Eric Turner is a US-born entrepreneur who has lived in Japan since 2013. He’s also the founder of japan-dev.com, a curated job board for tech jobs in Japan.
Eric grew up in Pennsylvania, but moved to Japan after graduating from university. He spent several years as a software engineer — and later engineering manager — at Japanese startups like “Mercari”.
As a foreigner in Japan, Eric struggled to find his first tech job. But eventually, he realized there were some great opportunities in the country, so he decided to build a service to help people find them. The result was Japan Dev, an English job board focused on “modern” tech jobs in Japan.
Unlike most job boards, Japan Dev is curated. Only foreigner-friendly companies with modern dev teams are eligible to post jobs. So only a small subset of tech companies fulfill the strict requirements. Every company on the site has a complete company profile page too, so users can find detailed data on remote work, benefits and other policies.
Japan’s IT industry gets a bad rap sometimes, but the startup industry in the country is growing. So is the demand for software engineers and other tech roles. By showcasing jobs at the top companies in Japan, Eric hopes to attract more engineers and tech folks to work in the country. And in doing so, he wants to improve the image of Japan’s IT industry around the world.
Where did the idea for Japan Dev come from?
Finding my first tech job in Japan was tough.
There weren’t many services targeting foreigners like me, so I had to do a lot of research to find good jobs. Back then, I wished that there was a curated job board that only shared jobs from internationally-minded companies. I wasn’t interested in working at an old-school Japanese company, and I knew a lot of other foreigners weren’t either.
This idea ultimately turned into Japan Dev. It was a way for me to scratch my own itch while providing value to other tech folks in the English-speaking community in Japan.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My schedule might be a bit unique for an entrepreneur.
I wake up at around 11:30 AM, go for a short walk, and drink some coffee to start the day. Then I’ll do an hour or two of light work (checking email, fixing bugs, things like that). Then I’ll head to lunch at around 1:00 or 2:00 PM.
Usually I’ll do a few more hours of work after lunch, and then eat a light dinner with my wife. After that, we’ll relax for a bit, maybe watch some TV. Sometimes I’ll take a quick nap during this time.
At around 9:00 or 10:00 PM I’ll go for a run.
So my primary work for the day usually starts at around midnight. I’m an extreme night owl, so this is the only time I can achieve true focus. Not sure why, but this has been true since I was a child and I’ve found that embracing it has made me more productive.
I usually go to bed at around 4:00 or 4:30 AM.
Some days I’ll have a meeting with a client, but I try to avoid them as much as I can. Ideally, I would rely 100% on asynchronous communication and have zero meetings.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I usually get ideas from my own experiences. I’ll wish some product existed, so I take a stab at building it.
As a software engineer, it’s not too hard to create a simple MVP for an idea and see what people think of it. I’m also lucky in that my wife is a designer, so she can help me make them look good.
I believe in simple prototypes and that charging money is the only true form of validation.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Remote work and the geographical freedom it will enable.
I think it will keep getting easier for people to live where they want to, without having to make sacrifices. And I’m pretty excited about that. It will create a lot of opportunities that didn’t exist previously (in fact it has already).
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
For lack of a better word, procrastination.
I believe that you need to ruthlessly prioritize your tasks if you want to maximize impact. My goal is to be working on the single most important task 100% of the time.
Procrastination is a good filter for helping you achieve this. If you wait until the last possible second to do something, you know for a fact it’s necessary. And it’s the point in time where you have the maximum possible data about the task, so you’re the most equipped to work on it.
But if you schedule things too far in advance, you’ll finish a task, just for the requirements to change — or for it to become unnecessary. Which means you wasted your time. Work also tends to expand to fill the time you allot to it.
So waiting until the last moment to do something ensures you don’t spend more time on it than necessary, and forces you to only work on things that you’re certain are truly necessary.
There are some drawbacks to this approach (you’ll occasionally cut something too close and get bit). But overall, I believe it leads to more efficient time allocation, and therefore more impact.
What advice would you give your younger self?
A decent programmer who can also sell and market a product is more valuable than a great programmer who can’t.
I’m glad I chose to become a software engineer, but I think I focused too much on engineering for too long, to the exclusion of all other skills.
If I could talk to my younger self I’d probably urge him to learn more about business while improving my coding skills, and become more well-rounded earlier.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Tokyo is poised to be a major tech hub.
The startup ecosystem here is still small, but it’s growing. There are some negative views out there about Japan’s work culture, but the legacy corporations are being replaced with modern, international ones.
A lot of people write off Japan because it has yet to birth a Google or a Facebook, but it has a history of miraculous economic growth fueled by technology. Last time it was hardware and manufacturing. Next time it could easily be software and Internet businesses.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Monitor my business metrics.
In my case that’s number of applicants, conversion rate, of course revenue and profit. I’m fairly obsessive about monitoring these since they’re the lifeblood of my business.
Keeping tabs on my KPIs helps me solve problems quickly, evaluate impact of experiments and predict what will happen with the business going forward.
Any business can be reduced to a simple formula. Keeping a close eye on my metrics helps me remember that.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Building in public has been pretty useful.
I think people in the tech community are tired of endless PR fluff pieces and fundraising announcements.
I’ve found that simply sharing my own story of building Japan Dev — both ups and downs — resonates with people. It shows them what’s possible and inspires them to quit their jobs to build something of their own.
And I think there’s a lot of appetite for honest stories like mine right now.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I built a product that no one actually wanted. I overcame it by pivoting once I realized the problem.
The initial version of Japan Dev wasn’t a job board. It was more like a company review site (similar to Glassdoor). But this had a lot of issues, and ultimately just wasn’t something people wanted.
So I began working with companies to share job posts instead, and this has worked a lot better.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
How about a tool to generate beautiful images for blog posts using AI?
Paste the content of your post, and the tool will use Stable Diffusion (or similar) to generate nice-looking images based on the content.
Finding images is super time consuming for writers, so I think this could be valuable if the results were good.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought a monitor arm.
I used to be the guy with like… textbooks stacked under my monitor so I could get it to the right height.
It wasted a ton of space on my desk. I could never quite position things right or really get comfortable. It was terrible.
But with the monitor arm I have total flexibility with the height, and it saves a ton of space on my desk. I really regret not getting one earlier.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use Notion — or sometimes Trello — for managing my todo list.
I like the kanban-style boards where you can drag tasks to different columns. But I don’t rely much on tooling in general. For my daily notes I just use a set of markdown files (I make a new one for each month).
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Probably “Influence” by Robert Cialdini.
It’s a great intro to behavioral psychology. And it really helped me understand why people do things.
Whether you want to influence people, or prevent others from influencing you, it’s super useful. So much of the sales and marketing I see can be traced back directly to the concepts in the book.
What is your favorite quote?
Not sure I have a favorite, but I like this one:
“There’s a guy inside me who wants to lay in bed, smoke weed all day, and watch cartoons and old movies. My whole life is a series of stratagems to avoid, and outwit, that guy.”
- Procrastination is a powerful way to force efficiency.
- Charging money is the only way to validate a business.
- Most meetings are a suboptimal use of time.
- Work whatever schedule feels the most natural.
- Building in public is a great way to promote your products.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.