What was your earliest ambition?
When I finished my MBA I thought I was going to open a chain of sandwich and bagel shops in Japan. During my second year of business school I did shifts in bagel shops all over Boston to learn the trade. Me and a friend spent a year trying to figure out how the business would work until we realised it wouldn’t.
What has been the steepest learning curve of your career so far?
The realisation that despite cultural differences, people wherever they may be in the world, are ultimately motivated by the same things with similar hopes, desires and expectations; they just express it differently. Also that we don’t all have to take the same straight road; there are multiple paths to get to the same place. For me, understanding that was a breakthrough moment.
What technology trend inspires you today?
The concept of being able to do so much more with so much less. Historically, if you wanted to build a software company you needed $50m minimum. Today, you need a fraction of that. Everything that used to be a fixed cost is today a variable cost. If you have a great idea the technological infrastructure is there to back it up. You can leverage assets you don’t own and never need to own and that’s incredible. Look at Airbnb or Uber, these companies own nothing; all you need today is a great idea and the ability to execute.
How has Japan’s ventures scene changed in the time you have been there?
This is not your father’s Japan anymore. There may still be conservative segments of society but the days when lifetime employment mattered to the vast majority of young people are over. Even the most elite college students know it is not about relying on big companies for lifetime employment anymore. Instead there is genuine enthusiasm for entrepreneurialism, and a growing belief that it’s worth taking a chance on something new because failing won’t doom your future it will simply make you a more experienced entrepreneur.
If you could give your 20-year-old self one piece of advice what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to live your life, delayed gratification is overrated.