2010 – A Year in Review

What a year 2010 turned out to be. I have been amiss in updating my blog postings, but this year has been truly busy. I thought 2009 was full of trips and general busyness, but this year has been the most I’ve travelled in one calendar year. According to my Tripit logs, in 2010 I flew to 23 countries (some multiple times) on 69 flights (some were the same leg), covering a total of 412,940 miles! This did not include miles from my road trip across the United States (yes, by car) in September (see below). Here are some highlights, which include many “firsts” in 2010.

The year started off with looming deadlines, as I was writing and editing a long article for the Harvard Asia Quarterly on the relationship between medicine and climate change. It was a challenging article, but it was a special honor to be co-author with Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa. We spent most of January writing and polishing this 7,000-word article, which was published in June. Later that month, I was asked by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) to give a lecture to ministry officials on the evolution of communication technologies around the world. This was an unusually long lecture, lasting some 75 minutes with 15 minutes of Q&A. Unfortunately, the Q&A portion was probably the least interactive of all the lectures and speeches I gave for the remainder of 2010.

In February, I had the honor of giving a TEDxRyukyu presentation in Naha, Okinawa. Since I wanted to make it not only interesting but also informative (i.e., what is TED?), I tried to stuff 10 lbs. of content into a 1 lb. bag (E.g., trying to explain the Technology, Entertainment and Design concepts at one time). When you add the fact that I was speaking on an unfamiliar topic, under a strict time constraint, and all in Japanese, well, let’s just say it wasn’t my best performance. Immediately after Okinawa, Dr. Kurokawa and I left for Botswana at the request of the Botswanan Ambassador to Japan to help their country diversify from diamonds and to help create a science and technology initiative. This was the first time I had actually flown south of the equator (which I end up doing twice in 2010).

In early March, I flew from Botswana to Dubai (for the first time) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a conference on entrepreneurism held by the Kauffman Foundation. After returning to Tokyo, I participated in my first Economist Conference, entitled “The Road Forward for Japanese Companies.” (The Economist magazine is one I truly admire and read religiously.) The month ended not only with my last birthday in my 30’s but also with an interview for an article in the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) Journal.

April is the new fiscal year in Japan and I transitioned from my role as “Startup Advisor (SA)” at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) to “Advisor,” since I spun out one of the startups I had been advising. This new company, called Bursec (of which I am chairman), is developing a new cryptographic key management technology based on a concept called “Leakage-Resilient Authenticated Key Exchange.”

May was a busy month which began with a flight to Zurich, Switzerland, to speak at the St. Gallen Symposium on the topic of “Entrepreneurs – Agents of Change” (2010 was definitely the year of Entrepreneurism). In mid May, I participated in my second Economist Conference, this one entitled “Charting the future of finance in the Asia-Pacific.” Later that week, I had a private dinner (definitely a first) with the Royal Couple – one of the most treasured (and nervous) few hours of my life. I then ended the month in Rome (another first), Italy – a most beautiful city where I could easily spend weeks taking photos.

From Rome and now June, I then flew to Leksand, Sweden (another first), for the 5th Global YES Summit, again to speak about entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, this was not the conference I expected it to be. I wrote to the organizers after the event and, based on their reply, I hope they have a better one this year.

In July, I was asked by the Russian government to offer advice on their Skolkovo project, or “Russian Silicon Valley,” and soon found myself in Moscow (another first) for a few days. Apparently, the project is running way behind schedule, but that seems to be normal for this type of thing. After Moscow, I left for my third trip to Dubai and decided to open an office there to help channel Japanese products into the EMEA marketplace.

For my summer vacation in August, I decided to take a break from all the “around the world” travel and do something equally crazy. Landing in Los Angeles, I drove for the next two weeks (longest in 20 years) on a cross country fishing trip, taking many pictures along the way. After returning to Japan, I made a quick detour to Hayman Island, Australia, to attend the Australia Davos Conference with Dr. Kurokawa.

In September, I was mainly busy preparing for the “Innovation in Globalization” class I was helping Dr. Kurokawa teach at Keio Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC). This year’s speakers included Mr. Kazuhiko Toyama (IGPI), Mr. Kohei Nishiyama (Elephant Design), Dr. Mario Tokoro (Sony CSL), Mr. Ryoji Noritake (Health Policy Institute), Ms. Maria Yogo (Kalifa University), Ms. Naoko Tajima (Hakuhodo), Ms. Fujiyo Ishiguro (Netyear Group), Ambassador John V. Roos (United States Embassy Tokyo), Mr. Akira Tsuchiya (World Economic Forum), and Mr. Daisuke Kotegawa (International Monetary Fund). Thank you to everyone who made the 2010 class such a success!

October was the month for science. I was honored to be asked to speak for the second time at the Science and Technology in Society (STS) forum in Kyoto. After I returned from Kyoto, I was again honored to give the keynote at my third and final Economist Conference of the year entitled “One Strategy: dream or reality? How can firms ensure their operations and diverse businesses work together as one?” Later that month, I was invited by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to be on one of their review committees. I cannot disclose what committee, but regardless, I was asked to come back again this March.

November started with my testimony to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology (MEXT) on “Elementary, Junior and High School Education in Japan and Around the World.” This was actually a first for me in the sense that it was recorded, covered by the press, and my (Japanese!) transcripts were publicized on the official ministry website. Later that month, the third annual Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) Japan events were held. This year’s theme was on “Design Thinking.” Ironically, I did not speak on the subject during GEW but was asked to give a lecture on the topic at Tokyo University later that month.

In December, things were very entrepreneurial, indeed. First, it was truly an honor for U.S. Ambassador John V. Roos to speak to the class at Keio. Given his background as the former CEO (before becoming ambassador) of the most prominent law firm in Silicon Valley, his comments and viewpoints were truly inspirational. Furthermore, it was nice to get NHK (the Japanese public broadcaster) to tape this class and to broadcast it only three days later. Later that month, I was asked by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to come and speak on innovation and entrepreneurship from a global perspective.

In closing, there were several organizations that I helped form in 2010. Probably one of the most important is called IMPACT Japan. It was created to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in Japan on an ongoing basis (not just per event) in order to apply entrepreneurism to the vibrant innovation in Japan and to grow new businesses on a truly global scale.

For 2011, I have several publications coming out this year that I am in the process of writing, editing or proofing. These will include books on:

  • “Passionate Teams” (working title) – Nikkei BP, Japanese (Spring)
  • “Re-Imagining Japan” – McKinsey/Shogakukan, both English and Japanese (June 1, 2011)
  • “The Essence and Future of Security” (working title) – John Wiley & Sons, English (Fall)
  • “William Saito on Entrepreneurship” (working title) – John Wiley & Sons, English (Fall)

Not to make excuses, but with all this book writing, my blogs have fallen behind. However, I now plan to twitter more on current topics that affect innovation, entrepreneurship and/or Japan. Please follow me here: @whsaito.

For a more detailed list of activities, please visit my homepage at: http://saitohome.com/speaking-public-engagements/

Other Stats for 2010:
  • Photo’s taken: 7512

Posted by whsaito

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