Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Hirata and I will be spending the day at Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (METI) judging the business plans of dozens of high tech venture business plans from university/industry programs. The TLO/venture program is part of a huge METI project to try to get ventures to grow from universities. The problem, after reading most of the plans, is that just giving money to these guys will not a venture business make... I am worried that this is going to be a huge waste of tax money... I think it is OK to fund basic research with government money, but this faux VC style investing from the government is pretty strange. We are juding life science, energy, IT, chemical and other types of technology. I have no idea how to judge any thing other than the IT and energy plans. They've asked me to judge the "business" side of the plan and they have other people focused on the technology. It's pretty strange/impossible to judge the business without knowing the technology. For instance, "XX will make the XX process XX more efficient and therefore will revolutionize the XX market." If this is true, SURE, it's sounds like a great business. If it isn't true, no chance. With IT I have a very good idea of the market size and the feasibility of technologies, but in life sciences... no way.

Anyway, I don't want to bash this program too much yet until we have the first meeting today, but I'm definitely going to voice my opinion before we start into the detail. We will be allocating millions of dollars (billions or hundred millions of yen) today so I feel quite responsible. Luckily I don't know anyone on the list of people who applied for grants/funding so at least I don't feel conflicted...


It is very hot in here because the government is trying to reduce costs by cutting the air conditioning. This is not a bad thing, but I wish they would cut my taxes for every day I have to spend in a steamy government building...

I was invited to go on a test ride of the JR MagLev train today and couldn't go because of this meeting today... Mizuka went without me. I gave her my camera so I should be able to post some pictures. MagLev sounds much more interesting from a blog perspective...

We just finished lunch. It's hot and there is a guy talking about DNA. We are listening to 24 pitches today. Each 20 minutes long. The guy from METI just said "two more minutes"... Many of the presentations don't make it to the numbers by the end. We get a chance to ask questions though. This is really challenging. We have to decide in 20 minutes if the technology is real, if the business is there. If there is not enough business, no go. If there is too much business, why do they need our money?

Also, jumping around between bio, IT and energy is really mind scrambling. Even for poor unfocused Joi. Maybe it is some kind of punishment for being unfocused all of the time.

So it turns out I knew one of the guys who was presenting. (I don't have a business relationship though.) I tried to judge it objectively.

We're wrapping up now. I feel good about the ones that made it in. They're all good technologies and ones that I rated highly. It's interesting how obvious it was in the end to everyone even though we came from various backgrounds...

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