How to Start a Business

From Leading DX at a Textile Company to Founding an Upcycling Startup in Japan : Who is Ryota Nanaba?

Venture Café Tokyo
May 6, 2024

Today, we are excited to introduce Ryota Nanba, the founder of EcoLooopers, a company dedicated to realizing a circular economy. 

After becoming fascinated by startups and joining NAGOYA CONNÉCT as an ambassador, Nanba transitioned into a role supporting startups, and started his own business in September 2023. What kind of HAPPEN happened?

(Source : Venture Café Tokyo)

|From Information Gathering to Founding a Startup

--First of all, please introduce yourself.

Hello, I'm Ryota Nanba. After graduating from university, I joined a textile trading company headquartered in Aichi Prefecture, where I was involved in promoting digital transformation (DX) and data analysis. 

I also served as an ambassador for NAGOYACONNÉCT when it was just starting.

In August 2021, I transitioned to “Creww”, which operates one of Japan's largest open innovation platforms and startup communities, and was mainly involved in expanding and activating startup communities and general startup support areas.

In September 2023, I established EcoLooopers, a startup that focuses on the upcycling sector.

--What motivated you to join NAGOYA CONNÉCT?

While working on promoting DX at a textile trading company, I developed an interest in "startups" that create new value by leveraging cutting-edge technology. 

Accrodingly, I wanted to start my own business and while trying to gather information, I caught the news that NAGOYA CONNÉCT was starting. So I immediately participated in the first session. 


At the time, it was held online in the midst of the COVID-19, but I was able to talk to a variety of people involved in startups that I had never had the chance to meet before. It was really inspiring and stimulating.

There were some people who had already contributed as ambassadors from the first time. It caught my eyes. I thought that I might be able to make more diverse connections by being involved as an event organizer. 

To do so, I decided to join as an ambassador. Before changing jobs to Tokyo, I worked as an ambassador for NAGOYA CONNÉCT for about a year.

--I heard you took paid leave to participate in NAGOYA CONNÉCT. I have also heard that being involved with NAGOYA CONNÉCT has caused some mental shifts.

At the time, all of the ambassadors other than me were students. Since I was working as a salaryman, I used paid holidays to participate as much as possible. 

When I joined NAGOYA CONNÉCT, my main purpose was to build connections and deepen my insights in order to start my own business in the future, so instead of just doing routine work, I devoted myself to learn from the people I met there. 

Plus, I tried to tell a story about who I was, why I was here, and what I was going to do in the future. The Venture Café was full of opportunities, making it worthwhile to use my valuable leave to participate and avoid going home without any gain. My time there greatly nurtured my ambitious spirit.

(Refer to : If you're considering to startup a business in Japan, this community is a must to visit

(Credit : Creww)

――You said that you had set up your own business from the beginning when you joined NAGOYA CONNÉCT. Is there a reason why you chose to change jobs first before starting your own business?

First of all, the business idea I had at the time was difficult to pursue under the COVID-19 circumstances. 

Also, starting a business with only corporate experience (as a working employee) seemed daunting. Even when I tried to start a business, I didn't know anything specific about how to build a business model or how to develop new customers. 

I assumed that transitioning to Creww would increase my chances of success when I eventually started my own venture by exposing me to various startups.

|Established a company focused on expanding resource circulation

――Then, you finally established your company in September of this year. What kind of company is EcoLoopers?

Our vision is like below:

“By connecting the circle of resource circulation, we want to create a society where waste is used as a resource rather than as garbage.”

(Source : EcoLooopers)

The concept of "upcycling"— adding value to what would otherwise be discarded and reintroducing it to the market as a product—is central to our business. 

Expanding the circle of resource circulation by smoothly connecting businesses that have trouble effectively using and disposing of waste, businesses that create products through upcycling, and customers who purchase those products, such as building considerate buildings. 

We aim to do so. EciLooopers was just registered in September, so we are now developing a more detailed business model.

--What sparked you to focus on the effective use of waste?

My experience at the textile trading company The apparel industry is known for its high environmental impact, with vast amounts of clothing produced, remaining as excess inventory, and ultimately being discarded. 

I was involved in DX and data analysis work, so I saw that kind of data first hand. I felt that the large amount of clothes thrown away every year was unsettling. Not that there was any solution at that time.

I started focusing on upcycling when I was involved in startup support at Creww and learned about a French startup that makes bricks from discarded clothing. 

Basically, clothing is mainly recycled from one clothing item to another. Because a single item of clothing contains multiple materials such as buttons, recycling costs are high and recycling is not commensurate with the amount of waste.

(Source : FabBRICK)

The French startup was creating bricks directly from clothing. At the time, a team of about five people was developing a large amount of upcycled products. The impact was amazing. This sparked my passion toward the idea of ​​adding new value to something that would normally be thrown away, upgrading it, and reusing it. 

On the other hand, awareness of upcycling is still low, and materials produced through upcycling are not being disposed of as garbage or being used effectively. The low awareness of upcycling and its underutilization motivated me to bridge these gaps effectively.

|The relationships we cultivated are not temporary and are still connected today

--I heard that the connections you cultivated at NAGOYA CONNÉCT are also useful for business.

Through my connection with NAGOYA CONNÉCT, I secured a contract to teach a workshop for entrepreneurs in a rural area. 

Although it is not directly related to EcoLoopers' business, supporting other entrepreneurs aligns with my goals. Since it is difficult for startups that have just started to generate sales from their main business alone, I would like to work in this field. 

Regarding our main business, we are working with various people involved in the NAGOYA CONNÉCT/Venture Café community, such as “Connecting with people who are working on waste upcycling”' and “Introducing people who may be interested in the effective use of waste”.' We are reaching out to you.

(Source : Venture Cafe Tokyo)

--What do you think is the appeal of Venture Café Tokyo and NAGOYA CONNÉCT? As I mentioned earlier, it's great that you actually get to talk about your work, and that you end up meeting people you never expected.

I'm also happy that the relationship is not temporary, but is still ongoing. 

I was only active as an ambassador for NAGOYA CONNÉCT for about a year, but even after I moved to Tokyo, I occasionally visited Thursday Gathering (in Tokyo). At Rocket Pitch Night, I was also involved in event management. Also, in 2023 I appeared on NAGOYA CONNÉCT as an entrepreneur.

NAGOYA CONNÉCT and other Venture Café events have a unique atmosphere and liveliness with general companies, people working for the government and public institutions, researchers and students, and of course startup entrepreneurs. 

There aren't many places where people from so many different genres come together. Furthermore, Japanese people are said to be shy, but at Venture Café, everyone actively talks to all kinds of people. I don't think you can experience that atmosphere unless you go there.

--Do you have any future goals?

I feel that resource circulation is difficult because it is a very large-scale field, but it is an issue that we must face as a society. 

Although still not widely recognized in the market, I plan to steadily progress by incorporating feedback from the field. This is a global issue, not just Japan, so I would like to take on the challenge of expanding globally in the future.

NAGOYA CONNÉCT is an innovation promotion/exchange program sponsored by the city of Nagoya and operated mainly in Nagoya by Venture Café, which originates from Boston and operates in 16 cities in 6 countries around the world.It is held on the 2nd and 4th Friday of every month.

Written by Venture Cafe Tokyo (Link)

Visit Venture Cafe Tokyo website :

*Original Post : HAPPEN #24: EcoLooopers 難波亮太さん - Venture Café Tokyo 


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Venture Café Tokyo
Venture Café Tokyo
Our vision is to connect Tokyo (& Japan) along with our global network - based individuals, communities and organizations into one tightly woven successful innovation network.