Japan: this is why we are so behind #tech

This perfectly epitomizes what is wrong with Japanese tech.

So I received a snail mail invite to supposedly one of the largest tech events:  Japan IT Week Expo.
There are exhibitions and key-notes on: cloud computing, big data, security, web + mobile marketing and something about the 3rd annual Smartphone and Mobile Expo.

First of all, what is the difference between a smartphone and a mobile?
Or does ‘mobile’ mean tablet?? What is this… web and mobile marketing they speak of??? Why are they separate???? It’s 2013 — have you heard of responsive design? GET ON THAT.

Then please take a look at the brochure, jam packed with text.
This looks like a conference for bankers.

photo 1

And can we talk about one of the keynote speakers?
Does that man down there look like he can teach anyone anything about mobile tech and trends??

photo 2

To top it off, they showed some photos from last year’s exhibition:

photo 3

I mean seriously.

No wonder monster corporations like Sony, Panasonic,  Nintendo and et al., can’t get their shit together. The people on top are old farts who learn about ‘the web’ from other staunchy old farts at venues like these.

God. Sometimes, I’m so embarrassed for this country.

Goes to show how much opportunity for disruption there is.
Reason no bajillion I’m in Tokyo :)

What Wall Street Analysts are Forgetting About Technology

I get it. I do. And I would be lying if I didn’t say I’m slightly concerned that with

1. Steve Jobs gone
2. Android taking the smartphone marketshare in 2011
3. makers like Samsung, Xiaomi and now even Sony are shipping massive quantities of affordable smartphones and
4. as always, Apple sales are performing lower than expected

I see it. I do. I find myself agreeing with arguments like this one.

But what analysts forget is how technology rapidly changes human behavior. Human behavior is consumer behavior. Human behavior is predictable… yet not. Technology is predictable… yet not.

What people like Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, Jack Dorsey + company at Twitter and even the people at Naver (the company that owns LINE) get, is deep comprehension of the intersection between human psychology, technology and the instinct to cherry pick data that drives decision making.

While decisions focused on design and user experience can not be measured, they certainly can be felt by people who are consumers and users.

That’s why I don’t need numbers or data or research to know that after using iOS7 and the 5s people will continue to line-up for Apple products. That even with only 200M users vs 1.1B of Facebook, Twitter will be the more valuable social network than Facebook — long term.

And for those who still don’t understand, watch this and listen closely:

This is it. This is what matters. The experience of a product. How it will make someone feel. Will it make life better? Does it deserve to exist? We spend a lot of time on a few great things, until every idea we touch enhances each life it touches. You may rarely look at it, but you’ll always feel it. This is our signature, and it means everything.

Henry Blodget on Joy Covey, Amazon’s IPO CFO

My new price target had triggered another spike in Amazon’s stock price, and for the first time in my experience as analyst, a company was angry about that.

Amazon’s spiking stock price, Joy explained, was causing problems at the company. It was distracting employees, who were spending their days obsessing about the stock price instead of Amazon’s customers. It was making recruiting difficult, because Amazon stock options were losing their attractiveness to would-be employees as the stock shot ever higher. It was focusing the press on the stock when Amazon wanted the focus to be on Amazon. It was, in short, making everything all about the short term, when Amazon’s whole business strategy and philosophy were about the long term.

I protested to Joy that I had merely said what I had thought we both agreed on — that Amazon was a great business that would be worth a whole lot of money some day.

“Yes,” I remember Joy saying. “Someday. But now all anyone is thinking about is today.”

Henry Blodget in his tribute to Joy Covey who passed in a tragic biking accident Sept. 18, 2013

Tim Cook

We’re a product company, and so the products show the values of a company. They speak to innovation. They speak to caring about every detail. They’re a reminder of how incredibly important experience is, so when you begin to use 7 or you begin to use the fingerprint sensor here … every detail has been thought through. The experience is an “Aha” moment.

— Tim Cook, Apple CEO via Bloomberg

If you haven’t read it yet, read the interview here.

The Internet Highlights Stupidity

It really bothers me when people share Buzzfeed articles like the collection of racist comments directed to the newly crowned Indian Miss America. I wonder when people are going to realize the people at Buzzfeed scour Twitter, searching for the worst of the worst.

Then everyone is outraged, re-sharing the collection of stupidity and calling out these idiots who think terrorists are from India.

As much as I want to say racism will ‘go away’, let’s be honest. There are and will always be ignorance in the world. We live on a planet where 7B people co-exists. There will always be people with closed minds — whether we like it or not.

So to the people who are bothered by these morons getting five seconds of Internet infamousness by RTing and sharing these articles all over your social networks… Surprise! You too, are contributing to the stupidity by encouraging publications like Buzzfeed to keep on putting together these kinds of garbage ‘stories’.

C’MON. Think!
The post in question is here.

How a Relationship Dies

Russell Clayton, a doctoral student at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, who surveyed two hundred and five Facebook users about relationship conflicts related to Facebook. “Our study found that excessive Facebook users are more likely to connect or reconnect with other Facebook users, including previous partners, which may lead to emotional and physical cheating,” Clayton said, according toScienceDaily. He went on, “Facebook may be a threat to relationships that are not fully matured.”

via “How a relationship Dies” — The New Yorker

When trust and security  two of — if not the most — important factors in a lasting, healthy relationship, excessive Facbooking (basically creeping on people’s profiles and photos) can be detrimental. But we are so used to mindless stalking, it doesn’t really register.

I was in a long distance relationship for a while and I agree, it’s really difficult, near impossible not to be jealous when the underlying trust isn’t built yet. A lot of his activity would pour into my feed and his LIKEs of photos of random girls and flirty comments he would leave started bothering me.  The worst, was when I started questioning myself for being bothered by his actions. So I unfriended him.

That said, although I’m well beyond my teenage years, I use the Internet and social networks like one. I constantly have several apps open, have several group chats, one-on-one texting sessions going while browsing Twitter and Instagram so I’m probably biased to the above opinion of this one Russell Clayton. Plus, I have experienced it first-hand.

Ah, social networks — or more like, no more long distance relationships for me. Either way, I learned something about myself and in the end, that’s all that matters.

Female Japanese Entrepreneur on Other Japanese Female Entrepreneurs

“When I worked for a securities firm, I was pushed way beyond my capacity because as a woman I was assigned back-office tasks — even making tea! — and at the same time working in a front-end role equally as hard as men,” Tanizaki says, adding that Japan’s Mad Men days of a decade ago are fading fast, in Tokyo at least. “It was more for political issues, not sexist reasons, I quit,” she says.

Tanizaki agrees with Otsuka, arguing that additional support for women entrepreneurs is good, but says that the individual business grants, at around $20,000, are inadequate for tech startups. “Developers and web engineers are expensive in Japan. The grants could be useful for very small ventures such as cafes, not so much for tech entrepreneurs.”

Private venture capitalists, she says, are a better bet for funding and open to women entrepreneurs. However, Tanizaki warns, women in Japan could be their own worst enemy. There are equal opportunities in Japan, she explains, “but in my experience, women don’t want to take risks, they don’t want, on the whole, to take responsibility, they are less ambitious, less willing to sacrifice. Basically, most Japanese women lack courage.”

Pointing out the shame that, even in the startup world, she scarcely meets female executives, Tanizaki wonders how far women in Japan are willing to stick their necks out. “I’m afraid I agree with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg that women don’t want to sit at the table. It’s as simple as that.”

— Shuku Tanizaki, founder (? maybe? Doesn’t say) of project management services to the financial services industry, the other a social lending venture company called AQUSH ExchangeCorporation.

HMMMMMMMM. I have thoughts but will stay mum until I’ve spent a little more time in Japan.

Twitter and Facebook

I don’t know what happened but since I moved to Tokyo, I’m bored of Twitter and Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong, I still keep up with everyone’s lives but reacting with a comment, at reply, LIKE or favorite is no longer fun for me.

I only use Twitter now to get information (ex: latest news, find funny things, see what’s going on in the world outside of Japan / APAC, etc.) when before I used to give information as well. And Facebook? There are times I don’t log-on for days, when before I used to be glued to my newsfeed.

Perhaps I’m simply over social networks, especially since I started blogging on my own domains. (if you’re interested, I have a blog about my life in Tokyo here). I’m also blogging a lot more here, which I guess is a good thing?

Maybe I’m just weird — someone even told me on Facebook that I’m “backwards”, when I announced I started a Tokyo blog haha

Cell Phone Carriers in Japan are Weird

On Sept. 10th, Apple announced the iPhone 5s and 5c (yay). I’ve been waiting since I arrived to Tokyo in June to sign-up for a Japanese mobile because of the iPhone.

Japan has three major carriers: NTT DoCoMo, KDDI / au and Softbank.
KDDI and Softbank have carried the iPhone and the only major carrier that was holding out was DoCoMo — which according to everyone I’ve asked around me, has the most superior network.

In the US, I think DoCoMo would be Verizon. KDDI is AT&T and Softbank is Tmobile or Sprint.
I found market share charts over on a Mobile in Japan blog (thanks, Paul) and took screen shots of the pie charts.

This is what the market share was like in 2006:


Then, in August 2013:


As it’s pointed out, a lot has changed and following this trajectory, DoCoMo had no choice but to carry the new iPhones or their market share would keep decreasing.

Whatever — that’s fine. I’m not really interested in Japanese mobile economics.
I mean, if you ask me, all three carriers have major sub numbers, considering the population in Japan.

What really annoys me, is that everything in Japan is backwards. For example, in the US, carriers give new subscribers incentives such as special pricing or handset discounts…makes new customers feel welcome. In Japan, mobile carriers reward returning subscribers.

In particular DoCoMo is a bit bizarre as they are only allowing returning VIP customers to reserve the 5c online. New customers or non-VIP customers are treated like second class citizens and I guess we have to wait in line or something. Fine, whatever. I’m planning to get the 5s which can’t be reserved so it doesn’t matter too much.

Then when they announced their pricing plan*, it made me not want to choose DoCoMo, even if apparently they have the most superior network.

New customers have to pay a monthly fee of 6,030 yen (apprx $60 USD) plus voice, while returning customers only have to pay a monthly fee of 4,200 yen (apprx $43 USD) plus voice.

That’s almost a $20 difference. WTF.
Oh well, I guess I’ll wait until the 20th to see which carrier offers the best price plan to decide which company to go with.

*source (in Japanese)

[EDIT] Update: the news article I got the pricing from, updated the post and apparently this is only student pricing. I feel a lot better now!

Jeff Yang from WSJ on TC Disrupt

Matt Drance tweeted something poignant: “Always hoped the nerds would beat the jocks. I never thought we’d become them.” But what he and no one else admits is that the proximate trigger for this behavior is the money and entitlement culture that’s sprung up around tech.

So let’s stop acting so surprised. No one wants to talk about it, but events like #Disrupt2013 treat hacking as a big-money sport, and coders as its stars. Which in turn encourages the worst and lowest showboat behavior among those who seek fame–or infamy.

Dangle millions in front of POETS at a show focused on five minutes of sizzle and sensation and you’d get shit behavior–and bad poetry. Which is maybe why so many “demo stars” flare up, raise millions, crash and disappear.

Real talk.

— Jeff Yang, WSJ via here

Love how a legit journalist from a major publication spoke up on this issue.
Read the backstory here.

Working in Japan

I’m heading into my third month working in a Japanese corporation. Adjusting has been a fun ride — to say the least.

My org’s CEO is someone I admire. He respects Japanese traditions while incorporating non-traditional ways into the company’s DNA. He has five fundamental principles of success we follow. *you can read further here if interested

I love how he says there are only two kinds of people in the world. Best Effort people, who are satisfied with the status quo; Get Things Done people who are committed to reaching their goals. With enough determination and effort, we can achieve anything.

I believe these principles are necessary in a traditional Japanese corporation, where historically, the Japanese are trained to do one thing really well. It’s about thinking outside of the box. Becoming a self-starter but he expects our hypothesis to be executable and not just ideas.

Mikitani-san (our CEO), is a very important person in moving Japan forward, and I am honored to be a part of his company.

That said, Rakuten Inc. (Japan’s Amazon equivalent) still very much has traditional Japanese corporate traits. Most leave me astounded — like the attention to details, precision, level of discipline, and the effort people put in to constantly and consistently output. I’ve never been in an environment like this and frankly, it’s pretty refreshing.

My one gripe, though, is because we have such high expectations from management, the Japanese are constantly ON IT. People don’t talk to each other. People rarely leave their seats and there are even people who feel uneasy getting up to use the restroom. I mean, what kind of  work environment is that?

I’ve also asked and listened to feedback from my Japanese colleagues and non-Japanese colleagues alike. It’s a bit…peculiar how everyone knows the same sneaky tricks to always look ‘busy’.


1. people type on their keyboards really loudly — almost pounding — to make it look like they are doing very important work. When I peek on their monitors, these ‘busy’ people are chatting on Messenger (we’re on a Windows environment yuck) on Facebook or Yammer LOL

2. people are rarely on their phones during worktime. At least in the open. People take their phones with them into the restrooms, and hide in the stalls to chat or text. It’s a huge problem when people like me, need to really use the restroom but people don’t come out for 10+ minutes. I mean. Come ON. Hide in the hallway or staircase or something, anything, just quit using phones in the stalls!

3. napping — this is really strange to me, but people actually nap in bathroom stalls. I’ve heard snoring, as have a lot of other people (I’ve asked around). I mean. Seriously?

4. work hours. It’s no secret people work around 12+ hours a day. Overtime is expected, conversely, normal. People who go home early are judged and talked about behind their backs as a person “who isn’t working hard”. What kind of twisted logic is that? I’m sorry — well not really — but I’m not one to sit in front of my computer for hours on end just to ‘look like I care’, while I use sneaky tricks to get through a 14 hour day. A huge part of working ‘smart’ is prioritizing task lists, effective time management and work life balance.

…and on and on. There is a huge list of survival tips for Japanese work environments people always talk about behind closed doors, but never say out loud. But I have to wonder: if we are outputting the same results in 8 hours or 14 hours — why even bother staying so late?

I guess regardless of where you are around the globe, there are and will always be things that seem peculiar. I just hope for sanity sake, people start thinking about changing their ways because more often times than not, people are so stressed they get trashed after work, drunk bashing colleagues and management. Not cool.