Joi's Diary

Back to Contents of Issue: November 2000

by Joichi Ito

Joichi Ito is the founder and CEO of Neoteny (, an IT investment and operating company. He has created numerous Internet companies, including PSINet Japan, Digital Garage, and Infoseek Japan. In 2000, he was ranked among the "50 Stars of Asia" by Business Week and commemorated by the MPT for supporting the advancement of IT.

PARTICIPATED IN A BRUNCH for John Gage with the usual suspects. One of my favorite speakers and visionaries, John is the chief science officer and one of the founders of Sun. He's also on my advisory board. He's always flying around the world saying smart things and evangelizing the latest technology. This time he showed us a bunch of Java-enabled prototypes of various devices, including cell phones and a hacked Sony videocamera with a backdoor to upload Java applets.

• Rounded up some of the local BeOS gurus and gave a demo of some of the cool apps they've developed to Steve Sakoman. Steve cofounded Be after leaving Apple and is currently the COO and visionary, along with the world-famous Jean-Louis Gassee. We showed them that the Be community in Japan is alive and well, with some knock-your-socks-off real-time multimedia stuff that only the BeOS can do. [Editor's note: Ito is on the board of Be.]

• Participated in another mumei no kai meeting. The host this time was Takeo Hori, chairman of Hori Productions. We ate at Imajin in Akasaka, a famous restaurant I occasionally use for important dinners. I learned that Mr. Hori actually owns the restaurant. The guest speaker was Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, president of the large publisher Kadokawa Shoten. The takeaway for me was that magazine publishing, newspaper, and broadcast TV are all approximately $20 billion markets in Japan. The theory is that in Japan all forms of mass media become $20 billion markets. Will the Internet follow suit?

• Met with my landlord. I tried to convince him that he should give me space in his house to put my 19-inch rack in exchange for being allowed to use the T1 line that I was going to be installing. I think it was difficult for him to understand exactly what kind of pervert would need so much bandwidth, but I tried to convert him by showing him some streaming video. I don't think he was convinced. In the meantime, I'm trying to get him addicted by having NTT contact him about participating in a broadband wireless experiment as a monitor. This bandwidth business is a lot like the drug business: you have to get people addicted before they realize that they need mo-mo-mo-more bandwidth.

• Had dinner with Keigo Oyamada. Keigo and I grew up next door to each other when I was attending the American School in Japan. He started out as a problem kid but is now a huge star, having cofounded Flipper Guitar and then Cornelius. He has an amazing following, and his fans are devout. He gave me a great hint about the future of music distribution: he told me that he created several different color packages for the same tape, and found that many of his fans bought the same song in all of the colors. He spends a lot of his time on merchandising and packaging. I think the future of the music business is in live events and merchandising, just as motion pictures is now about leveraging all of the ancillary markets.

• Was interviewed by Bloomberg Magazine. The photographer was Tom Wagner, who shot me for Business Week before. I can usually keep the Japanese photographers from making me do weird poses or "image photos," but Tom always tries to get me to do strange things. This time he made me sit back-to-back with Paul Slawson, managing director of Whitney and Co., our investor. I wonder if most CEOs like having their picture taken. My parents taught me to be kenkyo, or understated, whenever possible, and posing makes me feel uncomfortable.

• Had dinner with Irving Wladawsky-Berger, VP of technology and strategy at the Enterprise Systems Group of IBM. Quite the visionary, he said something that truly resonated with me: IBM is primarily a research company; it figured out that bipolar computing would be replaced by CMOS and hence survived a big shift. The development of the Internet and Linux (which IBM has embraced), he said, is another "comet come to wipe out the dinosaurs," and only research-strong companies with vision will survive. Keeping an eye on science and technology to build one's roadmap of the future is my own philosophy as well.

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