This AGSM MBA brings startup and innovation culture from Australia to Japan

Kaoru Nishinakagawa specialized in innovation and entrepreneurship during an MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) in Sydney. Now she is starting her own programs.

Born out of UNSW Innovations – the university’s wider innovation office – Innovation Dojo offers start-up programs and connects budding entrepreneurs with high-level mentors, investors, clients and unique opportunities across Japan and the Asia-Pacific region (JAPAC).

Kaoru’s mission: to improve intercultural ties, develop global talents, revitalize the Japanese economy and facilitate the development of startup communities in the JAPAC region.

It is an ambitious project, but it is already gaining ground. Innovation Dojo is launching its first startup program in December this year and is looking to develop tailor-made programs – combining global business practices with a lean startup methodology – for companies across Japan.

Prior to his MBA, Kaoru spent a decade in sales, working for television, multimedia and semiconductor companies in his native Japan before moving to Australia. There she joined Corbis – a leading licensing agency founded by Microsoft mogul Bill Gates – guiding partners in Japan and Korea.

With an MBA from AGSM, she decided to consolidate her business knowledge and act as a bridge between Australia and the rest of the JAPAC region. It’s worked. In June, she co-founded Innovation Dojo with Joshua Flannery, another AGSM MBA graduate and director of the FounderLab at UNSW Innovation, which makes the entrepreneurial dreams of AGSM students come true.

How did the idea of ​​launching Innovation Dojo come about?

Josh and I found a common passion for improving the economic relationship between Japan and Australia, using innovation as a catalyst. I had always wanted to export the “culture of innovation” and successful methodologies from Australia to Japan, and Josh wanted to stimulate the startup scenes in both countries.

Since innovation is on the government’s agenda in both countries, we believe our model is the best way to contribute and support existing initiatives.

What do you hope to achieve?

Over the past 20 years, Japan has struggled with its stagnant economy and tried to find a way to revive it. We believe that Japan still has the best technology and science class in the world, and this should be shared globally.

We want to bring together exceptional Japanese talent with innovation savvy Australians and achieve a breakthrough with our program. Already, we have received requests to develop a tailor-made innovation program for large companies in Japan.

We are excited to expand into various industries. And, once we establish our business in Japan, we would like to expand into the adjacent markets in Korea, India and Malaysia.

How has AGSM supported you in your business project?

UNSW Innovations has been of great support throughout our founding process, from organizing our launch party to incorporating the company. It would have taken longer to move our business forward without this support and I feel blessed, as an AGSM alumnus, to be a part of the UNSW startup community.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at AGSM?

Before my MBA, I really enjoyed being a business facilitator between Japan, Korea and Australia. I wanted to stay in Australia to learn more about the local business culture, develop a strong business sense and develop my professional network.

AGSM was the obvious choice, due to its global ranking, reputation and small cohort structure. Additionally, Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and AGSM is located just a 20 minute walk from Coogee, a Sydney suburb with a stunning beach!

What should applicants think about when deciding to pursue an MBA?

Each has different career goals, hence different selection criteria for selecting business schools. If you are targeting large consulting firms, top ranked schools are your best bet.

If you are trying to find something special to change your life then you want a full MBA experience with clubs, activities, social activities, and an inspiring living environment.

Above all, stay open-minded. Your MBA experience will open new chapters in your career history.

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