“Please tell us how the CEO of TBM Yamasaki and Mr. Noda came to know one another”
“When I was a young professor I was researching the ‘pros and cons’ of starting up a new business. Luckily I had opportunities to learn about business ethics from Konosuke Matsushita whom is known as the ‘god of management’ and a founder of Panasonic (Matsushita Electronics) and Soichiro Honda whom established Honda and many more successful enterprises. As I was speaking to these successful people, I eventually wanted also to speak to young people in our generation who are also dedicated to be successful in the future. With the help of the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry, I put all my effort into establishing a public service corporation named “The New Business Council”. I eventually became the first president on the board of The New Business Council and tried to spend as much time as I could on researches through communicating with other young entrepreneurs. Over the past few decades, I have been getting to know many different entrepreneurs. As I enjoy communicating with people from the younger generation as well as the older generation, I have been meaning to learn what “practical management” is. That is why I naturally have gotten to know you Mr. Yamasaki, and we have come far together.”
“Indeed, you sir, are exactly right. To come to think of it, back in January in 2011, was the very first time that I had met you. When I and all of my young entrepreneurial friends had lunch with you at the Capital Tokyu Hotel in Akasaka.”
Oh, yes. Now I recall it, at that time I asked what kind of business you were doing, you answered…
“At this stage, I am importing paper like product called ‘Stone Paper’ made from limestone invented by a company in Taiwan. However, there have been issues with the quality of the paper, so I eventually would like to invent a product that is extremely close to normal paper in our company”
I was immediately impressed by your idea after I heard the background history from you. I had already known that the paper production consumes large quantities of wood pulp, and water. I was considering the social issues as if they were my own, so your idea in terms of making this environment better really touched my heart.
Every single person at that lunch table was a great new entrepreneur, but especially you were very interested in this stone paper project. Back then, there was no one interested in this project as much as you were. You also showed me your strong interest in this project and told me
“This is an amazing project, keep it going”
These things, kept pushing me forward and motivated me.
I was honestly nervous about meeting you beforehand, but as you supported my project, I gradually let go of my nervousness, and on the way back home with you, I could walk the way I always walk (he laughs). I will never ever forget about that day.
“What kind of advice did you give to Mr. Yamasaki?” we asked Mr. Noda
“Although I was impressed with his ideas and strategies, technologies were not really developed in order to follow his project. Before taking any action, I thought that they needed a development fund. However, there was no such thing as a capital venture currently in Japan, so unfortunately for any venture company with very high potential, there were no financial institutions that could invest any funds…. I mean there is still none at this stage (he laughs).
Then, I suggested he apply for a subsidy program for a new business establishment as the Japanese government is now starting to financially support venture companies. This is because it had created a stable allowance for such companies to grow. Luckily, as I expected your ideas for this project garnered immense praise and many specialists pushed this project forward. I was honestly so relieved when I heard that The Ministry of Economy selected your company for a subsidy as a new business establishment, I thought you cleared the first hurdle as a first step.
I was struggling to collect the funds for the development of LIMEX for a long period, so taking on your advice helped me a lot. As soon as it passed the screening, I remember I called you immediately and you said
“Congratulations!! But the game has just started…” Those words are unforgettable and will forever remain in my heart. Plus, our product we used to call it natural stone paper as it is. You sir, said, “That is not a unique sounding product at all, Sekkaiseki is lime-stone in English, but also lime is also known as a lime fruit which blossoms in a beautiful white color, and in Latin the alphabet “X” means from, so why don’t you combine these 2 words LIME and X, LIMEX?”
Of course, it was you who named it LIMEX, I was so impressed with that name that I had no words. X also means Infinite possibilities. As soon as I heard this name I felt like something clicked in my heart and thought this is the name it should be called.
“After that, very first pilot plant facility was constructed, how was it decided to be constructed in Shiroishi city” we asked.
When Mr. Yamasaki asked me where the pilot plant facility should be constructed, I immediately came up with Shiroishi city due to the public subsidy program for The Great East Japan Earthquake. I told him that I personally lived in Sendai City as the president of The University of Miyagi back in 1997. This city is known as Historical village of Washi (Japanese paper). That might have been the reason why the city came straight to my mind. I also know the governor of that city Mr. Murai and have friends in that city… I immediately called the governor Mr. Murai directly, and explained the circumstances of LIMEX and asked for the corporation.
Mr. Murai was very welcoming and accepting of the idea, and he kindly contacted the mayor of Shiroishi city. Because of his kindness of contacting Mr. Yamasaki, they came up with several candidate place which would be the most suitable option to meet the needs of LIMEX. To look back on the past, it took 4 years to have completed the construction of the very first pilot plant after I had met you, however I would not have been surprised if they had taken 5 or 10 years to get it done considering the scale of this project.
To be honest, I have seen so many venture companies that could not go through the screening and not be able to get the financial help of Japanese government, but the fact that TBM had been established so quickly is because this country considers this project will contribute to Japan and the world, I cannot deny that. I really think that without anyone’s help, we would not have been able to achieve this project, they provided the best suitable place for a pilot plant with TBM. In addition, in December 2015, we made an agreement with Tagajo city for TBM to establish their second industrial factory as well.
I feel like TBM and Miyagi prefecture were linked by fate.
“Please tell us about the business of LIMEX in the future” we asked Mr. Yamasaki
Well, construction of the second factory is in full swing, and our LIMEX business is about to elevate to the next level. At this stage, we are developing new LIMEX products. With the help of the professor of Industrial Science of Tokyo University, we are exploring the Life Cycle Assessment which is the study of how much LIMEX will be able to contribute to the world environmentally. Although the demand for paper is still increasing on a worldwide level, this era we are living in can be called “The century of water”. Water shortage can be considered as a serious global issue. In Europe and the United States, they financially support the companies that is contributing to an environment. So I feel obligated to positively respond to various support from overseas through LIMEX. I recently visited Silicon Valley in California, in this area, the resource value of water is noticeably increasing. I saw a bright future of LIMEX there as well.
Do you honestly feel relieved after the construction of the pilot plant had been completed?
It finally had been completed, but I do not feel relieved at all to be honest, because there are so many high walls that I will have to face and everything is, of course, my responsibility. We are expecting in the near future “Challenge to the world” is also one of them as well. I mean that ever since I met Mr. Noda, I have been gaining so much power from him, but especially the time he told me the entomology and origin of the word “risk” when I was having a hard time has still remaining in my heart, and it is still treasure of my heart now. Do you remember that time? (He asked Noda).
A couple of years ago, Mr. Noda told me that “The word ‘risk’ in Japanese could mean ‘dangerous’ and people tend to use this word in a negative way. However, it was used in ancient Italian as the meaning of ‘overcoming obstacles with courage.’
You really pushed me up mentally, I have never forgotten these wise words ever since you told me. That is why I was able to push myself up even when I was having a hard time with collecting the development funds strongly believing in success and continuing to make the best efforts. I would like to thank you again for all of your support.
You still remember that? (He laughs). I actually quoted from the book of an American financial scholar, Peter Bernstein. Please make your LIMEX project come to success greatly, keep on trying and overcoming obstacles with courage! In order to do that, with all the people concerned, make sure to focus on marketplace circumstances as well as manufacturing technology. Please always question yourself “What can LIMEX do next?”
And eventually this project will expand more widely and construct more facilities globally. Even at this stage, paper is used to the products that I would never expect it to be used for. And ‘The Paper’ that I named LIMEX has infinite possibilities. I believe that LIMEX will be the revolutionary product that gives hope to the people of the whole world in the 21st century. I do, strongly believe in that as a godfather of LIMEX.