Example Mindset of a Sexist Society

It’s bad manners to put someone on blast but this is just too much.
Over on Facebook, there is a discussion going on about Japanese politics, our Prime Minister Abe and this feminist movement he is attempting to push. One of the commenters was so far out there, I just had to document.

Take a look:



This part is the most peculiar:

Why women would desire to enter the rat race of capitalism is beyond me, but many men are also duped by the compulsion to maximize filthy lucre as their narrowly conceived contribution to society.

So, as far as I’m concerned, Japanese society is not hurting for its unwillingness to put women in the front lines.

Wow. Just… wow.

This is the type of mindset sexism breeds. Until moving to Japan, I had no idea. I am so fortunate to have been raised in the US, where this type of thinking and ignorance are rare.

This is also the reason it is so important to keep fighting for equality and diversity, no matter gender or race.

Absolutely incredible. And frankly, a bit sad. No wonder this guy chooses to live in Japan. God.
Note to self. Companies to avoid:





This was my Tweet in response to the article by the way:



…and for a more personal experience, you can read on here.



Japan App Store Rapid Growth

Startling facts:

  • Japan app store is expanding faster than expected, especially for apps outside the top 3-5.
  • by Mar 2015, a #10 ranked game will earn ¥1.7bn/m, which is the same as #2 earned in Nov 2013


State of mobile in Japan:

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 4.13.16 PM



  • Japan has 10x the USA’s population density, used to spending with carrier (payment) settlement since the 90’s (with iMode)
  • over 30% of households are one-person == spend more on entertainment vs family

Innovation has come to a halt in Japan and indeed on the surface it may seem that way as Japan has always been known for their hardware: Sony and Nintendo the two leaders at the helm.

However the Japanese people are still spending and looking to spend. They are the users and ultimately, paying customers, even if Japanese companies like Sony and Nintendo fail to deliver ‘innovation’.

Isn’t spend more important than who or what is actually delivering?

When I see figures like these:

non-Japanese companies listed in Japan
1991 = 127
2014 =  21

I can’t help but to be baffled. I get the allure of the BRIC countries but China and India are such unique markets with distinct ecosystems. Why wouldn’t a company want to come to a country with consumers who are looking to spend?

One thing is for sure — like I keep repeating — the world is not going to know what hit them when Japan’s smartphone market finally matures and the numbers that will come out of this country will blow people’s minds.

There is still massive opportunity in this country and one of the biggest reasons I am here.

*above from Japan/Korea Market and Japan App Store Macquarie Research reports unavailable to public.
Listed companies in Japan via The FT

Popular Communication & Messaging Apps by Country

I spent the past week reading forecasts and reports from Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche, etc., etc.

It sounds a bit boring but really not. It was actually fun to read, consume, compare and contrast the different reports.

Quick takeaways:

Deutsche Engagement

Deutsche’s chart of messaging apps used in Brazil, Russia, China, South Korea, Japan and the US.

culture and distro


Cross referenced with AppAnnie’s spend by country chart tells us:

  • S. Korea consumes and spends on content. Kakao Talk’s success is likely due to that ecosystem.
  • Japan leads in gaming, explaining the success of gaming companies as Capcom, DeNA, Gree, et al., and the reason the Japanese spend the most in both Google Play and iOS stores. Also explains success of LINE
  • US has wide range of content spend but the US is a distinct market from the rest of the world with different economical factors.

This chart also from App Annie interests me more, as it shows spend vs device:

Device per spend

I agree with Goldman Sachs, stating BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are 3-5 years away from global scaling and spending.

South Korea, with the highest spend and technological advancements, is like China where the ecosystems are so tightly intertwined it’s a tough market to penetrate. Fun to watch, but just like China, certain models and strategies cannot be emulated because of the reliance on proprietary strong holds.

For people looking to enter markets, Japan, UK and US are the likely bets. Or at least if I were a VC, that’s where I’d be placing bets.

Still digesting but as my thoughts parse, I will be sharing.

My CEO Bought Viber

…what I really want to say, is this is why Silicon Valley needs to start paying attention to Asia.

My CEO, Hiroshi Mikitani on future of e-commerce:

“In the future, e-commerce will become a more communication-based transaction,” Mikitani said. “Live interactivity is going to be critical for all Internet services.”

via here

Messaging Apps: What’s Next

Several have asked “what’s next?” after this post on messaging apps was published. By what’s next, I’m assuming people are wondering what I see as the ‘next big thing’. There are several ‘what’s next’ questions that need answering. Here is one. Who will win the messaging space?

I went into details about Line in particular because they are taking the right steps in differentiating themselves from the other messaging apps.

  1. product evolution — Line, continues building new features and functions that fit user needs. Most recently they released an event app Band, that is like Facebook events but a million times better.
  2. business models — like I said, stickers are not after-thoughts or novelty items. Stickers, are part of their monetization strategy. Line also does merchandising. They license their characters and collaborate with brand partners to bring things like thisbnr_crocs
    Aside from Crocs they partner with toy makers, accessories makers — basically about any company — to bring stuffed animals, plushies, cell phone accessories, and of course, stickers. [1, 2, 3] They recently collaborated with Maybelline to even bring Thailand users flash sales. Their next step, is eCommerce. Obviously.

Because of the above, I believe LINE will be the ultimate of messaging apps. And I still stand by my statement they will not successfully localize in the US. Messaging apps don’t have a place there.

As for the the Snapchat counter-argument, I am pasting a response to a comment.

I commend Snapchat and indeed their rise proves there is a need but if you look at the feature differences, you, too, will agree Snapchat is not on the same playing field as Line, KakaoTalk and WeChat. WhatsApp, Kik and Viber aren’t even on their levels.

Snapchat serves as a fun tool. WhatsApp, Kik and Viber are communication utilities like Line, KakaoTalk and WeChat. The differences are, the latter three have business models and strategies. Where the former are just…building to build.

In the American market, Instagram (if they lay out their product pipeline correctly and ultimately include text communication sans comment thread) will ultimately win the space (in the US).

As for ‘what’s next’, as in what is the next big thing?  Easy: wearables.

I think it’s absolutely fascinating though, how the US is moving back into hardware, while the software shift is happening around Asia. God, I love technology.

Added. Wired agrees wearables are what’s going to be hot, too.

Smartphone Penetration in Japan: WTF

I know I shouldn’t be surprised. I know I shouldn’t. And I get it, I really do. Feature phones (flip phones) back in the what? the 90’s in Japan had mind-blowing technology. I remember being in awe every time I visited Japan from the states. I couldn’t believe what flip phones could do. How beautiful the large screens were. How colorful everything seemed. Even ringtones, were better on Japanese phones.

Japan always felt like I time warped into the future.

Fast forward to 2007 when Apple introduced the iPhone and the world USA* adopted to smart phones. While Sony and NTT Docomo and Sharp and Panasonic and the rest of the Japanese portable electronic giants looked the other way, iPhones now have the largest market share in Japan.

But still. The rate of smart phone market penetration is just insane. I look at the numbers and can’t help but be awestruck by how behind Japan is…


I mean… really????????? (chart via here)


And I look at most recent figures of people who purchased a smartphone from April to September of 2013. 82%. Of those, 68.5% of people switched from a feature phone (flip phone) to a smart phone. (chart via here)

I have no words…

But the good news is, because Japan is slower to adopt to smart phones than other developed nations, there is massive room for disruption. The Japanese are just now getting accustomed to visually appeasing, gesture friendly user experiences, so think of all the possibilities.

You know? I am so so so glad to be here right now.
This is one of the most exciting times to be in Japan.

*edited — Karl, you are correct indeed :)



I had dinner with the ex-CEO of Microsoft Japan last night.


Ok. That’s out of my system and now, a disclaimer. I make it a point never ever to pipe personal business, brag or name drop — especially online. It’s bad manners and frankly, douchey… but this, is an exception. Continue reading

Mentorship in Japan

I attended Tech Crunch Disrupt in Tokyo and had a great time.

I went with zero expectations which I think is why I found so much value from Disrupt. I learned about the Japanese community, the established Japanese venture firms. How Japanese VCs think. The main problems entrepreneurs are attempting to solve, etc., etc. I’m really glad I went.

For the first time in all my years of attending events and conferences, I was tweeting away with the appropriate hashtag as I wanted to meet people…and it worked!  Several people approached me at the event and even contacted me afterwards. In particular, people seem to want to hear more than 140 characters about Kim Mai-Cutler’s session with a Sr. Executive from Docomo Ventures and a Sr. Director at Salesforce.

There was one question: “what are your thoughts on mentoring and how are you mentoring Japanese entrepreneurs?”…that seemed to baffle the Docomo Ventures and Salesforce guys.

At first, I thought there was a language barrier, since the interview was conducted in English. But no matter however many ways the question was rephrased, the concept of mentorship didn’t seem to register.

So the original question of their thoughts on mentoring was changed to: “Is there someone in Japan the younger entrepreneurs look to for inspiration?” followed-up with: “In the US, it’s Mark Zuckerberg for example.” …and that was when the Docomo Ventures guy replied with “what, you want me to name names? *insert laugh*” and the Salesforce director chimed in: “Japan’s entrepreneurship community is like how the US was 10 years ago, so there isn’t a person younger entrepreneurs can look to yet.”

…the latter, was at least an answer but not really an answer.
So I tweeted the following:


I get why the non-Japanese in the room were extremely confused by the VC’s answers. It’s near impossible for someone who isn’t Japanese, to understand why the concept of mentorship is non-existent in Japan. It starts with how there is no Japanese word for ‘mentor’ or ‘mentorship’.

One of my most trusted Japanese-English dictionaries defines ‘mentor’ with the etymology then goes into Odysseus and the Battle of Troy. ‘Mentorship’ is translated as 「指導」, which is a disciplinary action for a minor infringement of the rules in judo.

Japan is historically an extremely hierarchial society dating centuries back. Many traditions from our military roots or craftsmanship traits still exist. This history and our culture, is the reason we have so many professionals who have worked years perfecting their crafts. Take Jiro, of ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi‘ for example, who is rewarded a Michelin year after year. He is 85 years old. His son is 50 and they are still constantly working towards mastering the art of sushi. Jiro is an extreme case, but the fundamentals of producing life-long excellence falls under the basic apprentice-master traditions.

What does that mean? Well, we still speak to elders in honorofics. We are taught to do as we are told from top down. We certainly do not question those who are older with more experience. We are expected to learn by reading, listening or observing older and experienced people as questions, can at times be considered a sign of disrespect — like we are questioning their expertise. Or it may signify we are not putting enough effort to find answers on our own, or worst case scenario, stupidity.

There are many Japanese companies that are able to move forward, while anchored in historic methods. But from a technological aspect, I wish for Japan to be one of the first countries outside of the US, to adapt one of the greatest things about the United States: the ability to equate respect with output as opposed to seniority. Tech provides relevant solutions by building products or services — it doesn’t require centuries of silent observation and perfecting a single skill like making sushi.

I also wish for the Japanese community to adopt one of the greatest things of the American tech community: mentoring, fostering, giving back and paying it forward. To build an environment where people collaborate, brainstorm, help each other and share knowledge.

The VC arms of major corporations like NTT Docomo and Salesforce can set examples and pave ways. I was a bit bummed to hear them stumped by Kim’s question. Perhaps this is my warm and fuzzy American side talking but I decided to expand on my tweet, as I am believer in community and mentoring.

As tech is rapidly progressing, I hope the ecosystem evolves as well. If not, I’m just going to have to snail-mail or fax every Japanese VC firm this Plato quote ;)

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”
― Plato

You Don’t Belong Here #Japan

I had drinks in this posh area called Nishi Azabu with people I met when I still lived in NY. Japanese, who went to Harvard-Yale-Princeton-Stanford equivalents of Japan. They work in a mega ad agency, that would be like a McKinsey-Bain, combined with say, Ogilvy in the US, because Japanese people like to dissect everything, even marketing campaigns, come up with super complicated solutions on a 200 slide Power Point with no execution methods. Late 30s, possibly 40s since with the Japanese, one could never tell real ages.

Pleasant small talk was exchanged and they got right down to what they wanted to ask: What are you doing in Tokyo?

Which was followed up by: “You don’t belong here. There’s no place for someone like you in Tokyo.” and ended with: “No matter how hot you are, you’re not going to impact Japan — Japan doesn’t want change. We don’t need change. There’s no room for someone like you. So let us ask again, what are you doing here?”

I sat there, not knowing what to say back. The people I have met in Tokyo so far, have been beyond welcoming and even excited that someone like me (bilingual, raised in the US and most importantly, of Japanese blood) moved to Tokyo. Then it hit me: perhaps this is how some Japanese view me but while sober, too polite and composed to be honest.

That conversation was the massive wake-up call I needed. It was necessary in order to see for myself, the types of people who sit on top of mega Japanese corporations.

Those words are also the reason I am in Tokyo. Those words reaffirmed how much disruption this country still has room for, as we have seen time and time again, the many companies run by people who think themselves, their products and / or their services are invincible. So they move forward with the tried and tested business that works, focusing only on efficiency to maintain the one or few success methods. And the automation stifles innovation and ultimately, becomes their downfall on their way to failure, no matter how  successful the track record. Microsoft, RIM, Dell, MySpace, HP, etc., etc., Japan, is dangerously on that path: Sony, Nintendo, Canon, Olympus, Panasonic, Mixi, Gree, DeNa, et al.,

Japan is just begging to be disrupted.
And I am looking forward to playing a part in the disruption.

ADDED 11/11/13: please don’t misunderstand — this doesn’t apply to all Japanese people. Japan is a country with such rich history and of course, there will be underlying past cultural remnants such as: nationalism and sexism intertwined — even in 2013. This doesn’t make me hate this country or my people. I am not discouraged nor disappointed. At all.

Japan, Japanese People and Sex

Ok. This is the first and last time I will address this.

Many people are asking about the Guardian article depicting Japan as some weird country with all these bizarre personality problems and sexual issues.

There are many strange things about Japan. Things that make zero sense. Sometimes, the weirdness is just so off the weirdness Richter scale, I don’t blame the world for thinking we are freaks. But look, there are freaks all over the planet. Japanese freaks are simply more visible.

Humans of Earth are so curious about Japan’s weirdness, naturally, our freaky sub-cultures are exposed, mocked and often misunderstood. That’s it. We’re no weirder than any other country. I promise.

Bottomline, Joshua Keating of Slate said it best (backed by a bunch of stats) in his post ‘No, Japanese People Have Not Given Up on Sex’:

 A number of Eastern European countries have lower fertility rates than Japan, but we don’t often see articles portraying Czechs and Poles as sexless nerds.

via here

So don’t worry! Japanese people have not given up on sex!
The End.

*if you’re interested in the original Guardian piece, it’s here

Asian Market 101

global market

1. Asia, is the global leader in online growth.


2. Asia, is the global leader for mobile market share


3. Asia, is a lucrative market for mobile revenues.

This is no secret — that’s why so many people take interest in Asia and one of the reasons I moved to Tokyo.

However, Asia includes the following four countries: China, India, Japan and South Korea. Those four countries account for 66% of Asia’s population, 60% of Asia’s mobile connections and over 70% of regional mobile income. Four markets, four countries with four very different ecosystems.

China = population of 1.4 billion people, GDP of 8.2 trillion USD
India = population of 1.2 billion people, GDP of 1.84 trillion USD
South Korea = population of 50M people, GDP of 1.13 trillion USD
Japan = population of 127.6M people, GDP of 5.96 trillion USD

Then, there are the smaller countries with high GDPs and/or high population like: Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, etc., etc.

To put that into perspective, the US has a population of 314M people (double Japan) with a GDP of 15.68 trillion USD. Compared to the big four Asian countries (Japan, South Korea, India and China), the US has been ahead of the race as far as development, access and economic distribution. This development gap the US has is significantly wider with India and China than the gap the US has with Japan and South Korea, but the US is still ahead of these four countries.

As much as I commend South Korea and Japan’s economies and their astounding growths, India and China’s rapid growth is clearly a focal point if you’re paying attention to the Asian market. Indeed, Asia is a lucrative market with bright economic futures and much wealth ahead.

However, the most important takeaway and my fourth point, is the Asian market is far from a market, one market, single market. People (including myself in the past), casually say Asia — almost as though China, Japan and South Korea are like what Texas, NY and California are to the US.

So for those intrigued by the Asian market, please remember Asia is a massive market that is close to impossible to penetrate, unless one understands what they are dealing with. There is massive opportunity here. It’s fun and lucrative, with plenty of room for disruption in each of the respective ecosystems in very different ways.

But in order to get anything done and move any of these economies forward, these points are so important — trust me, I live in ‘Asia’ ;)

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4