My favorite food is: Unagi The life hack I swear by: Shirataki Noodles
Creating a safe space for those socially stereotyped in online dating
SPOTTING A GAP IN THE SPACE. Curiosity has always driven Kenji-Travis Yamazaki. Born to a Thai mother and a Japanese father, Kenji grew up being a "good Asian kid," studying law, passing the bar exam, and starting their career as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. During their financial career, their inquisitiveness developed, driving them toward the startup world.
Finally, in 2015, Kenji co-founded EastMeetEast, a dating app for the Asian community outside of Asia. "There was a gap in online dating, and no one was there to fill it, so my business partner and I did a week-long bootcamp to figure out how to fill this need while making it a viable business."
Kenji led the growth effort at EastMeetEast, and when it hit a milestone user number, they left the company - the pandemic caused them to refocus and reconsider their outlook on life and success. "I started thinking about what I should be doing and that life is short, just like many people out there." During the process, they realized that the startup community was no longer the liberating space it once was, centered around money and status resembling Wall Street. "Instead of liberating me, it began to confine me, so I decided to take a break."
The subject of success and failure is something Kenji often contemplates. Rather than a linear progression of a business culminating in a glamorous exit, they believe each person has a differing need at each point in time, and it is most fulfilling to fill that need. "I'm quite East in that sense. I don't focus on being the best version of myself because myself is constantly changing.”
A FRESH PERSPECTIVE ON SUCCESS. This approach to Kenji's career has taken them to Europe, where they are planning a new life. The move, they say, was an easy decision. "I wanted to put myself in a less materialist environment and discover myself. I’ve already started to stop comparing myself to people around me."
What helped Kenji define and gain their fresh perspective on success is their journey of gender and identity. Feeling confined by systemic racism, sexism, and the hierarchy regarding masculinity within the LGBTQIA+ community in America, they started to break away from it. "I wanted to explore different sides of me - femininity and fluidity. That made me realize there's little use in spending your life pursuing what society dictates as desirable."
Kenji thinks the same applies to their entrepreneurial journey. "There's always someone doing better, and many startups will not even reach series B. If you use that as a guiding post for success, many people are doomed to be disappointed.
"Each one of us is unique, particularly in the LGBTQIA+ community. You can't be someone else who has a different background and a different startup. So why should your success look like that of the person next to you?"