GO RIDE STORY Vol.1: What Kind of Person is Our CEO?

by James Worsham

With locations in both LA and Yokohama, what are the culture and values of GO RIDE? In this series, “GO RIDE STORY,” we’ll convey the past, present, and future of GO RIDE through interviews with current team members.

Whether you’re interested in cross-border or international business, looking for a Shopify partner, participating in the Shopify community, looking for a job, looking into different work styles, etc., however it is that you’ve discovered our blog, we hope that you enjoy our story.

Pre-Entrepreneur Background

In this first installment, we’ll be talking to CEO of GO RIDE REPUBLIC, Inc., Toyo Hirashima. You can really get a grasp on his personality through the interview!

What did you do before you started this business? Please tell us about your background.

I was born and raised in Asahikawa, Hokkaido. After graduating from Hokkaido University’s School of Economics, I joined an IT venture company, where, being responsible for operations in North America, I was tasked with setting up a corporate entity in the US. For the just-under 3 years I was stationed in America, I mainly focused on the sales of web conferencing tools that are now taken for granted. Starting from zero at an unstructured, unlisted base was really exciting.

After returning to Japan, I worked for a foreign-owned company specializing in plant layout software for about five years. It was there that I first realized the overwhelming strength of global business, but I also felt that there wasn’t much I could contribute to an already-established firm. I had always wanted to start a business and provide a service on my own, so I started studying coding alone or with a tutor after work. At the time, to make the service one wanted to provide a reality, writing code and gathering colleagues was essential. Since I couldn’t put in full effort while working full-time, I made the decision to quit my job.

It seems like you’re the type who finds it rewarding to start from nothing and build. Do you consider your experience working for a large company to be valuable now?

Looking back, I think it might have been better to start my own business right after coming back from the States, but at the time I wanted to experience working at a large company. When I thought about what we now call the SaaS market, the importance of things like overwhelming market share, taking a position without having to ask for it, basically being a category killer: I felt it in my bones. I wondered if the same could be said about Shopify.
However, I do regret the way I sort of took advantage of that large corporate environment.

After resigning, I thought “I’ll probably never have this much free time again,” and went on a 13-month around-the-world surfing trip. Check it out on my blog: (My Endless Summer)

Emphasis on “Culture Fit” in the workplace

Thirteen months of traveling around the world is quite a feat! I’d love to hear more about that trip next time.
With all those experiences in mind, what do you consider most valuable in the workplace?

Culture fit, without a doubt. When it comes to building a career, fitting in with the company culture is even more important than having the right skills. If work is painful, or you feel out of place: if there’s even a little bit of that discomfort, rather than wasting your time, you’re better off changing something.

Can you name someone who you admire the way they do business?

There’s so many people that it’s hard to name just one person. (laughs)

If you insist, then Drew Houston, creator of Dropbox. Back when there was only 10 people working there, I actually went on a tour of the company in Silicon Valley. The dynamism of a trillion-yen enterprise with just a few employees was amazing. At that time, I sent them a facebook message and they responded directly. I don’t think they even remembered that I was on the tour. An elite company like that still responds to individual inquiries. I admire that attitude of being fair to everyone.

Shopify Meetup in LA 2019. 06

Company Values: “A Positive Impact on Society”

From our conversation, I can’t help but wonder what your attitude to company growth is.

I don’t believe that size is everything. I guess rather than always focusing on growth, I want this company to have an ever-more positive impact on society.

I’m continuously trying to make the company a place one can be happy, and have wellness through work. That desire to maintain a great work environment comes first. If we’re working, and living for that matter, to be happy, but we can’t get there, then there’s no meaning to our jobs, that’s how I feel. That includes employee compensation.

That said, having high profits is of course a good thing. I have an acquaintance with less than 30 employees, and sales of over 900 million yen. Isn’t that an amazing ratio?

It’s no good to be miserable at work. That’s easy to say, but it’s very difficult to follow through on that attitude. Still, at least I can say I’m trying. The rate that we’re progressing might be slow, but I want to catch up, even one baby step at a time.

I see! With a vision that big, I bet it’s hard to feel satisfied. (Laughs)

That might just be true. (Laughs)

It goes without saying, but all this doesn’t mean anything if you don’t produce results. I can’t overstate the importance of continuously making a plan and following through.

So we want to make not just our staff happy, but also the clients and others who are involved with GO RIDE.

Exactly! While living in the moment, we want to grow and develop alongside our clients.

What did you think?

In the next installment, we’ll take a deep dive into how Toyo, fresh off a year-long surfing trip, started his business in Japan and how GO RIDE has grown since then!

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