Entrepreneurism around the world

Lately, I have been asked to speak at a LOT of events on the topic of entrepreneurism. I just returned from Switzerland and the St. Gallen Symposium and this week, since I’ve been back, I’ve been asked to talk about innovation and entrepreneurship to a variety of crowds. What’s interesting is that on one day, it would be a group of 20 or so MBA students from the United States. On another day, it was half-a-dozen fund managers, foundations and hedge funds with total assets of over $450 billion under management. The rest of this week I’ll speak at two Economist conferences and some smaller events throughout Tokyo. While I’m honored to be asked to speak at these events, I also enjoy learning something new every time I meet a new set of people.

It goes to show how, in the last year, people are looking for ways to think innovatively. This is a good thing. Like I have said before, it’s sad to see people lose their jobs during economic crises, but it’s good to see people reevaluating the risk/reward of their current situation and wanting to do something new. While education, culture, risk profiles and politics drive entrepreneurship in a country, at the end of the day, it’s the individual who must take that leap of faith and execute.

While I don’t have all the answers and don’t claim to even know 1% of what makes a successful entrepreneur, I hope to help steer people away from making some obvious and not-so-obvious mistakes when going down this path. Being an entrepreneur, starting a venture and converting innovation into something profitable is a very difficult endeavor, even when the stars are aligned. While each situation is different, by sharing information, experiences and examples, hopefully, the number of hurdles against a prospective entrepreneur can be reduced.

In that spirit, I love participating in conferences done by The Economist. Not only do I love their publications and read them judiciously, as well as clip/copy articles (iPads are very useful for this – a future article) to pass around to my friends and associates, but I think they do a very good job of putting on events that talk about business, particularly since they can elicit answers from the participants and get to the heart of the topic.

In the next few days, I will participate in two back-to-back Economist conferences (unrelated to one another). The first, on May 19th at the Mandarin Oriental, is the Bellwether Series: Japan – Charting the future of finance in Asia-Pacific. I will be talking on the topic: “Japan’s financial markets: The whole story” which will discuss:

A panel discussion on the structure, efficiency and sustainability of Japan’s financial markets. With experts from all sides of the industry—from venture capital to commercial banks, from major capital market players to niche operators. This session will look at the supply and demand for finance in Japan.

The panelists will include:

  • Seiji Yasubuchi, President and CEO, GE Capital Japan
  • Tetsutaro Muraki, President and CEO, Tokyo AIM
  • Masato Marumo, Managing Director, The Carlyle Group
  • Me

The second event will be on the following day on Thursday, May 20th at the Peninsula Hotel, and is run by the Economist Corporate Network (ECN). This is an event I helped put together based on the topic: “Lessons from Softbank: How do you make a large company based in Japan entrepreneurial?” Two of my good friends, Mr. Ted Matsumoto, Chief Strategy Officer of Softbank, and Mr. Jun Yamada, President of Qualcomm Japan, have agreed to join me on a panel to discuss this topic.

Japan Inc is often criticized for rigid business practices and a lack of creative business solutions. Some companies and leaders, however, break the mould. The latest Forbes survey of Japan’s richest individuals showed Softbank’s Masayoshi Son as the fourth-richest man in Japan. In the style of Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Steve Jobs from Apple, Masayoshi Son has grown his company from garage startups to national leader. In 2006, he carried out one of the boldest M&A’s in Japan’s business history, when he took over the Vodaphone Japan in a gigantic deal.

I’m allowed to invite people to the second event so if there is anyone reading this blog who is interested in attending, please let me know. I look forward to seeing many people who told me they were coming and have this important dialog to help Japan become more innovative and competitive in the global marketplace.

Next week, I fly to Europe to attend both the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Monte Carlo, Monaco. This was the award I received way back in 1998. Since then, I have felt this is a very important program that highlights entrepreneurs from around the world (now 48 countries). I also helped start this event in Japan from 2000 and have been a judge in the United States, Japan and the world event. Rumor has it that I have judged this contest more times than anyone in its history. The 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year for Japan is Mr. Hideki Shoji, founder and president of Toyo Systems, who will compete in Monte Carlo for the world title against 47 other entrepreneurs – good luck, Mr. Shoji!
Finally, I then fly to yet another entrepreneurial event called The 5th Global YES Summit – Rework the World conference in Leksand, Sweden, where YES stands for “Youth Entrepreneurship & Sustainability.” This is the first time for me to attend this event. I will be participating in the plenary session, where I will be part of the World Investment Panel. This event plans to have over 1,500 participants from over 90 countries in a small town 250km northwest of Stockholm. I’m very excited to meet all these up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

As you can see, there are MANY very worthy entrepreneurial events that are happening around the world. I’m excited about participating in all of them and hope to share my experiences with you. Your comments are always welcome.

William Saito
Special Advisor at Cabinet Office (Govt. of Japan)
Named by Nikkei as one of the “100 Most Influential People for Japan,” Saito began software programming at an early age and started his own company in high school. By the time he was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 1998 (by Ernst & Young, NASDAQ and USA Today), he was recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on encryption, biometric authentication and cyber security.

After selling his business to Microsoft, he moved to Tokyo in 2005 and founded InTecur, a venture capital firm and consultancy that identifies innovative technologies, develops global talent and helps entrepreneurs become successful. In 2013, Saito was appointed a Special Advisor to the Cabinet Office for the Government of Japan.

Similarly, in 2012 he served as a council member on national strategy for the Cabinet-level National Policy Unit, and prior to that, was named as the Chief Technology Officer for the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC). He is a Foundation Board Member at the World Economic Forum (WEF), and has been named by the WEF as both a Young Global Leader and Global Agenda Council member.

Saito also advises several national governments around the globe. In Japan, he has also served as an advisor to METI, MIC, MEXT, MLIT, AIST, IPA and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), among others.

He teaches at multiple universities, serves on several corporate boards, appears as a commentator on national TV and is the author of numerous publications in addition to writing a weekly column for a prominent Japanese business newspaper. His best-selling management book, The Team: Solving the Biggest Problem in Japan, was published by Nikkei BP in 2012, his follow-on book, Is Your Thinking up to Global Standards?, was published by Daiwa Shobo in late 2013 and his autobiography, An Unprogrammed Life: Adventures of an Incurable Entrepreneur, was published in 2011 by John Wiley & Sons.

Posted by whsaito

  1. William,

    I am interested in attending the second event, and I think your best friend Mr. K eagers to know that, too.


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