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Student Spotlight: Chikara’s Beat to Musical Success

A conversation with Chikara Naito about his experience studying the High-tech Entrepreneurship master’s at Harbour.Space and how it helped him develop and launch withTone, his music app. 

In September, Chikara graduated with a master’s in High-tech Entrepreneurship (HTE) from Harbour.Space University. He was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, and after a few years working at Deloitte, a world-renowned consulting firm, he decided to take the next step in his career and pursue his dream of becoming a music entrepreneur. 

He envisioned creating a musical community for both beginner and advanced musicians, and so created an app called ‘withTone’ which he plans to launch at the end of the year. Chikara describes his app as a “music-tech startup that innovates the experience of learning music and connects every musician from around the world”. Fun fact, Chikara is the creator of Harbour.Spaces’s podcast “See You Tomorrow” intro song.

We talked with him about his experience at Harbour.Space and the challenges and expectations he is facing developing and launching his app.

Harbour.Space Graduation

Cristian Rotari, Svetlana Velikanova, Chikara Naito and Adriano Sarfati at the Harbour.Space Graduation Day

“I found a truly diverse community, a place where creativity was stimulated, and an environment that required me to be honest with myself.”

Q: How was your experience at Harbour.Space and how did your master’s experience change you?

A: It was amazing! For me, it felt like home. Some people may doubt whether we learn entrepreneurship at the university, but I can confidently answer with yes you can- maybe not at a regular MBA, but you can at Harbour.Space."

Before coming to Harbour.Space, I worked at a big consulting firm, so I already knew some business theories, frameworks and how to apply them to projects. However, since I didn't know what I really wanted to do I looked at several options. The reason why I decided to come to Harbour.Space was mostly on intuition, but upon reflection, it was one of the smartest decisions I have made in my life.

I found a truly diverse community, a place where creativity was stimulated, and an environment that required me to be honest with myself. After the whole year, I came to believe that entrepreneurship is a way of life- one that I'm ready for despite its uncertainty. I can accept failure because now I have a huge friend network from Harbour.Space that I can rely on for reassurance.

Q: What was the class or teacher that helped you the most and why?

A: To be honest, I can't choose just one. I’d rather highlight a few of them and briefly recommend them.

Harbour.Space Teachers

Harbour.Space faculty members that inspired Chikara the most

- Alfred Bosch: I was so lucky that I could take this class because, technically, this module was mainly offered to designers. He showed me a lot of sides to Barcelona based on his experience. After three weeks of walking around Barcelona with him, always being asked to see everything with a questioning eye instead of just looking for answers, my feelings about the city became very special.

Andrey Kostyuk: Tons of assignments, a lot of pressure, harsh feedback... Probably, one of the toughest classes for High-tech Entrepreneurship students. But at the same time, it was one of the best classes for learning "real" entrepreneurship. I am truly grateful for the time and effort he patiently and generously devoted to us and the real-world knowledge and experience that is essential to surviving as an entrepreneur that he shared with us.

Ann Hiatt: She has had an astonishingly illustrious career, and despite being incredibly smart, she is truly humble and kind. The opportunity to talk to worldwide top-notch entrepreneurs and investors in class really helped me think about my own career path for the next 10 years.

- Hannes Chopra: He was very patient, helped us with the difficult problem of "confronting ourselves". I also feel that he gave genuine respect and love for each student. One of the guest speakers described him as "walking wisdom", which I think is a perfect description of him.

“Meeting and discussing with others gave me so many new insights and perspectives and I can say with confidence that I enjoyed it a lot.”

Q: Did you enjoy meeting people from all over the world?

A: Yes, I did, there is a genuine diversity at Harbour.Space that is hard to find elsewhere. The most memorable moment was when I took the Food Design class. At that point in time, I was feeling a bit burnt out and wanted to take a module that was a little less relevant to my startup project, withTone.

Each day in class we discussed the roots of different foods, the evolution of equipment and the influence of culture, art, politics, and religion in food. Imagine a class where you and your classmates from all over the world discuss exciting topics such as:  "what is real sushi?", "what’s an authentic croissant?", and "what do Kentucky and Soviet champagne have in common?". 

Meeting and discussing with others gave me so many new insights and perspectives and I can say with confidence that I enjoyed it a lot.

Q: You have been developing withTone for a while now. How much of what you learned at Harbour.Space have you put into practice and how has it helped you figure out the next steps in launching your app?

A: Almost all of the classes were helpful in improving withTone. Many of them were very practical and packed with knowledge and insight that could be applied to withTone immediately.

At times, I had to make major pivots or drastically change my approach. I could try the things I learnt in class straight away, and even when it sometimes didn’t work out, I knew that failure always meant I learnt something useful.  Every time I finished a class, I felt more confident about launching the app. Here is the mockup (as of now, it's only in Japanese).

withTone, a community-based learning platform

“With withTone, we focus on community and we try to make it easier to connect with others.” 

Q: There are a lot of music apps out there, what makes withTone different and special?

A: It’s true, there are a lot of music apps, but they mainly focus on learning musical instruments without teachers. They are very useful for beginners or for restarters who have had a  long absence from an instrument. However, once they get used to playing their instruments, they need to make friends in the music community and request specific feedback from other (more advanced) musicians.

The problem is this isn’t easy to do because each player has different goals, motivations and preferences. If people can't manage to find other like-minded people that support them or give them feedback, there's a high chance they will just give up playing instruments altogether. With withTone we focus on community, trying to make it easier to connect with others.

Q: When can we expect to see withTone in app stores?

A: Right now, we are tackling the building of the app and it is likely to be launched at the end of this year.

withTone app

Chikara's app withTone

Q: What would be your advice for people that are beginning their own start-up journey?

A: In my opinion, "an entrepreneur" is not just a job title, nor is it a synonym for the rich; it is a way of life itself. That is why learning entrepreneurship starts with facing and understanding yourself. It may sound simple, but I think in reality it is very difficult because it never ends. You have to be humble and open to keep learning new things, and you are bound to experience a lot of failures and disappointments. 

As an entrepreneur, I think the saying ‘follow your passion’ is an insufficient phrase; it should be ‘follow your passion and make good mistakes.’ In order to make good mistakes, it is essential to give it your all and be sincere to the people who have come along on your journey with you. As long as you have this mindset, we are all in the same boat. Welcome to an exciting entrepreneurial life.

If you are into music or want to follow Chikara’s progress check his blog and connect with him on LinkedIn. Also, if you want to change your life and become an entrepreneur, take a look at Harbour.Space’s High-tech Entrepreneurship programme.  



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