building a rocket launcher while building a rocket itself.

Once again, we are not just an AI startup. We use AI to make our mission happen. If there is a better way to make it happen, we will adopt it. We would not be surprised if Hacarus does business in the biotech, surgical robot, or food industry in the next 10 years. They are all possible means to us.

Happy new year, everyone!



まず、この機会を利用して、Hacarusで働いてくれたすべての人に感謝したいと思います。今年は、皆さんと一緒に仕事ができた素晴らしい年でした。 自分が2014年に立ち上げた会社での5年目が、もうすぐ終わろうとしています。人の長寿と健康を実現するというミッションを掲げたものの、5年前は、このミッションの上に会社というものを作れるかどうか正直分かりませんでした。




そんなわけで、2014年の創業以来、自分たちのミッションは少しも変わっていません。Hacarusのミッションは、人の長寿と健康を実現です。 AIスタートアップではなく、このようなミッションを持つ会社に参加したことを忘れないでください。自分たちにとって、AIはミッションを実現するための手段の1つにすぎません。



繰り返しですが、自分たちは単なるAIスタートアップではありません。 ミッションを実現するためにAIを使っています。ミッションを実現するためにより良い方法があれば、それを採用するだけです。 Hacarusが今後10年間にバイオテクノロジー、外科用ロボット、または食品業界でビジネスを手掛けていても驚くことはありません。それらはすべて自分たちにとって可能性がある手段であると考えます。


Realizing Why I’m Doing What I’m Doing

This week I was back in my hometown Shiga, where I usually spend Obon break (お盆休み, aka Buddhist vacation) with my family every year.

Since my grandmother just passed away a couple of weeks ago, it was natural for my family members to talk about how she lived 95 years of her life.

My family background is a little bit complicated. I have 3 grandmothers, 2 biologically related and 1 non-related, and 2 grandfathers. I met all of them when I was a child but it was too difficult for me to understand why there are more than 4 grandparents in my family back then.

I never heard of the complete story about how she met my grandfather so it was a good opportunity for me to listen to her whole life story. Thanks to my dad for digging the story at the last moment she passed away.

In 1943 when my grandmother was 19 years old,  she was sent to Dong’an First Army Hospital near the Russian border (called Soviet at that time) as a rescue team member together with 23 nurses of the Japanese Red Cross Society.

On August 9th, 1945, Russia declared war against Japan. While thousands of Japanese soldiers were killed due to the attack by tank and fighter machine gun sweep, she took an escape route from Dong’an to Dunhua which she was told the only secure route. To avoid exposure to Russian soldiers, she had to move during night time only and she kept moving on foot for 2 months.

She and other nurses had their head shaved, painted their face with Chinese ink (墨, which is sort of mud), and made them look like a man soldier. They kept running away in the mountain with military doctors, medics, army nurses, red cross nurses and about 100 patients who were injured.

During the escape, she caught typhus and had a near-death experience. The person who took care of her was my grandfather. He was serving as a medic during the war.

Later they found that Japan was defeated, and became hostages of Russia. They were sent to different prisoner’s camps many times, transferred to Eighth Route Army (八路軍, Group of the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China) and forced to work at the hospitals while looking for an opportunity to go back to Japan.

In November 1946, my grandmother and grandfather came back to Japan. Luckily, they did not die. They got married and my father was born.

Below items were discovered when organizing my grandmother’s belongings. These are the photos of the nurses sent to the battlefield and handwritten notes about the entire rescue team activities, including the escaping part.

Long story short, my father is a by-product of the war in a sense so am I. Without war, my grandmother and grandfather never met and I don’t exist today.

I have lots of relatives who work in the medical field. I did not choose to be a doctor, but here I am. Instead, I studied computer science and now running a startup that provides AI for doctors and hospitals.

If there is something that interests you unconsciously, maybe it’s part of your family history.

Why We Switched from HubSpot to Pipedrive

For B2B startups, CRM is a critical tool not only to keep track of prospective customers but also to efficiently communicate with stakeholders including employees and investors.

At our startup, we send the most up-to-date pipeline of all prospective customers to the stakeholders every two weeks. This regular update helps me as a CEO to grasp the overall sales activity of the company and get proper feedback from them. Sometimes we get a direct sales channel via an introduction from the stakeholders. This is another reason why I encourage other startups to do the same.

I believe all employees at any level at an early stage startup should have access to CRM, understand what is going on at the company, and dive deep into an individual project if they want to. This is one of the fundamental rights that should be given to the people working at a startup.

We have been using HubSpot about a year and decided to switch to Pipedrive. This wasn’t the easiest decision to make because we knew what it takes to transition from one CRM to another from our previous experience when we migrated from eSales Manager (Japanese CRM/SFA developed by Softbrain) to HubSpot. But yet we moved to new CRM. Why?

First off, the price was just too expensive. Thanks to HubSpot’s startup program where they were giving us a 50% discount for the professional line of their product. Despite this discount, we weren’t able to add all employees to CRM because doing so would have resulted in nearly $2,000 per month just for CRM and it’s simply too much to pay for the early stage startup.

Next, I was not able to track all email conversations between our sales team and prospective customers in chronological order. Yes, I know HubSpot provides that feature called Team Activity in Sales Dashboard, but it limited to only the most recent 20 email conversations. If I were to look up any older email conversation, then I was forced to look into an individual project and see the conversation there. This was a very time-consuming task at least to me.

Lastly, HubSpot had lots of marketing features that weren’t relevant to us. Again, we know HubSpot offers a separate line of product for marketing purpose but we felt we were paying a bit extra for those marketing features bundled with CRM. We just wanted to use the CRM part of HubSpot and pay for it.

Amongst many CRM solutions available in the market today. Pipedrive caught my eyes. I knew about Pipedrive since 2015 or so but I thought it wasn’t for us because of a lack of Japanese support. However, when I saw this press release saying they opened the official Japanese website and support in Japanese, it changed my mind and made me test-drive this new CRM.

Long story short, now we are finally able to add ALL employees to the same CRM while maintaining the monthly cost significantly low as compared to HubSpot. I can see all email conversations at a single place called Email (Wow, it cannot be more simpler than that!) and Pipedrive excels in just one category, which is CRM. There is no additional marketing feature that we don’t use and don’t want to pay for.

For those who haven’t tried Pipedrive, here is a personal invitation from me. You will get an extended 30-day trial if you apply for a trial through my invitation. Let me know how you use this CRM at your organization.

Different Perspective of Domestic and International VCs

As I started having a conversation with international VCs and CVCs, I noticed there is a big difference in the way they ask questions when they meet a startup founder for the first time.

Domestics VCs or Japanese investors always start a conversation by asking a question like what kind of problem the startup is trying to solve, a product or service the startup is offering, and traction the startup is having at the moment. In short, they want to know a product/market fit and potential market size. Simple.

In contrast, those who are based in North America, the Middle East, SE Asia, and China tend to start a conversation by asking how co-founders meet, the background of each founding member, and a history of the company formation. Their focus is on the people, not on the product. This applies to a startup beyond series A stage that is ready to scale its business.

When I talk to domestics VCs, I never pay too much attention to talking about the founding member’s background because I’m never asked to do so. The slide about the founding members always comes at the end in the pitch deck and I often have to skip it by running out of time. However, I was recently advised to bring that slide to the beginning when I talk to international VCs because that’s what they want to know first.

Why the difference? My understanding is that the belief of the latter group of people is the best investment return comes from a strong founding team, not a strong product. This makes sense given that the startup might have multiple products or businesses in the future. Some might work out okay while others might not.

The startup can survive as long as there is a strong founding team even if all products fail. They can pivot or make adjustments according to changes in the market, and release a new product along the way. If the startup has a strong product but no strong founding team, then it will have to face serious trouble when a big company enters the same market or the product is not selling well anymore.

Maybe this difference is partly due to the fact that there are more serial entrepreneurs internationally than in Japan. VCs need to justify if the founder is a serial entrepreneur or not because that fact alone can change the success ratio of their investment a lot.

Not sure if I’m considered serial enough, but I like the way they treat entrepreneurs. I really encourage Japanese investors to take a hard look at the founder’s background and put more weight on the uniqueness of the founding team.

Book Review: Super Genba

I’m writing this blog post at my hometown in Shiga since we are in the middle of a long holiday (golden week) here in Japan. Just like every other entrepreneur, I’m spending most of my time reading books, learning new things and thinking about what our startup should do in the near future.

Among the books I’ve read, Super Genba caught my eyes. Although this book was written quite some time ago, I was advised to read it by one of our stakeholders so I did it.

What the book insists throughout all chapters is very straight forward. The company that can create a system to manage customer touchpoints and turn them into cash quickly wins.

Apple is a good example. The company manages customers touchpoints by operating its retail store worldwide, and its inventory period is less than 5 days. In other words, Apple can pull hundreds of dollars from your wallet and put them into its bank account very quickly once you decide to purchase any Apple products.

All Apple devices connect to iCloud every couple of days to send the usage data of products whether you like it or not. This is their way of understanding what the customer wants. There is no middleman in between.

A bad example is a typical Japanese company in which its sales activity heavily relies on middlemen like resellers and distributors, and its inventory period easily exceeds 60 days. Again, in other words, they don’t know who their customers are and what the customers really want, and they are paying billions of dollars to keep these inventories. There is no way for them to win against the company like Apple.

We are now living the age of the cloud where creating a direct customer touchpoint is easier than ever. If your competitors are understanding the customers better than you do, then you will lose. It doesn’t matter how good your product or service is. It all about managing customer touchpoints and how fast you can turn them into cash.

I strongly recommend this book to any CEO and entrepreneur running a company in Japan.

The Japanese edition is also available.

AI in Retail

This is my response to the latest TechCrunch article: Walmart unveils an AI-powered store of the future, now open to the public.

Every time I see this kind of AI-in-retail application, I somehow feel sad. It’s because of the introduction of retail AI is often designed to one particular goal, which is to encourage consumers to buy more foods and goods by analyzing the buying behavior and removing whatever obstacles between the seller and buyer.

To me, this is totally against a food crisis which we will face in the near future. Even worse, more food and good consumption lead to more logistics that will cause more gas consumption.  Electric trucks are coming, but it will take decades for every logistic company to adopt them.

In the ideal world, all foods and goods will be produced nearby a consumer neighborhood. Thanks to the innovation happening in plat factory and 3D printing, we are seeing some of them becoming reality. I’m a big fan of startups that are tackling a non-animal based protein problem.

AI should be used to foster the latter, not to drive the current consumption heavy economy. In the long run, the companies that use AI to create a sustainable economy will gain trust from consumers and eventually win.

What’s Wrong With Japanese AI Talent Education?

The Japanese government finally announced its policy for AI talent education. To me, this is just another instant reaction without thinking too much that we’ve seen many times in the past.

In 1987, the government said we need to educate software engineers because there will be a shortage of 40,000 system engineers and programmers by 2000. In order to solve this problem, the government launched a plan to train 16,000 teachers who would be responsible for teaching programming at junior high school.

Did Japan become a top country in this domain? Nope. India, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines are doing a much better job right now.

In 2016, the government said we need to educate security experts who can prevent the country from getting cyber attacks because there will be a shortage of 200,000 security experts. Again, Israel and Chine are doing a much better job. Do you see the pattern here?

When the government says ‘educate’, it means they are trying to create more users, not inventors. Creating more AI users, particularly people who can use deep leaning, do not make Japan the leading country in AI. In fact, it’s forcing people to become consumers of AI, not producers. There is a huge gap between the two.

Look at Canada. Why does this country host so many scientists who contributed to fundamental research in AI? To name a few, Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun, and Robert Tibshirani (a core contributor of LASSO which my startup uses it a lot), they are either born, lived, studied or worked in Canada.

If Japan were serious about being the leading country in AI, then all investments should be made toward creating more researchers in statistics, mathematics, machine learning, and AI fields. I strongly feel sorry for our children who are obligated to go through this ridiculous education policy driven by the government.

We must do something about it.

Narrowing Down To Two Slack Channels

First off, I’m not exactly a big fan of Slack. I feel like I’m forced to find a tiny comment within a thousand lines of source code written by someone else. If you are a software developer, you know what I mean.

That feeling is coming from the fact that Slack is mainly designed for a software developer and it’s a very text-heavy product. Slack is an awesome communication tool when you use it properly in your organization. But at the same time, it can kill your time as CEO.

As a company gets bigger, you as a CEO get invited into so many Slack (or Facebook, WhatsApp, whatever messaging app) channels that you should not be part of. Even though I’m making my position crystal clear, I keep getting such an invitation from the people inside and outside the company all the time. When that happens, I simply share my above blog post and quit the channel with a little apology.

My ultimate goal is to narrow down my Slack channels into just two. They are not #general and #random channels, where you are a member by default. I’m talking about #whatceoisthinking and #troubleshooting channels.

The former is what the channel name says. It’s a place for the CEO to share his/her thoughts company-wide. The latter is the place for the employees where they can request a special assistance from the CEO in order to troubleshoot anything that’s preventing their job from getting it done.

Troubleshooting is the privilege of the CEO and not so many CEOs think that way. Let’s take a look at my typical day schedule. I will explain why.

Amongst the tasks listed above, everything except for the last item can be done by other people. You can delegate these tasks to your employees. However, there are types of troubles that can be solved by the CEO only and they range from fixing a relationship between employees to making an apology to a loyal customer.

You as CEO want to troubleshoot anything as early as possible because it gets really messy if you leave it for quite some time. In order to do so, you need a channel to watch out for any potential trouble within the company. This is the reason why you need a dedicated channel for it and you need to be open for feedback from the employees.

Hopefully, one day I can be the CEO who runs his company by dealing with these two channels only.