Some sage advise when entering new turf; Stop, Look and Listen.. it’s also good to find a local guide to help smooth your path. Japan is the cradle of mobile civilization and WWJ has covered this story for over a decade – trust our archives here offer some useful material.
Domestic activities continue to set the pace, and increasingly sharp players are looking at global markets. We have hard-earned industry knowledge and built a trusted network of contacts with access to advanced intell. and potential deal flow. Need a lift.. Ok, buckle-up!
A Startup Renaissance is Building in Japan
I don’t have time to write here often enough.. but this topic has been bubbling for awhile now. It’s a sunny Saturday so will take quick shot, you might wanna grab a coffee!
There’s plenty of chatter about the global startup scene along with so-called ‘innovation’ opportunities and many challenges faced by players at all levels in that space. It would be easy to pepper this with a gazillion links describing how Japan is risk-adverse and/or has no VC base to build next-gen. companies.. bla-bla-bla. Such simplistic points, seldom balanced, need another post to counter with a wave of my magic reality wand.
No, the tight focus here is two-fold: we’re headed into a “Startup Renaissance” in Japan and, therefore, considering carefully near to mid-term road ahead that being the case.
There are literally dozens of big Japanese brands, from Canon to Yamaha, that began long ago with a couple of inspired people in a workshop, more interesting – read: important but usually missed – would be the thousands of companies that are +200 years old. The Valley mantra is Fail Fast.. however, Plan Well is usual procedure here, kindly suggest the hybrid “Plan Well – Fast” as ideal method, keeping in mind Kaizen is long baked into the domestic approach with seeds planted from overseas.
There’s plenty of startup history, Built to Last.
The latest digital economy has enabled significant new offerings from around the world and, whether H/S’ware, tremendous growth for Japanese ICT related fields. A deeper dive topic for any MBA thesis, carefully noting DVD and Ruby on Rails, this ‘business chance’ is certainly now established. My point with those two examples would be that whether it’s via old school corporate, or by relatively un-known individual source, these born in Japan products – along with so.many.others – have demonstrated impact globally.. and not ‘just’ in IT verticals.
While it may be difficult for some to fully grasp, the Island Spirit – Shimaguni Konjo – is very strong here. Designing and running a best-of-breed community model goes right to the core of Japan. This new world order, or New Normal as I’ve stated in these post 3.11 times, has opened the window for some fresh air. While parents and grandparents spent their lives pulling this country from ruins of 1945, the current task for those who follow will be pushing such incredible efforts to the next level. I believe they have the passion, skill and resources to build on that foundation. Go ahead, underestimate them.
The future potential is tangible.
Every viable ecosystem intrinsically addresses the demonstrated need by re-distributing collective value across the group. No single entity holds all the cards. Thankfully there are local icons who have blazed that trail here, from Namba-san, to Son, Natsuno, Iguchi and hundreds more, with Idei-san to launch his World Innovation Lab. We see amazing talent and energy in the universities, advanced patent power continues at Yokosuka Research Park, while in the trenches affordable open platforms are driving real action along with support from public & private domestic sources. It’s Happening.
Ok, with the stage set above in mind, now what.. so many pieces in the puzzle. We have been at the crossroads of corporate and startup, local and global, since 2001 – certain some potential to contribute going forward. Over the coming years it’s a safe bet we’ll see increased interest in Japan, not just because of Tokyo 2020 Summer Games, combined with an ever growing awareness and desire for business overseas by domestic SME’s. Considering our network of contacts and multi-market experience clearly we can fill some of the usual gaps.
One key lesson learned over our time here is the very real power of bringing people together, actually in the same room, under a brand agnostic umbrella. Regardless of their background, current position or nationality, each one has a wonderful blend of standard requirements and unique offerings to embrace. While this can be an awkward (Jr. High school) dance, at first, but that safe ‘friends and family’ sandbox enables F2F encounters that does lead to deal flow.
We took an important first step in that direction with our Tokyo Startups United event. Blessed by a Rock & Roll Shamisen and 300+ people attending, 50/50 domestic vs. international and titles across the spectrum, that room was Really buzzing! Expect further efforts in 2014 and beyond as we explore, together with trusted partners, how best to participate in developing a most valuable and beneficial platform for all.
If “it takes a village to raise a child” this will “take the nation to build a startup generation”. Will it be easy.. not a chance – will it happen.. not a doubt.. がんばろう
Update Dec. 25th: Merry Xmas Gift via NYT – Start-Up Spirit Emerges in Japan
Filed Under: Editors Note
Presentation at IMMAP Conference in Manila
It was a great thrill, honour and my pleasure, to address delegates gathered for the 3rd Annual Mobile Marketing Conference in Manila on Oct. 25th. The IMMAP organizing team did an awesome job – loved the movie theater venue in Rockwell Power Plant – with a rock solid (ahem) Speakers lineup and fully packed 2-day Agenda, plenty of discovery opportunities.
My presentation slides are online [.PDF] and this collection of 10 quick video clips, for the show & tell segment, was a real crowd pleaser! I met so many interesting folks, both local and Intl. visitors, Cya next-time.. as MaCarthur famously said: I Shall Return.
Filed Under: Editors Note
Sick of the iSpin – Featuring Some Hard Facts
A quick post to set the record straight. All too many times we have heard the urban legend that goes something along the lines that SoftBank brought the iPhone to Japan and that move directly translated into winning the so-called monthly net addition subscriber wars. However, the actual results – using official numbers from the TCA, paints a rather different picture.
Starting in September 2006, as SoftBank took control of then long ailing Vodafone – who ran a continued distance third previously, the first bump came in January 2007 when the company introduced an aggressive flat-rate price plan. By May 2007 SoftBank was winning more net additions going forward for the Next 14 Consecutive Months BEFORE the first introduction of iPhone in Japan, which finally happened in July 2008.
The key point: customers shop with their wallets, even in Japan. The 25% downward trend in monthly ARPU over these last six years clearly shows, while attractive hardware has certain value in customer churn, the cost / benefit for services offered rates careful consideration.
Trust this food for thought post serves notice to certain players, both in Japan and America, who might prefer to pretend otherwise. Kindly suggest you govern future actions accordingly. As we noted in the past: SoftBank Mobile – Not Your Typical Telco.
Update October 31st:
Nice to see Son-san confirm above – see the 20-minute timeline – during the SoftBank Q2 Earnings FY2013 Presentation today.
Filed Under: Editors Note
Tokyo 2020 – Game On! – Discover the Future
It’s Official: Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games! Clearly it will be an interesting road ahead over the next 2,510 days and of course the “Discover Tomorrow” campaign tagline resonates with our longtime efforts in Japan as well. While it’s a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon here in the southern suburbs, with local matsuri taiko drums and yokobue flutes in the air, I just wanted to mark this historic day with a few quick thoughts below.
Many have argued the nation should focus it’s resources, attention and funding, on internal measures as there continues to be legitimate concern about the Fukushima melt-down and significant efforts required for re-building Tohoku. This post, for example, by Anuj Wankhede “who believes that bigger the problem, bigger the opportunity.” Rather ironic. We also note a tired economic refrain of Japan having +200% debt to GDP, hint: simple rules of accounting also consider the ‘Assets’ factor, suggest reading this great article here on that myth.
I believe hosting the games will lead to increased global awareness, therefore transparency and diligence, to address these challenges we face while providing a genuine showcase for the world to really see “This Is Japan”. Naturally there are plenty of physical, tangible, aspects to go along with that logic, for better and worse. However, it’s the inspiratioanl impact that has value far beyond cold calculation. The country needed this kind of positive kick (imho) for past, present and future generations; it’s a power-shift, as previously demonstrated in 1964.
With respect to our activities here at WWJ going forward, forecast subtle changes. The core value proposition has always been sharing what’s happening on the ground, in English, from the (still) most advanced mobile market in the world. As you might imagine these efforts over the last 12-years have been equally difficult and rewarding. A most recent case in point is the on-going, and apparently increasing, ‘speculative’ noise from main-stream media: DoCoMo will launch the iPhone, Panasonic will also exit etc. It seems that simple fact-checking has become a lost art and reporting ‘rumors’ as official news is somehow Ok? We have taken countless such articles to-task in the past, debunking big brand ‘opinions’ stated as gospel.. Enough. (sources say Hello Kitty will sky-dive into opening ceremonies with the Emperor!)
I’m a firm believer in the Life is a Roller-Coaster Theory: It’s a thrilling, sometimes scary, ride that seems to last for an eternity but will end before you know it. We have been at ground zero in this game since the beginning and it’s been an most excellent adventure to-date. We have managed to develop useful platforms and built an amazing network of contacts within this space, it’s an honour and privilege to serve as the bridge between Japan and the world. At the same time, since the 3.11 disaster, we are on the edge of an extreme situation which continues to have the moment by moment potential to seriously alter our daily lives.. #_#
The key point being this 2020 timeline has triggered an overdue realization of what’s actually most important, both personally and professionally, in the mid-term. Let the Games Begin!
Filed Under: Editors Note