C. Jeffrey Char, ’87, FCC
Transferred to Sophia from University Hawaii
Today works as Lawyer and Venture Capitalist

Alumni Voices:

C. Jeffrey Char

I am a serial entrepreneur. I grew up in Hawaii and first came to Japan on an exchange program in 1981 after graduating from high school. I transferred to Sophia in 1984 after studying business and Japanese at University of Hawaii and International Christian University. To the relief of my parents I finally graduated cum laude with a degree in economics in 1987.

I can honestly say that the education I received at Sophia was by far the best of the 3 universities I attended. Many of the professors took a sincere interest in my education both inside and outside the classroom. I’ve kept in touch with several of them and really appreciate their support over the years. Moreover, the classmates I met from around the world have become part of an invaluable social and business network.

When I graduated from Sophia, the Japanese economy was booming and many foreign financial firms were rushing to set up operations in Japan following the deregulation of financial markets. However, rather than working at one of the foreign firms I decided to join Kokusai Securities (now Mitsubishi UFJ Securities) where I would be one of the only foreigners. I learned a lot about Japanese business working at a very domestic firm.

I planned to return to the US for graduate school after working for a couple of years. By chance I was introduced to a robotics venture that was looking to raise venture capital in Japan. Even though all the contracts were in English I didn’t understand much of what I was reading. As a result, I decided that it would make more sense for me to go to law school rather than business school. The following year I moved back to the US to study law at the University of California, Berkeley, and later at Harvard Law School.

I spent several years working as a corporate finance lawyer in Silicon Valley and Tokyo. I learned all about setting up, financing, and buying and selling companies. In 1995 I worked on the initial public offering for Netscape Communications where I had a front row view of the commercial Internet. By the end of 1996 I was getting bored of being a lawyer and wanted to try my hand as an entrepreneur.

I started my first venture in January 1997 with a close friend. We built a network security company in Silicon Valley and later sold it to Lucent Technologies. I’ve been hooked on entrepreneurship ever since and founded several other companies in the US and Japan. These days I also teach entrepreneurship and international business courses at Waseda University, Tohoku University and International Christian University.

Japan and the world are changing. When I graduated from Sophia anyone who spoke English was able to get multiple job offers. A lot of people believe that the formula for success is to go to a good college and then join a large company. I disagree. I believe that students will be better off if they maintain a healthy appetite for continued learning, since many of the skills they will need over the course of their career do not even exist yet.

My latest project is to create a venture incubator in Tokyo for early-stage ventures. My goal is to provide university students with an opportunity to do internships with startup ventures so they can learn about entrepreneurship firsthand.