AI startup co-founder, expert discuss 20 years of MITOU Program
Takeuchi: It’s been 10 years since we last had time for this kind of discussion. Your company has grown so much during this period, hasn’t it?
Nishikawa: Fourteen years ago, Preferred Infrastructure — now PFN — was created by six people, including team members from an international programming competition, as well as my university friends.
We established PFN in 2014 to take advantage of our real-time machine learning technology that focused on the “internet of things.” We are now fortunate enough to have about 300 employees.
Takeuchi: Wow, six of you started the company and it now has 300 employees. That’s impressive. (PFN co-founder and Vice President Daisuke) Okanohara was in MITOU. Do any other former MITOU participants belong to your company?
Nishikawa: We have at least 13 MITOU “graduates.”
Takeuchi: I think that may be the largest number of MITOU graduates now working for a single Japanese company. You have grown the company through identifying outstanding individuals and putting them together as a working team. I think that deserves praise.
I’ve been involved in MITOU as senior project manager. I notice many applicants mention they “did an internship at PFN.” What does it take to successfully join your company?
Nishikawa: First of all, we look for someone who is knowledgeable about computer science. We are divided over whether we should give a coding exam to applicants, but in my opinion, we should. That’s because I think it’s important to find out not only whether a candidate understands theory, but also if they can also practically apply said theory.
For applicants who interned with us over a two-month period, we review how they performed during their internship to find out how they identified issues and how they addressed challenges.