The University of Tokyo

Sending a Challenge to the Education Industry with the Launch of a Free Course Video Website

Taketsugu Hanafusa

Representative Director of NPO Corporation manavee (originally from the Faculty of Letters)

Taketsugu Hanafusa

At the manavee headquarters near Hongo, which is also used for filming lessons. “I appeared in some lessons myself at first,” he says.

manavee is a website that offers videos of lessons covering university entrance examination material for free to everyone. This young man decided to change the current situation in which geographical and economic disparities amongst students are the difference between them passing or failing university exams. He called on those around him to help, and he founded manavee in 2010. At the time, the site still featured only around 20 videos of lessons, but this number grew to 100 videos in its first month, and later to 1,000 videos in a year after its establishment. There are at present approximately 8,800 videos of lessons available on the website. In addition to the usual “subject” and “course” categories for videos found on websites offering similar services, manavee also allows users to choose their teachers, who are given labels such as “bad boy,” “enthusiastic” and “refreshing,” setting it uniquely apart from the rest.

“At first, I thought about bringing together a bunch of charismatic teachers, like the large cram schools do, but that didn't work out well. After agonizing over my conundrum for three months, I came up with a solution. Instead of having teachers that suit everyone's tastes, I would go with the long tail business model of having teachers that people could individually choose to fit their own needs.”

The teachers of the online courses offered on manavee are generally current university students. Of course, these teachers don't receive any sort of monetary compensation for their efforts, so why do they go through the trouble of making lessons? To prepare for future careers as teachers? Because they want to become famous? Or because they agree with the principles that manavee espouses? Taketsugu says that students become teachers for all of these reasons, in addition to having some unexpected motivations.

“Students feel that it would be a waste to let all of the knowledge they built up while studying for exams be forgotten. By creating lessons on manavee and sharing the results of their studying with younger students, they can crystallize what they learned within their own minds.”

Realizing that people act in accordance with their internal motivations, Taketsugu took the initiative to withdraw from the University this past spring. As manavee's Representative Director, he is now leading its growth into an “organization from which a diversity of services can freely be created,” while at the same time embarking on a new project to nurture “university exam-taking” idols. As a member of the University's staff, the author really wants to tell him that it wouldn't be too late to do all of these things after graduating, but he then explains the reasoning behind his actions…

“What I realized when I started manavee was how important it is to take action when your gut instincts tell you to. I'm sure I inconvenienced my professors by leaving early, but curiously enough, I hadn't made any plans and had just decided to honestly follow whatever my feelings would turn out to be at the time.”

Instead of letting their lives pass them by, Taketsugu and the other young people involved with manavee have cast their lot with their internal motivations. As a former young person, the most courteous thing the author can do is see them off from behind with envious eyes.

Q&A Extras

What did you pour your passions into before you started manavee?

“Making an SNS for travelers.”

Who influenced you while you were at UTokyo?

“Professor Kohei Kusaka from the School of Engineering. When I consulted with him about funding, I felt that he was very understanding of my situation.”

Favorite manga?

“Strawberry 100%. I fell in love with the heroine.”

What do you want to tell UTokyo?

“Make it easier for people in sole proprietorships to use University nurseries!”

What does being “tough” mean to you?

“I think that people who don't insist that they're ‘tough' and instead work diligently by themselves will become ‘tough' as a result.”

Taketsugu Hanafusa

Taketsugu before UTokyo

Taken in a classroom on the day of his high school graduation ceremony.