Just got back from visiting Kyoto with Reid, Michelle and Mizuka.
Posted some photos to a Flickr set. Also posted a short chat with Reid about venture business in China and Japan in mp3 (8.9 MB) and ogg (15.3 MB) formats.
Absolutely fascinating discussion. More, more, more!
One of the big differentiators for VC in China vs. Japan that I saw is that there's little-to-no non-Japanese VC in Japan. Japan may be under serving it's entrepreneur market for the cultural and historical reasons that Joi mentioned but there's enough of a VC market in place that basic needs are met.
In China however, it's been fascinating to see many big, brand name VCs hire Chinese partners and open billion-dollar funds in Beijing and Shanghai. Clearly it's the potential of the market alongside the fact that the experienced Chinese local VC market is much smaller. That and most of these professionals are "ex-US" or "ex-EU" who have networks and experience from outside of China. The fact that being "foreign" equals "failure" in China is interesting as well when you consider the differences in government.
Switching gears and thinking about "International" (which is my daily challenge for the most part) it is fascinating to see which services become successful outside of their original area. I'm still amazed at how few companies take the time to plan for localization/ internationalization of their products or services from the outset. It's one thing if it is a startup with a handful of folks bootstrapping, but I continue to see major businesses launch new services without basic planning for international expansion. International is hard to do well, no doubt, but if there is any platform that is ideal for "International" it is Internet services and applications.
Finally, I had never thought about it but it is again interesting to note that Amazon Japan is wholly owned and is doing (we assume?) well. It is truly one of the few examples of such a model successful in Japan. I think it's a function of a number of Amazon's strengths (UI/process, business process, their strength in warehousing, etc.) as well as timing (early enough in the ecommerce market to grab significant market share) as well as Japan's innate desire to shop alongside widely available fast broadband (none of this 1.5 Mb/sec stuff that is "broadband" in the US.) I have heard though that Amazon Japan's growth rates are not what they used to be (natural falloff due to market saturation) and so we see things like the "Otaku Store" at Amazon Japan which caters exclusively to that demographic (which is one of the most lucrative and loyal segments.) The amount of okaku goods sold online (especially at Amazon but also elsewhere) would surprise anyone who wasn't in the scene themselves.
Relevant NYT article here:
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Dealing with email and my partial attention problem during meetings
Book Talk at The Harvard Book Store about Whiplash with Co-Author Jeff Howe
Conversation with Andre and Karthik