It all began with a single user’s voice: “I’ve even given up on going to the grocery store just two blocks away.” In 2010, this simple statement from a friend was the start of it all. He was a wheelchair user who did not like the negative attention he got while using his wheelchair in public. He was seen as weak or ill, someone who needed the help of a large, imposing, unsightly machine to help him get around. As a friend, we knew him to be amazingly independent, fun loving and very social. We wanted everyone to be able to see the true person, the person we knew. So we set out to create a mobility device that would empower our friend, enable him to be himself and to do the things he wanted to with confidence and enthusiasm. A mobility device that would change the way he felt in public and one that would change how the public felt about him!
After a year of development, we not only gave our friend a revolutionary new vehicle, but we also exhibited our work at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show. We were overwhelmed by the positive reaction from all over the world. We realized that many people desired this kind of innovation and new found freedom in the mobility industry. We saw how meaningful what we were creating could be for people with mobility issues.
This is why we founded WHILL.Through ongoing development and production of Personal EVs, we will challenge today’s conventions and improve the personal mobility experience. As we do, we will redefine the perception of wheelchairs and their limitations through innovative design and advanced technology. Nobody should be limited because they don’t feel comfortable with how they move from point A to point B. We want every individual to be confident, comfortable and independent. Please view the YouTube video for more background.
Sugie Satoshi, Founder, CEO
Sugie worked for Nissan’s Advanced Transportation Department, where he helped develop the future of transportation based on real-user lifestyles. After Nissan, he founded Smile Park, an engineering startup that focused on new product development. In 2011, he cofounded the WHILL project. Sugie moved to San Francisco, California in 2012, to become WHILL’s CEO. Sugie is a member of the World Economic Forum and Davas Meeting GSC Japan member, and has received worldwide recognition for his work including the prestigious Silicon Valley Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 class of 2017.
Junpei Naito, Founder, CDO
Junpei joined Sony Corporation in 2008 as a product engineer developing automotive cameras. He co-founded Sunny Side Garage, an engineering innovation unit, in 2009 and produced several products with his team. In 2011, he co-founded the WHILL Project.
Muneaki Fukuoka, Founder, CTO
Mune joined Olympus Corporation as a medical device engineer in 2008. Alongside Junpei, he was also a co-founder of Sunny Side Garage in 2009 and eventually started the WHILL Project in 2011. After co-founding WHILL, he resigned from Olympus and joined WHILL Inc. as the Chief Technology Officer in 2012.
Kenji Goho, COO/CFO
Kenji started his career in 1998 as an engineer at Panasonic, working on next-generation mobile communications technology. After experiencing corporate planning and strategic alliances, he made a career change to private equity in 2007, working as an investment professional at Unison Capital in Tokyo. Kenji has been supporting WHILL since 2015 and joined as COO / CFO in 2016. Kenji holds an MSE from Keio University and MBA from INSEAD.
Shogo Koda, VP Business Development, Europe
Shogo is a cross-border business development specialist with more than 10 years of international business experiences. Prior to joining WHILL, he was a key member of the mineral resource business team of Sumitomo Corporation, one of Japan’s biggest investment and trading houses. He has wide-ranging business experience in M&A, physical commodity trading, and investment portfolio management. He holds a BA in Sociology from Rikkyo University and an MBA from the University of Cambridge.