Originally from Japan, Hiro Maeda came to Bucknell to study Computer Science and Economics in 2005. When asked about what brought him to Bucknell and how the university contributed to his professional growth, Hiro stated:
"When selecting my college there were a few things that I really thought was important. The faculty/student ratio, the average class size, and the reputation of the engineering department. I wanted an environment where professors where accessible and where the class sizes were small enough that the professors and students all knew me by my name. Bucknell's College of Engineering had an excellent reputation and so this was the only university that met my criteria; it was an easy choice for me. I am really happy that I double majored in CS and Econ. Not only did CS give me the skills to program but also gave me a deep understanding of networks, algorithms, security, and etc. Since I invest in Internet Companies, being able have a deep understanding of the technology behind the companies allow me to bring more value to those companies and have an accurate understanding of what they are working on. Economics helped me understand various markets both in macroscopic and microscopic levels. Econ also helped me understand how financial institutions and public markets worked, which is very important if you want to be an investor."
Upon graduating in 2009, having met the degree requirements for a Bachelor of Arts in the the two degree programs, Hiro dedicated himself full time to the business he created at the end of his sophomore year at Bucknell. ThirdFloor Productions, LLC, incorporated in New York was created together with friends from his fraternity (Delta Upsilon). Their strong faith in the potential of the social aspects of the web led them to build a company to build vertical social networks for specific topics. The first project was a social network for independent musicians to connect with fans (http://discovertunes.co). Later on, they built a vertical social network for the fashion industry and were contracted to work with companies in the education and in the manufacturing segments.
After a few years worth of experience as self-made entrepreneur, a meeting with the CEO of Netprice.com, Teruhide (Teru) Sato led Hiro to go back to Japan. Mr. Sato, a partner of Open Network Lab ("OnLab"), who is passionate about building new businesses and stimulating entrepreneurship in Japan, was an inspiration to Hiro. A few months later (around November of 2009), Hiro came up with the idea of creating a startup accelerator to help bridge Japan and the U.S. Mr. Sato developed an immediate enthusiasm for Hiro's idea and together with Joichi Ito (Director of MIT's Media Lab and board member of Digital Garage - an investor in Twitter and Path), they established OnLab, in April 2010.
At OnLab, Hiro applies his knowledge and experience in helping Japanese startups get off the ground. The mission of OnLab is to provide Japanese startups with access to a global ecosystem that provides mentorship and funding from overseas. The network is helping Japanese startups to navigate a global ecosystem of investors, who place an increasing value in the transparent sharing of business information.
Hiro will represent OnLab at the TechCrunch Tokyo 2011 conference (Nov. 29th) talking about the environment and the guidance they provide to future entrepreneurs, as well as the funding they can offer as venture capitalists. More about Hiro and OnLab can be found in this article at TechCrunch. Those who can read Japanese or are savvy users of Google Translate might be interested in reading the announcement of speakers for the second part of TechCrunch Tokyo 2011.