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< All founders' list

Yoshikazu Tanaka

Side Project
Does Code
GREE, Inc.
Year of founding:
Current age:
Net worth:

1. Background

Education: Bachelor's Degree

College: Nihon University

Previous Career:

1999: Started working for so-net entertainment - a division of Sony Internet

2000 - 2004: Worked at the Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten

2. Origin Story

The Spark

When Tanaka was working at Rakuten, he used to observe the trends in the Internet space outside Japan. In 2003, when Friendster was launched, it received 3 million users within the first few months. He was surprised by the success that Friendster got in such a short period of time. Realising the immense growth potential of a social network, he was motivated to start a company in the space. He decided to build a social network service for Japan.

The Build

At mere 26 years of age, Tanaka started developing SNS GREE. It was 2003, and Tanaka was still working at Rakuten. He started building the first version of GREE in his apartment.

The Launch

Tanaka made the website open to public in February 2004. Within a month, the website had 10,000 users; and by October 2004, the number of users had increased to more than 100,000. He needed more people in his team to handle the growing user base. In December 2004, he left his job at Rakuten and established GREE Inc.

3. Other interesting points

- Post his stint with Sony, Tanaka wanted to experience working at a startup, and hence chose Rakuten - which then was just 3 years old.

- The name "GREE" is a play on the concept of "six degrees of separation" which theorizes that everyone on the planet is connected through no more than six personal associations.

- Tanaka didn't spend any money on marketing. The site grew through word of mouth from its user base.

4. Quote

“I think the number one advice of I can give you is - you just have to start it. Just get your feet in the water and do it. I learned a lot from just trying it out."

5. Company growth & sources (links)

Personal Story

How did they grow the company?