Today, I had the distinct honor and pleasure of having breakfast with Bill Miller of Stanford University – someone I admire very much.  I use a number of his quotes and research in my presentations on entrepreneurship.  I’ve met Bill at a number of functions on both sides of the Pacific, but this was the first where I was able to sit down and have breakfast with him, Robert Eberhart and Michael Gucwa.

We spoke on a number of subjects but the topic of “women entrepreneur” was the most interesting.  Specifically, how Japanese men (generally) in their 20’s do not have the interest, motivation or passion to be entrepreneurial due to the very rigid, scheduled, and structured social/professional expectations they are burdened with. Conversely, how Japanese women do not want to abide by or face traditional social expectations, find the freedom to try new things including going abroad, learning a new language and/or starting a venture.  This led me to two interesting words that I could not explain very well during breakfast which I will attempt here.

The first word, soshoku danshi which literally translates to “herbivorous men” describes men who are generally not competitive, enjoys shopping with their mom’s, are fashion conscious and are not interested in women or dating.  The opposite, nikushokukei (carnivore) is sometimes used to describe women in the same age group – typically for those looking to start a family or the start-up entrepreneur.  There are many reasons why this phenomenon is occurring, but one thing is for sure – for the last 20 years, the generation currently in their 20’s and 30’s have never experienced what it’s like to live in good economic times.  Perhaps the women are just taking it into their own hands to change that. Here is a good article that explains this in more detail.

Update: In the March 5th edition of Spa!, they polled 300 men in their 30’s and found that only 35.4% had  one or more close friends.  The article explains that many of the interviewees were introverted and didn’t have many friends until college.  Unfortunately, after graduating, many of these people had to work very hard, getting transfered and losing touch with friends.  This seems to then cause a negative spiral where men are afraid to ask their friends for help or advice as they are more worried about “losing face”.

“Successful entrepreneurs are motivated more by desire to “change the world” than merely by desire to make a lot of money” -Prof. William F. Miller