Yoshihiro Tashiro

Back to Contents of Issue: August 2000

by Kyoko Fujimoto

Since he was a kid, Yoshihiro Tashiro has seen his father -- president of a construction company in Fukuoka -- being addressed as shacho, and he always had a feeling he'd also lead a company someday. He was right. These days Tashiro is the shacho of two Net companies, Crescent Light and J*investor.

"Strangely enough, many of my friends from high school turned out to be shacho as well," he says. "One of them owns the biggest food company in North Kyushu, another one owns a restaurant, and another one a taxi company ... so we all understand each other and get along quite well."

He wasn't the shacho from the beginning, though. "I wanted to start up a company, but I didn't have any knowledge about anything," Tashiro says. "I thought I needed training." So he decided to take an office job at Union Bank of Switzerland (now United Bank of Switzerland), which gave him a chance to learn about finance and study English. "They offered me a lot. After they decided to hire me while I was still a student, they sent me to English lessons three times a week, and then sent me to the US for about a month and half just before I joined the company."

Tashiro spent four years at the bank, learning all about financing, from A to Z. "The bank I was with dealt with many products that Japanese banks didn't have at that time, such as derivatives, syndicated commitment facility, syndicated loan, et cetera. So I had more advanced knowledge than my peers at Japanese financial institutions."

Still, he wasn't sure what he could do in terms of starting up his own business. Then an old classmate and good friend, Jonathan Hendriksen, asked him if he wanted to join ValueClick, which Hendriksen was about to bring in from the US. Tashiro thought that was a good opportunity to see how a business starts up and decided to join the company in May 1998.

"I learned a lot there, too" says Tashiro. He admits that he didn't know much about the Internet before he joined ValueClick. "To tell the truth, I didn't even know what a Web site address looked like. But we had to train on the job, so I went out for sales a week after I joined." Unlike working for an established bank, his fixed salary was nearly zero and his pay was mostly based on commission. But he thought it was a valuable experience. "I learned how a small company works. And I learned that in small companies it is very difficult to turn an idea into reality because of few resources, money-wise and people-wise." But he watched how quickly the company grew. Within a couple of months, ValueClick started getting orders from big names like Honda.

His appetite whetted, Tashiro decided to launch his own company. In September 1998 he joined his high school friend Takao Tamari to form Crescent Light.

Crescent Light runs Smart Finance, a site created almost entirely by Tashiro. "I bought a book on how to create a Web site and started writing the content. Smart Finance explains the basics of financing -- stocks, investment trusts, Net banking, et cetera." With its detailed and plain-language content, the site became quite well known. But, like a textbook, it was passive. "People only come back to the site when they need to look up something -- once they learn what's in there, they stop coming back to us."

Tashiro saw new opportunity when the government deregulated trading commissions in October 1999 and the 401K concept was being planned for Japan. "I was sure many people would go into online trading, and then they'd need more information on the Web." He knew that the information needed to be more than a textbook online, and that's when he realized what was missing in Japan. "In the US, there are financial news sites like CBS MarketWatch and Bloomberg, analyst report sites like TheStreet.com and Multex, stock-price watch and chart sites like Quote.com and Big Charts, and then sites to help in your decision-making and enable information exchange like The Motley Fool, Silicon Investor, and Raging Bull. But in Japan what you get is the one-way information from securities companies or Investor, and Raging Bull. But in Japan what you get is the one-way information from securities companies or from the news sites," Tashiro explains.

In November 1999, J*investor was established, and it soon received investment from internet.com. In addition to news, the J*investor site now has a very active BBS, an actual trading diary, a virtual trading game for beginners, et cetera. It also offers some content to AOL Japan's Home Banking/Online Trading page.

With his strong financial background, Tashiro sometimes gives financial advice to Net companies. "My knowledge of financing is still better than that of the Internet, and many Internet startups don't have people who have strong backgrounds in financing," he says.

He's also one of the few members who has participated in the Bit Valley Association's small gatherings and now-deceased mailing list from the beginning. Although he admits that both became too big and chaotic, he still thinks it was a good opportunity to meet people and help each other. "I am thinking of participating as CFO to help a person I got to know through the mailing list," Tashiro says. "I know some people don't like Bit Valley and all that stuff, but the whole movement has helped our market grow and got many Japanese people into the market as well."

The disco parties and the mailing list are both history now, but Tashiro says it's thanks to them that his business keeps expanding.

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