AI is bringing back balance to Japanese workers

The “Japanese economic miracle” is a term used to describe the fast-paced growth that Japan saw in the second half of the 20th century. Along with the rise to the world’s second-largest economy came a strong mentality for success, and much like other advanced economies, that left a side effect: work-life imbalance, resulting in an overworked population. 

Japanese entrepreneur Miku Hirano founded her startup, Cinnamon, to address this challenge to help relieve the burden on the Japanese worker. Using artificial intelligence, Cinnamon removes repetitive tasks from office workers’ daily responsibilities, allowing more work to get done faster by fewer people. Cinnamon recently participated in Google Developers Launchpad Accelerator Japan. We asked Miku to reflect on her path from becoming an entrepreneur and the challenges she faces in her work. 

When did you realize you wanted to make an impact on Japanese workers? 

I founded my first startup when I was a student in 2006, and it was successfully acquired by mixi in 2011, so entrepreneurship is not new to me. Just three years ago, I read a news story about a young woman in Japan who committed suicide after working too much. I did some research and found this was not an isolated incident, and in fact, we have word, karoshi, which means death from overwork.. 

I was pregnant at the time, and I started to think we should change this current working style for the next generation. Work-life balance isn’t just a “nice” aspiration to have. Consistency with your family, pursuing hobbies and spending time in nature is directly related to health and happiness. 

So how does Cinnamon help restore work-life balance? 

he majority of the time-consuming work that Japanese workers face is the result of “unstructured data.” For example, legal contracts are often 400 pages long, and without a way to quickly summarize it, workers are left to read the entire document, a task that can take up to a week to accomplish. Cinnamon uses artificial intelligence to quickly summarize the document in minutes.  

What we’re building at Cinnamon is a way to use AI to remove repetitive tasks that can give workers back hours of their life each day and increase the quality and output of their work. Advanced technology is the core component that makes Cinnamon work, and Google’s AI tools like TensorFlow and Firebase have been an easy way to allow computers to read and understand a lot of text very quickly.  

Why did you choose to participate in the Launchpad Accelerator? 

We were facing a block on how to develop large, quality AI models effectively and how to build strong teams.  Google’s program was supporting exactly that. 

During our time in the accelerator, we received hands-on mentorship for complex AI model development. We also got to participate in a program called LeadersLab, which gave us in-depth insight into our leadership styles.

What advice do you have for future entrepreneurs?

Start your business today!  There’s no reason to wait. Talk to potential customers immediately and get a sense for if they find your idea valuable. Most importantly, find your inspiration. For me it’s my kids, because they always inspire me with their genuine, fresh eyes and minds.