TOKYO -- Yusaku Maezawa, founder and CEO of Start Today, has always liked to be different, ever since he was little. As a child, instead of running around with friends, he collected stag beetles near his home in Chiba, near Tokyo.
His distaste for competition and conformity was further strengthened when he entered the prestigious Waseda University-affiliated Jitsugyo high school in Tokyo. "It took an hour and a half from my home to school," he once said. "Looking at the gloomy salarymen on the train every day, I thought, 'I never want to be like them'."
He soon became immersed in music, and joined the hardcore punk rock band Switch Style. He initially played guitar, but proved to be an all-rounder and eventually became the drummer. He reportedly came up with the idea to get into online commerce during a brief trip to the U.S. after high school, where he discovered how the Internet was creating new industries.
"Looking at the gloomy salarymen on the train every day, I thought, 'I never want to be like them'."Yusaku Maezawa
Maezawa's band had started to become a commercial success, but he began to lose interest in the routine tours and recording. "This is the same as being a salaryman," he recalls thinking. Instead, he started to focus on his side job of selling CDs and records online, which eventually evolved into Zozotown. He still surrounds himself with his favorite art -- his office is decorated with works by Andy Warhol and Isamu Noguchi.
His obsession with style and culture is undiminished, even as Start Today has grown to become an e-commerce juggernaut with 2,000 employees and staff. He carefully controls his public image by selecting media interviews and demanding final say over which of his photos will be published in articles. He often responds personally to comments from the general public on Twitter, where his handle is yousuck2020.
His private life drew attention recently when he started dating the well-known actress Ayame Goriki.