Wantedly vs LinkedIn: How Akiko Naka’s Startup is Reshaping Japan’s Job Market


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An innovative businesswoman is transforming Japan’s employment landscape. Among the boldest and most creative businesswomen in Japan, she is the CEO and founder of Wantedly Akiko Naka. With a stellar resume that includes employment at Facebook and Goldman Sachs in addition to Japan’s prestigious Kyoto University, Akiko, she made a name for herself in the startup world. When she chose to use Wantedly to upend the conventional job-search process, her journey took a different turn. In addition to upending recruitment conventions, Wantedly has grown to be a significant force in Japan’s contracting labor market. Wantedly has become very popular with its novel strategy of emphasizing corporate culture over formalities.

The brilliant CEO and founder of Wantedly, Akiko Naka, was born in Japan on October 12, 1984, but she also lived a brief childhood there while her mother was a Duke University professor. She was exposed to different cultures, which probably shaped her varied viewpoints. Akiko started her entrepreneurial career early. In 2005, while attending Kyoto University, she launched a free campus newspaper after reading a book about CyberAgent. She joined the corporate world after earning an economics degree, working first at Goldman Sachs in Tokyo as an institutional investor’s stock salesperson. After deciding she was not happy with the conventional job path, Akiko started writing manga and eventually joined Facebook in 2010. However, her passion for creating meaningful connections in the professional world led her to establish Wantedly in 2010, reshaping the job-search landscape in Japan and beyond.

Founding Wantedly: The Unusual Method

After quitting Facebook in 2010, Akiko Naka started an innovative business venture called Wantedly to transform the job-search industry. The core of Wantedly’s innovative approach is its rejection of conventional wisdom in favor of a more customized and all-encompassing understanding of work. Naka introduced a casual and refreshing methodology to job matching, challenging the status quo prevalent in Japan. Wantedly’s platform gives priority to the company’s ethos and culture, in contrast to traditional job listings that concentrate on salary and benefits. Wantedly stresses the value of “dating first,” inviting potential hires to have informal meetings with businesses that pique their interest. This creates a sincere rapport between employers and candidates. This unorthodox approach has helped Wantedly succeed in the cutthroat employment market in addition to upending the established hiring procedure.

Japan’s Shifting Workforce Dynamics

With a projected 27% growth to reach ¥500 billion in the recruitment industry, Wantedly has positioned itself to thrive in Japan’s competitive labor market. This increase is a sign of a major shift in the dynamics of the Japanese labor market, with Wantedly at the forefront of the movement toward more contemporary hiring techniques. With a staggering 2 million users, Wantedly not only takes advantage of the particular difficulties posed by the local employment market but also challenges the dominance of global industry giant LinkedIn in the Japanese market. The platform’s creative approach, which emphasizes a more personal and cultural fit in job matching rather than the more conventional focus on salary and benefits, is what makes it successful. Wantedly is a major force behind the paradigm shift in recruitment techniques and the development of the professional landscape in Japan as the country’s workforce transforms.

Wantedly’s Growth and Market Position

The extraordinary growth trajectory of Wantedly goes beyond its stock market success on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The company’s stock, which has increased threefold, is a testament to its creative thinking and strategic positioning within the industry. At ¥29 billion, Wantedly is a significant player in the job-search industry that not only wins over investors but also establishes its dominance. The company’s principal investors, Shogo Kawada and CyberAgent, highlight the strategic alliances and backing that fuel its growth. Notably, Akiko Naka has a sizeable 71% stake in Wantedly, demonstrating not only her strong leadership but also her alignment of interest with the company’s overall performance and her dedication to Wantedly’s sustained market success.

Japan’s Entrepreneurial Vacuum

Naka’s entry into entrepreneurship at 34 defies Japan’s conventional career trajectory. She addresses challenges in a culture favoring prestigious university graduates and top-notch company jobs. Naka’s journey is emblematic of a broader entrepreneurial vacuum in Japan, where traditional employment norms often overshadow the spirit of innovation and risk-taking. In a society that traditionally values stability and conformity, individuals like Akiko Naka stand out as pioneers challenging the status quo. Her decision to embark on an entrepreneurial path not only symbolizes personal courage but also highlights the need for a cultural shift in Japan to foster and embrace a more vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Wantedly: Millennials’ Social Network

Unexpectedly, it is frequently heralded as Japan’s answer to LinkedIn, setting itself apart by emphasizing the importance of encouraging informal interactions in the work environment. Its user-friendly platform has succeeded in drawing in 35,000 customers, including major corporations like Nissan and Sony. Notably, Wantedly’s impact is felt not just in Japan but also in other international markets, such as Hong Kong and Singapore. This growth demonstrates its dedication to bringing professionals together in an increasingly globalized environment while meeting the needs of millennials, who want a more active and socially conscious networking experience.

Akiko Naka: The Japanese Wonder Woman Entrepreneur

A shining example in the world of entrepreneurship, Akiko Naka is notable for both her bold move into entrepreneurship and her incredible journey from an academician parent’s upbringing to an elite education. Naka’s story breaks gender stereotypes by going against the grain and highlighting the idea that one’s background should not stop one from achieving their goals. Her story acts as a catalyst, inspiring female entrepreneurs all over the world and fostering the idea that obstacles can be overcome and aspirations can come true regardless of social norms. 

Disrupting Japan’s Recruitment Norms

Tim Romero’s insights into Wantedly’s approach shed light on the transformative impact the platform has on Japan’s recruitment landscape. By challenging the conventional formalities deeply ingrained in the country’s recruitment process, Wantedly introduces a refreshing paradigm shift. The emphasis on a more relaxed and effective method not only streamlines the hiring process but also aligns with the evolving needs of both employers and job seekers. This approach fosters a dynamic and innovative ecosystem that diverges from traditional norms, contributing to the creation of a more adaptable and responsive job market in Japan.

The Effect of Akiko Naka on Japan’s Gender Equality Scene

Despite Japan’s gender equality challenges, Naka’s success and visibility contribute to changing perceptions. She downplays the focus on her gender, emphasizing competence over gender-related perspectives. Naka indirectly challenges power structures, proving that competence and visibility can influence societal perceptions. Successful female entrepreneurs play a vital role in reshaping traditional views.

Progress and Perspective

When Naka considers Japan’s development, she draws parallels with the US’s racial relations movement. She acknowledges progress and advises concentrating on the favorable adjustments that are occurring. Naka sees a future in which diversity and inclusion are fundamental to Japan’s identity, promoting a more just and peaceful society as societal attitudes change.


The employment landscape in Japan has changed significantly as a result of Akiko Naka’s unique experience with Wantedly. She breaks down barriers and promotes diversity with her success, inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs.


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