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June 22, 2020
Oracle first came into Japan more than 25 years ago, but the challenges they faced and overcame then are exactly the same ones firms are facing today in executing their Japan market entry. Allen explains why Oracle needed a unique sales and marketing strategy for Japan, and how he managed to get buy-in from headquarters — even though Oracle already had a sales and marketing program that had proven fantastically successful in other markets. We also talk about how Oracle managed to negotiate a amicable exit out from their exclusive distribution agreements not just once, but twice. That’s an amazing accomplishment considering that many foreign companies have destroyed their Japanese business the first time they attempt it. But Allen, tells the story much better than I do. I think you’ll enjoy the interview. I know I did.
June 8, 2020
You would expect that event-focused startups would be some of the hardest hit by the global pandemic and lockdown, and for the most part, you would be right.  But Peatix is one event startup that adapted fast and is now actually thriving during the lockdown.  We've talked with Taku Harada before, and if you have not done so already, you should check it out. It's a great conversation and there is no overlap with today.   Today we talk about how startups can pivot and survive during the pandemic, why having too much money can be a curse for startups, and we dive into what's gone wrong with Japanese B2B SaaS startups.  It's a great discussion, and I think you will really enjoy it.
May 25, 2020
I've never managed to find a direct road to success. My bio reads like a random walk down many different career paths, so I always feel unqualified to answer when people ask me for career advice. Today, however, I'd like to share one insight about doing business in Japan that I learned the hard way. If you've been through something like this, I hope you'll be able to identify with it. If you haven't, I hope you can learn something from it, and avoid it.
April 27, 2020
Japanese businessmen famously fear failure. But that understanding is horribly incomplete. In fact, there is one type of failure that is admired, almost sought after, in Japan. Today we take a look at the trap of the Japanese glorious failure, see how it's hurting startups, and examine our options on fixing it.
March 30, 2020
Almost all startup accelerators are going bankrupt and going away. Hiro Maeda, the founder of two of Japan's most successful, and most different startup incubators explains both the brief past and precarious future of startup incubators and accelerators. We talk not only about the mechanics and challenges of what it takes to make an incubator successful, but Hiro has some practical advice on when founders should consider joining an accelerator and how they can avoid the 99% of them that provide no real value. Hiro also explains why so many Japanese VCs today find investing in South East Asia more attractive than Japan, the forces behind Japan's startup boom, and what the next ten years holds for Japanese startups.
March 16, 2020
Innovation drives society forward, but everyday competence keeps it on the road. Over the past five years, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the importance of disruptive innovation, but today I’d like to talk about the framework that allows disruptive innovation to be a net positive to society. The coronavirus pandemic has some people looking for innovation and others for stability. However, examining how Japan and the rest of the world are getting though it shows us something very important about innovation. Something that is almost always overlooked.
March 2, 2020
Some of the most important startups are ones you never hear about.  Some industries are so complex and arcane that its hard for people on the outside to understand the problems that startups are solving or the long-term gain of solving them.  Freight forwarding is one of those industries.  Today we talk with Taka Sato of Shippio, a startup trying to change the way freight forwarding works in Japan.  We talk about the challenges involved in trying to disrupt a low-tech, low-margin industry and also the potential rewards if Shippio succeeds.  We also cover some of the bight spots in Japanese entrepreneurship and talk about how one large company, in particular, has had to change their hiring practices to respond to the fact that so many of their best young employees are leaving to found startups.  It's a great discussion, and I think you will really enjoy it.
February 17, 2020
Most great startup ideas don’t grab your attention right away. It takes a while before the founder’s vision becomes obvious to the rest of us. On the other hand, the startups that immediately grab all the press attention often go out of business shortly after shipping their first product. Reality never seems to live up the to promise. And then there are products like Orphe. This LED-emblazoned, WiFi-connected, social-network enabled dancing shoe seems made for fluffy, flashy Facebook sharing, but only when you really dig into it, do you understand what it really is and the potential it has in the marketplace. Today we sit down with Yuya Kikukawa, founder of No New Folk Studio and the creator of the Orphe, and we talk about music, hardware financing, and why this amazing little shoe is finding early adopters in places from game designers to hospitals. It’s a great conversation, and I think you’ll really enjoy it.
February 3, 2020
Today I am going to correct two big mistakes; one of my own and one of society's. I lot of listeners emailed me about the comments I made regarding how Japanese companies treat their employees and customers while they are pregnant. I got it wrong, so I would like to set the record straight. I also explain what I see as the obvious answer to the current #KuToo controversy. I realize that this puts me at serious risk of having to publish another retraction, but I think it's an important way of looking at this problem. Please enjoy, and let me know what you think.
January 21, 2020
There is big news for Tim and for Disrupting Japan this week. It's a very short episode, and I have no special links or show notes this time around. Please give the show a listen for the big reveal, and please accept my sincere thanks for all your support over the years.  Disrupting Japan is just getting started. The best is yet to come.
January 6, 2020
Today I explain how to raise money as a new startup founder in Japan. I’m going to give you a clear and actionable plan so that: 1) You can decide which VCs you should approach 2) You can set up meetings with partners at reputable Japanese VC firms 3) You how to pitch in the most effective way possible 4) You will have some strategies to help you actually close the round, and get the money in the bank. And you’ll be able to do it all in a reasonable amount of time without going absolutely crazy  Now, I’ll warn you. Each of these steps is significantly harder than the one before, but you’ll be building up your skills as you move through the process. Also, as part of my research for this episode, I not only had a lot of conversations, but I also created an informal “Why Meet a Founder” survey and sent it to many of my VC friends in Japan. The survey asked what factors influenced their decisions to meet with a founder and hear their pitch. We’ll talk about the survey a bit during this podcast, and the results available to you as a special bonus download in the show notes on the Disrupting Japan site.
December 23, 2019
Technology is global, but ideas are local. The same IoT technology is being deployed all over the world, but a small Japanese startup might be who helps us make sense of it all. There is amazing work being done in user experience design, but most designers are operating with the contract of keeping users engaged. This is a fundamental shift from the traditional user-centered and functional design approaches. Today we sit down with Kaz Oki, founder of Mui Labs, and we talk about user design can actually improve our lives and help us disengage. We also talk about the challenges of getting VCs to invest in hardware startups, why Kyoto might be Japan's next innovation hub, and what it takes for a startup to successfully spin out of a Japanese company It's a great discussion, and I think you will really enjoy it.
December 9, 2019
Technology develops differently in Japan. While US tech giants have been grabbing artificial intelligence headlines, a business AI sector has been quietly maturing in Japan, and it is now making inroads into America.  Today we sit down again with Miku Hirano, CEO of Cinnamon, and we talk about how exactly this happened.  Interestingly, Cinnamon did not start out as an AI company. In fact, when Miku first came on the show, the company had just launched an innovative video-sharing service. Today, we talk about what lead to the pivot to AI and why even a great idea and a great team is no guarantee of success. We also talk about some of the changing attitudes towards startups and women in Japan, the kinds of business practices AI will never change, and Miku give some practical advice for startups going into foreign markets.  It's a great discussion, and I think you will really enjoy it.
November 26, 2019
Ari Horie has always had a different approach to supporting women entrepreneurs. She doesn't talk about "empowering" women and sensitivity training is not in her toolkit. Ari is showing the startup world that incorporating some of the problem-solving skills and leadership techniques favored by women improves their chance of success. Women having a leading role in entrepreneurship is not the socially responsible thing to do. It is the most profitable thing to do. Ari's been on stage with some of the most powerful men in Japan including Prime Minister Abe and Hiroshi Mikitani of Rakuten, and her message is starting to take hold. Entrepreneurship provides a much more level playing field than any other kind of business, and we should not be surprised that a lot of women excel here, and they often do it by doing things differently from their male competitors. Startups that plan to survive need to use all the tools at their disposal, and Ari explains exactly how this is happening.
November 25, 2019
Ari Horie has always had a different approach to supporting women entrepreneurs. She doesn't talk about "empowering" women and sensitivity training is not in her toolkit. Ari is showing the startup world that incorporating some of the problem-solving skills and leadership techniques favored by women improves their chance of success. Women having a leading role in entrepreneurship is not the socially responsible thing to do. It is the most profitable thing to do. Ari's been on stage with some of the most powerful men in Japan including Prime Minister Abe and Hiroshi Mikitani of Rakuten, and her message is starting to take hold. Entrepreneurship provides a much more level playing field than any other kind of business, and we should not be surprised that a lot of women excel here, and they often do it by doing things differently from their male competitors. Startups that plan to survive need to use all the tools at their disposal, and Ari explains exactly how this is happening.
November 12, 2019
Japanese enterprises are their own worst enemy when it comes to innovation. In this live panel discussion, I talk about my experience driving innovation at TEPCO, and Ion and Jenson share their experiences running innovation labs. This panel was part of the btrax Design for Innovation event in Tokyo last week. We talk about the specific challenges that Japanese companies are facing and the strategies we've used -- with varying degrees of success --  to help overcome them. Of course, like everyone else, I always remember the most important thing to say ten minutes too late, so I've added those thoughts to the outro at the end of the podcast. It's a great conversation with four people who really care about innovation in Japan, and I think you'll enjoy it.
November 11, 2019
Japanese enterprises are their own worst enemy when it comes to innovation. In this live panel discussion, I talk about my experience driving innovation at TEPCO, and Ion and Jenson share their experiences running innovation labs. This panel was part of the btrax Design for Innovation event in Tokyo last week. We talk about the specific challenges that Japanese companies are facing and the strategies we've used -- with varying degrees of success --  to help overcome them. Of course, like everyone else, I always remember the most important thing to say ten minutes too late, so I've added those thoughts to the outro at the end of the podcast. It's a great conversation with four people who really care about innovation in Japan, and I think you'll enjoy it.
October 29, 2019
This year at CEATEC, I was on stage with founders from two very different hardware startups. We talk in-depth about what it takes to be a hardware startup in a world where venture capital seems fixated on SaaS companies and software platforms.  Although their startups seem very different, Tomo Hagiwara and Keith Tan had very similar core experiences. Tomo and Keith share some great advice about raising money as a hardware startup, how to give large companies confidence that your product will meet their quality standards, and some pretty surprising answers to questions about the best way to go global. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
October 28, 2019
This year at CEATEC, I was on stage with founders from two very different hardware startups. We talk in-depth about what it takes to be a hardware startup in a world where venture capital seems fixated on SaaS companies and software platforms.  Although their startups seem very different, Tomo Hagiwara and Keith Tan had very similar core experiences. Tomo and Keith share some great advice about raising money as a hardware startup, how to give large companies confidence that your product will meet their quality standards, and some pretty surprising answers to questions about the best way to go global. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
October 15, 2019
The promise of AI is easily understood by anyone with an imagination, and for 40 years, venture capitalists have been enthusiastically investing in that promise. However, it's been significantly harder for founders to turn that investment into sustainable business models.  Today we are going to look at why that is, and go over what might be a blueprint for startups to create business models around artificial intelligence. Tatsuo Nakamura founded Valuenex in 2006 with the goal of using artificial intelligence to supplement the work being done by patent attorneys, and their software was instrumental in the resolution of one of Japan's most famous, and most valuable, lawsuits.  the Blue LED patent case. We also talk about how to sell to large companies as a small startup, the challenges in trying to make product strategy based on technology, why staying private longer is not always a good thing for startups, and how Valuenex technology accidentally discovered a secret collaboration between Honda and Google. It's a great discussion with the founder of one of Japan's most successful AI companies, and I think you will really enjoy it.
October 14, 2019
The promise of AI is easily understood by anyone with an imagination, and for 40 years, venture capitalists have been enthusiastically investing in that promise. However, it's been significantly harder for founders to turn that investment into sustainable business models.  Today we are going to look at why that is, and go over what might be a blueprint for startups to create business models around artificial intelligence. Tatsuo Nakamura founded Valuenex in 2006 with the goal of using artificial intelligence to supplement the work being done by patent attorneys, and their software was instrumental in the resolution of one of Japan's most famous, and most valuable, lawsuits.  the Blue LED patent case. We also talk about how to sell to large companies as a small startup, the challenges in trying to make product strategy based on technology, why staying private longer is not always a good thing for startups, and how Valuenex technology accidentally discovered a secret collaboration between Honda and Google. It's a great discussion with the founder of one of Japan's most successful AI companies, and I think you will really enjoy it.
October 1, 2019
Education is very hard to disrupt. That’s both good and bad. Education is so important to both individuals and society, it should not be changed on a whim, but over time it seems that our institutions of higher education have drifted away from meeting students real needs. Yoshito Hori, founder and CEO of Globis, is making radical changes. He turned a small training school into Japan's first independent and fully accredited business school with an MBA. Less than ten years later, Globis became Japan’s most popular MBA program. We talk about the need for change in education and about the successful, real-world pilot program Globis is running to modernize Japanese higher education. Yoshito also shares insights on how to teach innovative thinking and explains why such a high percentage of Globis MBAs go on to found starts or join them. It's a fascinating discussion and I think you'll really enjoy it. Show Notes Why most Japanese do not want to attend full-time MBA programs How to make an advanced degree both exclusive and inexpensive How to groom MBA students to start startups How Sumitomo missed out on a multi-billion dollar business Why Japanese higher education is so resistant to change This difference between SPOCs and MOOCs, and why it's important How drinking in front of your computer might save higher education
September 30, 2019
Education is very hard to disrupt. That’s both good and bad. Education is so important to both individuals and society, it should not be changed on a whim, but over time it seems that our institutions of higher education have drifted away from meeting students real needs. Yoshito Hori, founder and CEO of Globis, is making radical changes. He turned a small training school into Japan's first independent and fully accredited business school with an MBA. Less than ten years later, Globis became Japan’s most popular MBA program. We talk about the need for change in education and about the successful, real-world pilot program Globis is running to modernize Japanese higher education. Yoshito also shares insights on how to teach innovative thinking and explains why such a high percentage of Globis MBAs go on to found starts or join them. It's a fascinating discussion and I think you'll really enjoy it. Show Notes Why most Japanese do not want to attend full-time MBA programs How to make an advanced degree both exclusive and inexpensive How to groom MBA students to start startups How Sumitomo missed out on a multi-billion dollar business Why Japanese higher education is so resistant to change This difference between SPOCs and MOOCs, and why it's important How drinking in front of your computer might save higher education
September 17, 2019
Ad-fraud is one of the most profitable activities for organized crime today. The scammers are sophisticated, disciplined, and numerous, and they might be using your IoT devices to rip people off. Over the past decade, there has been relatively little of this kind of cybercrime in Japan, but that's changing as the ad-fraud crime networks go global. Japan has to catch up and catch up fast. Unfortunately, Japan defenses have been rather poor. Today we sit down and talk with someone who is fixing that.  Satoko Ohtsuki is the founder and CEO of Phybbit, Japan's largest ad-fraud prevention network, and she's going to explain the biggest scam you've probably never heard of. Of course, we talk about the different kinds of ad-fraud and what is being done to combat them, but we also talk about how she was pushed into entrepreneurship, and the challenges of raising money (and raising children) as a female founder in Japan. It's a great discussion with one of the most interesting founders in Japan,  and I think you will really enjoy it.
September 16, 2019
Ad-fraud is one of the most profitable activities for organized crime today. The scammers are sophisticated, disciplined, and numerous, and they might be using your IoT devices to rip people off. Over the past decade, there has been relatively little of this kind of cybercrime in Japan, but that's changing as the ad-fraud crime networks go global. Japan has to catch up and catch up fast. Unfortunately, Japan defenses have been rather poor. Today we sit down and talk with someone who is fixing that.  Satoko Ohtsuki is the founder and CEO of Phybbit, Japan's largest ad-fraud prevention network, and she's going to explain the biggest scam you've probably never heard of. Of course, we talk about the different kinds of ad-fraud and what is being done to combat them, but we also talk about how she was pushed into entrepreneurship, and the challenges of raising money (and raising children) as a female founder in Japan. It's a great discussion with one of the most interesting founders in Japan,  and I think you will really enjoy it.
September 3, 2019
The robotics ecosystem in Japan is amazing. And confusing. It's a collection of crazy ideas, odd creations, and true breakthroughs. And despite the combination of fawning prise and snide skepticism that Japanese robotics evoke in the international press, only time can really separate the true breakthroughs from the dead ends. Today, we sit down with Tez Sawanobori, the founder of Connected Robotics, and we talk about how robots are being adopted in the restaurant industry here in Japan. Connected Robotics already has two lines of consumer-visible robots being used in restaurants in Japan, and the reaction from the owners, the employees, and the customers has been overwhelmingly positive and quite a bit different than similar experiments run in America. We talk about the strong economic and social pressures affecting the adoption of robots in restaurants and discuss the changes he had to make before chefs and robots can really work side by side. It's a great conversation, and I think you will really enjoy it.
September 2, 2019
The robotics ecosystem in Japan is amazing. And confusing. It's a collection of crazy ideas, odd creations, and true breakthroughs. And despite the combination of fawning prise and snide skepticism that Japanese robotics evoke in the international press, only time can really separate the true breakthroughs from the dead ends. Today, we sit down with Tez Sawanobori, the founder of Connected Robotics, and we talk about how robots are being adopted in the restaurant industry here in Japan. Connected Robotics already has two lines of consumer-visible robots being used in restaurants in Japan, and the reaction from the owners, the employees, and the customers has been overwhelmingly positive and quite a bit different than similar experiments run in America. We talk about the strong economic and social pressures affecting the adoption of robots in restaurants and discuss the changes he had to make before chefs and robots can really work side by side. It's a great conversation, and I think you will really enjoy it.
August 20, 2019
Those of us who spend our lives working with startups live in a bubble. Whether you spend your days programming at a startup or investing in new ventures, you and I see things differently than “normal” people. It happens to everyone to some extent. We all tend to interact with people who are like us, who care about similar things and who work in similar industries, so of course, we frequently hear the same ideas and opinions.  The startup bubble, however, is particularly strong and particularly opaque.  We founders have a bad habit of believing our own bullshit.  Well today, we step outside our bubble and sit down with Mone Kamishiraishi, the star of the new film Startup Girls. We talk about what she learned as an outsider interviewing startup founders to get ready for her role, what most Japanese find surprising about founders and startup culture, and what Japan can do to to make starting a company more mainstream and accepted.  It's a great conversation, and I think you will really enjoy it.
August 19, 2019
Those of us who spend our lives working with startups live in a bubble. Whether you spend your days programming at a startup or investing in new ventures, you and I see things differently than “normal” people. It happens to everyone to some extent. We all tend to interact with people who are like us, who care about similar things and who work in similar industries, so of course, we frequently hear the same ideas and opinions.  The startup bubble, however, is particularly strong and particularly opaque.  We founders have a bad habit of believing our own bullshit.  Well today, we step outside our bubble and sit down with Mone Kamishiraishi, the star of the new film Startup Girls. We talk about what she learned as an outsider interviewing startup founders to get ready for her role, what most Japanese find surprising about founders and startup culture, and what Japan can do to to make starting a company more mainstream and accepted.  It's a great conversation, and I think you will really enjoy it.
August 13, 2019
Last month I was part of a panel discussion hosted by Stanford University and the Japan Society of Northern California. It was part of this year’s Japan-US Innovation Awards, and it was a great conversation, so I thought I would share it with you. The panel was moderated by Dr. Richard Dasher and was a discussion between me and Allison Baum who is an investor and a prolific writer about startups and innovation. We talk about a surprising source of innovation in Japan, discuss why there are not more Japanese unicorns, and peer into our crystal balls to predict what Japan’s startup ecosystem will look like in three to five years. It’s was a great discussion, so I packaged it up for you as is, with no editing or commentary. I think you’ll really enjoy it.
August 12, 2019
Last month I was part of a panel discussion hosted by Stanford University and the Japan Society of Northern California. It was part of this year’s Japan-US Innovation Awards, and it was a great conversation, so I thought I would share it with you. The panel was moderated by Dr. Richard Dasher and was a discussion between me and Allison Baum who is an investor and a prolific writer about startups and innovation. We talk about a surprising source of innovation in Japan, discuss why there are not more Japanese unicorns, and peer into our crystal balls to predict what Japan’s startup ecosystem will look like in three to five years. It’s was a great discussion, so I packaged it up for you as is, with no editing or commentary. I think you’ll really enjoy it.
August 6, 2019
Startup founders claiming their company is going to “change the world” has become a cliche. But rarely do we see a product that could clearly and significantly make someone’s life better. D-Free is one of those products. Atsushi Nakanishi and his team have developed a wearable device that monitors your bowels and bladder, pairs with your phone and notifies you a few minutes before you need to go to the bathroom. At first this seems almost like a joke, a company solving a problem that does not exist, proof that anyone can raise funding these days. But its not. There are millions of people all over the world who because of disability or disease, cannot regulate their bowels, and a device like D-Free would, quite literally, be life-changing for them. Atsushi and I talk about his rather unique inspiration for the company and the team’s hight;y unusual path in testing and development. It’s a fascinating product and a great story, and I think you’ll enjoy it.
August 5, 2019
Startup founders claiming their company is going to “change the world” has become a cliche. But rarely do we see a product that could clearly and significantly make someone’s life better. D-Free is one of those products. Atsushi Nakanishi and his team have developed a wearable device that monitors your bowels and bladder, pairs with your phone and notifies you a few minutes before you need to go to the bathroom. At first this seems almost like a joke, a company solving a problem that does not exist, proof that anyone can raise funding these days. But its not. There are millions of people all over the world who because of disability or disease, cannot regulate their bowels, and a device like D-Free would, quite literally, be life-changing for them. Atsushi and I talk about his rather unique inspiration for the company and the team’s hight;y unusual path in testing and development. It’s a fascinating product and a great story, and I think you’ll enjoy it.
July 23, 2019
Japanese university and government venture funds play a much larger role in Japan than in the West.  I've always considered this difference to be, on balance, neutral, today's guest makes a convincing case that these funds are actually hurting the startup ecosystem here.  Today we sit down and talk with Hiroaki Suga, co-founder of PeptiDream.  PeptiDream is now a $7 billion biotech company, but it started out as a couple of university faculty members funding operations out of their own pockets.  PeptiDream succeeded by using a very different model than that used by either the current generation of university spin-outs or biotech startups in the West. It's an interesting blueprint that other biotech firms might want to copy, but only if they are really sure that their technology will actually work. It's a great conversation, and I think you will really enjoy it.
July 22, 2019
Japanese university and government venture funds play a much larger role in Japan than in the West.  I've always considered this difference to be, on balance, neutral, today's guest makes a convincing case that these funds are actually hurting the startup ecosystem here.  Today we sit down and talk with Hiroaki Suga, co-founder of PeptiDream.  PeptiDream is now a $7 billion biotech company, but it started out as a couple of university faculty members funding operations out of their own pockets.  PeptiDream succeeded by using a very different model than that used by either the current generation of university spin-outs or biotech startups in the West. It's an interesting blueprint that other biotech firms might want to copy, but only if they are really sure that their technology will actually work. It's a great conversation, and I think you will really enjoy it.
July 9, 2019
Startups and venture capital work differently in Japan. The rounds are smaller, the priorities distinct, and while the same terms are used, people quickly discover that the definitions are often subtly different. The game is played differently in Japan. Today we get a chance to clear up a lot of the confusion as we sit down with James Riney, founder of Coral Capital and head of 500 startups Japan. We talk about some of the most significant changes that Japanese venture capital has seen over the past five years, and we look at how things are going to develop going forward. James and I also break down the business model behind venture capital funds themselves. It's something that all serious startup founders should understand, but few do. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
July 8, 2019
Startups and venture capital work differently in Japan. The rounds are smaller, the priorities distinct, and while the same terms are used, people quickly discover that the definitions are often subtly different. The game is played differently in Japan. Today we get a chance to clear up a lot of the confusion as we sit down with James Riney, founder of Coral Capital and head of 500 startups Japan. We talk about some of the most significant changes that Japanese venture capital has seen over the past five years, and we look at how things are going to develop going forward. James and I also break down the business model behind venture capital funds themselves. It's something that all serious startup founders should understand, but few do. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
June 25, 2019
Startup culture has crazy and contradictory views about failure. As founders we are told to fail fast, but also to never give up. We are told to follow our vision, but be ready to pivot. Somehow this macho-bullshit culture of “I never really fail and ‘m not afraid of failure.” has become dominant amount founders. But it’s the result of denial. Trivializing failure is a way of not thinking about it’s effects. The truth is that failure sucks. Failure is painful. Failure ends friendships and marriages. I suspect that most who trivialize it are eager deeply afraid of failure or have never really failed at anything important. Today Hiroshi Nagashima tells a story of a startup gone very wrong. You’ll hear the red-flags start to appear as the story unfolds. There are important lessons to be learned here, but not just strategic ones. Hiro’s honest story about what it really feels like to have the company you love fall apart and what t’s like to try to put your life back together in failure-phobic Japan is something all startup founders need to understand. It’s a great story with no cliches, no feel-good rationalizations and no bullshit. I think you’ll get a lot out of this one.
June 24, 2019
Startup culture has crazy and contradictory views about failure. As founders we are told to fail fast, but also to never give up. We are told to follow our vision, but be ready to pivot. Somehow this macho-bullshit culture of “I never really fail and ‘m not afraid of failure.” has become dominant amount founders. But it’s the result of denial. Trivializing failure is a way of not thinking about it’s effects. The truth is that failure sucks. Failure is painful. Failure ends friendships and marriages. I suspect that most who trivialize it are eager deeply afraid of failure or have never really failed at anything important. Today Hiroshi Nagashima tells a story of a startup gone very wrong. You’ll hear the red-flags start to appear as the story unfolds. There are important lessons to be learned here, but not just strategic ones. Hiro’s honest story about what it really feels like to have the company you love fall apart and what t’s like to try to put your life back together in failure-phobic Japan is something all startup founders need to understand. It’s a great story with no cliches, no feel-good rationalizations and no bullshit. I think you’ll get a lot out of this one.
June 18, 2019
Last month, I moderated a panel discussion at Coral Capital’s “Bilingual’s and Gaijin in Startups” event.  Our panel focused on what foreigners should expect when working at Japanese startups and what Japanese startups should start doing to better support their international employees.  It was a great conversation with four amazing people from four of Japan’s most interesting startups.     Tetsuya Sawanobori of Connected Robotics     Jordan Fisher of Zehitomo     Takanori Sato of Shippio     Tatsuo Kinoshita of Mercari This is a bonus episode, so the recording is straight off the board. There is no editing, no transcription, and no witty summary at the end alluding to the larger significance of the discussion.  But a lot of good ideas were shared on stage, so I really wanted to share it with you.  If you’ve ever thought about working for a Japanese startup, I think you’ll really enjoy this.
June 17, 2019
Last month, I moderated a panel discussion at Coral Capital’s “Bilingual’s and Gaijin in Startups” event.  Our panel focused on what foreigners should expect when working at Japanese startups and what Japanese startups should start doing to better support their international employees.  It was a great conversation with four amazing people from four of Japan’s most interesting startups.     Tetsuya Sawanobori of Connected Robotics     Jordan Fisher of Zehitomo     Takanori Sato of Shippio     Tatsuo Kinoshita of Mercari This is a bonus episode, so the recording is straight off the board. There is no editing, no transcription, and no witty summary at the end alluding to the larger significance of the discussion.  But a lot of good ideas were shared on stage, so I really wanted to share it with you.  If you’ve ever thought about working for a Japanese startup, I think you’ll really enjoy this.
June 11, 2019
The idea of computers capable of reading our emotions and responding to them is both fascinating and terrifying. Will this technology serve us or manipulate us?  Well, the speculation is ending because the technology not only exists, but it is being rolled out commercially.  Today I'd like you to meet Hazumu Yamazaki, co-founder of Empath. Empath is a web-based API that detects human emotion from audio data, and its initial use in call-centers has shown a significant increase in sales. But as Hazumu explains, the potential effects are much larger.  It's an enlightening conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
June 10, 2019
The idea of computers capable of reading our emotions and responding to them is both fascinating and terrifying. Will this technology serve us or manipulate us?  Well, the speculation is ending because the technology not only exists, but it is being rolled out commercially.  Today I'd like you to meet Hazumu Yamazaki, co-founder of Empath. Empath is a web-based API that detects human emotion from audio data, and its initial use in call-centers has shown a significant increase in sales. But as Hazumu explains, the potential effects are much larger.  It's an enlightening conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
May 28, 2019
It turns out that we are not willing to pay very much for simple convenience, so the technology is coming into our homes bundled with different agendas.  We've seen this happen with the success of Alexa and Google Home, and we are now seeing it here in Japan with Nature Remo.  Today we sit down and talk with Haruumi Shiode, the founder and CEO of Nature, and we discuss not only what the future of home automation will look like, but who will be paying for it.   It's an enlightening conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
May 27, 2019
It turns out that we are not willing to pay very much for simple convenience, so the technology is coming into our homes bundled with different agendas.  We've seen this happen with the success of Alexa and Google Home, and we are now seeing it here in Japan with Nature Remo.  Today we sit down and talk with Haruumi Shiode, the founder and CEO of Nature, and we discuss not only what the future of home automation will look like, but who will be paying for it.   It's an enlightening conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
May 14, 2019
Selling SaaS in Japan is very different than selling products or traditional software. Everyone knows that relationships are important in Japan, but not many people understand why they are so important, and how you can use that understanding to build a successful business here. Today Sriram Venkataraman explains how he grew InfoSys Japan from a one man operation to over 1,000 employees and how understanding why Japanese enterprises must trust their vendors far more than companies in other developed countries. We talk about hiring strategies and techniques he used to get his initial customers and some of the most common mistakes that western companies make with their senior leadership in Japan. It’s basically a blueprint for how to grow a services company from nothing to thousands of people in Japan, and I think you’ll enjoy it.
May 13, 2019
Selling SaaS in Japan is very different than selling products or traditional software. Everyone knows that relationships are important in Japan, but not many people understand why they are so important, and how you can use that understanding to build a successful business here. Today Sriram Venkataraman explains how he grew InfoSys Japan from a one man operation to over 1,000 employees and how understanding why Japanese enterprises must trust their vendors far more than companies in other developed countries. We talk about hiring strategies and techniques he used to get his initial customers and some of the most common mistakes that western companies make with their senior leadership in Japan. It’s basically a blueprint for how to grow a services company from nothing to thousands of people in Japan, and I think you’ll enjoy it.
April 30, 2019
New listeners might not know that for about one year, Disrupting Japan was sponsored and was my primary source of income.  So today, I thought I would share the history of Disrupting Japan, about my decision to go pro (and then go amateur), my visions of a podcast empire, and how it all came crashing down.
April 29, 2019
New listeners might not know that for about one year, Disrupting Japan was sponsored and was my primary source of income.  So today, I thought I would share the history of Disrupting Japan, about my decision to go pro (and then go amateur), my visions of a podcast empire, and how it all came crashing down.
April 16, 2019
The promise of renewable energy has always been alluring. Now that the technology has caught up to the promise, record amounts of wind and solar are coming onto the grid both in Japan and throughout the world.  But so far startups, especially Japanese startups, have been playing a very limited role in this transformation. But that's starting to change. Today we sit down with Ken Isono, founder and CEO of Shizen Energy, and we talk about what it takes to succeed as an energy startup in Japan, and since Shizen Energy is rapidly expanding globally, what it takes to succeed as a startup in the global energy markets. We talk about which renewables are working in Japan and which are not, what the real bottlenecks are, and more important, how we can fix them. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
April 15, 2019
The promise of renewable energy has always been alluring. Now that the technology has caught up to the promise, record amounts of wind and solar are coming onto the grid both in Japan and throughout the world.  But so far startups, especially Japanese startups, have been playing a very limited role in this transformation. But that's starting to change. Today we sit down with Ken Isono, founder and CEO of Shizen Energy, and we talk about what it takes to succeed as an energy startup in Japan, and since Shizen Energy is rapidly expanding globally, what it takes to succeed as a startup in the global energy markets. We talk about which renewables are working in Japan and which are not, what the real bottlenecks are, and more important, how we can fix them. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
April 2, 2019
It's a great time to be a programmer in Japan. Everyone is hiring and there simply is not enough talent available. But why is that? The truth is that until about 10 years ago, programming was considered kind of a blue-collar, low-skill job. It was OK to start your career as a programmer, but if you had not moved into management by the time you were 30, clearly you weren't that bright. The startup boom has changed that, and developer salaries (and respect) has improved significantly. But the education system has not caught up, and far too few people know how to code. Today we sit down with Masa Kato, founder of Progate, and discuss how Japan got herself into this situation, and what Progate is doing to fix it. The problems run deeper than expected. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
April 1, 2019
It's a great time to be a programmer in Japan. Everyone is hiring and there simply is not enough talent available. But why is that? The truth is that until about 10 years ago, programming was considered kind of a blue-collar, low-skill job. It was OK to start your career as a programmer, but if you had not moved into management by the time you were 30, clearly you weren't that bright. The startup boom has changed that, and developer salaries (and respect) has improved significantly. But the education system has not caught up, and far too few people know how to code. Today we sit down with Masa Kato, founder of Progate, and discuss how Japan got herself into this situation, and what Progate is doing to fix it. The problems run deeper than expected. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
March 19, 2019
Corporate accounting is not usually the first thing the comes to mind when you think of disruptive technology, and for the most part, that’s a good thing. Daisuke Sasaki of Freee, however, is changing the way accounting is done in Japan from the bottom up. Bringing change to a conservative industry, however, is not easy. The fact is that in the accounting industry almost all users and stakeholders would rather muddle though with a painful system they know than try something new. Daisuke’s solution, of course, was to expand the market by growing the user-base. To go after new customers who have never used any of the existing accounting software products, and would be horrified by them if they tried. Daisuke also took the radical (for Japan) step of relying almost entirely on inbound sales, focusing on marketing and social media to generate demand and often simply refusing requests for sales calls. That strategy is paying off. Freee’s user base is booming and the incumbents are now scrambling to catch up. We also talk a lot about how Japanese industries are particularly susceptible to stagnation and technological dead ends, and what might be a huge change coming in the way Japanese companies run their HR department. It’s a great interview and I think you’ll enjoy it.
March 18, 2019
Corporate accounting is not usually the first thing the comes to mind when you think of disruptive technology, and for the most part, that’s a good thing. Daisuke Sasaki of Freee, however, is changing the way accounting is done in Japan from the bottom up. Bringing change to a conservative industry, however, is not easy. The fact is that in the accounting industry almost all users and stakeholders would rather muddle though with a painful system they know than try something new. Daisuke’s solution, of course, was to expand the market by growing the user-base. To go after new customers who have never used any of the existing accounting software products, and would be horrified by them if they tried. Daisuke also took the radical (for Japan) step of relying almost entirely on inbound sales, focusing on marketing and social media to generate demand and often simply refusing requests for sales calls. That strategy is paying off. Freee’s user base is booming and the incumbents are now scrambling to catch up. We also talk a lot about how Japanese industries are particularly susceptible to stagnation and technological dead ends, and what might be a huge change coming in the way Japanese companies run their HR department. It’s a great interview and I think you’ll enjoy it.
March 5, 2019
A few years ago, shiny new startups were using their marketing dollars to tell the world that chatbots were going to change everything. Those marketing dollars have now been spent and most of those startups are no more. But for the past few years, one company has been quietly making chatbots useful, and they are now starting to make some noise. Today we sit down with Akemi Tsunagawa, founder of Bespoke and creator of the Bebot chatbot.In several important ways, Bespoke is one of the most successful chatbot companies in the world, and you'll be hearing a lot about them in the years to come. Today, however, Akemi explains how she and the team managed to succeed where so many better-funded companies failed, and she gives some great advice about how to get consumers to try out new technologies. We also talk about why you should absolutely never build your business around Facebook or WeChat.
March 4, 2019
A few years ago, shiny new startups were using their marketing dollars to tell the world that chatbots were going to change everything. Those marketing dollars have now been spent and most of those startups are no more. But for the past few years, one company has been quietly making chatbots useful, and they are now starting to make some noise. Today we sit down with Akemi Tsunagawa, founder of Bespoke and creator of the Bebot chatbot.In several important ways, Bespoke is one of the most successful chatbot companies in the world, and you'll be hearing a lot about them in the years to come. Today, however, Akemi explains how she and the team managed to succeed where so many better-funded companies failed, and she gives some great advice about how to get consumers to try out new technologies. We also talk about why you should absolutely never build your business around Facebook or WeChat.
February 19, 2019
Everything about employment in Japan is changing.  Lifetime employment is gone.  Skilled workers are discovering that they have job mobility and large Japanese companies are increasingly confused by the fact that many new graduates don't want to work for them.  Wantedly has been one of the companies that has changed the way corporate recruiting works in Japan, and today we sit down and talk with the founder and CEO Akiko Naka.  We first talked with Akiko a few years ago when Wantedly was starting to gain traction, but since then Wantedly has grown, IPOed and become of the most highly valued public companies in Japan.
February 18, 2019
Everything about employment in Japan is changing.  Lifetime employment is gone.  Skilled workers are discovering that they have job mobility and large Japanese companies are increasingly confused by the fact that many new graduates don't want to work for them.  Wantedly has been one of the companies that has changed the way corporate recruiting works in Japan, and today we sit down and talk with the founder and CEO Akiko Naka.  We first talked with Akiko a few years ago when Wantedly was starting to gain traction, but since then Wantedly has grown, IPOed and become of the most highly valued public companies in Japan.
February 5, 2019
Uber and, to a lesser extent, Airbnb are failing horribly in Japan. There have been quite a few articles that have tried to explain what this is, and most of those articles have focused on why the market conditions in Japan make it hard for those companies. These is certainly some truth to those articles, but they miss a larger and much more important factor about why these companies are struggling in Japan and in Asia in general. You see, Uber and Airbnb represent a new very kind of startup, one that could not have existed twenty years ago, and the reason has nothing to do with smartphones or cloud computing or anything related to technology at all. In fact, the very thing that make these companies powerful and transformative in the United States is what ensures they will never really succeed in Japan. You may not agree with everything I have to say, but I think you’ll enjoy it.
February 4, 2019
Uber and, to a lesser extent, Airbnb are failing horribly in Japan. There have been quite a few articles that have tried to explain what this is, and most of those articles have focused on why the market conditions in Japan make it hard for those companies. These is certainly some truth to those articles, but they miss a larger and much more important factor about why these companies are struggling in Japan and in Asia in general. You see, Uber and Airbnb represent a new very kind of startup, one that could not have existed twenty years ago, and the reason has nothing to do with smartphones or cloud computing or anything related to technology at all. In fact, the very thing that make these companies powerful and transformative in the United States is what ensures they will never really succeed in Japan. You may not agree with everything I have to say, but I think you’ll enjoy it.
January 22, 2019
The developed world is facing a severe programmer shortage. Around the world, coding bootcamps have stepped into this gap to teach newcomers basic programming skills quickly. But in like so many other areas, Japan is different. Coding bootcamps have been slow to take off here, and programmers are taught by a patchwork of academic degrees, on the job training, and informal meetups and study sessions. Kani Munidasa, the co-founder of Code Chrysalis, is changing that.
January 21, 2019
The developed world is facing a severe programmer shortage. Around the world, coding bootcamps have stepped into this gap to teach newcomers basic programming skills quickly. But in like so many other areas, Japan is different. Coding bootcamps have been slow to take off here, and programmers are taught by a patchwork of academic degrees, on the job training, and informal meetups and study sessions. Kani Munidasa, the co-founder of Code Chrysalis, is changing that.
January 8, 2019
For decades, Japan has been struggling with the economic need to attract more foreign residents to the country and the general social reluctance to do so. Over the years there have been some well-publicized failures and a few quiet successes, and Japan retains her image as a generally closed nation. But reality changes much faster than perception in Japan. Things are already changing and that change is about to accelerate. Today I'd like you to meet Nao Sugihara founder of MTIC, who is going to explain these trends in detail. Nao runs a recruiting platform called GaijinBank that deals exclusively with blue-color, foreign labor, and he'll show you not only that Japan's has opened up far more than most people acknowledge, but that this trend will likely accelerate over the next 20 years. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
January 7, 2019
For decades, Japan has been struggling with the economic need to attract more foreign residents to the country and the general social reluctance to do so. Over the years there have been some well-publicized failures and a few quiet successes, and Japan retains her image as a generally closed nation. But reality changes much faster than perception in Japan. Things are already changing and that change is about to accelerate. Today I'd like you to meet Nao Sugihara founder of MTIC, who is going to explain these trends in detail. Nao runs a recruiting platform called GaijinBank that deals exclusively with blue-color, foreign labor, and he'll show you not only that Japan's has opened up far more than most people acknowledge, but that this trend will likely accelerate over the next 20 years. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
December 25, 2018
The aerospace industry has been particularly resistant to disrupting in Japan. In the rest of the world, launch vehicle and spacecraft technology has made incredible gains over the past decade, but here in Japan its still mostly the same government contracts going to the same major contractors. Naomi Kurahara of InfoStellar, has come up with an innovative way to leverage existing aerospace infrastructure and to collaborate globally by renting out unused satellite ground-sataion time, Airbnb style. You see when an organization launches a satellite, they also build a ground station to communicate with it. The problem is, that as the satellite obits the Earthy, it’s only in communication range of the ground station for less than an hour a day. The rest of the time the ground station just sits there. By renting out that unused time ground-station operators earn extra income, and the satellite operators are able to communicate with their satellites as often as they need. It’s a great interview and I think you’ll enjoy it.
December 24, 2018
The aerospace industry has been particularly resistant to disrupting in Japan. In the rest of the world, launch vehicle and spacecraft technology has made incredible gains over the past decade, but here in Japan its still mostly the same government contracts going to the same major contractors. Naomi Kurahara of InfoStellar, has come up with an innovative way to leverage existing aerospace infrastructure and to collaborate globally by renting out unused satellite ground-sataion time, Airbnb style. You see when an organization launches a satellite, they also build a ground station to communicate with it. The problem is, that as the satellite obits the Earthy, it’s only in communication range of the ground station for less than an hour a day. The rest of the time the ground station just sits there. By renting out that unused time ground-station operators earn extra income, and the satellite operators are able to communicate with their satellites as often as they need. It’s a great interview and I think you’ll enjoy it.
December 11, 2018
There is something odd about the way we treat sleep. We understand that it is essential for good health, but we are almost ashamed when we admit that we get enough of it. We are rightfully proud when we keep our resolutions to go to the gym more or to eat a more healthy diet, but if we get a good night's sleep, we tend to keep it to ourselves.
December 10, 2018
There is something odd about the way we treat sleep. We understand that it is essential for good health, but we are almost ashamed when we admit that we get enough of it. We are rightfully proud when we keep our resolutions to go to the gym more or to eat a more healthy diet, but if we get a good night's sleep, we tend to keep it to ourselves.
November 20, 2018
Whenever you hear someone claim that the Japanese will never do something for unspecified "cultural reasons", you know there is a fortune to be made.  Lu Dong is the co-founder and CEO of Japan Foodie, a cashless payment system currently masquerading as a restaurant discovery application.  Lu and I talk about the boom in inbound Chinese tourism that led to the creation of Japan Foodie, and how he and his team quickly managed to identify and dominate this massive and underserved market.  We talk about how tourism is changing Japan, the best way to build a two-sided marketplace, the only way forward for most e-commerce platforms, the future of e-payments in Japan and the history of women's lingerie in China.  It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
November 19, 2018
Whenever you hear someone claim that the Japanese will never do something for unspecified "cultural reasons", you know there is a fortune to be made.  Lu Dong is the co-founder and CEO of Japan Foodie, a cashless payment system currently masquerading as a restaurant discovery application.  Lu and I talk about the boom in inbound Chinese tourism that led to the creation of Japan Foodie, and how he and his team quickly managed to identify and dominate this massive and underserved market.  We talk about how tourism is changing Japan, the best way to build a two-sided marketplace, the only way forward for most e-commerce platforms, the future of e-payments in Japan and the history of women's lingerie in China.  It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
October 30, 2018
Japanese thoughts on risk are changing, but they are changing slowly. Many people still consider failure to be a permanent condition, and that makes it hard to take risks, or in some cases even to be associated with risks. Today we talk with Hajime Hirose, one of Japan's new breed of serial entrepreneurs. Hajime has started companies in three different countries and several different industries.  We talk about the challenges and importance of going global and how a Japanese founder ended up running a Chinese company that IPOed in New York.
October 29, 2018
Japanese thoughts on risk are changing, but they are changing slowly. Many people still consider failure to be a permanent condition, and that makes it hard to take risks, or in some cases even to be associated with risks. Today we talk with Hajime Hirose, one of Japan's new breed of serial entrepreneurs. Hajime has started companies in three different countries and several different industries.  We talk about the challenges and importance of going global and how a Japanese founder ended up running a Chinese company that IPOed in New York.
October 16, 2018
The conventional wisdom is that traditional Japanese companies can't innovate. And traditionally, that's been true.  Hosoo, however, is carrying on a 1200-year-old tradition, but they are hardly a conventional company. Today we talk with Masataka Hosoo, who is the 12th-generation leader of Hosoo, one of Japan's most famous kimono silk makers. And while the company used to provide kimono fabrics to emperors and shogun, times have changed. Masataka explains how he is changing with the times and working with not only fashion brands like Dior and Chanel, but companies like Panasonic to develop user interfaces that involve textiles rather than simple lights and buttons. We also talk about a possible innovation blueprint that Japan's other small businesses can follow. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
October 15, 2018
The conventional wisdom is that traditional Japanese companies can't innovate. And traditionally, that's been true.  Hosoo, however, is carrying on a 1200-year-old tradition, but they are hardly a conventional company. Today we talk with Masataka Hosoo, who is the 12th-generation leader of Hosoo, one of Japan's most famous kimono silk makers. And while the company used to provide kimono fabrics to emperors and shogun, times have changed. Masataka explains how he is changing with the times and working with not only fashion brands like Dior and Chanel, but companies like Panasonic to develop user interfaces that involve textiles rather than simple lights and buttons. We also talk about a possible innovation blueprint that Japan's other small businesses can follow. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
October 8, 2018
Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’m Tim Romero and thanks for joining me. Twice a month, you and I will sit down meet the founders of some of Japan’s most innovate startups. We'll talk a bit about their companies, of course, but most of the time we talk about how Japan is changing, what it's like to try to sell to large companies as a small startup, new emerging Japanese technology, and a lot of the social and personal issues founders here face. Disrupting Japan is really about what it’s like to be an innovator in a culture that prizes conformity. And yeah, since most of my guests are speaking English as a second language, there is alcohol involved in more than a few of these interviews. So if you are interested in Japan and in innovation, let me introduce you to some of the most amazing and creative people in the world. Come join me in Disrupting Japan.
October 8, 2018
Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’m Tim Romero and thanks for joining me. Twice a month, you and I will sit down meet the founders of some of Japan’s most innovate startups. We'll talk a bit about their companies, of course, but most of the time we talk about how Japan is changing, what it's like to try to sell to large companies as a small startup, new emerging Japanese technology, and a lot of the social and personal issues founders here face. Disrupting Japan is really about what it’s like to be an innovator in a culture that prizes conformity. And yeah, since most of my guests are speaking English as a second language, there is alcohol involved in more than a few of these interviews. So if you are interested in Japan and in innovation, let me introduce you to some of the most amazing and creative people in the world. Come join me in Disrupting Japan.
October 2, 2018
Disrupting Japan is four years old, so we decided to invite a few hundred movers and shakers from Tokyo’s startup community over to have few drinks and to hear three of Japan’s most successful foreign startup CEOs talk about what it takes to succeed in Japanese when you are not Japanese. Our panel included some of the most influential foreign startup founders in Japan. Tim Romero (@timoth3y) - Moderator Paul Chapman (@pchap10k) - CEO, Moneytree Jay Winder (@itsjaydesu) - CEO, Make Leaps Casey Wahl (@caseydai2asa9sa ) - CEO, Wahl & Case We talk about strategies for growth, how to leverage your "foreignness" to your advantage, how to best manage multi-cultural teams, and what the future looks like for foreigners in Japan. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
October 1, 2018
Disrupting Japan is four years old, so we decided to invite a few hundred movers and shakers from Tokyo’s startup community over to have few drinks and to hear three of Japan’s most successful foreign startup CEOs talk about what it takes to succeed in Japanese when you are not Japanese. Our panel included some of the most influential foreign startup founders in Japan. Tim Romero (@timoth3y) - Moderator Paul Chapman (@pchap10k) - CEO, Moneytree Jay Winder (@itsjaydesu) - CEO, Make Leaps Casey Wahl (@caseydai2asa9sa ) - CEO, Wahl & Case We talk about strategies for growth, how to leverage your "foreignness" to your advantage, how to best manage multi-cultural teams, and what the future looks like for foreigners in Japan. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it.
September 18, 2018
There are a lot of aerospace startups in Japan these days. We are seeing innovation in everything from component manufacturing to satellite constellations to literal moonshots. All of those, however, depend on the ability to place new satellites in orbit, and that is getting harder and harder due to the ever-increasing amount of orbital debris. It's simply getting too crowded up there. Nobu Okada founded Astroscale to solve this problem. Today we sit down and talk about his solution, and we also dive into the very real political and financing challenges that have prevented this problem from being solved. In many ways, the removal of space debris of a classic Tragedy of the Commons problem. Everyone agrees that it is an important problem that should be solved, but no one wants to spend their own money to solve it. Well, Nobu and his team have developed a business model that they believe will be able to address this problem.  It's an innovative and important approach. And yes, we also talk about dancing satellites. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it. Show Notes What is this Kessler Syndrome and why do we need to worry about it Why dreams of being an astronaut did not work out Why aerospace startups need their own manufacturing facilities How to bring down a satellite The trigger leading world governments to finally get serious about space clean up What are your options when your satellite fails to launch The single biggest risk in the space debris removal business Why there are so many aerospace startups in Japan recently
September 17, 2018
There are a lot of aerospace startups in Japan these days. We are seeing innovation in everything from component manufacturing to satellite constellations to literal moonshots. All of those, however, depend on the ability to place new satellites in orbit, and that is getting harder and harder due to the ever-increasing amount of orbital debris. It's simply getting too crowded up there. Nobu Okada founded Astroscale to solve this problem. Today we sit down and talk about his solution, and we also dive into the very real political and financing challenges that have prevented this problem from being solved. In many ways, the removal of space debris of a classic Tragedy of the Commons problem. Everyone agrees that it is an important problem that should be solved, but no one wants to spend their own money to solve it. Well, Nobu and his team have developed a business model that they believe will be able to address this problem.  It's an innovative and important approach. And yes, we also talk about dancing satellites. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it. Show Notes What is this Kessler Syndrome and why do we need to worry about it Why dreams of being an astronaut did not work out Why aerospace startups need their own manufacturing facilities How to bring down a satellite The trigger leading world governments to finally get serious about space clean up What are your options when your satellite fails to launch The single biggest risk in the space debris removal business Why there are so many aerospace startups in Japan recently
September 4, 2018
There are relatively few biotech startups in Japan. Few investors are willing to write the multi-million dollar checks and have the decades-long patience that is required to really succeed investing in this industry. But startups find a way, and an innovative biotech ecosystem has started to develop in Japan despite the lack of traditional funding. In fact, we might be seeing a new, uniquely Japanese, model of innovation that we'll call "the innovation supply chain". Today, we get a first-hand look at how this innovation supply chain functions, as we sit down with Yuki Shimahara the CEO and founder of LPixel.  LPixel uses AI image analysis to detect potential problems in patients MRI and CT scans. The technology itself is fascinating, but Yuki and I also talk about how medical research and medical innovation might be taking a very different path in Japan than it is in the West. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll really enjoy it. Show Notes The real problem with using AI for medical diagnosis AI's deep roots in medicine How safe is medical AI, both in theory and in practice Are we about to see an App Store for medical devices? Why doctors have mixed feeling about AI in medicine How to maintain a competitive advantage in a crowded AI marketplace
September 3, 2018
There are relatively few biotech startups in Japan. Few investors are willing to write the multi-million dollar checks and have the decades-long patience that is required to really succeed investing in this industry. But startups find a way, and an innovative biotech ecosystem has started to develop in Japan despite the lack of traditional funding. In fact, we might be seeing a new, uniquely Japanese, model of innovation that we'll call "the innovation supply chain". Today, we get a first-hand look at how this innovation supply chain functions, as we sit down with Yuki Shimahara the CEO and founder of LPixel.  LPixel uses AI image analysis to detect potential problems in patients MRI and CT scans. The technology itself is fascinating, but Yuki and I also talk about how medical research and medical innovation might be taking a very different path in Japan than it is in the West. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll really enjoy it. Show Notes The real problem with using AI for medical diagnosis AI's deep roots in medicine How safe is medical AI, both in theory and in practice Are we about to see an App Store for medical devices? Why doctors have mixed feeling about AI in medicine How to maintain a competitive advantage in a crowded AI marketplace
August 21, 2018
Most of us don't actually zone out in front of the TV. In fact, we give off all kinds of clues to what we really think about the shows we are watching. Japanese startup, T-Vision Insights has come up with a way both to measure and to monetize those reactions. Today we sit down with founder and CEO Yasushi Gunya and we talk about T-Vision's business and the future of advertising in video. T-Vision Insights already has 100's of customers and is monitoring thousands of households both in Japan and the US and we dive into some of the differences in how different kinds of people watch and react to TV. I guarantee some of the results will surprise you. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it. Show Notes How AI can determine viewer engagement Proof that women watched the super bowl more closely than men How men and women watch TV differently Which TV shows and commercials  are most engaging The danger of advertising on the Walking Dead How privacy concerns are addressed Why it's hard to sell genuinely new innovations The most engaging parts of commercials Why starting a startup is not really risky in Japan
August 20, 2018
Most of us don't actually zone out in front of the TV. In fact, we give off all kinds of clues to what we really think about the shows we are watching. Japanese startup, T-Vision Insights has come up with a way both to measure and to monetize those reactions. Today we sit down with founder and CEO Yasushi Gunya and we talk about T-Vision's business and the future of advertising in video. T-Vision Insights already has 100's of customers and is monitoring thousands of households both in Japan and the US and we dive into some of the differences in how different kinds of people watch and react to TV. I guarantee some of the results will surprise you. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it. Show Notes How AI can determine viewer engagement Proof that women watched the super bowl more closely than men How men and women watch TV differently Which TV shows and commercials  are most engaging The danger of advertising on the Walking Dead How privacy concerns are addressed Why it's hard to sell genuinely new innovations The most engaging parts of commercials Why starting a startup is not really risky in Japan
August 7, 2018
The single most common question I get asked are variations of "How do you start a business as a foreigner in Japan?"  or "What's it like to start a startup as a foreigner in Japan?" It's always been a hard question to answer simply because it is such a big one, that it can be hard to know where to start. Well, today we are going to start to answer that question, and over the next month or two, we are really going to dig into it. Jordan Fisher is CEO and co-founder of Zehitomo, which is an online marketplace for off-line services. This is not an easy space. There are many such sites in Japan, but Jordan explains why the fact that he and his co-founder are both foreigners has given them a competitive advantage not just in the marketplace, but in recruiting and marketing as well. Unsurprisingly, there are a few things that are much harder for foreign startup founders than for Japanese founders, and we talk about those as well. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it. Show Notes Why charging commission is a losing strategy One surprisingly popular kind of offline services Why its hard to start a startup as a foreigner in Japan What it's like raising money as a foreigner in Japan Ho to use your gaijin-ness to your business advantage Why some Japanese have a hard time in foreign startups How to differentiate your startup in Japan Why the fear of failure is still holding Japan back
August 6, 2018
The single most common question I get asked are variations of "How do you start a business as a foreigner in Japan?"  or "What's it like to start a startup as a foreigner in Japan?" It's always been a hard question to answer simply because it is such a big one, that it can be hard to know where to start. Well, today we are going to start to answer that question, and over the next month or two, we are really going to dig into it. Jordan Fisher is CEO and co-founder of Zehitomo, which is an online marketplace for off-line services. This is not an easy space. There are many such sites in Japan, but Jordan explains why the fact that he and his co-founder are both foreigners has given them a competitive advantage not just in the marketplace, but in recruiting and marketing as well. Unsurprisingly, there are a few things that are much harder for foreign startup founders than for Japanese founders, and we talk about those as well. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it. Show Notes Why charging commission is a losing strategy One surprisingly popular kind of offline services Why its hard to start a startup as a foreigner in Japan What it's like raising money as a foreigner in Japan Ho to use your gaijin-ness to your business advantage Why some Japanese have a hard time in foreign startups How to differentiate your startup in Japan Why the fear of failure is still holding Japan back
July 24, 2018
Japan had been a global leader in robotics for decades, but recently the traditional Japanese leaders have been losing ground to the better-funded and better-publicized firms coming out of America and China. Mujin is changing that. While iRobot and Boston Dynamics have been grabbing headlines and YouTube views, Mujin has been quietly breaking ground with a series of real-world commercial successes in deploying the next generation of industrial robots. Perhaps Mujin's largest achievement to date has been their project for Chinese e-commerce giant JD, in which they developed the world's first fully-automated logistics warehouse where robots unload the trucks, stock the shelves, and them pick and pack the items for shipment without human intervention. Today we talk with Issei Takino, who founded Mujin with his co-founder Rosen Diankov, and he explains why Japan looks at robots in a fundamentally different way than Western countries do, and how that will lead to a significant competitive advantage. It's an interesting conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it. Show Notes How to get the ecosystem to adopt your platform Why robots have not yet taken over industry (or the world) How to get your first customers in robotics How to get feedback from reluctant Japanese customers When being a Japanese startup is an advantage How America and Japan view robotics and automation differently Advice for starting companies with multi-cultural teams The critical differences between Japanese and American universities
July 23, 2018
Japan had been a global leader in robotics for decades, but recently the traditional Japanese leaders have been losing ground to the better-funded and better-publicized firms coming out of America and China. Mujin is changing that. While iRobot and Boston Dynamics have been grabbing headlines and YouTube views, Mujin has been quietly breaking ground with a series of real-world commercial successes in deploying the next generation of industrial robots. Perhaps Mujin's largest achievement to date has been their project for Chinese e-commerce giant JD, in which they developed the world's first fully-automated logistics warehouse where robots unload the trucks, stock the shelves, and them pick and pack the items for shipment without human intervention. Today we talk with Issei Takino, who founded Mujin with his co-founder Rosen Diankov, and he explains why Japan looks at robots in a fundamentally different way than Western countries do, and how that will lead to a significant competitive advantage. It's an interesting conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it. Show Notes How to get the ecosystem to adopt your platform Why robots have not yet taken over industry (or the world) How to get your first customers in robotics How to get feedback from reluctant Japanese customers When being a Japanese startup is an advantage How America and Japan view robotics and automation differently Advice for starting companies with multi-cultural teams The critical differences between Japanese and American universities
July 10, 2018
Twenty years ago, we all thought that starting a startup required a special and rare kind of talent. It was something you either had or you didn't. Today, founding and running a startup is considered more of a learnable skill. It has its own best practices,  industry standards, and common knowledge. And, in both startups and enterprises, I find it refreshing to talk to people who have succeeded by going against those industry standards. Peter Galante started what would become the wildly successful Japanese Pod 101 with no clear idea how to monetize and no clear business plan. He did, however, have a firm conviction that what he wanted to build had value and the people would flock to it. And he was right. Peter and I talk about how his unconventional business plan and his rejection of VC advice and standard best practices, actually resulted in a rapidly growing startup in a market protected from even his best-funded competitors. It's an interesting conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it. Show Notes Who is really studying Japanese online Why most Japanese language learners fail What you need to know about turning a hobby into a business What happens when your startup start changing for free content Why podcasting is dying [Noooo!!!!] and video is rising How content creators can get paid when so much content is free How to defend your business against better-funded startups
July 9, 2018
Twenty years ago, we all thought that starting a startup required a special and rare kind of talent. It was something you either had or you didn't. Today, founding and running a startup is considered more of a learnable skill. It has its own best practices,  industry standards, and common knowledge. And, in both startups and enterprises, I find it refreshing to talk to people who have succeeded by going against those industry standards. Peter Galante started what would become the wildly successful Japanese Pod 101 with no clear idea how to monetize and no clear business plan. He did, however, have a firm conviction that what he wanted to build had value and the people would flock to it. And he was right. Peter and I talk about how his unconventional business plan and his rejection of VC advice and standard best practices, actually resulted in a rapidly growing startup in a market protected from even his best-funded competitors. It's an interesting conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it. Show Notes Who is really studying Japanese online Why most Japanese language learners fail What you need to know about turning a hobby into a business What happens when your startup start changing for free content Why podcasting is dying [Noooo!!!!] and video is rising How content creators can get paid when so much content is free How to defend your business against better-funded startups
June 26, 2018
Today, rather than diving deep into a specific aspect of startups in Japan, we are going to take a hard look at both what is and what is not working within the Japanese startup ecosystem as a whole. And at the end, I'm going to answer the most common question I am asked by overseas audiences. "Where are the Japanese unicorns?" You might already know about Japan's two existing unicorns, but I'm going to explain where the next four will be coming from. I guarantee that it's from somewhere you would not have expected. So let's get right to it.
June 25, 2018
Today, rather than diving deep into a specific aspect of startups in Japan, we are going to take a hard look at both what is and what is not working within the Japanese startup ecosystem as a whole. And at the end, I'm going to answer the most common question I am asked by overseas audiences. "Where are the Japanese unicorns?" You might already know about Japan's two existing unicorns, but I'm going to explain where the next four will be coming from. I guarantee that it's from somewhere you would not have expected. So let's get right to it.
June 12, 2018
If you've ever done business in Japan, someone probably walked you through the intricacies of Japanese business card culture. Chika Terada, the founder of Sansan, created one of Japan's most successful startups around the business card protocol. And even though Sansan has been expanding quickly and is on track for an IPO, Chika thinks that Japanese business card culture will soon disappear. Chika and I talk about the challenges of rapidly scaling a company, and how the IPO market in Japan will change in the next few years. We also talk about what Chika learned as his company expanded into other markets and how even B2B business is really a complex mix of business and culture. It's an interesting conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it. Show Notes Why business cards are not data, but an event marker Why Sansan wants to replace business cards How to save the corporate culture when you are committed to things that don't scale How stock options should be (and are) used at Japanese startups Why marketing is so hard to disrupt in Japan How Japan's business card culture extends overseas How big company attitudes towards startups re changing in Japan How to teach innovation in Japan
June 11, 2018
If you've ever done business in Japan, someone probably walked you through the intricacies of Japanese business card culture. Chika Terada, the founder of Sansan, created one of Japan's most successful startups around the business card protocol. And even though Sansan has been expanding quickly and is on track for an IPO, Chika thinks that Japanese business card culture will soon disappear. Chika and I talk about the challenges of rapidly scaling a company, and how the IPO market in Japan will change in the next few years. We also talk about what Chika learned as his company expanded into other markets and how even B2B business is really a complex mix of business and culture. It's an interesting conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it. Show Notes Why business cards are not data, but an event marker Why Sansan wants to replace business cards How to save the corporate culture when you are committed to things that don't scale How stock options should be (and are) used at Japanese startups Why marketing is so hard to disrupt in Japan How Japan's business card culture extends overseas How big company attitudes towards startups re changing in Japan How to teach innovation in Japan
May 29, 2018
Startups are changing how business is done in Japan, but medicine remains stubbornly resistant to innovation. In some ways, that's good. We are literally experimenting with peoples lives, so caution is definitely warranted. We don't want to rush things. However, Japan's national health insurance acts as a single buyer, and sometimes the only way to innovate is to go around them. That's exactly what Kenichi Ishii, the founder of Next Innovation has done. Their long-term strategy involves creating widespread and comprehensive telemedicine in Japan, but right now they have developed a basic approach that has reduced the cost of some medical treatments by more than 70% And business is booming. Ken and Next Innovation are both proudly from Osaka, and we also talk a lot about the state of the Osaka startup ecosystem. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it. Show Notes Why medical startups need to innovate around Japan's national health insurance How to cross-sell in the medical market Why Osaka offers a competitive advantage to some kinds of startups What is holding back telemedicine in Japan The culture of secrecy in Japanese medicine The most likely source for innovation in Japanese medicine
May 28, 2018
Startups are changing how business is done in Japan, but medicine remains stubbornly resistant to innovation. In some ways, that's good. We are literally experimenting with peoples lives, so caution is definitely warranted. We don't want to rush things. However, Japan's national health insurance acts as a single buyer, and sometimes the only way to innovate is to go around them. That's exactly what Kenichi Ishii, the founder of Next Innovation has done. Their long-term strategy involves creating widespread and comprehensive telemedicine in Japan, but right now they have developed a basic approach that has reduced the cost of some medical treatments by more than 70% And business is booming. Ken and Next Innovation are both proudly from Osaka, and we also talk a lot about the state of the Osaka startup ecosystem. It's a great conversation, and I think you'll enjoy it. Show Notes Why medical startups need to innovate around Japan's national health insurance How to cross-sell in the medical market Why Osaka offers a competitive advantage to some kinds of startups What is holding back telemedicine in Japan The culture of secrecy in Japanese medicine The most likely source for innovation in Japanese medicine
May 15, 2018
Preferred Networks is making changes in Japan. Over the past few years, this AI startup has raised more than $130M in venture funding and grown to more than 130 people. If you live outside of Japan, you might not have heard of this team, but they are working with Toyota to create the next generation of driverless cars. They are working with Japan's most advanced industrial robot manufacturers to improve efficiency. They are also working with many financial institutions on fraud detection. Oh yes, and they also built Japan's most powerful commercial supercomputer. Today we sit down and talk with Daisuke Okanohara, the technical co-founder of Preferred Networks. Daisuke and I talk about the story behind Preferred Networks, he also shares his challenges and current strategies for maintaining the company's experimental and engineering culture as it grows larger and more structured. Daisuke also talks about his time at Google, how Japanese AI stacks up to China and the US, and why he’s convinced that their biggest competition is going to come from somewhere you would never expect. It's a great discussion, and I think you'll enjoy it. Show Notes What edge-heavy computing is and why it's important How a Google Internship changed Daisuke's outlook on AI The future of driverless cars at Toyota Why the team decided to build Japan's most powerful supercomputer Why you can't sell disruptive products to large companies How to keep a curious spirit even as your company grows Where the real competition in AI will come from
May 14, 2018
Preferred Networks is making changes in Japan. Over the past few years, this AI startup has raised more than $130M in venture funding and grown to more than 130 people. If you live outside of Japan, you might not have heard of this team, but they are working with Toyota to create the next generation of driverless cars. They are working with Japan's most advanced industrial robot manufacturers to improve efficiency. They are also working with many financial institutions on fraud detection. Oh yes, and they also built Japan's most powerful commercial supercomputer. Today we sit down and talk with Daisuke Okanohara, the technical co-founder of Preferred Networks. Daisuke and I talk about the story behind Preferred Networks, he also shares his challenges and current strategies for maintaining the company's experimental and engineering culture as it grows larger and more structured. Daisuke also talks about his time at Google, how Japanese AI stacks up to China and the US, and why he’s convinced that their biggest competition is going to come from somewhere you would never expect. It's a great discussion, and I think you'll enjoy it. Show Notes What edge-heavy computing is and why it's important How a Google Internship changed Daisuke's outlook on AI The future of driverless cars at Toyota Why the team decided to build Japan's most powerful supercomputer Why you can't sell disruptive products to large companies How to keep a curious spirit even as your company grows Where the real competition in AI will come from
May 1, 2018
Education is very hard to disrupt. That’s both good and bad. Education is so important to both individuals and society, it should not be changed on a whim, but over time it seems that our institutions of higher education have drifted away from meeting students real needs. Yoshito Hori, founder and CEO of Globis, is making radical changes. He turned a small training school into Japan's first independent and fully accredited business school with an MBA. Less than ten years later, Globis became Japan’s most popular MBA program. We talk about the need for change in education and about the successful, real-world pilot program Globis is running to modernize Japanese higher education. Yoshito also shares insights on how to teach innovative thinking and explains why such a high percentage of Globis MBAs go on to found starts or join them. It's a fascinating discussion and I think you'll really enjoy it. Show Notes Why most Japanese do not want to attend full-time MBA programs How to make an advanced degree both exclusive and inexpensive How to groom MBA students to start startups How Sumitomo missed out on a multi-billion dollar business Why Japanese higher education is so resistant to change This difference between SPOCs and MOOCs, and why it's important How drinking in front of your computer might save higher education
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