Notable tech founders and executives converged in Tokyo this week for the New Economy Summit, part of the Japanese government’s push to modernize its industries and stay relevant and competitive globally. A host of top Internet companies showed up, including the founders of Twitter, Pinterest, Evernote and Android, to preach entrepreneurship to Japan’s manufacturing-centric business mindset.
The summit was put together by Rakuten founder and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani. Rakuten is Japan’s largest e-commerce company, and Mikitani was handpicked by Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to be part of a group working to make Japan more competitive internationally. “In order for innovation to connect to economic growth, businesses with new technologies must be created, and industries must be renewed,” Abe said via video to the audience at the Tokyo conference. Internet entrepreneurship has been slow to take hold in Japan, mainly because of the country’s heavy manufacturing background. But that did not stop the celebrity tech gurus from dispensing invaluable industry wisdom that they gained mostly from difficult experiences in their startups.
“Don’t be afraid of failure, because usually that is the best learning experience,” said Niklas Zennstrom, who founded the now-defunct file-sharing service Kazaa, before hitting the big time with Skype. Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann said that his US$2.5 billion company started out in a really troubled way, as he initially ran the company out of his apartment’s living room. “In the world of companies, it probably had one of the worst starts. Very, very few people used it, but one thing that was important for me was that it was a better start than any of the things that I tried before,” Silbermann said. Even Jack Dorsey, builder of the globally famous micro-blogging social network Twitter, saw a lot of potential in Japanese Internet technology. “We were extremely surprised by how quickly Japan took to Twitter, and I think a lot of it was due to the developers who were building their own interfaces on top of something that we had built, and made it more culturally relevant,” Dorsey said.
Successful Japanese Internet companies were also present at the summit, including mobile gaming guru Yoshikazu Tanaka of Gree, and Akira Morikawa, CEO of the highly successful mobile messaging platform LINE. Joichi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab and the founder of Infoseek Japan, said that Japan has not been quick to adapt to fluid world of Internet businesses from its infamous corporate structure. “Japan was very strong at innovation before the Internet,” said Joichi Ito. “We were able to innovate in revolutionizing manufacturing in terms of mass production,” he said, adding that it must apply the same innovation to the current Internet trends of today.
[via Computer World]