Masataka Kurihara

Back to Contents of Issue: October 2000

by Kyoko Fujimoto

KuriharaMasataka Kurihara is only 28, but his tech company is already making a profit. The mischievous eyes tell me he's still in his twenties, but he morphs into a real businessman once he starts talking about his work. He's famous in Japan's tech community for having served as a highly influential moderator for two of the major software developer forums on Nifty (Japan's biggest ISP). Most of his company's staff, in fact, came from the forums. I caught up with Kurihara at the Wireless Japan Expo in Tokyo, where Gluegent had a booth.

How did you become a leader in Nifty's forum?
When I was studying accounting at Waseda University, I joined a company called Business Trust -- one of the best-known accounting firms in Japan -- as a part-timer. I was thinking of becoming an accountant at that time, but the company was very innovative, and it was developing accounting software as well. That gave me my first experience as a professional software developer, though I had been doing some personal programming myself. After that I got really interested in the field and decided to establish forums for the Inprise development tools Delphi and JBuilder. I've been the guide for those forums, and have done offline seminars and PR as well. People in the IT field started to notice me. I didn't have a hard time finding high-quality engineers for Gluegent.

Did you establish Gluegent right after you graduated?
No. I graduated in 1997 and did some freelance work as a developer and as a writer for IT magazines. Then I joined a small system development company called Micro Mainframe Link in 1998. It was a small company, so I got to do a lot of things -- sales, engineering, managing one whole project, et cetera. It was a good experience. I also met Yasuyuki Otsubo, with whom I established Gluegent in July 1999.

What's Gluegent's main business?
Our online trading package. Other companies offer the same kind of service, but we offer our own version of Linux server and Java-based software -- we customize them according to our clients' need, so we have the best combination of hardware and software. Traders Securities, a company that deals with online trading in foreign exchange, uses our product now. It uses our small Linux server called "Gluebase," and the software is programmed in Java. We developed Gluebase ourselves simply because there was no other hardware that's sufficient for Traders Securities' case. We also needed to develop an OS for our hardware, so we have a product called Fishbone Linux. It would usually be easier to use the combination of existing hardware and software, but there was no perfect match in this case. So we thought it would be faster for us to develop our own. Many people see us as a hardware vendor because we do sell hardware, but we are also a solutions provider. We just have the skill to offer our own technology to provide the best solution.

What other companies are using your product?
TAC, the accounting school, uses our accounting, sales, and inventory system software. We also developed the system for prepaid calling cards for KDD Network Systems, and we are now working on the ecommerce system for one trading company.

Recently we've also been looking at the directions of mobile. Japan is an advanced nation of cell phones, and there will be mobile phones with Java coming up this year. The mobile solution using cell phones and Palm computing will become a big market. It may be difficult to imagine cell phones being the one system in a company, but we have the technology to do it and plan to provide this kind of solution in the near future.

You have a partnership with Sybase. How did that start?
Its database uses quite a lot of new technologies, and some of them are still unknown to everybody. When we did some work using their database, we used technology that nobody else would really know. We did it just because we needed to, but that surprised Sybase, and after that they trusted us.

We then proposed to sell Gluebase with their database bundled, and they agreed. This is a rare case for them, and we were the second company to have its database bundled in our product. Now Sybase in the US sees us as a good partner. They have quite a good database for mobile tools, so we still want to do business with them in that field. Also, they have asked us to speak about our solution at their seminar. So we will be cooperating in that area as well.

Do you have any competitors?
Not really. We are doing various things, so all the companies that do similar kinds of business can be our partners. We can be the software vendor for hardware companies, and the hardware vendor for software companies. We can also do consulting. Companies that offer total systems consulting can be considered competitors, though.

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