Tatsuya Nakagawa

Co-Founder of Castagra Products

Tatsuya “Tats” Nakagawa is more than just an accomplished entrepreneur. He is also an author and expert on innovation and marketing. Apart from that, he is the co-founder of Castagra Products, (a company that has been manufacturing high-adhesion roof coatings) and the host of the Specified Growth Podcast.

Castagra helps contractors and commercial property owners solve difficult roof coating (tar and gravel) challenges. One of its products, Ecodur, is approved and used by the top companies in the world. Ecodur has also been voted top “Greenvention” by the entrepreneur reality show “Dragon’s Den”.

Over the course of 20 years as an author and entrepreneur, not only did Tats launched hundreds of products and services, but he also co-authored Overcoming Inventoritis: The Silent Killer of Innovation (forward by Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple). He has also spoken to a variety of industry groups including Chartered Accounts of Canada, Canadian Bar Association, The American Chamber of Commerce and The International Internet Marketing Association. He has written articles for Fast Company, Construction Today and Industry Week, and has been quoted on CBS News, Global TV, CBC and in The Globe and Mail and BC Business.

Where did the idea for Castagra Products come from?

Growing up, I had a lot of business ideas that were fun but didn’t go anywhere. Deep inside, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur — but I needed more help to get there. When I was in University, a friend of mine introduced me to Peter Roosen, a gifted inventor. In the process of working on a molding product that he built out and sold to a Fortune 500 company, he accidentally created a great coating technology. After his non-compete ran out, we decided to develop some new IP and decided to commercialize the coating product. We called the company, Castagra.

As we were about to launch the company, we came across a reality game show competition through Dragon’s Den. It’s a TV Show in Canada like Shark Tank in the US that features five to six top business leaders (at the time, leaders like Robert Herjavec and Kevin O’Leary were on the show) who evaluate and potentially invest in businesses and new products, which the hopeful entrepreneurs pitch on the show. We have named our coating technology Ecodur, which was our entry for the competition “Greenvention”, and won the top cash prize worth $100,000 without giving up any equity.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

When I wake up at 6 AM every day, I make it a habit to go for a 45-minute walk in the morning. Apart from getting fresh air, this activity gives me the necessary space for my ideas and insights to form. I also try my best not to overbook meetings on any given day. There are always some things that occur throughout the day which needs to be handled, so by leaving time for these unplanned challenges or opportunities, I don’t get overwhelmed with the number of things coming at me all through the day. Without leaving buffers in between each meeting, it won’t allow you to have enough time to address the important and time-sensitive matters promptly.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I surround myself with smart people. I love spending a lot of time with different people— from the young and upcoming professionals to experienced veterans, to help them and build relationships with them. It’s important to align yourself with people of diverse backgrounds to accelerate the innovation process.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Social media tools have done a lot to allow people from different geographies to connect share ideas and build long-lasting relationships. This is one of the reasons why I’ve been a LinkedIn user since 2004. As part of that, helping others has always been a passion of mine. I’ve always been interested in new technology that can bring people and ideas together more efficiently. There are many tools in this area, but there are still a lot of things on the horizon. For instance, the next frontier in relationship-building involves capitalizing on artificial intelligence to assist in connecting great people and ideas. There’s a site called LunchClub.ai that does just that. So far, I’m really impressed with the quality of matches on this platform. Of course, when computers assist with business or personal matchmaking at scale, the issue of privacy will inevitably come up, but I believe the pros outweigh the cons.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

One habit that has really helped me as an entrepreneur is setting clear and precise goals with a specific deadline. From there, you have to spend time writing out your goals twice in the morning and twice at night, every single day. Focus on spending every day taking solid action steps towards your goal. I know, it seems really easy, but it works.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell myself that success in life, and in business, are directly related to the amount of personal growth that you’re able to achieve. This means consistently putting yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable, and pulling together the resources and learning necessary to pull through.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I love this question. The one thing that most people don’t agree with me on is that people should go to all-you-can-eat buffets for the variety and not value. I had an incident when I was going to the University in San Francisco. A group of us went to an Asian buffet that was known for its value and I got the worst case of food poisoning. Since then, I’m extremely skeptical of restaurants that offer too good of a deal. If they’re not making money then, at some point, they may be forced in cutting corners to make ends meet.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

When an entrepreneur is starting out, there’s a huge advantage to saying “yes” to almost every opportunity out there. However, as the business grows and you understand what works and what doesn’t, your success then depends on your ability to say “no” to most things.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

As entrepreneurs, it is your natural tendency to expand your opportunities to serve as many customers as possible. However, even billion-dollar corporations need to be focused to their specific target market. To be effective, you have to narrow down your scope so you can attract customers effectively. When you’re narrowly defined, it’s easier for your customers to refer you and to remember you. It can seem counterintuitive to narrow your market to grow sales, but that is exactly what’s required to do well as a company. Your ability as a company to understand your customer and constantly find new ways to serve them is critical.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I’ve made many mistakes as an entrepreneur, but the one mistake I did not make is to quit. There are plenty of ups and downs as an entrepreneur. Nonetheless, if you really love the freedom to go after new ideas and opportunities and see things come to life, then I highly encourage you to keep being at it.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I would focus on starting an anti-trend business. For instance, create a business that helps entrepreneurs send handwritten sales letters at scale, or a business that helps people get off the grid. For every popular trend, there is usually a business opportunity in the opposite direction.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I recently spent my $100 on several books like Tao of Charline Munger, The Sales Development Playbook, Monetizing Innovation, Obviously Awesome, The Great Game of Business. I get a lot of my book recommendations from my podcast guests.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Monday.com is a great tool to keep teams coordinated and accountable. I’ve used other team collaboration tools, but Monday.com seems to be the easiest to get going.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I recommend that every entrepreneur read The Big Leap by Dr. Gay Hendricks. All of us have some limiting beliefs that stop us from being happier and successful in business and in life, in general. The Big Leap explores those limitations and offers some ways to break free from them.

What is your favorite quote?

“Escape competition through authenticity” by Naval. It’s a worthy quote to live by.

Key Learnings:

● Never quit on your dreams
● Surround yourself with smart and talented people.
● Doing less can sometimes help you achieve more.