Our CEO, Kei & COO, Yuka would like to talk
about the future focus of "Wonderfy".

Kei Kawashima

Kei KawashimaCEO

Kei KawashimaCEO

Kei completed his master's degree in engineering at the University of Tokyo. His strong passion in artihmetic and mathematics led him to get involved with working on the bestselling puzzle book "Nazo-pe-". From 2007, Kei has taught a wide variation of students ranging from 4 years old to university level students at the Hanamaru Group. Additionally, he provides learning support to large number of public elementary schools and orphanages located both in Japan, and overseas.

Yuka Nakamura COO

Yuka NakamuraCOO

Yuka NakamuraCOO

Yuka graduated from the University of Tokyo's Faculty of Law. After spending some time working at consultant companies Corporate Direction and Bain & Company, Yuka joined Hanamaru Lab in 2014 (now Wonderfy) and was appointed to the board as COO. Concurrently, she worked as a classroom manager at the Hanamaru Group and gained valuable experience in early-stage childhood education. Works hard, eats well and drinks well.

Our company name is different, but our mission remains the same

Tell us a little about your company mission statement, “To cultivate a sense of wonder from children all around the world”. Was there a particular experience that inspired you to set this as your mission?

Before I started my own business, I spent a lot of time as an educator with children in various settings. During one of those experiences, I spent some time at a children’s home for children who have difficulty attending school for one reason or another. This was the trigger for me to arrive at the foundation of our objective, “a sense of wonder”.
In the beginning, I had the idea of “bringing the learning to the children if they couldn’t come to class”. At the time, I was totally enthused thinking “I’ll make these children independent!”. However, that approach didn’t work at all.

When you say it “didn’t work at all”, what exactly happened?

Well for example, with the best intentions at heart, I once gave older students teaching materials meant for much younger students. I thought “even though the students are fifth graders, I’ll have to teach them arithmetic starting from around the second grade level”. If you look from the children’s point of view, they thought “I’m in the fifth grade but I’m being made to do second grade level math, but I can’t even do that”. This scenario was hurtful to the children’s self-esteem. They thought “I’m being forced to keep showing my inability to those who came a long way to see and teach me. Even though I’d really like to get along with them”.
I then gave the children a puzzle that I made. They snapped it right up, even more so than I expected. They were about to finish, very quickly. “Wow! I surrender! There are no more puzzles left!” I exclaimed. As I did so, a chain reaction was set off with reactions from the children including “Well, let’s take a look at the homework”, completely of their own accord.
Things definitely wouldn’t have gone well if the general attitude was “Let’s do our homework!” from the beginning. From my experiences, I strongly felt the importance of starting with “fun!”. Even as the company has expanded, and the number of employees has increased, this feeling is something that we will always have, and will always treasure.

What we hope to achieve by delivering a “sense of wonder”.

The “fun” feeling you referred to earlier, was that a “sense of wonder”?

Yes. If you’re asking me what exactly a “sense of wonder” is, I think the easiest way to understand what we mean is to watch the video I created when I gave a class in the Philippines. The liveliness from the children when they shout “Whoa!” after solving a puzzle. The goosebumps they get as they finally see a way through the puzzle that they couldn’t see at first. The ability to feel a “sense of wonder” is within all children. I’m totally convinced of this, I’ve confirmed it with the many thousands of children that I’ve seen.
Think!Think!, our first product, is played by users from over 150 different countries globally. We believe, and have experienced firsthand that wonderful content can transcend borders, languages and cultures to engage and cultivate the sense of wonder in children around the world.

What kind of vision do you have of the future where your mission, “to cultivate a sense of wonder from children around the world” has been realized?

Generally speaking, children’s education has the intention of molding students. We as adults think “we want the children to become X kind of person”. While this is important, we care so much for children that it’s very often the case we unknowingly impose adult ideals on them.
I really believe in the power that “a sense of wonder” has to change people and the world for the better. I think an interesting future lies ahead with unexpected developments.
Rather than having children be modeled on how adults want them to be like, a truly rich world exists ahead where children are driven by the stimulation of their “sense of wonder” and by being lively. A world where children have the freedom to create, without the constraints of ordinary ideals. By doing so they can create things that we adults would never have thought possible.
That’s why we want to improve children’s learning around the world with our content, and deliver it to as wide an audience as possible.

※Wonderfy comes by attaching “-fy” (verbifying) the word “wonder”

Do you think the company name change from “WonderLab” to “Wonderfy” is an expression of your eagerness to “deliver to as wide an audience as possible?”

Absolutely. We arrived at our new company name of “Wonderfy” as a step-up from “a place that creates wonder” (a sense of wonder) to “a place that delivers wonder”. Previously, as the name “Lab” suggests, we were focused on the “pursuit” of quality content, much like a laboratory. From now on, we will accelerate our challenge of “delivering” our content to the world.

Expansion opportunities with changes in the Education market

You say that you’re accelerating this challenge, but timing wise, why now? Please tell us about your specific intentions.

Now is an extremely important time for us.
This is due to changes surrounding the educational market environment and changes in educational objectives which have led to a material demand for content that “cultivates a sense of wonder”. This is a huge market, worth 2.7 trillion yen domestically and 600 trillion yen globally, and is moving in a big way.

 

世界における教育業界のデジタル市場の成長

First, please tell us about the changes surrounding the educational market environment.

The educational industry is becoming digitized at an unprecedented rate. The industry has traditionally been quite slow to digitize. However, due to COVID, children, parents and teachers alike have been forced to adapt and get used to technology. It is therefore now commonplace to deal with technology in some shape or form. There are of course differences between age and region, but the change is irreversible.
The educational industry’s digital market is expected to grow 1.8 times from 30 trillion yen in 2020, to close to 56 trillion yen in 2025, which only accounts for 5.5% of the total market. In other words, there is still a significant growth opportunity. *
As we seek growth in the digital content area, it’s a major boost for us that investment in the digital world and familiarity with digital devices and technology is becoming normal.
*From a report published by Holon IQ, a research firm specializing in the Ed-tech industry.

世界における教育業界のデジタル市場の成長

I see. Next up, what kind of changes are happening in educational objectives?

In recent times, there is a global demand, not only to develop foundational knowledge but to also develop competencies in dealing with complex real-world problems such as thinking and creativity alongside the development of a soft skills mindset (non-cognitive abilities) such as curiosity and persistence. We call these abilities “New skills”.
With the rise of AI, it’s said that nearly half of all jobs that exist today will cease to exist in the future. With that in mind, there’s a demand for an education style that fosters creativity in one’s own ideas and learning cross-discipline, rather than learning basic knowledge in an exhaustive manner.
Japan’s educational reforms are also in the midst of this trend, as is evident in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports Science and Technology’s framework for thinking, judgment and expression, as published in the Ministry’s “Aims Of The New Educational Curriculum”.

How do you think you can respond to the rapidly changing needs of the educational market?

Stimulating and cultivating a “sense of wonder” that inspires self-directed learning is the best approach to acquire “New skills”. Thinking and creativity can’t be fostered if somebody else forces you to learn. In other words, the very areas that make up the fundamental core of our content are now being sought after in education.
For more than 8 years, we at Wonderfy have been creating content that focuses on fostering thinking and creativity. During that process, we are steadily acquiring evidence of their educational effectiveness.
As one of the pioneering companies in the field of “New skills”, we will continue to deliver the highest quality content to children all around the world using a realistic approach.

Finally, please tell us “What you’d like to achieve going forward”.

We will lead the way for companies and adults around the world alike to bring out and cultivate our children’s sense of wonder. In truth, we want to create a society where it is considered normal for adults around the world to commit themselves to helping children develop their motivation and creativity, not just us at Wonderfy.
An exciting experience during childhood can change the course of a child’s life and make their life more wonderful. We would like to deliver such experiences to tens and hundreds of millions of people around the world.