Bespoke founder Akemi Tsunagawa: she found her first customers on Tinder

Japanese founder Akemi Tsunagawa laughing

To an interview with Japanese founder Akemi Tsunagawa

Akemi Tsunagawa is an entrepreneur, founder and CEO of the world's first AI-powered chatbot. The 33-year-old entrepreneur's career path is impressive. Akemi Tsunagawa is one of only 15 percent of women in leadership positions in Japan. Here's how Tsunagawa, a remarkable visionary, is acting with her AI chatbot not only as a pioneer in emergency and crisis communications, but also as a symbol of equality and women in leadership positions. In 2015, Akemi Tsunagawa, a young Japanese woman, founded Bebot with a startup capital of 200.000 Euro Bespoke. The startup is betting on an AI-based chatbot for the tourism industry. The user base is growing rapidly, but crises such as earthquakes, tsunamis and, currently, the Corona crisis, require new approaches. "All the customers we communicate with have different problems, but I think emergency communication is number one because there is no other digital solution for it on the market," Tsunagawa says. We wanted to know more and asked Akemi questions about her motivation, intention and vision.

Overview: Tell us more about Bebot. What exactly is behind it?

Akemi Tsunagawa: Bebot is one of the world's leading developers of multilingual, AI-powered services for the travel and tourism industry. The focus is on providing real-time information in emergencies as well as while traveling on the road. Every year, 15 million people interact with Bebot to get quick and direct answers via automated chat. Our partners include government agencies, airports and travel destinations.

O: How did the idea for Bespoke come about??

Akemi Tsunagawa: I was in the 20. Stock of an investment bank when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck Japan in 2011. Monitors and ceilings were flying around. I took shelter on the emergency stairs. All I could hear was loud screaming and crying. That was the longest 15 minutes of my life. A few days later, foreign embassies began evacuating people from Japan. The supermarkets were empty. Radiation levels in Tokyo increased 10-fold. We were not allowed to go outside anymore. But what was most frightening was that we couldn't get any information in real time. Today, nine years later, I run the travel tech company Bespoke, which helps governments and travel companies do emergency communications in real time using AI technologies. This is my passion. And my passion became the product that is now used by over 15 million people a year.

O: Why did you want to put your idea into practice??

Akemi Tsunagawa: No one else had a solution, so I did it myself. The timing was perfect.

O: Did you ever want to give up? Why?

Akemi Tsunagawa: No, I will continue until I am satisfied with the result.

O: What was your motivation?

Akemi Tsunagawa: I have fun doing what we do. We do something meaningful for the world. My motivation: I am proud of the product and the team we have built together at Bespoke.

O: Feel free to tell us more about working with Tinder?

Akemi Tsunagawa: We used Tinder to acquire users by redirecting users to our service. The profile pictures of my sister had to be used for this.

O: What are the next steps now?

Akemi Tsunagawa: The next step is to expand the popularity Bespoke enjoys in Japan worldwide. Bespoke should become the flagship for fast and direct help at airports, traffic authorities, DMOs and in emergency situations.

O: How do you motivate yourself every day??

Akemi Tsunagawa: With a 40 minutes High Intensity Workout.

O: Who were/are your role models?

Akemi Tsunagawa: My role model is the Japanese government representative Akiko Ito.

O: Do you have any tips for more self-confidence and stamina??

Akemi Tsunagawa: Don't listen to others!

O: Your personal motto in life:

Akemi Tsunagawa: "Try everything at least once!"

O: You meet yourself at 18 years old. What sentence would you give yourself to take with you??

Akemi Tsunagawa: Invest more time in experiences and adventures. Your appearance is a "depreciating asset" as they say in business parlance.

O: What would you do on a day off when you had to turn off all electronic devices?

Akemi Tsunagawa: Doing nothing at all, somewhere on the beach.

O: What phrase has ever been said to you that still shapes you today??

Akemi Tsunagawa: It's your choice whether you create an opportunity for others or take advantage of an opportunity created by others.

O: If you had 5 minutes and the whole world was listening to you, what would you say??

Akemi Tsunagawa: It is an incredible experience to create something from scratch. An experience that is unique.

Get an overview w/Akemi Tsunagawa

Who are you?

What do you do?

I run the tech company Bespoke in Tokyo.

What would you never do in your life?

I would never stop working. Work shapes the way I see the world.

Were you a good student?

What do you do on Sundays?

I play "The Settlers of Catan.

What annoys you in the world?

At the moment it is annoying not to be able to travel.

What is your master plan?

What would the person who is the complete opposite of you be like??

A research analyst? I prefer to figure things out as I work on them.

What quirk do you love about yourself?

I am very focused. That's what I like about me.

Your favorite app, other than social media apps?

Orangetheory, a workout app.

Who in your circle of friends would deserve a bouquet of flowers?