Taizo Son, CEO of Movida Japan and son of the founder and CEO of SoftBank, Masayoshi Son has started an amazing 30 companies over the last 20 years and although he freely admits his share of failures (more than half) he has amassed the capability of now turning his wealth and experience to helping others succeed.
His aim is to assist in the creation of a North East Asian equivalent to Silicon Valley, by investing in up to 1,000 startups from the region. “I grew from learning from those failures,” he stated, and now he is ready to teach others.
Son has strong belief in the power of the combined markets of Japan (No 1), Korea (No. 2) and China (future No. 1) to drive innovation and fuel a blossoming of internationally-lead startup. He has given this idea some thought, and has assessed that the optimum Asian startup would be lead by a Korean CEO, a Chinese CTO and a Japanese developer, based on the cultural and personality traits of the three neighbors. Ito Kengo, who served as a scout in Silicon Valley for giant trading company Mitsui & Company, is of a similar opinion.
A New Way
The selection process for their first 20 startups was unusual, as Kengo explained: “For the past two years, Son and I picked 20 ideas out of 100 collected by college students and invested 5 million yen in each of them.” They also operate a ‘Hot Stove League’ program for companies that did not grow as initially planned, helping them pivot in order to explore other opportunities. This was possible as the most essential elements for selection were not business plans and sales goals. Movida cares more about the passion of the person who came up with the idea and by selecting people, rather than businesses, they are confident of being able to work with their entrepreneurs, even if their first attempts don’t perform.
The Ultimate Startup?
“In terms of cultural tendencies, a Korean as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), a Chinese as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and a Japanese as designer is the optimal combination,” he said. “In the future, people will see the birth of many such multinational venture companies in East Asia.”
Son joined his older brother Son Jeong-eui in starting Yahoo! Japan in 1996 and took the path of an entrepreneur by helping companies like Japan’s online game company Gungho Online Entertainment achieve an IPO.
Son established Movida Japan two years ago and is now hunting for start-up companies to foster and incubate.
Movida’s Seed Acceleration Program
Son described the business model as “Seed Acceleration.” Instead of injecting money and waiting for an IPO, his company supports the startup until it is on a growth trajectory in all areas, meaning he aims for a much higher success rate.
Silicon Valley, With a population of only 3 million, produces 17,000 companies every year and 12,000 companies go bankrupt. Of the 5,000 that survive, the second Google and Apple could be born. “In terms of nurturing entrepreneurs, Silicon Valley is like a wealthy forest. Compared to that, the climate of Korea and Japan are like deserts,” said Son. This means that quality and sustainability are much more important in this ecosystem.